Watch Those “Dear Osama” Letters

If you’re in the habit of writing “Dear Osama” letters, you better watch out–George Bush is watching. Everyone else might have cause for alarm too. The New York Daily News reports that “President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge’s warrant.” He grabbed this power in one of those signing statements where he ignores what Congress has actually passed and asserts unilateral authority in violation of the Constitution. This has resulted in considerable protest:

“Despite the President’s statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people’s mail without a warrant,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill.

Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.

“The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.

“The danger is they’re reading Americans’ mail,” she said.

“You have to be concerned,” agreed a career senior U.S. official who reviewed the legal underpinnings of Bush’s claim. “It takes Executive Branch authority beyond anything we’ve ever known.”

A top Senate Intelligence Committee aide promised, “It’s something we’re going to look into.”

When they look into this, the entire issue of those signing statements needs to be reviewed, along with the Constitutional remedy for Presidents who routinely abuse their power.

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