www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Big banks settling -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Tuition pays for this -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

College textbook scam -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Policing a riot -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Evil strikes back -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Art appreciation -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Abuse of power -8/20/2014, 8:22 AM

Ferguson police arrest reporters for reporting -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Don't 'got milk' -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Another road map to success? -8/19/2014, 10:05 AM

It's the abuse of power, stupid -8/19/2014, 10:04 AM

Riots in Ferguson, and what they mean -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

One of billions -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

The GOP presents: Barack-nado -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Media and Missouri: What's going on? -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Answer the bell -8/15/2014, 8:58 AM

Get ready for denials -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mental illness -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mindless drones -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

Can-do attitude -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

'Poor door' -- a symbol of a truth we all know -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

Eyeing the Ogallala Aquifer -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

The slacker congress -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

CIA vs. Senate -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

The cannabis conundrum -- we against us -8/11/2014, 8:55 AM

The debate is over -8/11/2014, 8:54 AM

The 'Almost' Revolution -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Is cross a history lesson or state religion? -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Another downgrade -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

State economy plays critical role in the future of FHSU -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Building on past successes for a stronger future -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Will Palin's channel rival Comedy Central? -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Western anti-Semitism -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Patrolmen without borders -8/7/2014, 10:13 AM

Not a choice -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Ebola politics -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Too few voters -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A special breed -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A license to vote -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Selfies in Auschwitz -- and why it's wrong -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Election turnout -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

Dairy's closing -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

Concealing the Statehouse debate -8/5/2014, 9:18 AM

Beauty all around us -8/5/2014, 9:18 AM

Needing another senator -8/4/2014, 9:57 AM

Doing what he said -8/4/2014, 9:57 AM

Needing a new understanding of energy -8/4/2014, 9:57 AM

Do-nothing Congress -8/3/2014, 12:02 PM

Seeking the ultimate 'redress of grievances' -8/3/2014, 11:43 AM

Kansas values -8/3/2014, 11:43 AM

A candidate with morals, integrity -8/3/2014, 11:43 AM

Huelskamp deserves vote -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

One third of 1 percent makes difference -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

Vote for our future -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

Reaching a limit -8/3/2014, 11:42 AM

Please stop helping us -8/1/2014, 10:57 AM

Deadly double standards -8/1/2014, 10:57 AM

Huelskamp's attention to detail -8/1/2014, 10:57 AM

Surprise, surprise, surprise -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Medicaid expansion a win-win for Kansas -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Term limits are first step -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Vote for what's right -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

The next governor -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

Shultz is the pick -7/31/2014, 10:11 AM

Eyeing the children -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Speak from the heart -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Changing attitudes -7/30/2014, 9:01 AM

Time to replace Huelskamp -7/30/2014, 9:00 AM

Water vision -7/29/2014, 9:48 AM

No longer a supporter -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

The power of punctuation -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

Running for the wrong bus -7/28/2014, 9:04 AM

Old Old Mexico -- Culture and content -7/28/2014, 9:03 AM

The defining issue of economic recovery -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done? -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

Funding DHDC -7/27/2014, 1:18 PM

Endorsement for Shultz -7/25/2014, 3:28 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Fourth Amendment is going, going ...

Published on -1/20/2014, 9:07 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Perhaps you've heard of the Fourth Amendment.

That's the one that guarantees freedom from unfettered government snooping, the one that says government needs probable cause and a warrant before it can search or seize your things.

That guarantee would seem to be ironclad, but we've been learning lately it's not. Indeed, maybe we've reached the point where the Fourth ought to be marked with an asterisk and followed by disclaimers in the manner of the announcer who spends 30 seconds extolling the miracle drug and the next 30 speed-reading its dire side effects:

To wit: "Fourth Amendment not available to black and Hispanic men walking in New York, who may be stopped and frisked for no discernible reason. Fourth Amendment does not cover black or Hispanic men driving anywhere as they may be stopped on any pretext of traffic violation and searched for drugs. Fourth Amendment does not protect library patrons as the Patriot Act allows the FBI to search your library records without your knowledge. Fourth Amendment does not apply to anyone using a telephone, the Internet or email as these communications may be searched by the NSA at any time."

To those disclaimers, we now add a new one: "Fourth Amendment not effective at the U.S. border."

Just before New Year's, you see, federal Judge Edward Korman tossed out a suit stemming from something that happened to Pascal Abidor, a graduate student who holds dual French and U.S. citizenship. He was taken off an Amtrak train crossing into New York from Canada in May 2010, cuffed and detained for hours by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. They seized his laptop and kept it for 11 days.

It seems the computer contained photos of rallies by Hamas, the radical Islamist group, and his passport indicated travel in the Middle East. Abidor explained he's a student of Islamic studies at McGill University and he's researching his doctoral thesis. According to at least one news report, he's not even Muslim.

None of this moved the border agents -- or the judge. He rejected the suit brought by the ACLU, among others, on behalf of Abidor and the National Press Photographers Association, among others, on grounds the plaintiffs had no standing to bring suit because, he said, the searches are so rare there is little risk a traveler will be subjected to one.

More jarring, Korman found even had the suit gone forward, the plaintiffs would have lost on the merits. It is permissible, he said, for border agents to seize your devices and copy your files, even without any suspicion of wrongdoing. He questioned whether people really need to carry devices containing personal or confidential material and said dealing with a possible search of such a device is just one of the "inconveniences" a traveler faces.

As it happens, border-control officers already operate under a looser constitutional standard. They are allowed to conduct warrantless, suspicion-less searches of our bodies and our bags.

But our laptops? Our iPads? These devices are repositories of financial records, health information, confidential news sources and diaries. Are you required to surrender even the most intimate stuff of your life and work on the whim of a border agent because he or she doesn't like your looks?

Apparently, yes.

It is a sobering reminder -- not simply that the law lags the innovations of the Information Age, not simply the whole idea of privacy is shrinking like an ice cube in a tea kettle, but also if you lard a right with too many "exceptions," that right becomes impotent. So maybe instead of counting the places and situations where the Fourth Amendment no longer applies, we should start counting the ones where it still does.

It's getting so that might be a shorter list.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist

for the Miami Herald.

lpitts@miamiherald.com

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.