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FBI violated the Constitution in raid on Rep William Jefferson’s office

The debate between crime, the Justice Department, and the separation of powers is an ongoing one. It gained fresh currency last year when the FBI raided the office of Rep. William Jefferson’s Rayburn office as part of a corruption investigation, leading to cries from Congress about the Justice Department violating the privilege of a member of the legislative side, while the FBI claimed it to be a simple investigation about a crime. Well, now a court has ruled on some of these points.

The FBI broke the law when it searched Rep. William Jefferson’s Rayburn office in May 2006 and viewed legislative documents, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. The court ordered the Justice Department to return any legislative materials taken as part of a corruption investigation of the Louisiana congressman, but allowed it to hold on to documents unrelated to legislative matters.
While the search itself was constitutional, the court said, the FBI overstepped its bounds in taking privileged legislative materials.

A split decision, which nonetheless allows the FBI to raid the office in pursuit of a criminal investigation, but at the same time asking the FBI to return legislative material. This is actually a decision worthy of being made by a politician, since it tries to keep everyone happy except for Rep. William Jefferson.

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