Friday, August 01st, 2008 | Author:

As one of that rare breed that values the freedoms supposedly guaranteed by the US Bill of Rights, whenever possible I choose to avoid waiving those rights.

For instance, barring an unforeseen emergency, I will never fly on an airplane again. Why? Because I would rather be grounded, than submit my body and my belongings to unreasonable search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment supposedly protects us from this invasion of privacy, and it’s one of the major reasons for the American Revolution. So what if I never see Aruba? Somebody’s got to stand on principles, or those principles evaporate.

I probably will never drive to Canada again, either, even though I’m about three hours from the border. To cross the border on the ground, you need either a passport (read: national ID card) or an “enhanced” NY driver’s license (read: national ID card) and I will resist applying for either as long as possible. My mind just won’t wrap itself around submitting to the command:

“Papers, please!”

So I guess for our 25th anniversary, we’ll have to stay on the American side of Niagara Falls, instead of trying to find our honeymoon motel.

I’m whining about all this – again – because our illustrious Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has disclosed it’s policies on when they can confiscate your laptop or your cellphone. “When is that?” you ask. I reply, “Whenever you cross the border.”

The Washington Post put it this way:

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

Now ponder that for a moment. They can take any electronic device you own, keep it for as long as they want, and analyze whatever’s in it. And they can do this even if you are a model citizen and they have absolutely no reason to suspect you or your activities. Your only “crime” is trying to cross a border. More from the WP:

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’ “

Now compare all that to the Fourth 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.

Does anybody except me think these DHS policies might be unconstitutional? Does anybody except me even care? Well, I guess it really doesn’t matter, because I won’t submit to these violations even if I’m the only person in the country who doesn’t.

If this erosion of our rights continues, I may be forced to live in a shoebox.

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