On a previous program we asked the question: “Does our Constitution really matter?” When considering “Constitutional Free Zones” we have to ask if this is an example of where the lines regarding our constitutional rights are eroding.
The “Constitution Free Zone,” is the area within “100-miles of the US land and coastal borders.” Airports are also in these zones, regardless of their geographic location. According to 2007 figures from the US Census Bureau, 197.4 million people, 2/3 of the United States population, including the entire state of Florida, live within “Constitution Free Zones.”
The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to stop, search and detain anyone, for any reason within a “Constitution Free Zone,” resident or traveler.
The Controversy Over the “Constitution Free Zone”
In theory, having a 100-mile radius within which to apprehend criminals, international drug lords, terrorists and others with ill intentions may not be a bad idea. However, problems frequently occur. Numerous case studies show that American citizens have been harassed and that the FBI has used Homeland Security to bypass normal search & seizure guidelines as outlined in the Constitution’s 4th Amendment, “The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of Americans to be ‘secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects’ from unreasonable and unwarranted government intrusion.”
Search & Seizure by TSA
The Washington Times recently reported an incident that happened at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston:
“FBI agents had identified an individual suspected of downloading child pornography on an Internet chat room. The suspect’s passport was flagged and FBI agents asked officials at the Department of Homeland Security to seize and search the individual’s computer at the airport. Three incriminating images were found during the examination, conducted without a warrant.”
The newspaper did not countenance child pornography- but did question the individual’s being searched without a warrant and asked if this constituted abuse of the Fourth Amendment.
Search & Seizure
When Homeland Security officers check on a person, within their boundaries on United States soil, they can ask travelers for papers, detain them, question them, bring in drug dogs to search vehicles, etc. They are not required to have probable cause. The question to ask is: does this loophole create/ or should it create concern for Americans regarding their Constitutional rights?
“Border patrol officials say that checkpoints are anything but unconstitutional. ‘The 100-mile zone absolutely is not a Constitution-free zone,’ said Jason Ciliberti, a supervisory border patrol agent with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. ‘Those 100 miles are what essentially is said to be a reasonable distance from the boundary from the United States, and the Supreme Court has come down firmly on our side and said that what we’re doing is not unreasonable.’”
According to a Wired Magazine article, “The government has long had the power to set up such check points, but has recently expanded the number of permanent and ‘tactical’ check points and deployed them in areas they hadn’t before — such as near the Canadian border.”
Effects of Skipping Due Process – Operation Ore
Operation Ore is an excellent example of why a constitution free zone where standard procedures aren’t followed and due process lines become blurred has caused some to be cautious.
“Operation Ore was a British police operation that commenced in 1999 following information received from US law enforcement, which was intended to prosecute thousands of users of a website reportedly featuring child pornography. In the United Kingdom, it led to 7,250 suspects identified, 4,283 homes searched, 3,744 arrests, 1,848 charged, 1,451 convictions, 493 cautioned and 140 children removed from suspected dangerous situations and an estimated 39 suicides. While Operation Ore did identify and prosecute a number of sex offenders, the validity of the police procedures was later questioned, as errors in the investigations apparently resulted in a number of false arrests.”
They later realized that there was a serious error in the data that had been collected. The “UK police received no information on the scale of the credit card fraud which had occurred within the Landslide business. Many of the charges at the Landslide affiliated sites were made using stolen credit card information, and the police arrested the real owners of the credit cards, not the actual viewers. Plus, thousands of credit card charges were made where there was no access to a site, or access to only a dummy site. When the police finally checked, they found 54,348 occurrences of stolen credit card information in the Landslide database.”
People were convicted and lives destroyed when in fact they were simply the victims of credit card fraud. That is the reason for due process of law.
Just because something may appear to belong to a person, does not mean that it necessarily does. “Computer hackers use zombies and botnets to gain access to others’ computer resources so they can carry out illegal acts, such as collecting social security numbers, according to AccessData.”
At the end of the day, Homeland Security is important to all Americans. However, are our fourth amendment rights being blurred and are officials arriving at conclusions without all of the facts? We’re interested to hear your thoughts on the matter as we simply present some questions.
How is the Constitution Free Zone assuring we have better safety? Is the cost worth it?