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Thread: Feds Overstep Their Constitutional Boundaries

  1. #1
    AO Security for Non-Geeks tonybradley's Avatar
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    Aug 2002

    Feds Overstep Their Constitutional Boundaries

    Reminds me a little of the Gestapo. People brush the concept aside without a second thought in a "it can't happen here" sort of way. Americans aren't taking the time to stop and consider the larger implications of all of the laws and actions that have taken place in the last few years. More than 200 years of civil liberties and freedoms have been wiped out in less than 2 years by the Bush regime. I hate to keep comparing Bush to Hitler- I don't necessarily agree that they are the same or that Bush has the same visions of grandeur that Hitler had (I stop just short of that conspiracy theory)- but there are so many parallels in their statements and actions when you compare pre WWII Germany to post 9/11 America. The scariest part of all is that there is so much in-fighting amongst the Democratic candidates right now- tearing apart their one leading candidate with a chance in hell of beating Bush- that Bush has a damn good shot at re-election. If that happens all we can really hope for is that the Senate and House end up with a Democratic majority to put the brakes on the Bush Cartel's Orwellian dreams of global domination:

    By JEFF DONN, Associated Press Writer:
    (AP) -- The federal government has broadly extended its power in
    recent decades to fight common crimes, from murder to unpaid child
    support, and critics say needless federal prosecutions waste money,
    jeopardize civil rights, and divert law enforcement from true
    national threats.

    Such cases "clog the federal courts and utilize very limited federal
    resources in matters that are being prosecuted very well by local
    authorities," says former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, who chaired
    a 1998 study sponsored by the American Bar Association.

    Others worry about freedoms. "The historical fear against
    federalizing crime has always been we don't want a national police
    power," said Gerry Moohr, a law professor at the University of
    Houston. "We're very near that."

    An Associated Press review of the latest government data shows a
    sixfold increase in federal spending for criminal justice since 1982.
    Washington's share rose from 12 percent to 18 percent of total
    justice spending at all levels of government: local, state and

    U.S. attorney legal staffs tripled and new yearly caseloads doubled
    in the more expensive federal courts.

    Yet the trend has gone largely unnoticed beyond legal circles.

    Consider the case of Eric King, who would once have been left to the
    scrutiny of state law enforcers.

    The Dallas mortgage broker, who was said in court papers to earn
    around $40,000 annually, had accumulated $331,000 in unpaid child
    support over less than eight years. Four years ago, when he had
    already negotiated a settlement, federal agents arrested him. He was
    prosecuted as a criminal deadbeat.

    Even his federal prosecutor, Bill Silverman, acknowledges that some
    colleagues believed this kind of case is "sort of beneath the federal
    system." Defense appellate lawyer Richard Greenberg adds terms
    like "foolish," "high-handed," and "a bad use of resources."

    But it was legal. King was charged under a 1992 law making it a
    federal crime to dodge child support payments owed in another state.
    The law is grounded in the so-called commerce clause of the U.S.

    These few words say Congress may "regulate commerce ... among the
    several states." The clause has been used to assert federal
    jurisdiction over just about any crime when people or goods cross
    state borders, whether strictly for business or not.

    King's lawyers argued that withheld child support has no important
    effect on interstate commerce. A federal judge, Robert W. Sweet,
    agreed and dismissed the charges -- only to be overruled on appeal.
    Convicted of a felony, King is awaiting sentencing. His lawyer, Ken
    Warner, said his client would not comment.

    It is unclear, Judge Sweet wrote, why the government even decided to
    prosecute King for the settled claim. He noted, however, that
    King's "father is a well-known participant in litigation in this

    The son of boxing promoter Don King, Eric King had worked for his
    father before moving to Texas. King's father -- the pugnacious
    wheeler-dealer with the unbending hairdo -- had repeatedly frustrated
    the same U.S. attorney's office that prosecuted his son. The father
    was acquitted first in a 1985 federal tax-dodging case and then in
    1998 on federal charges he cheated an insurer.

    Now in private practice, Silverman, who prosecuted the son, denies
    using that case to pursue any vendetta or extra publicity flowing
    from the King name. He says the federal government simply needs to
    help when deadbeat parents live in another state.

    Many other common crimes once handled by states -- including rape,
    drug trafficking, and murder -- have also come under federal
    authority over the years.

    Congress has created so many national crimes in so many sections of
    legal code that no one has an exact count. There are about 3,500,
    according to legal surveys. More than 45 percent have come onto the
    books since 1970, around when President Nixon declared the first
    national war on crime.

    More than 30 federal agencies now have authority to make arrests. In
    the latest federal data, the justice work force has doubled since
    1982, to 194,000. The number of U.S. attorneys and assistants tripled
    to 5,300. They handled 67,000 new criminal cases in 2002 -- more than
    twice the number 20 years before.

    States also bulked up personnel, spending, caseloads and inmate
    populations -- but not as fast as Washington, the AP review shows.

    "I'm on the conservative side and normally support law and order, but
    the feds are just way out of control," says John S. Baker Jr., a
    former congressional aide and local prosecutor who teaches law at
    Louisiana State University. "They're alcoholics; you can't stop

    Federal criminal law burgeoned through both Republican and Democratic
    presidencies. Often, new national law sprang from domestic crises:
    the rise in crime rates in the 1980s, the terrorist attacks of 2001.

    National emergencies weren't necessary, though. There's hardly a type
    of criminal that Congress hasn't targeted in past decades, often by
    overwhelming votes with little debate: armed robbers, pimps,
    carjackers, along with mileage cheaters (Federal Odometer Act), wife
    beaters (Violence Against Women Act) and animal-rights militants
    (Animal Enterprise Protection Act).

    "It's politically tempting. It's an easy mark," says retired Sen.
    Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican who chaired the Committee on
    Governmental Affairs. "You'll get very little push back from people
    who oppose it."

    Others defend Congress, even when it acts partly out of symbolism.

    "In a democracy, it's appropriate for the federal government to be
    most heavily involved in problems that the public views as most
    threatening," says Tom Stacy, a law professor at the University of

    During the 1960s, for example, federal convictions for civil-rights
    violations brought a measure of justice after state juries returned
    dubious acquittals in racial violence cases.

    As the world changes, new threats arise, so even critics of the
    federalizing trend acknowledge a need for federal action in certain
    cases to keep pace or fill a gap.

    Backers say federalization has promoted efficient use of new
    technologies like DNA typing. They view the federal role as essential
    in finding terrorists, controlling corporate and computer crime, and
    in breaking up sophisticated criminal gangs, which often hide their
    money through complex multi-state or international transactions.

    Still, there must be limits, critics say.

    "The federal system is the Cadillac, and we shouldn't be using it for
    off-road driving -- for things for which it is ill-suited," says Paul
    Rosenzweig, a researcher with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative
    think tank.

    The authors of the U.S. Constitution gave the federal government a
    mandate over just a few national crimes, including treason,
    counterfeiting and high-seas piracy. In both theory and past
    practice, the power to punish local criminals rested predominantly
    with the states.

    States and local communities still carry that load, at least in terms
    of numbers of cases. Though expanded, the federal role in crime
    fighting is still spotty.

    Consider the Child Support Recovery Act under which King was
    convicted. Spurred by reports of tens of thousands of parents
    skipping home states to evade payments, Congress clamped down with
    federal prison sentences of up to two years. Over the past year, just
    260 parents -- an average of five per state -- were prosecuted under
    this law, Justice Department data show.

    Ronald Goldstock, a former federal inspector general and New York
    City prosecutor, said Congress often outlaws "the crime du jour" --
    and then quickly moves on.

    Some critics want sunset provisions on federal laws so they expire
    within a few years, unless shown to be worthwhile.

    Others want the courts to more closely scrutinize claims of federal
    jurisdiction. In 1995, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that
    carrying a gun around a school, however dangerous, was not an act of
    interstate commerce.

    More recently, federalization critics have challenged use of the post-
    Sept. 11 USA Patriot Act's broadened powers of investigation to chase
    more mundane criminals like telemarketing scammers.

    Shortly before the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington,
    U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo, an Illinois Republican, offered a bill to
    force a federalization review of every proposed crime. It would be
    checked for whether it bears on core federal duties and how well it
    is already handled by the states.

    Now, "other priorities have overtaken this legislation," says
    Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter. The bill quietly died.

  2. #2
    AO Curmudgeon rcgreen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    It didn't start with Bush.
    I came in to the world with nothing. I still have most of it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member RoadClosed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    telemarketers are being arrested based on Patriot Act abuses? lol

  4. #4
    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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