Dahlia Lithwick on the Justice Department’s new rule allowing them to listen in communications between attorneys and their clients without any sort of judicial oversight:
The new rule presumes not only the guilt of the alleged terrorist, but also the complicity of his attorney. But ample protections already exist to keep lawyers from acting as terrorists’ couriers. The ethical canons forbid lawyers from conspiring with their clients to commit crimes. The laws against conspiracy make it illegal for attorneys to aid terrorist enterprises, and if the state suspects lawyers and their clients of colluding to break the law, it can quickly apply to a federal judge for a warrant to monitor these conversations. It’s hard to imagine how warrantless eavesdropping is going to provide the government with much more information than they could already have obtained through lawful methods. In exchange for all this, prisoners give up any meaningful right to consult honestly and privately with their counsel.
The Justice Department has a new agenda: indefinite detentions, acquiring information, and centralization of power. Moreover, should the Bush administration go forward with the plan to try “terrorists” (as defined by the president) in military tribunals, illegally obtained evidence may not be barred. How convenient for the Justice Department that the military may soon be able to try suspects who were detained and searched unconstitutionally, in courts that might not shed a tear over warrantless searches.