Friday, October 24, 2008

Constitution Free Zone

American Civil Liberties Union : Surveillance Society Clock:
"Using data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the ACLU has determined that nearly 2/3 of the entire US population (197.4 million people) live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.

The government is assuming extraordinary powers to stop and search individuals within this zone. This is not just about the border: This ' Constitution-Free Zone' includes most of the nation's largest metropolitan areas"

What in the hell am I talking about?

Normally under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American people are not subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches. The border has always been an exception. There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply. For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a “routine search.” But what is “the border”? According to the government, it is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States.

Border Patrol has been setting up checkpoints inland — on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminals in Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship. However, these stops by Border Patrol agents are not remaining confined to that border security purpose. On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing. Dozens of drug sniffing dogs are employed along southern borders in Arizona, resulting in thousands of arrests per year. Not for pounds and kilos of dope - for dust in a baggie; used pipes in the trunk; seeds and stems in the carpet.

They're setting up terrorist and immigration checkpoints in those hotbeds of radical violence, like Forks, Oregon. (Courtesy the Seattle Times)

This July, the government updated the Border Patrol policy to date regarding information searches: now documents and electronic devices can be detained for an unspecified period. They may now be copied without any suspicion of wrongdoing, the lowest legal standard. Any papers. Any electronic device. Any information. An example? An FBI agent asked Texas native Yasir Qadhi to come by. Qadhi said the agent cited the March 2006 stop, where his cell phone was confiscated, and said, "We went through your personal diary in your phone, and we discovered these numbers on there, and we want to know your relationship with these specific individuals." (Courtesy the Washington Post)

Discussion on

(realistically, checking the Bill of Rights, the only one the current and past administrations have missed violating or simply eliminating by fiat is the 3rd amendment. 9 and 10 have been long gone since the 1930s.)
Indeed, I rather doubt that the framers of the Fourth Amendment would have considered 'reasonable' a program of indiscriminate stops of individuals not suspected of wrongdoing.
Justice Clarence Thomas, 28-Nov-2000 (City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000))
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