Is This Unreasonable?

The US Constitution includes the following amendment:

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.

That’s the Fourth Amendment. It was included in the Constitution because the British had a habit of detaining and searching anyone they felt like for any reason, or no reason whatsoever. That is, this amendment was written to proscribe behavior which the founding fathers found unconscionable for a free people.

Apparently, however, the Fourth Amendment grows weak as one approaches the national borders:

The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.

 National security. It would appear we are not doing enough for the children, or something.

“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.

For many years, I’ve considered “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” to be close in meaning–close enough that we could let lawyers argue over the difference in particular cases. Now, it would appear that I’m completely wrong–or perhaps I’m simply mistaken and the group within DHS which wrote the report is wrong.

A riskless life is unachievable. Perfect security is not possible. Absolute insecurity is. Putting law enforcement actions above personal freedom–without the necessary suspicion/cause which allows freedom to be temporarily set aside–is yet another step toward that insecurity.

What else does one call it when no one can trust any one and the law comes down to who has the persuasion of power?

2 thoughts on “Is This Unreasonable?

  1. To answer you headline question, the answer is yes.

    To go a step further, probably cause requires the government to prove more than having reasonable suspicicion. To demand neither is to believe the Constitution merely a quaint guideline.

    I hope other groups join the ACLU in the effort to get DHS to follow the rule of law.

    1. LK,

      Interesting, isn’t it, how rule of law places such importance on the rights of the individual–to the point that some guilty individuals may not be caught and condemned?

      We keep moving away from innocent until proven guilty. Yes, the proof can be difficult to procure at times, but that’s allows free people the benefit of the doubt.

      I do not often agree with the ACLU, but they have the right of this one.

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