FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

4th Amendment RIP

The 4th Amendment, an unwavering champion of our right to privacy, died on 18 November 2002. The amendment, adopted by the convention of states on 17 September 1787, was 215. The 4th tirelessly fought to guarantee that “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.”

The 4th has had health issues over the years, struggling with those that have tried to weaken it. Most recently, it received a life-threatening blow from the USA Patriot Act. But lower courts, concerned about possible civil liberties abuses, tended to the injury by trying to curtail some of the Act’s power.

On the 18th, the ruling of the lower courts was overridden by an all but unknown court: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which is the appeals arm of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The appeals panel includes three men that were appointed by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The courts meet in secret at the Justice Department. Initially, the FISC ruled the surveillance privileges sought by John Ashcroft after 9.11 “were not reasonably designed” to ensure the privacy rights of citizens. It cited many previous abuses of surveillance laws. But government lawyers sought a review. And the appeals panel determined the authorized surveillance measures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) are “reasonable.”

And so, with the courage characteristic of its life, the 4th succumbed to this ruling at its home in the pages of the Constitution, surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Ann Beeson of the Civil Liberties Union, a long-time supporter of the 4th stated: “As of today, the attorney general can suspend the ordinary requirements of the 4th Amendment in order to listen to phone calls, read e-mails, and conduct secret searches of Americans’ homes and offices.” Those that are being monitored won’t know it. So, in essence, there is no mechanism in place to challenge the surveillance. And currently, only the government can do that.

John Ashcroft was reportedly seen shortly after the decision dancing around in circles on tiptoe, hugging himself while singing, “hot damn, hot damn, hot damn.” On record, he called the ruling revolutionary and said, “the decision allows the Department of Justice to free immediately our agents and prosecutors in the field to work more closely and cooperatively in achieving our core mission…the mission of preventing terrorists attacks.” As it stands, the definition of a “terrorist” is broad enough to include almost anybody.

Even if the ruling had gone the other way, the 4th would’ve surely lost its life at the hands of the likes of John Poindexter and his new post-9.11 brainchild: the Information Awareness Office (IAO), a new pentagon operation with a $200 million budget that Poindexter will head. Poindexter, retired rear admiral, and former national security advisor is most remembered for another of his brainchildren: funding anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua by selling arms to Iran. He was released from the jail sentence he was serving for lying to Congress about this because it was decided his evidence warranted congressional immunity.

The premiere program of the IAO will be called the Total Information Awareness Program. This program, if it so desires, can develop a dossier on every single American, unearthing and tracking nearly everything a person does with little or no need to explain itself and its motivations. This unchecked, broad-sweeping power is something our dearly departed amendment would be greatly dismayed to see.

The 4th was loved and respected by the citizens throughout the US that it protected. “How will I ever feel comfortable exercising my 1st amendment rights without the protections of the 4th?” asked one mourner, crying into her copy of the Constitution. Fearing repercussions, she refused to state her name. “I always knew I could count on it,” she continued. “It was always there for me.” Another sobbed, “El Cuarto – that’s what we used to call it- was such a big part of my life. It’s what made our country different from those police states. What are we going to do now?”

What indeed. The 4th Amendment will be sorely missed.

It is survived by 26 sibling amendments. The besieged 1st, 6th, and 14th amendments are also fighting for their lives. And the 2nd continues to be held hostage by special interests.

The surviving amendments ask that in lieu of flowers, you send your congressperson(s) your heartfelt sentiments.

CAROL NORRIS is psychotherapist and freelance writer. She can be contacted at writing4justice@planet-save.com

 

More articles by:

Carol Norris is a psychotherapist, freelance writer, and longtime political activist.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail