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Blackwater and the Constitution

Patt Morrison

The Third Amendment -- going, going ... ?

Nice work, Blackwater.

The Third Amendment says that "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.''

Apart from the Founders' fondness for a weird scattershot use of commas [evidence that ''well-ordered'' militia thing], which would grieve the punctilious-about-punctuation heart of my elementary-school teacher Mrs. Sedeen, this amendment has been, as the new ''in'' word says, a bit of a legal outlier.

Thankfully, our history hasn't generated major Supreme Court wrangling over the government trying to billet Sergeant York in private houses; the biggest military incursion in private homes in modern memory is probably G.I. Joe.

But with Blackwater trying to set up a counterterrorism training facility along the Mexican border, San Diego has appealed to a federal court to stop it.

It doesn't precisely fit the language of the Third Amendment -- mercenaries won't be camping in the gazebo -- but it does go to the broader meaning of ''house'' and by extrapolation of ''home:'' does it include our neighborhoods? Our cities?

The Blackwater business is slick on two counts. With the government privatizing military functions, the feds could plausibly argue, "Heck, they're not soldiers. They don't wear the nation's uniform, and they're too well-paid to be soldiers.'' And as for that "time of war'' thing, aren't we always at war these days?''

Blackwater employees not being ''soldiers,'' they don't have some of the advantages of the uniform -- but don't seem to bear any of the limitations or encumbrances, either. National security beats full house, straight flush, royal flush, you name it. Remember the border fence going through in spite of hell, high water, property rights and environmental damage?

Nice try, San Diego, but don't expect any more support from the courts than the folks in the path of that border fence got. After all, there's a war on.

Patt Morrison is a blogger, author and columnist for the Los Angeles.

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