DC Metro to start performing random bag searches

Posted on October 29th, 2008 by bile
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Alas, the looming specter of subway searches has finally descended on our nation’s capital. We’ve long assumed it was just a matter of time, but as time came and went, it seemed the tragic fad of frivolous subway searches would elude us. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Metro officials announced today that they will begin randomly inspecting backpacks, gym bags and any other containers that riders carry with them onto the bus and rail system, in an effort to deter possible terrorist attacks.

In the searches, transit police will choose a random number ahead of time, such as 17. Then they will ask every 17th rider step aside and have his or her bags searched before boarding a bus or entering a rail station.

Police said the inspections would take between 8 to 10 seconds. Those who refuse will not be allowed to enter the system with their carry-on items but will not be detained. [Washington Post]

Our foremost objection to such a program stems from the inherently objectionable notion that citizens must waive constitutional rights and prove their innocence in order to use public transit. Too many citizens remain unaware of their basic constitutional rights regarding search and seizure, a problem that is reinforced considerably when they are subjected to arbitrary police search requests in their daily lives.

Our frustration is compounded, however, by the obvious limitations of such tactics in actually preventing terrorism. We have no doubt that extraordinary numbers of innocent citizens will be subjected to privacy invasions by police, but we fail to understand what role this program can play in protecting the public. The searches are a purely symbolic measure, targeting a small minority of passengers and utterly lacking the tactical deployment that would be necessary to prevent a determined attacker from entering the system.

Comically, the WMATA itself barely even attempts to defend the efficacy of the program in its own FAQ:

Will this really make a difference?

That’s all they could come up with. The program will work because they say it will. This one word answer is the full extent of actual justification offered in defense of a program that curtails the 4th Amendment rights of millions of innocent Americans.

Once again it has become necessary to remind one another that it is these rights – the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by our constitution – which our enemies seek to destroy. Any attempt to defend our bodies and our buildings, without also defending our basic freedoms, is nothing but a disgraceful surrender to those who wish us harm. Can there be any doubt that our ritualistic implementation of dubious and invasive public safety programs is viewed by terrorists as a measure of their success?

With all of this in mind, we present The Citizen’s Guide to Refusing DC Metro Searches.

I’m arguing this topic currently with some police state apologists over in the comments section of my YouTube video showing the detainment of an activist for failure to show ID. Very frustrating.

I’d be nice if their flier had state and local law on it too. I think it would bring the argument closer to home.

War on drugs update

Posted on August 7th, 2008 by bile
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Update on Berwyn Heights Botched Raid

Things are getting worse for Prince George’s County, Md. police officials, after last week’s botched no-knock raid (previously chronicled on C@L here).

Not only did the police not have a warrant to conduct a no-knock raid, but it now appears they were well-aware that a drug ring was delivering large shipments of marijuana to innocent addressees’ homes in the D.C. suburbs. The packages would then be intercepted by other members of the ring, all without the addressees’ knowledge or involvement. Nonetheless, the cops executed their guns-ablazin’ raid on the home of Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife Trinity Tomsic, where the cops shot the couple’s black Labs and detained Calvo and his mother-in-law in handcuffs for hours.

Astoundingly, P.G. County police refuse to admit that they did anything wrong in the raid. As police chief Melvin C. High said in today’s Washington Post:

In some quarters, this has been viewed as a flawed police operation and an attack on the mayor, which it is not. This was about an address, this was about a name on a package . . . and, in fact, our people did not know that this was the home of the mayor and his family until after the fact.

I correct Chief High: When police officers execute a no-knock raid though they have no warrant or cause to do so, when they blast and shoot their way into a home without first learning who lives there, then they’ve carried out a flawed police operation. That’s the case regardless of whether Calvo and Tomsic are guilty of trafficking drugs.

In Prince George’s County, flawed law enforcement isn’t unusual. At least, in this case, the victims of the botched raid may have the social stature to fight back.

Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

California Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Charlie Lynch Found Guilty in Grotesque Miscarriage of Justice

Charles Lynch, the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, California that was fully compliant with state laws, has been found guilty in federal court of pushing drugs. The grim details, courtesy of The Los Angeles Times:

The owner of a Morro Bay marijuana dispensary was found guilty today in federal court of five counts of distributing drugs.

Charles Lynch, the owner of the dispensary, faces a minimum of five years in prison.

His closely watched trial involved conflicting marijuana laws and went to a federal court jury Monday. Jurors were asked to determine if Lynch was guilty of violating federal drug laws.

During a week-and-a-half-long trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, federal prosecutors sought to depict Lynch as a common drug dealer who sold pot to teenagers and carried a backpack stuffed with cash.

Lynch was charged with distributing marijuana, conspiring to distribute marijuana and providing marijuana to people under the age of 21.

Whole news story here.

Lynch is one of the countless casualties of an idiotic and tragically long-running war on drugs. His shop scrupulously followed Golden State laws and when he opened his shop in Morro Bay, local officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. And that kid he provided medical marijuana to? A high school athlete who had lost a leg to cancer and had a prescription from a Stanford-trained doctor (and in any case, Lynch only dealt with the boy’s parents). Yes, a common drug dealer.

Associated Press: Ron Paul popular because libertarianism is counterculture

Posted on August 5th, 2008 by bile
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Obama has a 2-to-1 lead over McCain among 18-to-34-year-olds, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week. The same poll gave Obama an 8 percentage point lead among registered voters nationwide. In an AP-Yahoo News poll in July, the two were virtually tied among voters overall.

But does “coolness”_ or the perception of it at least — really matter to young voters?

“I don’t think you can ignore that factor,” said James Kotecki, a 22-year-old political video blogger who achieved fame on YouTube last year after he interviewed former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul in Kotecki’s Georgetown University dorm room.

“What Obama’s been able to do is capitalize on his hipness, at least as far as younger voters go,” said Kotecki, whose video commentaries now appear on Politico.com, the Web site for the Washington political newspaper. “I think it’s not that they don’t support his issues and his policies, but younger voters are more willing to work for him and work passionately for him because he’s someone who resonates more on their wavelength.”

“Coolness” is often associated with youth, but elder status doesn’t automatically signify “uncool,” Kotecki said.

Ron Paul, 72, amassed a considerable following among younger voters, largely because his libertarian message was deemed countercultural, Kotecki said.

“You can certainly be cool at any age,” Kotecki said. “Look at Hugh Hefner. He’ll be cool til the day he dies. But for him and for Ron Paul or anybody who’s elderly and who’s cool, part of it is what they represent that makes them that.”

Largely? Really? I’ve met a lot of Ron Paul supporters. Many of them ‘younger.’ I can’t say that a single one would have said anything about libertarianism being counterculture nor did I get the feeling that was why they were there. Federal Reserve, war, growing police state, 9/11 is what I heard. I’m not saying there weren’t a notable number who joined the bandwagon… but many that did learned a lot and stayed on for serious reasons. I don’t see Obama supporters saying the same thing. In fact the opposite.

Poll: 71% of Americans in favor of increase surveillance camera use

Posted on August 1st, 2007 by bile
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Crime-fighting beats privacy in public places: Americans, by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, support the increased use of surveillance cameras — a measure decried by some civil libertarians, but credited in London with helping to catch a variety of perpetrators since the early 1990s.

Given the chief arguments, pro and con — a way to help solve crimes vs. too much of a government intrusion on privacy — it isn’t close: 71 percent of Americans favor the increased use of surveillance cameras, while 25 percent oppose it.

Seniors are most apt to support the increased use of these cameras, with under-30s, least so; Republicans more than Democrats; women more than men; higher educated people more than the less educated; and whites more than African-Americans.

Through a political lens, support for increased use of surveillance systems is lowest, 62 percent, among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who support Barack Obama for president — and highest of all, 86 percent, among Republicans who support Rudy Giuliani, who made his name as New York City’s crime-fighting mayor.

A random national sample of 1,125 adults? I really really hope these people are the exception. Some gross coincidence that ABC News and Washington Post found a large set of people who don’t think privacy is important. Not a single group of people was less than 50% in favor. This is incredibly sad and scary. It’s this kind of thing that pushes me to move to the middle of nowhere. So far from other people that only Google and the State will be able to see me from space.