MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Dismantling Rights in the Name of Security
In a stunning violation of the Fourth Amendment, as reported by Wired.com, the right of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees to search and possibly seize all hi-tech equipment â€“ including laptops, cellphones and androids â€“ in the possession of US citizens and others as they cross into the US has been upheld by the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (yes, that is the oxymoronic name of the department justifying the denial of Fourth Amendment rights.)
According to Wired.com,
The DHS, which secures the nationâ€™s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a â€śCivil Liberties Impact Assessmentâ€ť of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices â€świthin 120 days.â€ť More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.
â€śWe also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,â€ť the executive summary saidâ€¦.
According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment â€” the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures â€” does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nationâ€™s actual border.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has another perspective on this latest evidence of the growing erosion of Fourth Amendment rights, which began under the Bush administration in the name of protecting the so-called homeland against terrorism. Unfortunately, the assault on individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution has continued on a fast track under President Obama, including the most lethal dismantling of Constitutional rights: the "legal finding" by the Department of Justice that the executive branch can choose to assassinate US citizens abroad without due process.
Of suspicionless search of electronic gear at the border, the ACLU objects: â€śThere should be a reasonable, articulate reason why the search of our electronic devices could lead to evidence of a crime,â€ť Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a telephone interview [with Wired.com]. â€śThatâ€™s a low threshold [in itself].â€ť
What's more, the search of hi-tech personal possessions can take hours, delaying US and other travelers as they remain under detention until the "investigation" is completed. Based on its sole discretion, a DHS agent can seize personal electronic equipment without stating why or showing probable cause.
To those who support the Obama administration in its expanding usurpation of Constitutional civil liberties, remember that this is a nation built on law. Furthermore, know this; at some point, there will be a Republican president. Imagine if Romney had won and had these powers?
There is a bulwark in the Constitution about habeas corpus and due process for a reason; once the line is crossed and these rights are suspended, there is no oversight. It creates the creeping opportunity for any US citizen to be targeted by searching through a laptop or by a missile from a drone.