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A New York City Transit Authority regulation making it illegal not to carry ID on the city's transit system was just declared unconstitutional.  The New York ACLU had brought suit back in 2011.

A federal judge has ruled that a New York City Transit Authority rule requiring people using the city's transit system to carry ID is unconstitutional.
In a small but important victory against Big Brother, ACLU Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose noted
This decision is a victory for the freedom of people to walk around free from showing their papers, a core American right... Its past time for the NYPD to learn about the Constitution and stop harassing and even arresting people for exercising their basic rights."
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident where two men, Steve Barry and Michael Burkhart, were accosted by Transit Police for taking pictures of a subway train. Despite it being perfectly legal to do so, the police said it was illegal, and then demanded ids.
Barry and Burkhart were issued summonses charging them with taking "unauthorized photos," though the transit rule the officer cited states that photography is permitted in the transit system. Barry also was issued a summons for violating the Transit Authority rule requiring people to carry ID.
There is no end to the government's attempts to destroy our civil liberties. From drones to 'Stop & Frisk'; from warrantless spying to the Patriot Act; from police believing they can stop people from filming - despite multiple court cases ruling against them - to declarations of "press free" (aka "frozen") zones in New York City; from reading our emails to demanding our tweets, it never stops, and it's only getting worse.

It's nice to read about a victory, but let's make no mistake. A victory here and there amidst an ocean of attacks means we are losing. The ACLU and its allies can only do so much, especially considering an often unfriendly court system which seems to believe that the plain meaning of the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th amendments is some sort of Martian rune, lost in translation.

As one article I read just yesterday but which I've unfortunately lost the reference to so aptly put it, the only remedy that might have a chance of working is a more powerful Bill of Rights.  To wit

"It's time we brought the 1st amendment into the 21st century."
Or at least the 20th.

10:12 AM PT:Good FSM. Proving my point:

The City Council ((Piedmont, CA, an 'island' city completely surrounded by Oakland, CA)) wants to move swiftly on installing license plate readers around town in an effort to combat crime...

License plate readers photograph each vehicle as it enters or exits the city. It is not a video surveillance camera. The plates are instantly matched with a "hot list" of stolen vehicles, sex offenders or other scofflaws. The investigator can then quickly notify officers of the presence of a suspicious vehicle or driver.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 09:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, Progressive Policy Zone, Barriers and Bridges, Police Accountability Group, Invisible People, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for covering this. (29+ / 0-)

    With attention focused on the Stop and Frisk trial, this is not going to garner headlines.

    It is a victory, and we can must do more to support the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Constitutional Rights (among others) who are keeping the pressure on.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 10:00:40 AM PDT

  •  Lived in Brooklyn for 5 years (27+ / 0-)

    Didn't have a driver's license because I didn't have a car--subways and buses were cheaper and more convenient. Therefore, I didn't have I.D. with a picture.  I'll bet most New Yorkers who don't own cars, lack photgraphic I.D.s.

    STUPID rule to begin with.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 10:01:17 AM PDT

  •  I go thru the West 4 street station every day. (18+ / 0-)

    In 6 years, I have been stopped 3 times by those cardtable stop- and-search-your-backpack random checks.

    The last time was about 6 months ago.  The guy rifled my bag, and then he asked me to empty my pockets.  I calmly said "that's not what's on the sign.  You would need a warrant for that."
    He looked like a young kid, a rookie, and there were so many people around.  He looked over his shoulder to look for his sergeant, who was talking to somebody.  The guy looked at me exasperated, and just told me to move along and get my train.

    I wasn't gonna fucking empty my pockets.  The rule is that "large containers and backpacks are subject to search".  THAT is the warning on signs at the entrance and in their spoken announcements, so obviously there is a legal requirement of notification.

    My wife is an attorney and she is also black.  I know she would have defended me, but when I came home and told her the story, she said I was crazy.

    Of course I was travelling WW (whilst caucasian), which helped immensely, I am sure!

    Ayn is the bane! Take the Antidote To Ayn Rand and call your doctor in the morning: You have health insurance now! @floydbluealdus1

    by Floyd Blue on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 10:27:41 AM PDT

  •  It seems every cop in the world thinks you (16+ / 0-)

    should carry photo ID 24/7, even if you are only taking the pooch out for a walk.  However, photo ID means either a passport, DL or maybe university ID.  But in a city the size of NYC, how many people don't ever have the need to drive or even have a DL?

    I just had a go-round with our state DOT about their ID card for people who no longer drive for a relative who is literally comatose.  Despite her condition, she continues to have business that needs to be conducted and some of which takes an ID.  DOT demanded we load her into an ambulance, with tubes attached, and transport her to nearest DOT to wait in line to have her pic taken.

    We have reached a compromise but I had more than one DOT employee inform me that the ADA was federal and therefore had no jurisdiction over them as they were state (We seceded and no one told me?)

    •  Your situation prob not in their guidebooks so... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jpmassar, LilithGardener

      they are utterly incapable of thinking outside that little book! Life is nuanced and requires creative thinking for situations that come up!

      •  Y''s not that the employees are dumb... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jpmassar, Justus

        ...It's that they have almost zero ability to do anything to alter the Rules or work outside of them without having to fear disciplinary action.  The average person that you deal with face-to-face at a DMV or over the phone with any government agency is generally the equivalent of an outsourced phone rep in terms of their control over their job and awareness of the organization's procedures and workflow outside of their immediate responsibility - in other words, they're peons, though not necessarily through any fault of their own.

        If it's not in the book, they don't know how to deal with it.  Their manager likely doesn't know how to deal with it.  You've either got to get high up or find someone who's willing to take a potential hit to do the right thing.  They can't just go: "Well, this is obviously stupid, let's do something else."  At best, you'll get someone who can rules-lawyer something vague into something applicable, but that takes both an above-average knowledge of not only the rules of the job but the laws/rulings/etc that create the rules.

        I work at a large government agency that constantly deals with every segment of the public.  We have extensive procedures for nearly everything -- but statistically, when you deal with millions of people's problems, sometimes you run into a situation where there's a genuine humanitarian need to short-circuit the process, or you're dealing with an edge-case, or something which simply isn't specifically addressed in any of our tens of thousands of pages of operational manuals.  Many times I can refer back to the statutory language that we based our operating manuals on and figure out how to handle something weird, but that's not a skill that's taught to most employees at my relatively low (low-level manager) level, much less the line worker phone-slaves; most of the employees only are vaguely aware that our manual isn't law, but the interpretation of law and codes. Actually, in my case, the operating manual is an interpretation of a code that is an interpretation of statutory law.   Whee!  It's also very difficult to locate either of the latter two through usual research paths and sources used by line employees.

        'Hacking' a bureaucratic/legal system also requires programmer/lawyer-style critical reading skills -- breaking down the document into clauses, individually analyzing each logical statement and clause, determining what verbage is explicitely defined and thus unalterable, and which verbage has not been defined, and is thus exploitable -- and recognizing which bits are critical in the first place.  

        For example, a 'sibling' is generally accepted as a brother or sister in common parlance in non-Native US society.  However, in one application -- unrelated to my job -- where the definition was important, 'sibling' wasn't explicitely defined within the document, so I could fall back to dictionary definitions of 'sibling.'  That includes the anthropological definition -- a member of a 'sib', a group that can trace its ancestry back to a common ancestor.  By that definition, my mother, myself, and any progeny I have (and all of their progeny, and all of theirs, unto the heat-death of the Universe)  are siblings because we share a common ancestor -- my maternal grandmother (and grandfather.)  This is, incidently, why practically all well-crafted legal documents define key terms explicitely -- so that they may only be interpreted in one extremely distinct way in order to prevent just this kind of linguistic weaselry.

        Unfortunately, this most powerful method requires access to specialized and sometimes (deliberately ot not) hidden knowledge, an unusually high level of verbal and logical skills which the average civil service employee -- or for that matter, average US citizen in general -- cannot be assumed to posess, a willingness to argue (constructively) with your management, management that is bound by contract so they can't just arbitrarily say: "I don't care what it says, screw you, I hate your face, you're fired," and a set of balls (or sufficiently studly ovaries, liver, or other erroneously-associated-with-willpower/courage/fortitude organ of your choice.)

        Other times, you find That Guy.  Y'know, the one who's worked there forever, is probably not-quite-neurotypical, and can basically remember Everything and knows all the ways around the Procedures, including official/unofficial/no-normal-person-would-read-it-that-way-but-it's-technically-correct ones.  

        Sometimes I can go to a manager above me and get them to sign off on what needs to be done.  Other times, you can just go 'fuck it' and be willing to take the hit if someone reviews your work -- but the number of issues that can be worked around using that are limited, because some errors are just too dangerous (too injurious to a job rating or actually illegal or could lead to civil suits) to take.

        I've found much depends on the manager you have.  Some managers are exceedingly hidebound -- if the book doesn't cover it explicitely, it doesn't exist and you can't do it, and they certainly don't want to be bothered about it.  Others are much more willing to work to game the system or annoy their higher-ups into bypassing the official workflow, recognizing that our first duty is to serve our 'customers' while still working within the framework of law and regulations and respecting the rights and duties both of the agency and the individual.

        Also, the current attrition rates, layoffs, and other attempts to eliminate personel in federal, state, and local governments tend to favor losing the most experienced people to buyouts and early retirements.  Thus, institutions are losing their 'That Guy' and the managers who've been there forever, and the knowledge of how to work the system, or how to deal with a once-a-decade event, that they have accumulated.

        Finally -- just as an aside -- this is one reason that you should always try to be as personable and 'correct', if not actively nice, as possible to any employee you deal with, but particularly the ones in any large agency based around customer service.  (Willful and insistent is OK, especially if you've been wronged or injured through no fault of your own, douchebaggery isn't.)  You might get a clueless noob, sure, but you might also get someone like me on the phone, who knows the ins and outs and can either fix your problem themselves, route you to the right person to get the job done for you, or tell you exactly how to approach a problem (down to the precise language to use) so that it gets to exactly the right person saying exactly the right thing to get your problem solved with an absolute minimum of hassle on your part.  

        If you meet a basic minimal politeness threshold, I'll bend over backwards to solve your problems, and your problems, they will be solved if it's at all possible, though it may take time.  If you're an asshole to me, you get the absolute bare-minimum I'm-just-doing-exactly-what-is-required-of-me-by-my-job level of service.  The difference between the two is that the former requires a lot more effort and occaisonal exposure to errors on my part, but the latter, shittier customer service never will get me in trouble and is much easier to do -- and the former might get your problem solved in minutes, weeks, or months, whereas the latter might get your problem solved in months, years, or the dark side of never.  

  •  That Piedmont idea was tried (6+ / 0-)

    in nearby Tiburon (means "shark" in spanish if that helps) a millionaire suburb of San Fran in Marin County. here's a good article about the proliferation of these cameras, focusing on Tiburon.

    The Tiburon folks claim a drop in property crimes since 2009 of 30%; however, it's a tiny city, so numbers can probably vary a lot, and crime overall has been going down nationwide. In any case, they didn't put them up to deter crime, in my view. They put them up because they're afraid of poor people who live in nearby cities.

  •  New crime? (10+ / 0-)
    The plates are instantly matched with a "hot list" of stolen vehicles, sex offenders or other scofflaws.
    I didn't know a car could be a sex offender!!  

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 11:17:02 AM PDT

  •  In this Bizarro world (5+ / 0-)

    In this Bizarro world, I'll take my victories when they happen.  

  •  What a riot. (7+ / 0-)

    I have taken pix & video in NYC subway for years, some of family, some of break dancers, some of the beutiful tile work, or just the overall beauty of Penn Station. Never got bothered over it. Guess it's OK if you're an older white woman?

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 11:21:37 AM PDT

  •  All the faux brouhaha (10+ / 0-)

    over the second Amendment angers me when the Fourth Amendment is the one that has been decimated.  

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 12:05:33 PM PDT

  •  Wow, how did I not know the ID thing was a law? (6+ / 0-)

    I'm actually kind of embarrassed I didn't know the ID aspect of this law was on the books. What a joke. Well, at least the ruling went the right way.

    I remember the whole "no photos" thing, though. I was accosted in Hoboken terminal in 2004 as a high school junior (!) for taking photos with a 30 year old film camera. I had a tripod, though, and I've discovered that tripods scare security types a lot more than even the crappiest camera.

  •  The Amendments to the Constitution (7+ / 0-)

    address official behavior that is likely to be engaged in, but isn't permitted, except under special conditions. The extent to which public officials are inclined to restrain ordinary people never wanes. That's why we have to be constantly aware.
    I suspect that people who delight in ordering people around don't mind being ordered around by superiors themselves. So, they just do to others what they want done to them.
    Where the error lies in the suprevisors of these agents of government failing to impart the principle that civilians rule. That the people govern just hasn't sunk in--yet.
    Some blockheads will never get it.
    Eternal vigilance isn't needed to protect against external threats, but against the authoritarians in our midst.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 01:24:44 PM PDT

    •  Sadly, I can't disagree. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jpmassar, hannah

      I find that there're basically two kinds of Public Officials -- those who revere the orders of law and those above them as something not too different from the Word of God, as something intrinsically Good and Correct, and ... those who don't, who realise that everything and everyone is fallable, and in any case, the job of a Government is to serve its people, not the other way around.

      ...How those attitudes shake out can vary wildly, though.  For example, Sherrif Joe falls in the latter category.  Many beat cops seem to fall into the former category.

      •  The "king" as servant of the people is a (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        revolutionary concept. Some of the people who revolted against the King of England did so because they didn't think he was doing it right -- they divorced themselves from a bad parent, but not from the concept of patriarchy. That the people govern was embedded in the Constitution, but it wasn't realized in practice because
        1) the majority of the population had no civil rights

        2) public officials enjoyed sovereign immunity and could not be challenged in the performance of office, except by the election of a replacement.

        Sovereign immunity was addressed (cancelled) by the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1947 and universal suffrage for all emancipated citizens (18 years and older) was only achieved in 1971, after all my children were born. We are still at the dawn of popular government and the old guard is, naturally, resistant to giving up power to the mob, as they think of us.

        We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 12:43:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  IDs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, jpmassar

    I didnt know about this ID law and I live in NYC. A thought comes to mind since I'm a runner and I never carry an ID while running (and dont even know where I would carry one since running clothes and licenses dont mix). Should I challenge the next donut-eating cop who asks for an ID to run 8 miles back with me to my apartment so I can show the ID.

    •  There are easy options (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jpmassar, sny

      Where do you carry your keys?

      I have a tiny neoprene pouch with a very sturdy clipon that carries keys, $20 bill, ID, and tiny emergency medical contact info. I didn't know there was a law either, but I don't ever want to be a John Doe lying in some ER or morgue.

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 02:19:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  running ids (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jpmassar, LilithGardener

        I've tried the pouches but the bouncing/chafing gets to me (even on ones that supposedly dont bounce) - maybe its something I'd get used to. I do put a business card with  contact info under my shoe liner, but I have no idea if an ER would know to check there (and it also gets beat up and needs to be replaced periodically which I never remember to do). I've been procrastinating for years on getting one of those metal ids that can be strapped to your shoes. I normally carry my keys, but I'll put them and some paper money in a shoe pouch if at an event.

        But the pouches I've played with aren't big enough for a license.

        •  What I have isn't really a pouch actually (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          it's more like a small notecard envelope. About 1.5x the dimensions of a business card.

          It's almost weightless, doesn't bounce, and clips to my waistband, either inside or outside. The keys I carry lie flat, without any key ring, otherwise the keyring would tend to dig in. Great for all kinds of sports, including some that involve movement over long distance and all day, and some that do not include shoes.

          "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

          by LilithGardener on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 04:44:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I have yet to find a lighted intersection without (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, Justus

    traffic cameras, and in crime reports see a consistent 'we tracked Mr Dumbass's vehicle from here to there and showed he was near the whatever when the whatever happened. He was arrested.'
      And it's not done with stray bank machines and gas station pumps.

    I think we art being surveilled at least by the traffic cameras and now by the license plate readers. I was recently pulled over and whined at because my trailer ball covers my license...sorta.

    So if you are a criminal in any way, plan your route so as to avoid these cameras...and good luck, you will need it.
    Or ride a bike.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 02:11:05 PM PDT

  •  Here is the bigger issue: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, Justus

    The NYPD will not stop asking for IDs.  As they say in the movie Casablanca (I paraphrase as I can't find the full quote) "People are detained in Casablanca regardless of their rights.

    "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

    by shmuelman on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 02:28:29 PM PDT

  •  Tiburon, CA beat Piedmont to it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, Justus
    License plate readers photograph each vehicle as it enters or exits the city. It is not a video surveillance camera. The plates are instantly matched with a "hot list" of stolen vehicles, sex offenders or other scofflaws.
     Tiburon being one of the most expensive places to live in "liberal" Marin County.  If they wanted to be so exclusive as to track every vehicle that comes into the city, you'd think they'd just become a "gated community" to show everyone how unwelcoming they are.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 04:42:29 PM PDT

  •  I really don't understand where (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the incurision of civil liberties is, especially in the case of license plate readers. That's nothing more then what police can do now physically

    The same thing with asking for a valid photo id, shouldn't the police be able to know who they are interacting with?

    I realize that my stance on civil liberties isn't the same but I would welcome a more detailed explaination of why either is an infringement of civil liberties.

    In the time that I have been given,
    I am what I am

    by duhban on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 05:07:49 PM PDT

    •  In America (0+ / 0-)

      We are supposed to have the right to live our lives freely and without constant surveillance.  (See the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments, to begin with).

      The police are not supposed to have a demand right to interact with us unless they have probable cause to believe that we may have committed a crime.  Courts have provided exceptions (unduly broad exceptions in my opinion) when a compelling public safety interest is shown.  Thus the regulation to allow searching of backpacks when entering the subway, for instance because subways have been bombed and gassed in terrorist attacks elsewhere with devices that could be carried in a backpack.

      However, using public transit is not a crime.  Walking along the street is not a crime.  Talking with someone on a street corner, or giving a speech in a public space, is not a crime.  Therefore, the police have no business "interacting" with you while you are engaged in those activities.  Therefore, no business asking for your ID.

      It was not long ago that we Americans routinely held ourselves up as better than the Soviets and Eastern European regimes because of their extensive surveillance systems and insistence that every person be able to produce their ID on demand from the authorities.  We are becoming them.  

      The OP is about one small victory for freedom when we have constantly seen the attempt to normalize police activity that a generation ago would more likely have been compared to expectations in the Soviet Union or East Germany and condemned.

      It is the ACLU and other organizations standing up for the right of Americans to be free to go on with their ordinary lives free of hassle from the police.  

      •  License Plate Readers (0+ / 0-)

        I realize I got a little off-topic in replying to the specific comment about license plate readers.

        The objection to automated license plate readers is the ability it gives the authorities to track the automobile's movement.  As in the above reference to surveillance, ordinarily, Americans should be free to live their lives without constant monitoring of the authorities.  Otherwise, I question what sort of freedom we actually are talking about when we say Americans are free.

        Automatic plate readers feed into the total information awareness system of universal surveillance.  That is the objection.

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