Thursday, January 2, 2014

Legal status of airports

"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 United States Constitution

A judge just ruled that border security guards may search any laptop at the border without reason or probable cause. This violates the 4th amendment because it is a broad warrant and doesn't fulfil the probable cause section of the constitution. We should be held to that standard.

However, the judge argued that the plaintiff was being unreasonable because Lebanon and Syria would go into his computer. The difference is that the United States is (supposedly) a free country, and has laws in place that prevent such actions in Syria (where the government is killing children, along with some rebel groups) or Lebanon (a truly fascist state where Palestinians are barred from having certain types of work, and political opponents are routinely detained).

I would hope that the bar for human rights is higher than Syria and Lebanon, and I would hope that the United States Supreme Court will reverse this decision in the near future. We should be a role model and set a higher bar for countries to compete with, not drop down to their level.

It doesn't matter if you are talking about the Soviet Union, Mussolini's rule in Italy, the Communist Party in China, or North Korea, the worst well-known countries in human rights indexes, there is no right to privacy in any of these places, but this doesn't mean we should sink to their level!

We should try to be the best country in the world which means following our laws that require warrants before the government searches people. Merely crossing and international border is not enough cause to search someone's personal possessions, or the law doesn't apply to our national police (which given their jurisdiction within 100 miles of any border makes them our de facto national police) which is a very dangerous prospect. They need to have more evidence than entering or leaving a country which is done by millions of people a day across the world, the vast majority of which mean no harm to anyone.


1 comment:

  1. A good post, with many solid points. I think one of the issues is that it can be a more effective deterrant to do random searches - to take "anyone's" device because they it's harder to predict how to avoid detection (if one intends evil). On the other hand, there have been a number of rather disturbing incidents through the decades of border/customs agents using their authority inappropriately, and I see no safeguards in place to protect or provide remedies retroactively. I would like to see clear legislation that requires a receipt for each confiscated item, reimbursement when agents damage possessions, and strict enforcement of notification of a person's right to an attorney at all times. I agree that what might be considered "normal" in many places should not be accepted in the United States. We should hold our representatives (hired or elected!) to the highest possible standards for behavior and demeanor.