Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Say 'So Long' to Your Civil Liberties?

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, revolutionary, or alarmist. I don’t think fluoridated water is a form of mind control, I’m pretty sure Barack Obama is not the Antichrist, and I doubt Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk occurred on a soundstage in Texas.

But Metro’s announcement of random bag searches definitely got my attention. There has to be more going on than what we've been told.

I typically don't mind searches, as long as they're not onerous or silly. Airports can run me and mine through as many machines as they could ever want. In Bogota, I would be searched an average of five times before I could board a plane (and that's with a diplomatic passport). A man with an Uzi would root through my handbag every time I went shopping at Andino Mall, and men were patted down before we could enter a club. But that’s just part of life in a country that’s been at war for generations.

But America isn’t Colombia. And this bag search policy is laughably ineffective. You can refuse to be searched, leave, and walk the two blocks to a different entrance. The random search policy is all for show, and the show itself is going to cause rubbernecking, anxiety, and delays.

And I haven’t even gotten to the real meat of it: random searches are an affront to who we are, our Constitution, and our culture. If I’m just trying to get to work, what law have I broken? Why are my movements being restricted? Where’s the probable cause? I refuse to play a role in the dissolution of my right, as a citizen, to go wherever the hell I want for whatever reason I see fit. Moreover, I refuse to turn the most ordinary part of my day, my ride to work, into a security theater freakshow.
I understand that terrorism is a very real risk. I've lived in Washington for long enough, and read enough newspapers, to be highly aware of that fact. But that's the risk we run as members of a free society. I'd rather take that one-in-a-million-billion-whatever chance of getting blown to bits than the sure odds of seeing my normal, workaday life irrevocably altered by the infringements of a police state.

So what will I do if I get pulled aside for searching? Simple. Politely refuse, hand over a printout of the Fourth Amendment, and leave. I can always walk, use another station, or take a cab. Inconvenience is a small price to pay for freedom, and I'll put in my buck-oh-five.

For those of you who don’t remember Civics class, I've included a copy of the Fourth Amendment. Print it, carry it, hand it over to the Metro goons, and walk the extra blocks. It’s good for the body, and even better for the soul.

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.
What will YOU do if you get pulled aside for a search?

66 comments:

I have thoughts said...

I'll let them search because I have nothing to hide, but I'll try to explain the law of percentages to whomever is searching me. In my mind, unless you are searching a majority of the people, it's not worth it from both a time and financial point of view. The benefit is well overshadowed by the cost.

Shannon said...

Thoughts - I have nothing to hide, which is exactly the point. If I've done nothing wrong, I'll be damned if I let someone dig around my bag. Metro staff can't even grasp that standing in clumps on the platform ogling women does not, in fact, make a station more efficient, so I doubt they'll comprehend the law of percentages.

I have thoughts said...

I don't know about you. You seem like the diabolical type - like the brain from pinky and the brain or boris from boris and natasha.

suicide_blond said...

i agree wholeheartedly.... of course, i didnt agree with the patriot act either ...and folks would accuse me of being a terrorist...some folks just have really different ideas about what it means to be "American" ... personally...i like the "free" part of being an american...
xoxo

Shannon said...

Thoughts - What do you wanna do tonight? Same thing we do every night, Thoughts, TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD.

Blond - I consider myself highly patriotic. And there's nothing more patriotic than a knowledge of my rights and peaceful, informed dissent.

Zipcode said...

lol the complete opposite of my post today -

its for your safety - but I respect your opinion.

FoggyDew said...

People clumped together waiting to be searched make a very inviting target.

Perhaps we could get T-shirts with the Fourth Amendment printed on the front. Or, better yet, the back so they can read them as you walk away after refusing to be searched.

Lance said...

i don't get so worked up about this sort of thing, but it's definitely disturbing. in general, i find DC cops to be unnecessarily paramilitary. of course, this is expected when we essentially live in a colony.

Zipcode said...

Refusing to be searched just really opens a lot of suspicion.

Just remember these guys are doing their jobs - orders sent down from the top - so don't be disrespectful.

LivitLuvit said...

If you're the genius, who's the in-sane?

Zipcode said...

Another perpsective from NYC:
http://www.wnyc.org/news/articles/54647

Shannon said...

Zip - Thank you. I just think an erosion of my privacy is far too high a price to pay, considering Metro can't even articulate how this will do any good.

Foggy - I agree - there isn't really a way to do the searches in already crowded stations without creating some inviting bottlenecks.

Lance - Well, maybe if my vote mattered, just a little tiny bit, I'd be less affronted by the searches.

Zip - If a polite refusal gets cops all worked up, then that's a major step toward a police state - I haven't broken any laws, and the policy states that people can refuse a search and leave the station.

I agree with your second point. I think it's pointless to badger some guy who is just trying to do his job. My intention is to politely refuse, hand over the ol' Fourth Amendment, and leave. Perhaps if enough people do it, the policy will be abandoned.

Shannon said...

Liv - Why, you are!

Hammer said...

You know what mode of transportation will not be subject to bags searches?

MAH TRUK!!!

Zipcode said...

Shannon - your tactic is reasonable and fair - I just have no problem with it. I just know from working the street after 9/11 I had to deal with a lot of assholes telling me I was violating their rights with stuff like this.

My advice - politely refuse if you don't want to be searched, but it does look suspicious - just be nice thats all I ask :-)

Shannon said...

Hammer - Does this mean you'll be driving me to work from now on? Awesome, and I'll be sure to kick in some gas money.

Zip - It saddens me that informed, peaceful protest could arouse suspicion. I understand why, but it's sad all the same. That's not the America I grew up with.

Lemmonex said...

I am always polite to people doing their job--I agree--it is just their job. But, and this is a big but, I think they job they are being asked to do is ridiculous and infringes on my rights. It IS NOT for my safety, it really isn't. It is a dog and pony show about politics.

Zipcode said...

Actually it is for safety reasons - it is what it is..

Shannon - you have a really good point. America isn't the same - a lot has changed in the last 8 years.

Shannon said...

Lem - Well said.

Zip - I often hear the expression, "Or the terrorists will win," used the justify the latest government security policy. I have a momentary flash where I wonder if they haven't already won. We've made such significant changes to the American way of life that it's no longer truly American.

Hammer said...

GET IN MAH TRUK OR TERRORZ WIL WIN!!!

(sry must warn u - iz somtimz randm bra searchez in mah truk)

Ibid said...

I saw the article this morning and I thought about all the people who had finally been convinced by high gas prices to start taking the Metro instead of driving. Now we're gonna drive them all back onto the highways by the bag search policies and the traffic jams that searches of other people will cause.
If they had at least said "we'll be doing this until after the inauguration" I'd be less disgruntled.
There were no subway searches following the real terrorist attack. What imagined slight do they think they're responding to now?

LivitLuvit said...

Ha. That's totes what I was going for.

PS, those bracelets look like Mad Men, and I want one as an homage to the great man that is Don Draper.

zipcode said...

I do have to say I like hammers commentary - its funny

Shannon said...

Hammer - So, do you only search every 16th bra? And what, specifically, are you looking for?

Ibid - It would make sense to beef up security for the Inauguration, but as of yet I've seen no specifics on why this is being done or how long it will last.

Liv - I liked the idea of hanging commuters - Metro's search policy is going to leave a lot of people hanging due to the bottlenecks it will cause.

Zip - Agreed!

bh said...

Between Billy Bragg last night and this annoucenment/post today, I'm feeling all revolution-y. The girlfriend is getting hopeful that she'll find my inner socialist yet.

Pinky and the Brain:

B: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
P: Uh, I think so, Brain, but burlap chafes me so.

Zipcode said...

Shannon/Ibid - sometimes specifics can't be let out to the general public for fear of people buying ducttape for their windows - lol remember that.

I have thoughts said...

ibid - it's not the searches that will drive them back to their cars, it's that gas prices have fallen, and continue to fall, dramatically

Ibid said...

I remember that the owner of a big duct tape company is a big Bush contributor and that the administration told everybody to hoard plastic and dust tape.

The gas price always drops right before an election.

I have thoughts said...

Are you serious? You think this has something to do with the election and not pure economics?

Shannon said...

Bh _ I sure hope your inner socialist dresses better than Lenin.

Zip - I know all information can't be shared, but I'd accept a rationale that could hold up under even just a little bit of scrutiny. So far, that hasn't been offered.

Thoughts - Which is a shame, I think high gas prices were forcing some very positive lifestyle changes - carpools, transit, not buying dumbass monster trucks (except for Hammer's TRUK, of course).

Shannon said...

Ibid/Thoughts - I remember the hilarity when the government told us to use duct tape and plastic wrap to seal ourselves into our homes in case of chemical attack. A nice idea, but wouldn't we, like, SUFFOCATE?

zipcode said...

DUCT TAPE FOR ALL - that was hilarious - its anarchy - the sky is falling.

I have thoughts said...

Lewis Black has some of the best, wittiest commentary on government scare tactics I've ever seen. You should check it out.

Hammer said...

MAH TRUK IS LITTL AND GUD 4 ENVIRONMENZ! (MAKES EZ 2 PARK AND DO SHERCHEZ... SEARCHEZ 4 BOOBZ!UM NO I MEAN BOMS. WHUPZ. KTHKSBAI...)

suicide_blond said...

how do you think it will go over when they find shannon in lem's purse???
xoxo

bh said...

Dunno, did lenin wear an old milwaukee t-shirt and a pair of dirty jeans?

Shannon said...

Zip - Duct tape for all, and to all a good night!

Thoughts - Will do.

Hammer - it's a tossup - ride MEtro and risk my liberty, or ride with you and risk my virtue? Oh, hell with it, I don't have virtue.

Blond - I would hope that Lem will refuse to be searched. I'll dig around for her copy of the FOurth Amendment. The sight of my little arm poking out of the bag, waving the Fourth Amendment, will put Lem spend on a "person of interest" list for the rest of her life. But, hey, totally worth it.

BH - The statue of Lenin at teh Tropicana had him in a bad suit, holding a fruity girl drink.

bh said...

Damn, that's what I'm doing right now. Let the revolution begin.

lacochran said...

It sounds like they are doing every X person, where X is a predetermined number. If accurately set up, at least that's not profiling.

It *is* a nuisance but it's also the "appearance of safety" which most safety people will tell you is a deterrent. (This is why you buy the largest dog dish you can find and write "Killer" on it and put it on your porch. You don't need the dog, just the appearance of having a vicious dog to make someone think twice about breaking in.)

You're certainly within your rights to follow your plan. The only one you'll be inconveniencing is you.

That said, I, too, wish things were simpler than they are now.

Jamie said...

I can't believe a judge found this constitutional. Does anyone REALLY believe that this kind of thing (or TSA security checks at airports) have any effect whatsoever? A survey (test) in 2006 found that in not a single case (21 airports) did they prevent bomb materials from getting through security.

Any terrorist who is determined will have his way. Further, if there is an unlimited supply of people willing to kill themselves to mess with America, then no measures will prevent them from doing so. The answer is not increased security- it's better intelligence, and also dealing with the root of the problem (e.g. why do some people want to kill us so much?) These measures have much more to do with public relations and power grabbing than they do with security.

Each little liberty we give up moves us incrementally towards not having any. Look how many times the Bush administration did whatever the hell it wanted in blatant violation of constitutional rights, while we all sat passively by and accepted it as a "necessary evil" because of the threat of terrorism. Bag searchs on the Metro? Accessing our telephone records? Umm... roadblocks in Trinidad?

Stuff like this is small steps towards a society where the government has no oversight and absolute power. It is not hard to imagine large numbers of American citizens being detained and investigated McCarthy-style based on suspicion of being a terrorist in the near future.

Oh wait, I forgot. We're already doing that.

This isn't about a simple bag search, it's about what it means and what the next thing is. That is why you need to refuse the search even if you have nothing to hide. If nobody cares then it's down the slippery slope.

Jack said...

I might do the same. On the other hand i would probably consent if the officer was hot.

J

http://adventuresinvoluntarysimplicity.blogspot.com/

Shannon said...

BH - Awesome, it's nice to know you drink girly martinis at your desk.

Lacochran - You bring up some good points. But there's no way I can let a stranger root around in my private effects when I've done nothing wrong.

Jamie - Good points, I think good police work and intel would do a lot more than random searches.

Jack - She'd just be searching your bag. But I bet you could request to be patted down.

Tina said...

If the officer was hot I would insist on a strip search but my purse - hell no - not even my husband gets to look in there.
(I know, I know, I'd be the only one naked - but at least I could point at officer hottie and tell folks truthfully - hey I got naked with that!)

Zipcode said...

"Jamie - Good points, I think good police work and intel would do a lot more than random searches."

The problem is that 3 letter agency that used to be ran by Hoover - they do NOT share any freaking information - those asshats are a thorn in the side of all law enforcement. I HATE dealing with them. That agency needs a major overhaul. They need to go back to organized crime and bank robberies.

FoggyDew said...

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - B. Franklin.

Bilbo said...

Shannon - you keep coming back to the point that "I've done nothing wrong." That's true...chances are you haven't. But many other people have. If you have a better suggestion for identifying those people and getting them off the street, I'm sure the Metro Police, DHS, the FBI, and everyone else would love to hear it. Yes, sadly, this isn't the America ANY of us grew up in. The problem is that while we have rights we treasure, there are those who would hide behind those rights to get away with doing unspeakable acts. The problem of where to draw the line between public safety and personal privacy is as old as the republic, and it's not going to be answered simply by insisting on rights and a concept of fairness that ensures that granny has as much chance of being searched as a person who is statistically more likely to be dangerous. None of us likes to say it, but that doesn't make it any less true. I ride the Metro (bus and rail) every day, and I'd rather be inconvenienced and alive than unable to enjoy my rights because I'm dead.

Shannon said...

Tina - Ah, the silver lining in the police state cloud...public nudity!

Zip - Solving organized crime and bank robberies, or DOING organized crime and bank robberies?

Foggy - Personally, I think the following Franklin quote is more relevant:

"He that lives on hope, dies farting."

Shannon said...

Bilbo - I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but thank you for a well-reasoned post. I "keep coming back" to the point that I've done nothing wrong, because it's the truth.

I'm not a counter-terrorism expert, nor have I worked in intel...but it seems like umpteen dollars have been spent, and the best anyone can come up with is asinine, ineffective random searches. Shouldn't someone out there know what they're doing?

Zipcode said...

Shannon - wonder which one of us makes the Express tommorow for our two opposite posts.
Shall we wager?

Shannon said...

Zip - I'm sure I will be, but taken totally out of context or misquoted some way.

"Shannon expresses her approval for terrorists, and wishes to run naked through all 86 stations in the Metrorail system."

Ibid said...

"Shannon expresses her approval for terrorists, and wishes to run naked through all 86 stations in the Metrorail system."

I'm never leaving the subway again. I must wait for naked Shannon.

Hammer said...

NAKD SHANUN NOT IN METRO! NAKD SHANUN IZ IN MAH...

No. I won't do it. Too easy.

Zipcode said...

nakd shannon iz in hammerz truk

Shannon said...

Ibid - That'll be a long wait, my Metro streak is planned for sometime between hell no and never.

Hammer - I'm in your truck right now!

Zipcode - Somebody had to class up the joint, huh?

vvk said...

I didn't used to mind being searched... but the powers that be in this country have "randomly" picked me out to be searched since 9/11 with such improbable frequency that I can't help but feel that this will be yet another case where I'll be picked on because of how I look.

I wonder when my first Metro search will be. *sigh*

Shannon said...

vvk - You know, I've been seeing assertions that the Metro police SHOULD engage in profiling, because it's more accurate and efficient. This assertion mostly seems to come from white dudes...who, of course, wouldn't get profiled. How convenient. If they're going to search people, make it random.

Marissa said...

Ooo...good post.

As someone who's had access as a reporter to some of the higher-ups in DHS, including Chertoff, (and I know this isn't really a DHS decision, but it plays into some of the reasoning re: Metro), some of their policies are just ass-backwards. They create the illusion of more safety without actually accomplishing anything. They also usually cost the taxpayer millions, if not billions of dollars. And what can we show for this? A whole lot of inconvenience and discontent.

Sure we haven't "been attacked" since '01, but to attribute that to some of these truly stupid policies is a mere guess as to why. I think terrorists (which, by the way, is such a gimp buzzword these days) are bad, but perhaps we need to look at our own policies to understand why it's now practically an embarrassment to travel abroad and identify yourself as an American.

In short, it is my opinion that these random bag-checking policies do little to enhance security, but instead divert attention away from the root causes of this problem, which can be blamed definitely on the nutcases who attack us, but also on some of the ridiculous foreign policies undertaken by this country, which do infringe on other peoples' rights. For specific examples, I suggest reading Blowback.

Thank God we still have that Constitution of ours though.

OK, I'm done now. :)

Justin said...

I like the argument that in order for the liquid ban on airplanes to have any effect, you need to arrest people who violate it.

Why?

It'll never be 100% effective. Anyone who tries to sneak in liquid explosives and gets turned around can just try and try until they succeed. So you have to arrest anyone and everyone who attempts to sneak more than 3oz of liquid past security.

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Justin said...

Oh, also: why do you need ID to board a plane?

I say let anyone who doesn't have a bomb on. Or nail clippers. Apparently you can hijack a plane with those. If al-Qaeda ever gets their hands on Richard Dean Anderson, we're all screwed.

vvk said...

Shannon: With extensive training, profiling might make sense... The experienced front line US customs officers at a major airport like JFK will look at a person/family/group and know what if any contraband they're likely to try and sneak through customs and then decide who needs to get some extra screening and who to let just walk through.... profiling can work.

That said, my experience has been that the vast majority of law enforcement simply don't have the diversity of experience and training to employ profiling effectively. Lacking the experience and training, they fall back on stereotypes. So even with the best of intentions they end up generating a lot of bad blood.

I don't think they're bad people or are picking on me just because they can... but they've been thrown out there by their superiors without adequate training... while the politicians at the top of their hierarchy are busy whipping up hysteria to score political points.

Shannon said...

Marissa - Thanks for a great comment. The expression, "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind every time I see a pointless security policy.

Justin - If you don't make at least one McGyver reference, the terrorists will have won!

VVK - Interesting...I for one am not inclined to rage at someone for just doing his/her job. A lot of this security freakout comes from the top, and I'm often suspect of the motives. Remember how we mysteriously popped up to Orange alert right before the 2004 elections? Right-o. Sure, I believe it.

Jamie said...

Shannon, I'm with you on understanding that people are doing their jobs, they didn't make the rules. Unfortunately, in practice, the same people often don't know the law and don't do their jobs properly as a result. At that point, raging is acceptable. Or politely asking them to tell you what law exactly it is that you are breaking, while writing down their name and badge number. They usually scurry away at that point. Or confiscate your camera, phone, pen, and paper and arrest you for assaulting an officer.

surviving myself said...

You're a terrorist, aren't you?

Shannon said...

Jamie - I don't tend to escalate conflicts, unless I'm right. Of course, I'm always right. Hrm.

Surviving Myself - Yes, AND I HAVE WON!!!!

Hammer said...

IZ NAKID TERRIST IN MAH TRUCK?!?!?! OH NOES!!!

Shannon said...

But I'm a CUTE terrorist. And you can take me to your Gitmo!