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View Diary: Warrantless Searches of Muslim Sites, Whistleblowers Threatened With Firing (203 comments)

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  •  actually (none)
    iirc, and a lawyer can correct me if necessary, it is perfectly legal to look from public land (say, the sidewalk) through a window into a dwelling and arrest someone based on what has been seen. The idea is that no one should expect privacy with an open window.
    •  What about monitoring an open sewer? (none)
      For example, to see how much cocaine I use?

      Would that be legal?

      (sorry for going off topic, but that's just something I've been wondering about since I stumbled on the linked article a few weeks ago)

    •  You are correct (none)
      For example, if someone has a marijuana plant growing in front of a window that is visible from public property (or from outside the "curtilage" of the dwelling -- generally defined as the house, associated buildings such as barns or garages, and their immediate vicinity on private property), the police are perfectly within their rights to observe it and use that observation as the basis for a search warrant and an arrest warrant.  
      •  And actually this may be on a sounder legal basis (none)
        Obviously neither I nor anyone else here knows exactly what the FBI did (and I certainly don't approve of silencing whistleblowers, or anything of the sort, nor of racial nor religious profiling) but as far as the law is concerned, this is considerably less intrusive than looking in an open window. Radiation detectors are, after all, only detecting what is in contact with the detector; if the police were on public property, they were detecting the radiation on public property. The inference from some neutrons hitting your geiger counter that someone must have something nasty nearby is purely a logical one. More likely than not their detectors weren't even directional, offering no indication where in the area the radiation was coming from.

        The equipment they used can be ordered from any scientific supply catalog, found on any college campus, and is in the inventory of every major police department; it's not FBI secret-high-tech stuff. You could build one in your basement, for that matter. And too, there's little ambiguity that detecting a significant rise in radiation would indicate something dangerous that the police should pay attention to; it's a much more convincing probable-cause than any number of things you see on "Law and Order" every night.

        I've got my ACLU sticker on my door and I'm as hardcore a civil-libertarian as they come, but the basic notion of the police cruising the public streets with rad detectors really doesn't trouble me at all.

        •  Not what law says... (none)
          RTFD.  Current law says devices designed to "look" into places where someone could reasonably expect their privacy are in fact invading said privacy.

          I'm not sure where I stand on this; you're right - it's radiation that exists in public or at least semi-public places (driveways and parking lots).  But I see Scalia's point in the IR case, and IR is no different from radiation.  Were the technology sufficiently advanced and the timeframe long enough, one could probably recover significant details of the inside of a house from a radiation scan.

          The fact of the matter is, we don't build our houses to block IR, radio emissions, or radiation, nor do we expect those emissions to be used to spy into our house; either the public needs some notice that the government will be spying into our houses using these new detectors so we can have enough time to re-enforce our houses, or the 4th Amendment must be interpreted in a broader sense as the SCOTUS has done.

          Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

          by Phoenix Rising on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 03:39:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  IR is no different from radiation? (none)
            Among other things, the radiation that would be the signature of bad things going on in the basement is hazardous, whereas photons, per se, are not.  In addition, it is illegal to possess most radioactive substances of interest in weapon-making, whereas there are legitmate uses for grow lights.

            "This machine kills fascists"--words on Woody Guthrie's guitar

            by Old Left Good Left on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 04:59:00 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and further, (none)
              you can't get anything much like a "picture" of a place based on nuclear radiation you pick up from outside it. Scan a building in IR, and you can sort out things like the locations of objects and people inside, quite a lot about electronics that are operating in there, all sorts of invasions of presumed privacy.

              But no one walking around my house with a rad detector can learn a damned thing about me other than whether or not I have something unusually radioactive inside and roughly where it is. They can't tell if anyone's inside the house or not, to pick something at random. There really isn't much in the way of illegitimate prying possible this way.

              Walking down my street with a good set of human ears is vastly more intrusive. I do not believe the police are constitutionally prohibited from doing that without a court order, even several times a day!

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