Last week, Judge Andrew Napolitano spoke for a few hours at the New York City Junto, a monthly lecture series, for a presentation entitled “Shredding the Constitution.” Not surprisingly, he addressed two of the most important constitutional issues in the news right now: the NSA and the possibility of a strike on Syria.
On the NSA, the judge believes that search warrants written by the investigators themselves, which are authorized under the Patriot Act, were a major source of intimidation against telecom companies. The warrants have the added clause that it is a crime to reveal to anyone that such a warrant has been received. This, the judge said, was a major source of intimidation. “Google could’ve said ‘take a hike,'" he suggested, but the example of former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, who claims that the NSA retaliated against him for his reluctance to get involved in spying, may have convinced them to collaborate. As for where he stands on Edward Snowden, the judge referred to him as a true American hero.
On Syria, Napolitano asserted that there is no way there wouldn’t be boots on the ground—even cruise missile launches would require advance observers acting within the theater of operations. Based on international law, Napolitano thinks that a Syria action would be grounds for the president to be labeled a war criminal. There are only four international law justifications for military action: the United States has been attacked; the United States expects imminent attack; a U.S. ally is under attack; the U.N. has sanctioned an attack. A strike on Syria meets none of those criteria.
Napolitano said he wished the media would speak up, but isn’t surprised that they generally defer to the president. He thinks it’s rational to expect favoritism when the president represents a media outlet’s ideology. Still, he is not happy with the current situation. “Where’s Dan Rather when we need him?” he wondered.