Tuesday, April 16, 2002


Anyone else troubled by the recent news of the indictment of the lawyer for convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman? She's accused of assisting him in passing messages to his cohorts outside prison. Now, let me first say that if she did it, she needs to be shot. The familiar and maddening idea of a gang leader/Mafia boss continuing to control his criminal empire from "inside" is all the more horrific when applied to terrorists.

However, under a justice department directive adopted post-September 11, the attorney general -- that guardian of your civil liberties, John Ashcroft -- can monitor otherwise privileged conversations if he merely suspects wrongdoing. Here's an idea: why not have a third party, say an official who is not beholden to the Justioce Department or the administration, pass on whether the AG's suspicions justify eavesdropping on privileged conversations? Say someone whose status is protected by Article III of the Constitution, i.e., a federal judge? Lord knows the application for surveillance could be ex parte, and the GOP has enough law and order zealots who skipped Constitutional Law 101 on the bench that complying with such a requirement should minimally inconvenience any legitimate investigation. At least we could sleep better knowing some attention was being paid before we violate a privilege that's one of the cornerstones of our system of justice.

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