Friday, July 22, 2005

Fourth Amendment R.I.P.

"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."
-Amendment IV to the U.S. Constitution

Well, it was a good idea while it lasted. The War on Drugs put the Fourth Amendment in intensive care, and the War on Terror finally killed it. Maybe it had been dead for awhile, but it left such a good-looking corpse we just didn't notice. But there's no denying it any longer. The random bag searches in the NYC mass transit system started yesterday and will continue into the foreseeable future. No probable cause is required. You draw breath, you're a suspect.

The random searches aren't without precedent, of course. In Boston, they randomly searched people entering the subways during the Democratic national convention last year, following the Madrid subway bombings. In New York, we had random searches of vehicles entering the city by bridge and tunnel. Ever since the authorities discovered five-year-old surveillance of Citigroup Center by suspected terrorists, most large office buildings now x-ray bags at the entrance. Now the London bombings have made subway security the flavor of the month, so it's down with the 4th Amendment on trains and buses. The terrorists must amuse themselves watching our protectors flit from trend to trend in order to make us "feel safer".

It's a wonder the terrorists don't leak plans to hide high-powered explosives in their rectal cavities, just to watch the sheeple willingly submit to random anal probes. I guarantee you one such incident of a Mad Butt Bomber, and you would see cops with a rubber glove on one hand and a tube of K-Y in the other on every street corner.

Yes, the threat of another terrorist attack is real. When you build an empire that puts military bases in 170 countries around the world and routinely invade sovereign nations and kill the locals by the thousands, you tend to make a few enemies. ("Ooh, he's blaming America." No, I'm blaming our stupid-ass government.) While the likelihood of any one of us being in the next exploding subway car is remote - even here in NYC - any loss of innocent life is deplorable, and we should seek to prevent it. But it's important to keep in mind that these searches do _nothing_ but comfort the stupid. Approximately 4.7 million people ride the subways each day, entering 468 different subway stations, many of which have up to six entry points. There are about 40,000 cops. Do the math.

LPNY Vice Chair Blay Tarnoff puts it into even better perspective: "Iraq is under military rule. Anybody's bag, clothing, or body cavities can be searched at any time for any reason or no reason at all. Terrorist-style bombs are nevertheless going off every day, killing all sorts of people, including the most heavily armed and technologically advanced and highly trained soldiers in the world... Given all that, how intrusive will searches have to be to be effective in New York City? Take your time."

What I find hilarious is that whenever the news reports do get around to mentioning civil liberties concerns in the 7th or 8th paragraph, it's always some ACLU talking head or other liberal weenie fretting that the searches could lead to racial profiling. Yes, god forbid they focus on people who look like they might actually be terrorists. Nobody _ever_ gets down to the fundamental 4th Amendment issue of unreasonable searches or the presumption of innocence. The standard now is that civil liberties violations are fine as long as they are done consistently and "fairly".


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