The government has been chipping away at the 4th Amendment since the start of the War on (some) Drugs. The stop-and-frisk policy in New York is just one of the latest steps in destroying privacy in this country.
Now the DHS has decided that the freedom from suspicionless searches doesn't apply near the nation's borders.
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.
The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.
According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.
Did you catch that? 100 miles inland. That includes shipping ports. That means that around 2/3rd of the nation's population, around 190 million, lives in these areas that are free of the 4th Amendment restrictions.
The DHS has already set up 33 "internal checkpoints" deeper in the country.
The expansion of the police state in America would be mindboggling to anyone living as recently as the 1980's or 1990's. It doesn't seem to matter which political party is in power.
They established or strengthened the power of the executive to: torture at will (and create the "legal" justification for it); imprison at will, indefinitely and without trial; assassinate at will (including American citizens); kidnap at will anywhere in the world and "render" the captive into the hands of allied torturers; turn any mundane government document (at least 92 million of them in 2011 alone) into a classified object and so help spread a penumbra of secrecy over the workings of the American government; surveil Americans in ways never before attempted (and only "legalised" by Congress after the fact, the way you might backdate a check); make war perpetually on their own say-so; and transform whistleblowing - that is, revealing anything about the inner workings of the lockdown state to other Americans - into the only prosecutable crime that anyone in the National Security Complex can commit.
Granted, some of these executive powers existed before 9/11. The FBI conducted illegal surveillance of anti-war groups in the 1960's. The government acted illegally during Watergate and Iran-Contra, but both of these cases involved people being prosecuted and going to jail. Now the government acting outside the law is simply expected.
Imprisoning, torturing, and killing people without due process is "the right of Kings", not presidents. It is the domain of dictators, not democracies.
And yet that is exactly where we find ourselves today.
The line has been crossed, and not by just a little bit.
Of course, this restriction on civil liberties only applies to the common people (much like fuedal days in Europe). If you have enough money, you can buy yourself more freedom.
The US is the world's largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth, both in absolute numbers and proportionally. It imprisons people for longer periods of time, more mercilessly, and for more trivial transgressions than any nation in the west. This sprawling penal state has been constructed over decades, by both political parties, and it punishes the poor and racial minorities at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates.
But not everyone is subjected to that system of penal harshness. It all changes radically when the nation's most powerful actors are caught breaking the law. With few exceptions, they are gifted not merely with leniency, but full-scale immunity from criminal punishment. Thus have the most egregious crimes of the last decade been fully shielded from prosecution when committed by those with the greatest political and economic power: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, spying on Americans' communications without the warrants required by criminal law by government agencies and the telecom industry, an aggressive war launched on false pretenses, and massive, systemic financial fraud in the banking and credit industry that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.
Many in the right-wing believe that only guns can protect our liberties. Yet they never seem to question the effectiveness of this belief.
There are more guns now than ever before, yet our liberties are fewer now than ever before.
Perhaps they are confusing liberties with something in their pants.