path: Home / Queries on Law Raised by Third Season Episodes
- Would the Privacy Act of 1974 really prevent C.J. from telling a reporter the names of the two American victims of the terrorist attack in Jerusalem?
- Maya Bernstein, who "was responsible for its oversight for my nine years at the Office of Management and Budget" writes us:
- The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a) grants individuals certain rights in federal government records about themselves, and requires the government to protect those records according to specified rules. One rule is that records should not be disclosed without consent (of course there are exceptions). However, individuals must exercise these rights personally if they are of legal age. While parents can consent to disclosure on behalf of their minor children, the victims in the episode were said to be brothers 19 and 20 years old, over the age of majority. Therefore, the parents would not have any say in what happened to their records under the Privacy Act.
- Dead people don't have Privacy Act rights. The rights expire with the person.
- The White House is not subject to the Privacy Act (although some of the agencies within the Executive Office of the President are subject to it). C.J. could have disclosed information about the two victims even if they had not died. In the real world, the press secretary would probably just have said they were not naming the victims pending notification of next of kin."
- So do we have to pay for the Tax Rebates we got last Summer and Fall?
- Gov Exec. Mag's West Wing site says, ". . . if President Bartlet's tax rebate works the way President Bush's tax rebate worked, then Charlie shouldn't have had the shock of owing money instead of the joy of receiving a refund. As the IRS explained last year, "most people have received the full benefit of this change, and it will not affect how they complete their 2001 tax returns." The only people whose returns would be affected were those who didn't receive the tax rebate, and those people would be due a larger refund or a smaller amount owed." The provide a link to an IRS fact publication which says:
Click on above text for the full text in pdf format.
- What does "Posse Comitatus" mean?
- "A Reconstruction Era criminal law proscribing use of Army (later, Air Force) to 'execute the laws' except where expressly authorized by Constitution or Congress." (Posse Comitatus Act)
"SEC. 15. From and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress." (Posse Comitatus Act of 1878)
- Wouldn't a secret service agent be wearing a bullet proof vest?
- There are a number of things to keep in mind in relation to this question which was raised by what happens to Simon Donovan in "Posse Comitatus".
- Donovan may have gone off duty and was going to the local field office --- we think C.J. said something to Butterfield about that when he told her of the death (this store was not close to the theater) --- when he stopped at the store. He had after all made a date with C.J. for later so we know he wasn't going to be on duty then. If he went off duty, he might well have taken off any bullet-proof vest he might have had on earlier.
- Although Secret Service agents are assigned vests, we do not know if they are required to use them while on duty. When Simon first meets C.J. he tells her that if she is killed, he will probably be dead as well. Sounds to us like he doesn't think he will have a vest on.
- It is thought that when Secret Service agents are protecting people, they may well need the most mobility possible and a bullet-proof vest might slow them down. Also those vests are hot (even the newer, thinner kind) and these people often have to run alongside vehicles so we suspect they are not required to wear vests in all situations, maybe not in any situation. And Donovan was pretty cocky and if given the chance, may well have chosen not to wear such a thing.
- We were sent the following via email: "As someone with some experience working press advance for the President, I can tell you that it has been my experience that Secret Service agents do not wear vests. In fact, I don't think I have ever noticed anything other than they wear very nice suits (required to be black, charcoal or navy) and white shirts."
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