Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens (2)

Part 2 of Naomi Wolf's 6th principle on how to destroy a democracy.

Naomi Wolf's initial citation comes from the United States Constitution: the Fourth Amendment:

She emphasizes the historical role of the amendment which lies in the firsthand experience of the colonial Americans of “how abusively authorities [British Crown tax agents] could use the power of a blanket warrant to break into their homes and seize private papers […] rip up their trunks and cabinets […] and haul off their goods – even if they weren't hiding anything that they should have paid taxes on”. Wolf further notes that “the Fourth Amendment specifically rejects vague general warrants” as given by Bush's USA PATRIOT Act and that “most of us don't fully understand the details of the debate over the Bush administration's efforts to avoid getting a legal warrant for each time that it reads our e-mails, opens our mail, and listens in on our phone calls – or enters our homes unbeknownst to us”.
The only examples she offers is Brandon Mayfield, an American lawyer erroneously accused by the FBI to have left his fingerprints on evidence of the Madrid train bombings 2004. The FBI had bungled a fingerprint match, see Washington Post: $2 Million Will Be Paid For Wrongful Arrest After Madrid Attack!

The so-called Patriot Act can be read here:

(end of summary)

Justice Robert H. Jackson (chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials) once during a trial put the importance of these rights aptly, after quoting the Fourth Amendment:

“These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police. But the right to be secure against searches and seizures is one of the most difficult to protect. Since the officers are themselves the chief invaders, there is no enforcement outside of court.


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