The Fourth Amendment That Was.

English: The Bill of Rights, the first ten ame...
English: The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution Česky: Originál Listiny práv, prvních deseti dodatků k Ústavě Spojených států amerických Deutsch: Die Bill of Rights genannten ersten zehn Zusatzartikel zur US-amerikanischen Verfassung, die den Bürgern bestimmte Grundrechte garantieren Español: La Carta de Derechos de los Estados Unidos, el término por el que se conocen las diez primeras enmiendas de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos de América (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right of search and seizure regulated. 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.”

It seems some days as if there are as many interpretations of this one sentence as there are people to comment on it, but I believe that most are due to either problems in definition or a callous disregard for the basic premise presented in this Amendment. I will attempt here to address the definition problems.

The first word in question is the word secure. The modern definition most commonly accepted is likely to continue or to remain safe. A different definition, which could also apply is feeling confidant and free from fear and anxiety. Were the authors intent on providing for our safety or our freedom from fear? This seems to be obvious if the Amendment is read in context and with an understanding of the desire of the founders to keep their language simple, direct, and clear. Had they placed their highest value on safety, placing it above freedom and property rights, they would certainly not have failed to include provisions which could have easily made us less free but much safer. In fact, if safety was their highest priority, it makes little logical sense that they would have included the Third Amendment in the Bill of Rights. No, their priorities centered on life, liberty, and property, not on safety. With this in mind, it must be concluded that the Fourth Amendment was intended to protect our life, liberty, and property, and not to provide for our safety.

The next word we need to clarify is papers. I personally find it to be a sad commentary on our situation that we need to clarify this at all, but we must do so to refute those who would try to make the claim that this refers only to physical, written documents on actual paper. In the days of the drafting of this Amendment, the normal means both to transmit messages over a distance and to record events and ideas for future reference was on paper. Electronic media, including telephones, e-mail, texting, and the like, was unheard of. How can a rational person claim that these modern methods of communication and record keeping should be excluded when at the time of the writing all normal methods of doing so were readily included in the word papers? Modern communication must be covered by this Amendment just as if we were still forced to do all of our communicating with quill and parchment. The notion that we should have no expectation of privacy flies in the face of all the Founders stood for.

What about the next controversial word, unreasonable? This is defined for us quite sufficiently right there in the text on the Amendment if only we refuse to take it out of context. “No warrant 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.” It should be fully evident to any rational and literate person reading this statement that this is the required test for whether a search is to be deemed reasonable. First, there must be probable cause, not mere suspicion. Second, this probable cause must be supported by a statement from a person who is willing to put their credibility and honor on the line to swear an oath. Next, a warrant shall be issued, and shall include a specific description of exactly where to search and what and who to look for. There is no room for latitude in this.

So why did I title this, “The Fourth Amendment That Was?” Just a few examples should be enough to show the disregard for the Fourth Amendment, not only by government agencies, but by well meaning citizens themselves.

Is boarding an airplane probable cause? Has anyone sworn an oath detailing how a crime is to be committed or how someone possesses tools for the commission of a crime? Has a specific warrant been issued? No, no, and no. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment which can only be justified by…..well, I can’t think of a justification outside of a desire to intentionally ignore the constitutionality, or lack thereof, of the actions of the agencies involved.

How many residences were searched recently in Boston, and for what goal? Yes, there was a well justified manhunt going on, but one report sticks in my mind. Someone called in to a radio show and told of a law enforcement agency stopping her on the road and asking to see inside of her laptop case. Even had they had probable cause that the fugitive may have been hiding in her vehicle, how on earth can anyone possibly say that it was reasonable to look in a container as small as a laptop case for a 19 year old fugitive? Not only is this idea completely ridiculous, it is only to be viewed as a blatant violation of both her Fourth Amendment rights and her privacy. What were they really looking for and where was the warrant?

One more example of either a disregard for Fourth Amendment rights, or possibility a complete misunderstanding of them, is the fact that too many in this time actually seem to believe that there is some kind of merit to the idea that we have no expectation of privacy in our communication. Individuals and entities of the government appear to be adamant in their claim that our private communication should not be subject to the same level of protection and privacy as was so clearly described in the wording of the Amendment in regards to the protection included in the language referring to papers. If communication written on paper could be so obviously protected then, how can communication written on the modern electronic equivalent not be equally protected now?

We are at a point in this society where we all have a vested interest in speaking out against this abuse of our rights, for if we allow it to go on very much longer we will lose them, and along with them, the ability to regain them. Even if we think it is beneficial to sacrifice some or all of the protections provided by the Bill of Rights to alleviate a short term problem, we must always remember that the Bill of Rights itself is also the only means of ensuring that we can regain them, and once suspended we will lose not only the rights, but the means to have them restored.

Why Did the Itasca County Board Betray the Veterans and Constituents?

The title alludes to the full problem here, and it speaks to what may well be called the final straw. Why did the council vote against the people?

For those not already fully familiar, I will write a brief summary, and include the detailed information in attachments for convenience, both to myself and to the reader.

In 1971, a tract of land was designated as a memorial forest and named in honor of two veterans of the Second world War. It was indicated that this designation would be permanent.

This tract of land is adjacent to good roads, and has good public access, but it is also adjacent to the property owned by an individual who is not a resident of this county. This individual would like to add this land to his own, and has offered a different tract of land, which apparently he has not yet purchased, as an exchange. Unfortunately, even though a few claim that this land has easy access, most who have seen it have disagreed.

There is also the fact that most people in this county do not believe that it is right to move a memorial forest for the sake of one individual’s desire than it would be to move a grave marker for convenience’s sake. It is nearly the universal opinion that to do either would clearly be morally wrong, and be a gross disrespect to the person remembered.

There are two primary problems here. First, a disrespect for the memories of fallen veterans combined with a desire to please a person who is not even a resident. These priorities are backwards, unless there is something to be gained by supporting this individual’s want for this land. Second, there is the fact that some on the council feel as if they are justified in approving something such as this against the overwhelming opposition of the people. I got the distinct impression, both from their statements in the meeting and from their e-mails, that they actually feel that their job is to rule the county rather than represent the will and desires of the people. This goes against every concept of liberty upon which our society is supposed to be based.

During this week’s hearing, the room was filled with over a hundred people, mostly veterans, who were unanimous in their opposition to this exchange, and many of whom spoke at the podium. In spite of this, certain members of the board were so insistent in their determination to go through with this exchange, that at one point the veterans were spoken to as if they were errant children who had to be reminded that they did not understand the situation and that they should listen to those who were telling them what was good for them. It was disgusting. I will not repeat some of the terms I heard later as descriptions of those particular members.

There are only a few possibilities which I can see to explain the intentional and blatant disregard for the will of the people, and none of them bode well for the condition of our county government.

Do they have such an elitist mindset that they firmly believe that their wisdom is so supreme that they, and they alone, are qualified to make our decisions? Do they believe that their opinions are so insurmountably correct? If so, do they also believe that we are so insignificant that our opinions and desires hold no weight? If this is the case, they must be voted out of office at the earliest opportunity to minimize the damage they can do, and because this mindset would automatically disqualify them from being a fair representative of the people.

Are they so inept and blind to the consequences of what they do that they really do not understand the situation? In this case, they should never again receive a vote for public office, as they are incompetent.

Or perhaps one or more of them will receive some unknown benefit as a result of their support for this unpopular exchange. Whether true or not, this question is completely relevant, and is right and proper to ask. In fact, if we are to consider ourselves responsible citizens, we are obligated to ask this question, and to demand an answer. If an official is found to have benefited from, or received the promise of future benefit, then not only should they be removed from office, but they should be vigorously prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


Is It Time For A New Gandhi?

This has been in my thoughts for some time now. There is a lot of talk about replacing our elected officials, but in order for a person to successfully run for office, they have to be wealthy and have wealthy supporters. Few people will be able to do anything but admit that this solution will likely bring us more of the same.

To further magnify the problem, our elected officials really do not any longer actually run the government. They have engaged in a process over many years of gradually delegating more and more power to the entrenched bureaucracy, to the point that now that is where the real power of government resides. while this was happening, we were asleep, trusting that those we elected would act in our best interest instead of in their own.

You can blame who you will for this, but the responsibility falls squarely on us. For the sake of convenience we have let the only country on the face of the earth which was established with the idea of the people holding the power be co-opted by a group of career politicians and bureaucrats who told us what we wanted to hear, then did what they wanted.

Recently in Detroit the situation became so bad that many of the residents essentially began ignoring the local government. The city could no longer afford to provide the promised services, yet continued to demand more from the people. Many of the people there began to act as if the city government did not even exist. The result was that the city became so ineffective that the state had to send in managers to attempt to resolve the problem. Only time will provide us with an answer with whether this will solve the problems there or make them even worse.

This has happened in other places in varying degrees, and now we must ask the question of ourselves, “Is non-compliance the best option?”

Mohandas K. Gandhi
Mohandas K. Gandhi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has become my belief that if we continue on the path we are on for much longer, the government will grow both in size and power to the point that its very scale and willingness to oppress and restrict will incite widespread resistance on a scale and in a form which will be detrimental to us all.

There may well be other options, but we must now be willing to consider whether the time has come to just ignore to the best of our abilities the unconstitutional and oppressive laws and regulations with which we have been afflicted.

Even if you disagree with my premise, I ask all who read this to consider this option, because we must all agree at some point that things must change, and we must find the best possible option before time takes the choices out of our hands. This must be discussed. We can not responsibly put it off much longer.