Thursday, October 23, 2008

Somehow I knew Delaware existed in a Bill-of-Rights-Free zone....

... and now Radley Balko has confirmed it:

In the 1976 case U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that contra the Fourth Amendment, the government can set up roadblock checkpoints within 100 miles of the nation's borders in order to check for illegal immigrants and smuggling. The Court ruled that if the stops are brief, limited to that purpose, and not fishing expeditions, the minimal invasion to personal privacy is outweighed by the government's interest in protecting the border.

The ACLU says that since September 11, 2001, the government has been steadily stretching the limits of Martinez, to the point where the Department of Homeland Security is using that case and the terrorism threat to conduct more thorough, more invasive searches at dozens of checkpoints across the country. With 33 checkpoints now in operation, we're not exactly to the point of "Ihre Papiere, bitte" Berlin yet, but the ACLU does warn that the area of the country 100 miles from every border and coastline would include about 190 million people, or nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population (see map below).

Moreover, post-9/11, the courts have been pretty deferential to increasingly invasive searches the government says are necessary for national security purposes. For example, federal courts have given the okay to airport seizures and thorough searches of laptops and other electronic devices belonging to people returning from abroad. Such searches can be conducted with no individualized suspicion at all. Some of those subjected to them have said it took weeks for the government to return their computers.

See the map here; I couldn't make it shrink to fit.

Want my vote, presidential candidates, even at this late date? Put forth a substantive program to restore the damn Constitution.

1 comment:

G Rex said...

My parents have a cabin in upstate New York, and every Summer we get stopped by a Border Patrol checkpoint on the way back down I-87. It's always in the same place, so I'm pretty sure anyone running guns or weed or Canadian Club or whatever knows to take the alternate road. (That would be US 9, Tyler, not that you're expecting a delivery or anything.)

Meanwhile, just to the west you have the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation, which has the unique position of having territorial lands on both sides of the US/Canada border, not subject to the federal laws of either country. Translation: they are not subject to vehicular search at the border checkpoint. I'm not saying there's widespread smuggling through the rez, by any means, but there's nothing preventing it. Oh, and they have casinos, and tax-free gas, booze and ciggies!