May 24, 2006

CONGRESS MEMBERS AGREE: Congress is above the law!

House leaders of both parties stood in rare election-year unanimity Wednesday demanding the FBI surrender documents it took and remove agents involved in the weekend raid of a congressman's office.

"The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized," House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

I say, search 'em all. Now. They must have something to hide, right? They certainly don't mind much more intrusive paramilitary raids on the rest of us, even though the Fourth Amendment provides a lot more reason to doubt the validity of those than the Speech and Debate Clause provides where Congressional searches are concerned.

Read this post from Orin Kerr, too, on the weakness of the constitutional argument they're making. There may be a prudential argument that searches like this are a bad idea -- though, frankly, I don't think a very convincing one -- but to claim that the Constitution forbids the execution of a search warrant by law enforcement simply because the target is a Congressional office is weak and self-serving.

The leadership -- of both parties -- should be ashamed of this stunt. They should remember that the Constitution forbids titles of nobility, too, despite their effort to transform their positions into something very much like that.

MORE: Reader Peter Neva thinks my "search 'em all" reference was a serious call to ransack all Congressional offices. Uh, no. It's a reference to this post. You've got to follow the discussion here, you know.

STILL MORE: Unlike me, Jonathan Andrew is all for searching them all, and thinks there's no legitimate expectation of privacy in a taxpayer-funded Congressional office: "I hereby call for just that: What could they possibly have, in their official capacity as our representatives, to hide from us?"

We don't disagree all that much: It's in that spirit that I've supported applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.