The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,
and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation,
and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things
to be seized.
The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution http://www.billofrights.com
The debate over the
need for randomly searching the public mistakenly presents the issue as being
a reasonable tradeoff between security and safety. Missing from the debate is
any sense of why the US Constitution gave Americans a right to be free from
unjustified searches in the first place.
If all the police would be looking for is bombs, few would find the searches objectionable,
but is that all the police will be looking for? A key source of information sought
by police investigating terrorism or other crimes is computer files in the form
of disks and hard drives. Another source is cellphones, which automatically list
all received and placed calls. Address books, personal calendars and diaries or
personal journals are also exactly the kind of sources authorities will want to
examine. Do you have a video camera? The police will want to see whatever you’ve
Where will the new rules on searches draw a line? Can the police search everyone’s
mail, tap everyone’s phone and intercept
all of our email communications? If they can search our bags without any
reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing why can’t they similarly search our
homes and cars? Can the police search
a business for all sales transactions, for their corporate plans and for
blueprints of new products that theoretically might be of use to terrorists?
It’s easy to say, “I’m not a terrorist so there’s nothing
for me to hide,” but is there nothing in your life you’d prefer
to keep private? Would the knowledge that the police or other government officials
could watch your every move on closed circuit television, listen in on every
conversation, read every note you write and search your person and possessions
anytime or anyplace cause you to change your behavior?
Might it also change your sense of self?
I’ve long suspected that the phenomena of reality TV was not just a form
of popular entertainment but was intended to condition the public in preparation
for a total surrender of privacy and the imposition of a police
state. That reality is now upon us.
Can abandoning our civil freedoms make us safer?
Iraq is occupied by more than 150,000 heavily armed US troops with the right
to search anyone at any time. It also has from five to twenty horrific terrorist
attacks a day. Israeli security forces are on a much higher level of alert than
anything here in the US and Israel has routine terrorist attacks. Russia has
the KGB and China has the world’s largest police and security services,
yet both remain subject to terrorist attacks. Within the US more
than one million incarcerated Americans are strip searched, monitored by
closed circuit TV and otherwise watched 24 hours a day, yet most manage to have
routine access to knives, illegal drugs and other contraband. Could even the
extreme scenario of turning the entire US into a prison stop terrorists?
NYC police officials are quick to admit that no amount of surveillance or searching
could guarantee them preventing a terrorist attack and it seems obvious from
a statistical viewpoint that randomly searching every fifth subway rider with
a bag is highly unlikely to prevent suicide bombers from getting on the subway.
Aren’t these searches cosmetically aimed at making people feel safer rather
than making them actually be safer?
In that case, what exactly is the real purpose of these searches? Might justifying
the complete abandonment of our rights be the real agenda of these apparent terrorist
attacks? If so, who is really orchestrating them? Dare we ask, how would manipulating
Western countries into giving up their civil rights help al Queda, Muslim fundamentalism
or any Muslim nation?
It’s notable that at the exact same time the government wants the public
to completely surrender its right to privacy, government officials are making
access to information on themselves, their decisions
and their policies less and less available
to the public. Is this a coincidental development or part of one consistent
When the Bill of Rights was written its entire purpose was to protect the individual
from government. Benjamin Franklin said it best....
who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve
neither liberty nor safety.”
President Bush keeps saying they hate us for our freedom. So far, he’s
done more to eliminate our freedom than any President in US history. In four
years he’s also managed to transform the US from the world’s most
admired into the world’s most despised nation.
We should heed Franklin’s words. Once lost, our freedoms will surely
never be given back to us. They are what America is all about.