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Fourth Amendment

Even if the cops wave you to the side amid flashing lights, and functionaries come out to ask you for saliva or blood samples, and keep asking after you say no, it’s all “voluntary.” Right? Right. “A recent Georgia appellate decision reversed a trial court that held the lights atop a police car were merely an invitation to chat rather than a command to stop, the refusal of which tended to produce death by a hail of gunfire.” [Amy Alkon, Scott Greenfield, earlier here, here, and, on "no-refusal" blood-draw DUI checkpoints, here]

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An extra reason to be cautious in your holiday driving:

If you live in one of 30 cities, you may find yourself pulled over soon at roadblocks where police and federal contractors ask to swab your cheeks, take your blood or give a breath sample to see if you’re on drugs without any probable cause that you’ve committed a crime. Such an exciting time for your civil liberties!

[Jalopnik via @ProfBainbridge] On the separate issue of “no-refusal” blood draws at DUI stops in states like Texas and Tennessee, see Sept. 30.

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Yes, “copyright infringement”:

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the [National Security Agency's] vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say. …

“It’s a very common complaint about N.S.A.,” said Timothy H. Edgar, a former senior intelligence official at the White House and at the office of the director of national intelligence. “They collect all this information, but it’s difficult for the other agencies to get access to what they want.”

“The other agencies feel they should be bigger players,” said Mr. Edgar, who heard many of the disputes before leaving government this year to become a visiting fellow at Brown University. “They view the N.S.A. — incorrectly, I think — as this big pot of data that they could go get if they were just able to pry it out of them.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) speaks out on NSA bulk surveillance in this new Cato video with Caleb Brown. Earlier on surveillance here, here, and here; earlier on panopticons here. For the use of “money laundering” laws to pursue financial flows having nothing to do with terrorism or drug smuggling, see our reports here, here, here, here, etc.

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A spy’s warning

by Walter Olson on July 17, 2013

U.K.: “Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.” [Telegraph]

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  • “I’m looking at Sarge, like, ‘What am I writing him for?’ The sergeant said, ‘Blocking pedestrian traffic.’” [Brian Doherty]
  • “No one is innocent: I broke the law yesterday and again today and I will probably break the law tomorrow” [Alex Tabarrok, BLT]
  • Alabama officials reviewing NTSB-funded weekend roadblocks where motorists were asked for breath, blood and saliva samples [Montgomery Advertiser] “Maybe the NTSB should become a Common Rule agency” [i.e., subject to Human Subjects Research rules; @MichelleNMeyer]
  • New Jersey bill would require driver in some traffic mishaps to hand over cellphone to cop [S. 2783 (Holzapfel, Sen.) via @MeckReal]
  • “In Dubai airport, three poppy seeds from a bread roll fell in a Swiss man’s clothes and got him four years in prison” [@SanhoTree on BBC 2008 report]
  • “Hookup Shocker: The Sex Is Legal, but Talking About It Is a Felony!” [Jacob Sullum] “The Man Who Abused Me is Not on the Sex Offender List (The One who Saved Me Is)” [Free-Range Kids; related on registries, Michele Goodwin, Bill of Health]
  • “Senator Ervin, ‘No-Knock’ Warrants, and the Fight to Stop Cops from Smashing into Homes the Way Burglars Do” [Radley Balko guestblogging at ACLU; yesterday's post on Balko's new book, and more ("7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization")]

At Utah’s Deseret News, reporter Eric Schulzke writes on how “the U.S. Bill of Rights remains a work in progress 222 years after it became law — a continuing struggle between government claims for order and security, and the individual’s interest in clarity and freedom. This past year, the struggle played out in numerous areas, including free speech and search and seizure rules, to touch just a few.” He quotes me on the hope of bright-line rules establishing the public’s right to take pictures of law enforcement (recent Hawthorne, Calif. cause celebre here), on the need to focus on state and local police use of DNA databases before the inevitable abuses establish themselves, and on how four significant Fourth Amendment cases made it to the Supreme Court this year: “‘Here we are 200 years later, and a lot of big, interesting questions still haven’t been settled on what the Bill of Rights says about search and seizures,’ Olson said.” A sidebar reviews the year in civil liberties controversies.

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“…for evidence in murder, divorce cases.” [Bob Sullivan, NBC News]

Surveillance roundup

by Walter Olson on June 14, 2013

  • “Old crisis creates new leviathan” [Barton Hinkle] Some other things that maybe should happen before Snowden gets prosecuted [Bruce Schneier] “Were they here, my parents might have asked, ‘What happened to America?’” [Nat Hentoff]
  • Candidate Obama, meet President Obama; on surveillance, you’ll find you have little in common [graphic courtesy Caleb Brown, Cato at Liberty] Don’t say the president wants to be trusted with complete discretion unfettered by the other branches of government; that’s his assassination program, not his surveillance program [Jacob Sullum]
  • A different view: two leading libertarian legal thinkers, Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein, defend the NSA surveillance program [Chicago Tribune]
  • How very wrong David Simon is about the NSA’s capabilities [Clay Shirky, Guardian]
  • Tracking by advertisers just as bad? No, here’s why state surveillance is worse [Jason Kuznicki, Brian Doherty]
  • I’m not the only one wondering whether prosecution of QWest’s Joseph Nacchio relates to his non-cooperation with NSA [Michael Kelly/Business Insider, Scott Shackford/Reason, Greg Campbell/Daily Caller]
  • What would it take to bring back a Watergate-era spirit of reform? [Jesse Walker]
  • “As the NSA has made all too clear, unless we update our concept of the Fourth Amendment to fit the realities of the Internet Age, those general warrants [despised by colonists] will be back — on a far larger scale, and in secret.” [Julian Sanchez]

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Housing roundup

by Walter Olson on June 12, 2013

  • Danegeld: Wells Fargo agrees to pay $42 million to settle activist groups’ exotic legal claims re: REO property; much will directly go to support the groups [BLT]
  • On horrors of San Francisco landlordship, “Pacific Heights” still all too realistic [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Problem in Thomas Perez/HUD/St. Paul affair was not that DoJ chose to settle in such a way as to minimize its losses, but that it had pursued such a weak case in the first place [Richard Painter]
  • Dean Zarras on HUD v. Westchester [Forbes; our two cents] HUD embraces disparate-impact theory [Kevin Funnell, Arnold Kling]
  • Why did the mortgage market collapse? [Foote et al via @tylercowen]
  • Shorter Ta-Nehisi Coates: flaws of rent-to-own housing in ’50s Chicago prove US economic arrangements are a plot to immiserate blacks [The Atlantic] Yet Sinclair’s The Jungle, set 40 years before, showed very similar housing scams being played on Slavic newcomers.
  • Minnesota high court dodges Fourth Amendment worries re: rental inspection program [Ilya Shapiro, Cato, link fixed now]

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Don’t just think vacuum cleaners, think J. Edgar Hoover. [Gene Healy, Washington Examiner] In fact there’s a long history of misuse of ostensibly secure law-enforcement files and databases [1993 GAO report; Robert F. Weir, ed., book on Stored Tissue Samples; unlawful private-investigator access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the FBI's electronic criminal-records database] Once DNA databases are open to varied queries from multiple law enforcement agencies, can we presume them immune from abuse? Even the NSA, whose level of professionalism is presumedly far higher than that of local law enforcement agencies, is no stranger to stories about gratuitous and offensive abuse of privacy. And, writes Jim Harper, the evidence is that the NSA has gathered telecom metadata on a dragnet basis (as distinct from individualized suspicion) not merely for data mining, but to assist in investigations of persons who may happen to come under suspicion in the future, quite a different rationale.

More: “Was a Telecom CEO Sent to Prison Because He Resisted NSA?” [Alexander Cohen, Atlas, on Joseph Nacchio's prosecution on insider trading charges after QWest refused to participate in surveillance] For many other telecoms, at any rate, fear of regulatory muscle will turn them into eager cooperators [Ira Stoll on Verizon] Related: 2007.

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Did you know the IRS has asserted, and apparently exercised, a right to read your emails without a warrant? I didn’t, until now. [ACLU; more from ProPublica]

Regarding yesterday’s revelation that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, Glenn Greenwald at the U.K. Guardian has the original scoop, quoting my Cato colleague Julian Sanchez about one of the most salient aspects of the program: it scoops up everyone’s phone data in a dragnet, rather than proceeding against some narrower category of phone records for which there is individualized suspicion. More coverage: Guardian sidebar on what telephone metadata can reveal; Timothy Lee/Washington Post; Orin Kerr/Volokh (“This is potentially a huge story. If the NSA is getting all call records from every domestic call from Verizon, then that’s a very big deal”); Adam Serwer/MSNBC; Electronic Frontier Foundation (“There is no indication that this order to Verizon was unique or novel. It is very likely that business records orders like this exist for every major American telecommunication company, meaning that, if you make calls in the United States, the NSA has those records. And this has been going on for at least 7 years, and probably longer.”) And from a slightly different perspective, Joshua Foust, who cites Congress for having repeatedly voted to give the Executive ultra-broad surveillance powers, and writes: “The information the NSA is collecting is metadata, not content (like a wiretap), and not account names. Uncovering personally identifiable information would require separate warrants to do so. This was a pattern analysis, not really mass surveillance as we traditionally understand it.”

P.S. On the IRS’s claims of a right to read email without a warrant, Justin Horton: “Not limited to IRS; this is basically government’s position and only 6th Circuit seems to disagree.”

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Yesterday the Supreme Court decided it was okay to require arrested persons to submit to DNA testing meant to match them to unsolved crimes. [Maryland v. King; Robert Kaiser, Washington Post; Nina Totenberg, NPR] In an impassioned dissent joined by liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that an important civil liberties line is being crossed as the Court now approves suspicion-less searches of persons at a stage at which the law presumes them innocent, without any primary motivation except to gather evidence of unrelated crime.

I’ve got an article in The Daily Beast this morning on the Scalia dissent and its warnings that lawmakers may soon embrace a genetic surveillance state in the name of security. Excerpt:

In his dissent, Scalia warns of such a “genetic panopticon.” (The reference is to Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a prison laid out so that inmates could be watched at every moment.) And it’s closer than you may think. Already fingerprint requirements have multiplied, as the dissent points out, “from convicted criminals, to arrestees, to civil servants, to immigrants, to everyone with a driver’s license” in some states. DNA sample requirements are now following a similar path, starting reasonably enough with convicts before expanding, under laws passed by more than half the states as well as Maryland, to arrestees. (“Nearly one-third of Americans will be arrested for some offense by age 23.”) Soon will come wider circles. How long before you’ll be asked to give a DNA swab before you can board a plane, work as a lawn contractor, join the football team at your high school, or drive?

With the confidence that once characterized liberals of the Earl Warren–William Brennan school, Scalia says we can’t make catching more bad guys the be-all and end-all of criminal process:

“Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail. … I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”

More: I’ve got this related piece in Newsweek on the Justices’ shifting Fourth Amendment alignments. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the Instalanche. And other commentaries from Daniel Fisher, Lowering the Bar (on the Jeremy Bentham angle; Scalia’s dissent mentions Bentham twice; Scott Greenfield; Julian Sanchez; Jacob Sullum). And Mississippi has just announced plans to match offspring of underage mothers to responsible fathers through DNA database checks based on umbilical cord blood. [NPR]

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If this account from DNALounge is to be believed, San Francisco police are highly eager for bar owners to install surveillance cameras to monitor everything customers do, and to commit to hand over the resulting footage to police without a warrant. Raise objections, and (according to the report) you might find the requirement being added as a condition to your permit. More: SFBay.ca.

The couple say they believe they were raided because of their use of an indoor gardening setup to raise six tomato, melon and squash plants in their basement. “A drug-sniffing dog was brought in to help, but deputies ultimately left after providing a receipt stating, ‘No items taken.’” [Heather Hollingsworth, AP]

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Civil liberties roundup

by Walter Olson on January 7, 2013

  • Drones in domestic policing a liberty danger, warns NYT [editorial, earlier]
  • When prosecutors freeze bank accounts, high-level targets can’t hire the best lawyers to defend themselves. Regrettable unintended etc. [Silverglate]
  • On criminalizing false statements to federal agents [Scott Greenfield vs. Bill Otis]
  • “Congress Has Enough Time to Keep Spying on You, Forever” [Matt Welch; Cato video with Julian Sanchez]
  • More on Philadelphia forfeiture [John K. Ross, Reason, earlier]
  • Homeland Security program: “Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations” [Kim Zetter/Wired via Fountain]
  • Does Brooklyn indictment signal U.S. claim of universal jurisdiction over acts hostile to its foreign policy, anywhere in world? [Eugene Kontorovich/Volokh]

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  • Coming up next Tuesday, Sept. 18, in Washington: Cato Constitution Day. Be there! [schedule]
  • In the unlikely event Congress enacts federal limits on state malpractice suits, Prof. Randy Barnett says he expects to help with a court challenge [Andrew Cochran, earlier]
  • Michael Uhlmann reviews Michael Greve’s The Upside-Down Constitution, and Greve responds [Claremont, Liberty and Law] A New Hampshire story: our “cooperative federalism” can’t replace a simple bridge [Mark Steyn]
  • Broad discretionary search of citizens’ private papers? FISA strains Fourth Amendment [Julian Sanchez]
  • Paging Akhil Amar: Romney on Meet the Press says “I am as conservative as the constitution” [Tucson Citizen] Randy Barnett vs. Amar on progressive constitutionalism [WSJ, Volokh]
  • “Constitutional Places: The Carolene Products Factory That Straddled The Border Between Missouri and Oklahoma, But Did Not Engage In Interstate Commerce” [Josh Blackman, with picture and diagram of filled-milk plant]
  • “More thoughts on Justice Sutherland” [Magliocca, ConcurOp]
  • Seize first, compensate later? Cato files amicus in raisin-farmer takings case [Ilya Shapiro]
  • “What Were They Thinking: The Supreme Court in Revue 2011″ [John Elwood & Eric White, Green Bag, PDF]

Law enforcement roundup

by Walter Olson on August 10, 2012

  • Domestic law enforcement use of drones should require a warrant [Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial] “Are license readers an invasion of privacy? ACLU asks police agencies to elaborate on use of readers, data collection” [Baltimore Sun]
  • “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is hands down my favorite Sacha Baron Cohen character” [Matt Oswalt, background]
  • “Protester accused of bank robbery for holding ‘You’re Being Robbed’ sign” [CBS Philadelphia]
  • “How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man’s Life” [Mike Riggs, Reason] Good Samaritan shields could help in overdose emergencies [Reason] Milton Friedman on the Drug War [Tim Lynch]
  • After Washington Post exposed widespread unreliability in forensics, DoJ, FBI to investigate thousands of cases [WaPo]
  • Lynne Stewart 10-year rap upheld: “stark inability to understand the seriousness of her crimes” [Reuters, earlier]
  • “Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Eight-Year Sentence for Taking Pictures of Legal Sex” [Reason] One family’s nightmare with the sex offender registry [Mary DeVoy, Virginian-Pilot via Lenore Skenazy]

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