Like many others around the blogosphere, I’m finding it quite amusing that the Congressional leadership has finally found an exercise of executive law enforcement authority frightening enough to get upset about – unfortunately, it took a raid on a Congressman’s office to do it. The FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s office last weekend has Congress absolutely apoplectic, despite the fact that A) they had a warrant and B) Jefferson had been videotaped taking bribes from an undercover officer. If that isn’t probable cause, I don’t know what is.
But the Congressional leadership is freaking out. Hastert and Pelosi issued a statement claiming that the raid was unconstitutional, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it was the worst violation of separation of powers he’d ever seen. Such fevered hyperbole! Are they really suggesting that it’s unconstitutional to serve a legal warrant and perform a search on a Congressman after probable cause is established? Well yes, they are.
But wait…haven’t we been hearing from Hastert and others all along in excusing away the administration’s illegal surveillance activities that if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have no reason to be worried? Why yes, we have, and therein lies the key to understanding this inflated rhetoric – they do have a reason to be worried. One Congressman, “Duke” Cunningham, is already in jail for taking bribes. Jefferson soon will be. And with the Abramoff investigation still going on, at least a dozen members of Congress are currently under investigation for similar things. More raids will be coming.
The hypocrisy of the whole thing is this: Hastert and his buddies seem to think that warrantless and limitless searches involving every phone call everyone in the nation has made are just fine, but targeted searches with a warrant after a clear demonstration of probable cause are not. I’ll take pure hypocrisy for $1000, Alex. And as a commenter at Volokh suggested, the new slogan for Congress should be: “Warrants: not good enough for us, too good for you.”
And just to add to all the hypocrisy, how about the Congressional Black Caucus? They’re mad at Pelosi for demanding that Jefferson step down from his position on the House ways and means committee. Funny, I didn’t hear them defending Tom DeLay when they demanded that he step down from his committee assignments and leadership position. And you’ve gotta love their logic:
Pelosi’s curt letter to Jefferson, and the public nature of it, has riled a sizable bloc of her House troops — the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus. At private meetings with and without Pelosi on Wednesday, members of the group grew emotional and complained that Jefferson was being singled out.
Well yes, Jefferson is being singled out. Why? Because he was videotaped taking a $100,000 bribe from an undercover officer. People who commit crimes get “singled out” from those who don’t. This is only surprising to the irretrievably stupid.