Mukasey Disavows Terrorism Exception to the Fourth Amendment
Posted Apr 11, 2008 10:17 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Attorney General Michael Mukasey told the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday that the Fourth Amendment applies to bar unreasonable searches by the military during terrorism operations in the United States.
Mukasey said an opposing view taken in a controversial 2001 Justice Department memorandum is “not in force,” the Washington Post reports. The 2001 document was mentioned in a footnote to a recently declassified 2003 memo on the president’s authority to override laws and treaties against torture. The earlier memo has not been released.
“The Fourth Amendment applies across the board, whether we’re in wartime or peacetime,” Mukasey said. “The principle that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply in wartime is not in force.”
The New York Times points out that Mukasey did not say whether the 2001 document had been formally withdrawn and did not disavow the entire memo. Committee members asked Mukasey to release the memo, but he refused to make a commitment.
He said he is making the release of documents a priority, but competing interests need to be weighed. Government lawyers need to be free to make judgments "without having their thinking then become the subject of congressional hearings simply because they offered an idea," he said.