Sunday, August 29, 2010

What?? It's legal??

My son just mailed me this piece of truly disturbing news from the court-watching front. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which covers California and eight other Western states) has just decided that it's okay for the cops or the DEA or the FBI or some other arm of Big Brother to place a GPS tracker on the underside of your car while said car can be sitting in your own driveway. This court ruled that you're not entitled to any privacy rights on your driveway, nor should you expect any. Moreover, as if this were not heart-stopping enough, the same court has determined that law enforcement agencies can place these tracking devices on vehicles without first obtaining a warrant. This, brothers and sisters, is where we've come. If law enforcement agencies can do this, then the whole notion of illegal search and seizure is on the trash pile. The case, of course, is being appealed, and apparently other courts are not necessarily seeing it the same way as the Ninth does. For the moment.

All of this is a spin-off of the so-called war on drugs. This country's drug policy, as I've discussed here before, is insane. The victim of law enforcement in this case was a suspected drug dealer, so of course he doesn't have any rights worth respecting anyway – at least I'm sure that's the mentality of a lot of the guys in law enforcement. It certainly doesn't need amplification for you to realize that this is another serious blow to our precious civil liberties. Between the war on drugs and the war on terror and the unreasoning fears that these have stirred up in a vast portion of the uniformed and placid people, the sacrifice of the once sacred 10th Amendment guarantees of liberty just doesn't seem to bother many of them. It's only nut cases like me and all those other crazy liberals who sense a great deal of danger in decisions like this. The powers of the state to coerce and spy on its citizens can only be constrained by law, and when the interpretation of those laws is put into the hands of courts intent on reflecting the fears of the citizenry, civil liberties, and all of us, are in real trouble.

There is another little thing to notice about this ruling. Guess which people do have rights of privacy in their driveways? Why, people who can afford fences, gates, security guards, people who live in gated communities – rich people. And obviously all the rest of us don't have any rights of privacy that need to be respected by the law. That's the way the law works – for people who can afford  it to work for them.
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