On November 3, 2014, a room full of University of Illinois students gathered in a conference room to learn about their Fourth Amendment rights. Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Illinois Springfield organized and hosted the event for the student body. The event included a panel of speakers including Springfield ACLU Chapter President and attorney Dan Hanrahan and UIS Residence Life Director John Ringle.
Mr. Hanrahan spoke to the group about their rights when interacting with law enforcement in a variety of situations. He offered valuable information regarding traffic stops and search warrants. Students learned about the best ways to exercise their rights with law enforcement in a calm and respectful manner.
Additionally, UIS Residence Life Director John Ringle addressed a hot topic amongst students: expectations of privacy on campus
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.
— 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
In pre-Revolutionary America, the British empire would regularly search colonists' persons, houses, papers, and effects without reprieve or oversight. This was accomplished by the issuance of “writs of assistance,” also called “general warrants” in today’s terms. These often did not come with time restrictions, detailed descriptions of what was to be searched and seized, instructions for the manner in which to carry out the search, or identification of who was responsible for conducting the search. Oftentimes, these writs were transferable between persons, and could change hands many times before expiring with the King’s death.
On Friday, an opinion article written by New York State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It was titled, “A View From the Bench: Leave ‘Stop and Frisk’ Alone.”
The article was shocking to hear from a current justice, but frankly, with the continuing infringements of civil liberties, especially in New York City, it was not surprising. There are several puzzling statements that were made by Justice Uviller in the article that need to be addressed in order to comprehend what stop and frisk really means in, as The Economist put it, “Liberty’s lost decade.”
Uviller begins by stating her credentials on the subject, specifically that she has “presided over innumerable suppression hearings to determine whether evidence seized in a stop-and-frisk of citizens by police on the streets has crossed a constitutional line.” The judge seems to have worked too much in broken New York statute law and regulations, and ignored the constitutional aspect of unreasonable search and seizure as prescribed by the 4th Amendment.
The 4th Amendment requires police and prosecutors to obtain a specific search warrant from a judge in order to execute a search of an individual’s home, car, or body. If any evidence obtained was done so without a proper warrant, it cannot be brought into court because of the “exclusionary rule,” which was most extensively formulated in Mapp v. Ohio (1961).
The vote on the anti-NSA Amash-Conyers bill was a huge win for the liberty movement.
Sure, we may not have won in the conventional sense of the word, but the establishment is definitely running scared. It wasn’t so long ago that we were all watching Ron Paul stand alone in front of congress advocating for liberty and fighting against the tyrants in Washington. It may not have been all that long ago, but it is remarkable how much of a difference we have made in so short a time.
Justin Amash valiantly stood before congress yesterday to propose an amendment that would block funding provided to the NSA for the collection of phone records from every American Citizen. “Do we oppose the suspicionless collection of every American’s phone records?” Amash asked his fellow House members.
Several representatives who were opposed to the proposed legislation made the argument that “metadata” do not equate with phone records. True, metadata do not give the government access to the content of your actual phone calls, but they are still able to see what numbers you called and when you called them. Regardless of whether or not you have anything to hide, the government has absolutely no business involving itself that far into the personal lives of Americans.
In fact, the concept of privacy rights was so important to the founding of this country that our Founding Fathers decided to include it in our Bill of Rights.
In the midst of an international manhunt for former NSA analyst Edward Snowden — and the public debate on branding him as a hero or traitor — many Americans have forgotten the root of the real problem: the legal validity of these surveillance programs.
Some believe in the notion the ordinary, law-abiding citizen has nothing to worry about, since the government would never target them (despite the fact that Snowden revealed that these programs have done exactly that — collected mass metadata from typical, run-of-the-mill citizens).
Fortunately, America remains the greatest place in the world to live and call home. We celebrated the essence of that greatness over the weekend for Independence Day — the fabled anniversary of July 4th, 1776, the date that the Founding Fathers declared independence from the tyranny of King George III. It's a celebration of freedom and radicalism, and one that we should take more seriously as a country.
Though it's hard to appreciate the message behind the holiday when actions that subvert our freedom occur every day. Ask yourself: Are we truly free?
Now take this video for example, which went viral this weekend thanks to sites like Reddit:
The nearly 3 million-view video shows 21-year-old Chris Kalbaugh being harassed and constitutionally violated at a DUI checkpoint in Rutherford County, Tennessee by Deputy A.J. Ross and other officers. Despite not having committed a crime nor been charged with one, the officers swarm his car and use a K-9 to issue a "false alert" in order to search it. Kalbaugh ever expressed his rights to the officers, but no such luck. From the video:
Deputy Ross: “Are you an attorney or something? You know what the law is?”
Kalbaugh: “Yes sir, I do."
Deputy Ross: “OK, what is the law?”
Kalbaugh: “The law says at checkpoints I have to stop. And I did. That is all. I’m not required to answer any questions. I have Constitutional freedom to travel without being randomly stopped and questioned."
The officers continued their search unimpeded. When nothing turned up, Deputy Ross says, "He’s perfectly innocent and he knows his rights. He knows what the Constitution says.” Another officer off-camera says, "It wasn't a very good alert."
Utah Internet Service Provider (ISP) XMission courageously refuses to provide the government with records containing personal information about its users without a warrant. Under Utah law, the office of the attorney general is able to request records via an "administrative subpoena," which (unlike a warrant) need not be signed by a judge. The founder of XMission, Pete Ashdown, believes these subpoenas violate the Fourth Amendment. Ashdown is right, and there's much at stake in this row.
Naturally, the debate over these administrative subpoenas has been framed around the issue of fighting child pornography, a tactic which bolsters the government's argument since few are willing to criticize a practice aimed at the Hillary-esque it-takes-a-village imperative of "protecting the children." The trouble with such efforts to rescue said children is that child pornography won't be the last or only target of these laws. Unpopular political speech is next on the list, and was likely the state's real goal anyway. The state could assert that certain kinds of political speech harm the mental development of children during their formative years, after all.
Take, for instance, Twitter's recent decision to cave to pressure from the French government and, in turn, special interest groups (also known as NGOs) to hand over the identities of users accused of sending "racist" tweets (as defined by those NGOs, of course). We've all seen how language can be twisted by forces seeking to malign the defenders of liberty, and if they're attacking the Fourth Amendment now, it won't be long until they come for the First.
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 to the Constitution
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. — Fifth Amendment to the Constitution
One would think that the rules spelled out in the Constitution — simple, easy rules written to restrain the then new, federal government — would be familiar to federal agents. But that might be asking too much, right?
Apparently, the CBP checkpoint I drive through is for "suspicion-less detention;" at least that's what the agent told me. Watch the video:
Federal usurpation of power will continue unabated unless people check that illegitimate power.
Is this just another bad science fiction movie? No, it's a snapshot of modern America — a snapshot that Edward Snowden, who recently exposed the N.S.A.'s medieval and constitutionally abhorrent practices, knows all too well.
At 29, he faces political destruction at the hands of the very goons and thugs whose barbarism he just revealed. He is being called a traitor, despite his love of country. And the country is largely silent. Is this not evidence of an already-entrenched evil?
When the American colonists rebelled against King George III, they did so to escape tyranny and injustice. But the conditions present at that time were utopian in comparison to what has been substituted for America in the modern era.
In light of the recent revelations published by the Guardian, we all owe Edward Snowden a huge thank you for taking a stance for liberty when it was much needed.But we also must remember that if we stay silent and no action is taken by Congress, this ugly surveillance situation could get worse.Quite literally, that would be the absolute worst outcome of Snowden’s efforts.A lack of action would be a sign to the government that the American people don’t care about privacy — and that we might as well leave our bathroom doors open, too.
The StopWatching.Us Coalition is an online movement geared to prevent just that.It is not your typical online petition that never gets any real attention from Congress.Rather, this one carries large associations with it including Mozilla, the company that gave us Firefox, and Tim Berners-Lee — oh you know, he only invented the Internet!And by the looks of it, big media names such as Business Insider, seem to think it might just stand a chance.
The StopWatching.Us Coalition asks for an email address, name and postal address and they send a letter to your congressman for you.They also encourage calls to Congress.While still in its early days, the coalition is starting to gain momentum.While polls say that a little over half of Americans do not oppose PRISM or the NSA illegally seizing the phone records of million of Americans, let that not discourage us from voicing our opinion and fighting for liberty.
Snowden’s efforts cannot pass in vain.Remember when the people stopped SOPA?Let’s stop PRISM too and put an end to a secret, unlawful government.