Monday, November 4, 2013

I Miss the Fourth Amendment

So you think there's this thing called the Fourth Amendment, do you? You believe it protects you from government carrying out unreasonable searches and seizures of your house or person. When you imagine what a reasonable search looks like, you probably think of the cops having some evidence to indicate a crime has been committed. Something more than what you look like, where you are, or what you're wearing. And you assume they have a warrant, too.

But no. Not so much any more. We've got stop and frisk -- where you can be stopped for being brown and male, with or without saggy pants -- we've got the NSA snooping on just about everybody with permission from judges who should know better, and in the southwest we've got checkpoints staffed by INS and Homeland Security agents who don't want to take no for an answer.

Thanks to NPR's On the Media, I discovered the story of Terry Bressi, an Arizona man who frequently has to drive from the University of Arizona to the Kitt Peak National Observatory for work, along a road that's 40 miles this side of the Mexico border.

Yet he's stopped almost every time at a checkpoint. He refuses to cooperate with them. They get bent out of shape. He records them. 300 times since 2008.

At some point he started a website called, where he writes about his experiences and receives carloads more of examples from other people who've encountered similar treatment.

As Bressi writes on his site:

While roadblocks are conducted under a number of different guises, they all share a common set of traits. Specifically, they:
  • Operate with no individualized reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing
  • Seek to control and intimidate local communities as opposed to serve and protect them
  • Raise revenue for expanding government programs through fines, citations & arrest
It's easy to not know this goes on if you're white and live far from one of our borders. (And it's not just the southern border -- there was a stir back in 2008 about immigration checks on ferries inside Washington state.) But like Martin Niemöller said, you have to speak up so there will be someone left to speak up for you.


Update: Here's an incredible story from New Mexico of a guy who was stopped for rolling through a stop sign and ended up being subjected to multiple enemas, rectal searches, and xrays, plus being sedated for a colonoscopy! All because one of the cops thought he was "clenching his buttocks." Then they billed him for the "services." I am not kidding.

He's suing the police. 

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