Analyzing the case of Rep. Jefferson.

Analyzing the case of Rep. Jefferson.

Analyzing the case of Rep. Jefferson.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
May 24 2006 5:52 PM

Jefferson's Bill of Rights

Bloggers question the constitutionality of raiding a potentially corrupt congressman's office. They also respond to a recent report of squelched free speech within the ACLU's board and wonder when the bubble's going to burst on Nigerian "Yahoo! millionaires."

Jefferson's Bill of Rights: The FBI raided the office of Rep. William J. Jefferson last weekend as part of its ongoing investigation into bribery allegations made against the Democratic congressman. He is accused of various payola schemes emanating from Africa, but members on both sides of the aisle rally to his defense on one point: His legislative workspace is constitutionally off-limits to the Justice Department.

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Abaddon at the skeptical, left-leaning The Devil's Advocate is absolutely mystified: "I simply can't figure it out. I'm at a loss. Why would top Republican leaders, during a time of widespread Republican corruption allegations, be worried about the power of the FBI to investigate corruption in Congress? Simply baffling."

"When it comes to a Member's legislative duties," offers Matt Johnston at the politically and legally minded Going to the Mat,"I am fully supportive of a broad exemption from harassment by the other branches of government. But what legislative duty is being fulfilled in a bribery case? I have looked through Article I, Section 8 and 9 and in fact the entire Constitution, and I don't see bribary as a proper legislative duty." Moreover, he argues, bribery is a felony, one of the three crimes—the others being treason and breach of the peace—that allow a legislator's arrest. Mark Moller at the libertarian CATO Institute's blog Cato@Liberty entertains a defense of legislative privilege: "Arguably … Congress's institutional control over the physical integrity of the grounds of Congress is essential to legislative deliberation. Surely, for example, unannounced raids or, say, the fear of unknown FBI bugs and wiretaps could chill legislative deliberation."

Lefty Sicarius Atrox at Musings from the Outside questions whether the raid was necessary: "In the past, when the Justice Department wanted documents from a congressman, they would subpena for them. It is not like we haven't been able to investigate corruption for the last 219 years because the DOJ's hands have been tied." Bradford Plummer at liberal Mother Jones' MoJoBLOG thinks the cries of protest from Republican are "[h]ilarious. If the Bush administration wants to wiretap ordinary citizens without a warrant, or break the law to retrieve phone records, eh, Hastert and Frist will happily go along with it. Who needs privacy? But if it's their constitutional rights at stake, then lordy, the madness ends here."

Read more about the Jefferson search and seizure.

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ACLWho? The old Onion headline "ACLU Defends Nazis' Right To Burn Down ACLU Headquarters" seems slightly less funny now that the organization is considering a policy that would prevent board members from criticizing it, according to the New York Times. Detractors hug themselves with glee, while supporters feel shame and embarrassment for those supposed to be fighting the good fight.

Unsurprisingly, Stop The ACLU delights in the irony. "How many times have we heard the ACLU ask the government for transparency?" asks Jay. "Most people that believe in true free speech and the right to dissent expect the ACLU to hold itself to the same ideological standards that it asks of others."

More in anger than in sorrow does Zwerlst at the liberal DailyKos bid adieu to a once-proud organization: "[O]ne member … said that of course board members have a right to disagree, but when doing so they should take into account, 'their fiduciary duty to the ACLU.' Translation--such public airings of internal differences will have an effect on the ACLU's ability to raise money. It will. Because as soon as I post this I'll be burning my membership card."

Journalist Matt Rosenberg is less dyspeptic but equally put off. At rosenblog he writes: "Generally speaking, I am sympathetic to the need for organizational discipline, and the problems caused by telling tales out of school. But if any entity needs to lead by example on free speech, it is the ACLU. … If the good of the republic depends in part on upholding the free speech rights embodied in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, how can it make sense for the leading U.S. advocate of those rights to abrogate same with respect to its own proceedings? Now that's Orwellian."

"Man must survive": CNNMoney.com reprints a Fortune article on rampant online credit-card theft out of Nigeria. A 14-year-old, gold-bedecked Lagos native Akin rationalizes his seven-figure fraud by saying, "I feed my family—my sister, my mother, my popsie. Man must survive."

Muskie McCay at Muskblog observes: "It's good to know entire generation of con artists are being groomed in the third world. I've seen this first hand in my travels. The older generation lack the English skills to pull off really elaborate scams they just try to overcharge or direct you to a friends/relatives business for a referral fee."

Citing the 14-year-old's closing salvo—"White people are too gullible. They are rich, and whatever I gyp them out of is small change to them."—Actor90 at Actor90's thoughts from the Jersey Shore sniffs: "Yet another story on why it's stupid to donate computers to Africa. … Maybe all of us 'sinners' should remember how horrible we are the next time someone hits us up for money, food, and technology for Africa." Meanwhile, "Xanadian" at Why Is The Sky Chartreuse? has the inoculation against con artists using Internet cafes from the sub-Saharan country.

Read more about the Nigerian scams.