President Bush has claimed new power to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the New York Daily News reports today.
The Daily News says that the action came when the President signed a postal reform bill on Dec. 20, then issued a "signing statement" asserting the right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.
Experts familiar with the President's claim say it contradicts existing law, the paper reports. The Daily News also quotes an Senate Intelligence aide who promised a legislative inquiry into the policy. For its part, the White House denied that it was claiming any new authority.
AltTulsa's take: This looks like more of the Bush Administration's on-going National Security Apparatus. In the mind of Bush and his team, the War of Terror gives is the administration free reign to do whatever it feels like to win, the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional niceties notwithstanding.
For the record, we believe in judicial oversight of administration policies, especially the assertion of new government powers that invade the privacy of citizens. That means judge's warrants should required in this and other areas of law enforcement and national security. (For a detailed analysis of the Bush assault on privacy and other matters, see our January 2 post on civil liberities and the link to Dahlia Lithwich's Slate article.)
It's not too much to ask that this (or any other) administration uphold both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution as it protects its citizens.