Category Archives: Law

The Scooter Libby commutation inspires a detached nausea in me

One of the main selling points of the rule of law is that everyone has to abide by the same ones. Or not…

Bush commutes Libby’s prison sentence
President Bush commuted Monday the prison term of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, facing 30 months in prison after a federal court convicted him of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

Sure, the investigation seemed to be centered around something that wasn’t a crime. Fine. But Libby had every opportunity to plead the fifth and he didn’t. Instead he lied under oath.

I’ve long maintained that one of the great social blunders of my lifetime was not convicting Clinton for perjury in the Lewinsky case. Not that the crime itself was terribly notable, but setting a high, enforced standard of the rule of law would have changed subsequent presidents for the better.

Signs of progress

In policing Atlanta anyway

Atlanta police have virtually stopped seeking search warrants for drugs following the November shooting of an elderly woman and dropped — at least temporarily — the forced-entry tactics that led to her death, court records show.

In the six months since Kathryn Johnston died in a botched police raid, Atlanta narcotics officers have not sought a single “no-knock” search warrant, court records show. They served at least 25 no-knock warrants during a comparable six-month period a year earlier.

Reason has prevailed, at least temporarily.

Flying Squads

Unbeknowst to me, before now, the Justice Department sends out teams to fight street level crime in cities around the country. The Yahoo News article lists it’s failures, which are to be expected. It’s hard to see how it could be successful when all of it’s efforts and managements are so insulated from feedback. Sending out federal people to deal exclusively with local crime is a troubling trend.

The mother of all abortion posts

Glen Whitman has pretty much all of the abortion analogies (all five of them) that enter the logical debate about the topic.

It’s an odd thing. I used to debate him quite frequently on a now-defunct website, and he caused me to change my position on what the legality of early-term abortion should be with analogy number five

The Negligent Driver. When you negligently or deliberately cause harm to another person, the law requires you to provide compensation, either with money or some kind of action. If your negligent driving puts a pedestrian in the hospital, you are liable for his medical bills. Likewise, one might argue, your sexual behavior creates the risk of placing a fetus in a very precarious situation. If so, you are liable for the fetus’s care during that time. This analogy emphasizes the responsibility of people for the risks they create, thereby dodging the previous analogy’s “no invitation” problem. The difficulty with this analogy comes from the definition of “harm.” Harm doesn’t mean being in a difficult situation – it means being in a worse situation than you would have been otherwise. Were it not for your reckless driving, the pedestrian would (in all likelihood) still be walking around, safe and sound. Were it not for the act of sex, the fetus would not exist at all. To sustain the claim that the act of sex creates a risk of harm to the fetus, you have to insist that existence in a dependent state is worse than sheer non-existence. If the act of sex constitutes a tort, it is the only tort I can think of that creates the very person it victimizes.

I’m the only person I know of who changes his mind on abortion due to a logical argument.

Your tax dollars at work

After being hyped for years, the label “The Imperial Presidency” seems to be coming true.

A Justice Department official will refuse to answer questions during a Senate committee hearing on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, citing her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, her lawyer said Monday.

All of this hubbub for something that the president has the explicit power to do (fire US attorneys), he just can’t look statesmanlike in doing so. Proving once again that the genius of the American political system lies in impeding the politicians, not empowering them.

The pro-war libertarian quiz

The ever interesting reason magazine posted

How far are you willing to go to win the War on Terror?

These days I’m more for finishing Iraq favorably than pro-war, but I am strongly against just “declaring victory” or “strategic redeployment” without really changing anything.

Recently, here are my answers

  1. Should the National Security Agency or CIA have the ability to monitor domestic phone calls or e-mails without obtaining judicial approval?

    Nope. I think this is an impeachable offense too. The current case (supposedly) only monitored calls that crossed borders, which is legally a different matter, if I’m understanding things correctly.

  2. Should the government have the ability to hold an American citizen without charge, indefinitely, without access to a lawyer, if he is believed to be part of a terrorist cell?

    No. If caught on the battlefield I support stripping them of citizenship (by virtue of them being a foreign army and then treating them as one would a foreigner).

  3. Can you imagine a situation in which the government would be justified in waterboarding an American citizen?

    Yes. This question doesn’t belong here at all. This should be subject to warrants as well, but there are several situations where this could be the right thing to do.

  4. Are there American journalists who should be investigated for possible treason? Should Sedition laws be re-introduced?

    If they committed treason (using the standard definition that is unrelated to journalism) ,then yes. If not, then no. No to sedition laws. FYI – I consider freedom of the press to mean publishing, not protecting confidentiality of sources. They should be able to publish whatever they want, its the cover-ups and withholding information that I don’t consider protected.

  5. Should the CIA be able to legally assassinate people in countries with which the U.S. is not at war?

    Yes

  6. Should anti-terrorism cops be given every single law-enforcement tool available in non-terrorist cases?

    No. I guess this is really asking is if we should have super-cops or not.

  7. Should law enforcement be able to seize the property of a suspected (though not charged) American terrorist, and then sell it?

    No. Absolutely not. Due process of law in all things.

  8. Should the U.S. military be tasked with enforcing domestic crime?

    No. With a possible exception of keeping order in case of natural disasters.

  9. Should there be a national I.D. card, and should it be made available to law enforcement on demand?

    No.

  10. Should a higher percentage of national security-related activities and documents be made classified, and kept from the eyes of the Congress, the courts, and the public?

    No. Anything classified should have an automatic sunset date commensurate to it’s secrecy, but nothing should be indefinite.

8 out of 10.

This is weird and scary

Private industry eavesdropping

The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone — for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.

Criminals can use such records to expose a government informant who regularly calls a law enforcement official.

Suspicious spouses can see if their husband or wife is calling a certain someone a bit too often.

And employers can check whether a worker is regularly calling a psychologist — or a competing company.

I’ve been wondering about this. I wonder how much the media does this as well. There has been very little coverage about cell phone privacy since Gingrich was recorded illegally several years ago. PGP encryption coverage has been curiously non-existent as well.