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Tag: fourth amendment

Unreasonable Police Searches Are Illegal And Happen Far Too Often

police lightsBy Steve Chapman
Chicago Tribune

The most memorable moment of the recent Democratic National Convention was when the father of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq demanded of Donald Trump, “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” Conservatives, however, also revere our founding document. At the first tea party rallies in 2009, attendees waved copies.

But the Constitution is not self-enforcing, and one important section has eroded to the point of invisibility: the Fourth Amendment. It says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” In much of America, that guarantee is an empty promise.

The latest evidence came in a report on police practices in Baltimore, issued Aug. 10 by the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation spurred by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. It documents that the city’s law enforcement officers operate with virtually no regard for the Fourth Amendment.

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cops may stop someone when they have reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity and, if they have reasonable grounds to think the person is armed, may frisk him lightly to detect weapons. They may not stop anyone they please, and they may not vigorously search a citizen’s clothing and body without a good reason.

The court intended to empower police only within strict limits. It emphasized, “No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.”

But the Justice Department found that in Baltimore, police routinely stop people on the street without reasonable suspicion, conduct physical searches that lack adequate grounds and exceed legal limits, and arrest people without justification. Each of these practices is more than a mistake: It is a violation of fundamental liberties at the heart of what it means to be an American.

To read more click here. 

ACLU: Tucson Police, Border Patrol Violating Constitutional Rights During Immigration Checks

Border Patrol agents reads the Miranda rights to a Mexican national arrested for transporting drugs.By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Tucson police and Border Patrol agents are violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Southern Arizonans by immigration checks that often take more than an hour, the ACLU of Arizona wrote in a pair of letters to the two agencies Monday.

Of the 110 traffic stops reviewed by the ACLU by Tucson police between June 2014 and December 2015, a majority lasted longer than one hour, Tucson.com reports. 

More than three-quarters of the cases involved “clear or potential constitutional problems,” the ACLU said.

Supreme Court Declines to Consider Case Involving Random Detention of Motorists Near U.S. Borders

US_Supreme_CourtBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it would not consider a case involving limits on random detention of motorists within 100 miles of a border.

The case involves an Air Force officer, Richard Rynearson, who was detained for 34 minutes at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Uvalde County, Texas, despite authorities having no suspicion that he was an undocumented immigrant or criminal, Reason.com reports. 

In a 1976 decision in the United States v. Martinez Fuerte, the Supreme Court concluded random stops at immigration checkpoints did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The justices reasoned that each stop “involves only a brief detention of travelers” during which “all that is required of the vehicle’s occupants is a response to a brief question or two and possibly the production of a document evidencing a right to be in the United States.”

The court had said “the average length of an investigation in the secondary inspection area is three to five minutes.”

FBI Director Comey Makes Case for Position on Encryption

James ComeyBy FBI Director James Comey
Lawfare

I am worried we are talking past each other with respect to “Going Dark,” so let me try to frame it in a way that I hope is fair-minded and provides a basis for healthy discussion:
These are things I believe to be true:
1. The logic of encryption will bring us, in the not-to-distant future, to a place where devices and data in motion are protected by universal strong encryption. That is, our conversations and our “papers and effects” will be locked in such a way that permits access only by participants to a conversation or the owner of the device holding the data.
2. There are many benefits to this. Universal strong encryption will protect all of us—our innovation, our private thoughts, and so many other things of value—from thieves of all kinds. We will all have lock-boxes in our lives that only we can open and in which we can store all that is valuable to us. There are lots of good things about this.
3. There are many costs to this. Public safety in the United States has relied for a couple centuries on the ability of the government, with predication, to obtain permission from a court to access the “papers and effects” and communications of Americans. The Fourth Amendment reflects a trade-off inherent in ordered liberty: To protect the public, the government sometimes needs to be able to see an individual’s stuff, but only under appropriate circumstances and with appropriate oversight.
To read more click here. 

Detroit News: Justice Department Wants to Limit Our Fourth Amendment Rights

By The Detroit News
Editorial Board

If Americans had no civil liberties, it would be a snap to keep the country safe and secure. Police states are highly effective at dissuading criminal activity and rooting out threats.

But as inconvenient as it often is for law enforcement, we do have a Bill of Rights that guarantees protections and procedures aimed at keeping us free, as well as safe.

Unfortunately, in recent years, many Americans have been too willing to forfeit those rights in the name of battling perceived existential threats, most notably drugs and terrorism. And federal agencies are all too keen about snatching bits and pieces of our freedoms to make it easier for them to do their jobs without the bother of adhering to the Constitution.

The latest example comes from the Justice Department, which has slipped a major intrusion on the Fourth Amendment into nearly 400 pages of arcane rule changes being considered by a judicial committee.

Federal prosecutors want to make it easier to find and hack into computers being used for cyber crimes, including child pornography and identity theft.

The Fourth Amendment limits property search warrants to geographical areas in which the signing judge has jurisdiction. The government claims the rules are no longer adequate in an era when cyber criminals can use their computers to not only hide their identity, but their whereabouts as well.

The proposed changes would allow judges in a district “where activities related to a crime” have occurred to issue a warrant. That would allow prosecutors to search computers currently outside their reach.

Civil libertarians are rightly concerned that the language of the proposal would sidestep the constitutional requirement that warrants be specific about who and what is being targeted by a search.

Video Shows Border Patrol Agent’s Questionable Handling of Motorist

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A video has surfaced showing a Border Patrol agent potentially mishandling a driver who refused to say where he was going and declined a search.

“What is your reasonable suspicion?” asked Rick Herbert, who was in the car with his 4-year-old son.

The agent grabbed Herbet by the arm.

“Hey, dude, stop, I got to unbuckle my seatbelt first,” Herbert told him. “You’re being recorded, just so you know.”

Herbert was shoved against the window of the back seat, handcuffing him in front of his child.

Do you think the agent crossed the line?

Justice Department Seeks Permission to Hack, Search Remote Computers

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

It used to be the bad guys who hacked computers.

But now law enforcement is resorting to the same trickery to search remote computers for investigations.

The IDG News Service reports that the Justice Department is seeking permission to hack computers to investigate complex criminal schemes that often utilize millions of machines nationwide.

The request has worried digital rights groups who said the hacking is intrusive and may violate the Fourth Amendment protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“By expanding federal law enforcement’s power to secretly exploit ‘zero-day’ vulnerabilities in software and Internet platforms, the proposal threatens to weaken Internet security for all of us,” Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said by email.

CNN Editorial: Stop NSA Assaults on Constitutional Rights of Americns

istock illustration

By CNN
Editorial Page

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.

This is the beginning of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and defines one of the most important rights we have against a potentially tyrannical government.

Throughout history, governments have used the confiscation of private property, as well as bullying and surveillance techniques, to keep populations under control and maintain a continuous threat against those who would dare criticize them.

The explicit enshrinement of the right to be left alone is one of the crucial features that has defined America as such a unique and moral nation.

In recent years, however, this right, like so many others, has come under attack by the overzealous powers that be in Washington, eager to sacrifice liberty in the name of security, and using fear as a weapon to make us forget the importance of being free.

In 2013, the revelation that the National Security Agency was collecting and storing the metadata from the phone calls and e-mails of millions of American citizens — without any suspicion of criminal activity — served as a striking wake-up call for the country.

Americans do not like to think of their government as some Orwellian leviathan, engaging in surveillance tactics that we only expect to see in oppressive autocracies. That such surveillance could be going on in what is ostensibly the freest nation in the world is a chilling thought indeed.

To read more click here.