i’m a relatively simple person, and i’m hearing a lot of spin about the “domestic wire tap program” and the counter-spin about how it’s an “terrorist surveillance program”… so i’m going to break it down in light of a little document that the president of the united states is sworn to uphold – that silly little inconvenient thing called the united states constitution.
the part that’s easy to figure out is this one… it’s called the fourth amendment to the united states constitution, and it reads, in full:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
now, the relevant word, for the purpose of this missive is “people.” you see, i think the people that wrote and ratified this document made a distinction between “people” and “citizens.” and i think the disctinction between the two words is pretty simple to understand: “people” are “people” and “citizens” are a subset of people that qualify as citizens. and i think that disctinction is evidenced in several places in the constitution:
article I, section 2
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
this says, to me anyway, that there are persons who are not citizens of the united states – and that those persons are not qualified to be representatives in congress.
article I, section 3
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
here again, there are people who are not citizens, and they are not qualified to be senators in congress.
article II, section 1
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
and here, we have something even more explicit – persons come in three flavors, they could be “natural born citizens” or they could be just plain “citizens,” or they could be non-citizens, and that distinction determines their eligibility to be president of the united states.
so, now that i have, hopefully, demonstrated that there is a constitutional distinction between “person” and “citizen,” let’s look at that annoying fourth amendment again in light of the political spin in the air these days…
what the fourth amendment does NOT say is that “the right of the citizens to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” it says “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”
so, the question i have for all the constitutional scholars out there that chew on this a lot more than i do is simple:
doesn’t this mean that all people are protected from the united states government, and that all searches should be supported by a warrant?
and, to advance this based on bush’s recent comments on the subject, i have another question for the lawyers…
What I’m talking about is the intercept of certain communications emanating between somebody inside the United States and outside the United States; and one of the numbers would be reasonably suspected to be an al Qaeda link or affiliate.
so, can some lawyer step up and explain to me how you get from “reasonably suspected” to “probable cause,” as would apparently be required by the fourth amendment?