|Political Opposites Attract In House Drug-Bill|
Posted by FoM on June 08, 2000 at 07:48:51 PT|
By Heather Ann Hope
Source: Fox News On The Hill
Every Monday while Congress is in session, FOXNews.com Capitol Hill expert Heather Ann Hope analyzes legislation under consideration.
A provision in an anti-drug bill has proven the "politics makes strange bedfellows" adage again by bringing together a coalition of normally opposing groups.
A bill passed by the Senate and pending in the House has brought the liberal American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) together with staunch conservatives like Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., to defeat a provision that would loosen federal search and seizure procedures.
The measure is intended to curb the illegal manufacture and sale of methamphetamine — which can appear in several forms under names like "crystal meth," "crank," "ice," or "speed" — by increasing funding for Drug Enforcement Administration training and enforcement, for addiction and treatment programs and to combat drug trafficking in certain areas.
In what a House Judiciary Committee aide calls a "big departure from current law," the offending provision would give federal agents enhanced authority to search a house, vehicle or workplace without telling the owner, as well as to confiscate the property without immediately informing the owner of what had been seized.
Under current law, federal agents are required to provide an inventory of seized property upon leaving the premises. The proposed legislation, however, would allow the federal government to "enter your home when you are not present, look into your computer files and never tell you they were there," according to a recent letter to Congress from the ACLU and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Barr, a former federal prosecutor and frequent critic of any attempts to expand law enforcement authority, originally balked at the provision because the Senate quietly attached it to a completely unrelated bill intended to reform the consumer bankruptcy system. The provision has been dropped from the bankruptcy bill and is moving independently as part of the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act.
Supporters, like bill sponsor Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, argue the provision is a necessary evidence-gathering tool and that a standard search warrant is still required so investigators must convince a court they have probable cause. The provision will help prevent destruction of evidence and flight from prosecution, they say.
Current law already allows some so-called "sneak-and-peek" searches in which federal agents may go into a suspected drug warehouse or laboratory without immediately informing the occupants. Current law also allows federal judges, in limited cases, to approve wiretaps, listening bugs or tracking devices without the knowledge of the person being investigated.
Confusion about when federal judges may issue search warrants, especially in drug cases, reportedly led to the current attempt to set a uniform standard, Senate Judiciary Committee Spokesperson Jeanne Lopatto said. The Senate passed its version of the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act — without debate — in November. The Senate bill includes language regarding search and seizure procedures that is nearly identical to the pending House bill.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the methamphetamine bill in June, when committee members will cross party lines to oppose and support the measure.
For example, Rep. Steve Chabot, a conservative Republican from Ohio, reportedly supports use of "sneak and peek" searches in certain cases but believes the issue must be further explored before its use is expanded, while Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas — an outright opponent of the provision — will work to defeat it.
Monday, June 5, 2000
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Comment #2 posted by Nick Caldwell on June 11, 2000 at 04:40:59 PT:|
Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on June 08, 2000 at 17:17:08 PT:|
Even easier, call the guy or gal, and demand to know their stance on the bill, beforehand. Ask them why something like this, with such a flagrant violation of the First Amendment, is even being brought up in the legislative body charged with protecting the Constitution, not urinating upon it. Use those words, if you like. Let the person know you consider this a gross violation of that right. And that Congress is not above the law, and those who violate the highest law of the land may someday be held to account for it. (Given all the 'special counsels' formed to investigate all manner of things in the last 8 years, that is no idle threat, and they know that.)Get enough people talking like that, calling in, and Congressman Doofus and Senator Fathead just might start having some alarm bells ringing dimly in their special-interest, 3 martini befuddled heads. No shouting, please, just a quiet level tone of voice...full of promise.
And, of course, if they still don't listen, then they have made it extraordinarly easy for you. November is only 5 months away, people.