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U.S. News.Com on Secret, Warrantless Physical Searches

U.S. News & World Report's article on secret, warrantless physical searches, which many in the blogosphere, us included, anxiously have been awaiting since MSNBC's Keith Olbermann reported on it last night is online here.

The lawyer who believes his office and home were surreptitiously searched is Thomas Nelson of Oregon. Nelson represents Soliman al-Buthe, indicted in 2004 on charges he illegally took al-Haramain charitable donations out of the country. The Government charged al-Haramain had al Qaeda connections.

Nelson's story begins on the second page of the article and is frightening. In essence, he believes the FBI conducted "black bag searches" on his home and office to retrieve classified documents it had given al-Buthe by mistake. Nelson also thinks the documents may establish that al-Buthe was one of those subjected to NSA warrantless surveillance.

Nelson wrote to the U.S. Attorney with his suspicions (before the news broke of the NSA program) and was provided reassurances that the FBI and Justice Department respect attorney-client relationships. But Nelson was not reassured and filed an FOIA request with the NSA. If you read what he, his colleague and his wife observed, you'll understand why. The response he got back:

"The fact of the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter."

On another topic, there's the role of Cheney legal counsel (since promoted to Libby's position as chief of staff) David Addington.

White House lawyers, in particular, Vice President Cheney's counsel David Addington (who is now Cheney's chief of staff), pressed Mueller to use information from the NSA program in court cases, without disclosing the origin of the information, and told Mueller to be prepared to drop prosecutions if judges demanded to know the sourcing, according to several government officials. Mueller, backed by Comey, resisted the administration's efforts.

There's lot's more to the article and I've just skimmed the surface. I'll update in a while with more of my thoughts and reactions around the blogoshphere. [Hat tip to Patriot Daily for spotting the article.]

Update: Another warrantless search of a law office -- that of Don Rehkoph who represented Guantanamo translator al-Halabi.

Attorneys for spy suspect Senior Airman Ahmad Al Halabi accused government investigators of violating his attorney-client privilege by taking his legal files for "safe keeping," raiding a defense counsel office, and barging in on his meeting with a defense attorney without a warrant.

Espionage charges were later dropped against al-Halabi who pleaded guilty to minor charges in exchange for time served.

< Torture is a Moral Issue | Libby Pleading Lists Likely Trial Witnesses >
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  • It is very odd that the Executive Branch relies heavily on the notion of "war time" powers. All of these extrordinary measures, from warrantless searches to waterboarding suspects, have been justified by invoking "war". However, war is defined in our constitution as something other than a "use of force resolution". So, are we really at war in a legal sense. (Of course we are for all practical purposes. I have friends being shot at in Iraq as I type this.) If the Democrats wanted to put the lie to this executive power grab, someone should introduce a formal declaration of war on the floor of the House or Senate. Let's see how many "hawks" would put their votes where their mouths are.

    Robert Jordan is a toad.

    Re: U.S. News.Com on Secret, Warrantless Physical (none / 0) (#4)
    by scarshapedstar on Sun Mar 19, 2006 at 03:58:00 AM EST
    So now our government can take anything they don't like, even out of your house, and throw it down the memory hole, and declare it a classified operation. Good job, Bush voters.

    if people don't stand up people will be used.

    Re: U.S. News.Com on Secret, Warrantless Physical (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:42:33 AM EST
    We need a couple brave patriots to sneak into the Crawford Ranch, and the Beltway homes of congressman, take a bunch of stuff and leave without a trace. See how they like it. Sneak and peek and take searches? That's funny, I call that burglary. The age of doublespeak is at hand.....Repent! Repent you sinners!

    Re: U.S. News.Com on Secret, Warrantless Physical (none / 0) (#7)
    by zak822 on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 12:49:23 PM EST
    "..are we really at war in a legal sense." Finally, someone is asking this very important question! Now if we can get someone in Congress to ask the same question...

    Not until late next January at the earliest.