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From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 16:53:38 -0400

To: "Baker, Stewart" <SBaker () steptoe com>
Cc: farber () cis upenn edu
From: "Perry E. Metzger" <perry () piermont com>
Date: 20 May 2000 16:49:01 -0400

That's not fair, Dave.  I don't know any Justice officials who would
criticize the Bill of Rights as hamstringing law enforcement.

However, it appears that over the decades, many Justice officials have
knowingly violated the bill of rights. Sure, it is convenient to
forget about the abuses that have occurred over the years -- but
congressional investigations and the courts seem to have uncovered
them none the less. Perhaps if we pretend they weren't there people
may forget them.

Now, I suspect that every illegal wiretap, every COINTELPRO
infiltration and the like was conducted by an official who would never
have been so stupid as to say, in public, that they loathed the bill
of rights (and indeed all human rights) and wished the stupid things
would get out of the way, but that's just because they're smart enough
not to say such things, not because they really believe in conducting
themselves as though rights mattered.

Law enforcement constantly tries to erode the rights of citizens. They
never openly criticize such rights, but they often characterize them
in interesting ways. The exclusionary rule, for example, is called a
way to "let criminals go free because of technicalities" -- as though
intercepting evidence illegally and then trying to use it in court
should be rewarded. This is hardly the only instance of such

But back to the question of abuses.

I'm sure that it will be claimed that all abuses are a thing of the
past and that the people running Justice and its FBI division these
days are a different breed, but I don't believe that, and neither does
any other reasonable person. Abuses continue to occur -- and probably
will occur so long as there is a government. After all, government is
made up of human beings, some of whom are bad eggs, just like the
general population.

I am not scared by the notion that there might be rogues inside
organizations like the FBI. That is, as I've said, just a function of
the fact that humans run the organization.  What scares me is the
absolute foolishness and stupidity of those who claim that we can
ever, for as much as a moment, let our guard down and pretend that
these organizations AREN'T run by fallible human beings, and that we
can pretend that there AREN'T corrupt individuals in these

As a society, we must structure the barriers law enforcement faces to
assure that the job of the corrupt is made as hard as possible. That
means we can't do things like giving the FBI access to intercepted
communications without outside organizations being involved. This
means that intercepting communications is more involved -- but that
the odds that someone could get away with random interception are

It is true, by the way, that such measures make a policeman's job
harder, but, as Orson Welles once noted, only in a police state is a
policeman's job easy.

Perry E. Metzger                perry () piermont com
"Ask not what your country can force other people to do for you..."

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