The war against the Constitution is becoming so intense, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up. Last week, it was the freedoms of speech and religion that were under assault from politicians, the media, and even the Pope. This week, it’s the right to privacy, or to be more specific, the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. It was just yesterday that I wrote about the recent Washingon Post/ABC News poll showing that nearly 7 out of 10 Americans favor surrendering the right to privacy to the government in order to be safe from terrorism.
Now we receive word of a new radar technology that makes it possible for law enforcement to look inside your home without entering it. According to a report by USA Today’s Brad Heath, at least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of homes to see whether anyone is inside, a practice that raises serious concerns about the power of government to conduct surveillance operations.
These agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshalls Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little to no notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. And even though the Supreme Court has ruled that officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s home without a search warrent, a recent incident seems to indicate that this isn’t always enforced.
A recent case in the 10th Curcuit Court of Appeals didn’t involve the required search warrant, only an arrest warrant, which is enough to make an arrest, but doesn’t meet the requirement for using the radar equipment incorporated in the case. The judges upheld the conviction and at least implicitly justified the use of the radar, even though they predicted it would be a thorny issue in some cases.
Dang that “thorny” Constitution!
This technology actually emerged from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as I mention in the title, its use, along with the post-Obama militarization of domestic law enforcement, creates a serious threat to our rights. In Heath’s report, he tells how these systems were intended for both ground and drone use, which creates additional concerns as more and more domestic law enforcement agencies increase their use of drones.
In one of the rare instances where I agree with the American Civil Liberties Union, an attorney summarizes my feelings:
“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic. Technologies that allow the police to look inside a home are among the most intrusive tools that police have.”
Technology is a wonderful thing, and it can be argued that the police should have this available to them to do their job. But it can also be argued that it creates an environment where the constitutional rights of Americans are essentially eliminated.
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