The Price of Freedom is Vigilance
The scariest video I have seen this Halloween season (Oct 99)
Amendment IV to the US Constitution
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.
By far, the scariest video or movie I have seen this Halloween season was a video I purchased through www.AandE.com entitled, "Seized by the Law", filmed in 1995. This episode of A&E Investigative Reports shows how a law called "The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984" essentially repealed the Forth Amendment to our Constitution without going through the state ratification processes required for a Constitutional amendment. Many state and federal law enforcement agencies love this law, because it enables them to "seize" people's property and/or cash simply based on a "suspicion" that the property or cash was somehow related to "drug purchasing" or any other illegal activity. This law permits them to perform such seizures without filing any charges, without making any arrests, without taking anyone to trial, and without producing any sort of evidence that an actual crime has occurred. What's more, these law enforcement agencies get to keep the cash that they seize and the proceeds from the sale of the properties that they seized to add to their respective budgets.
A&E's video shows how many people (mostly the victims of "racial profiling") have been routinely pulled over to the side of the road by policemen who have searched their cars and wallets and "seized" whatever cash they could find. A black man who had about $9,000 on him when he purchased an airline ticket with cash had the rest of his $9,000 seized by federal agents (he subsequently took them to court and got it back). A Louisiana District Attorney is quoted as concluding that the vast majority of the victims of such seizures "must have been guilty", because they didn't spend the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees that would have been needed in order to get their cash or property back.
The program ends up by pointing out that in 1995 Congressman Henry Hyde was sponsoring legislation to place some legal restrictions on the ability of law enforcement agencies to perform seizures and to make it easier for the victims of seizures to successfully challenge the legality of such actions, but their was no mention as to whether or not such legislation has ever passed. By then, our Federal Government had seized over $4,000,000.000.00 worth of cash and property, and that's not counting what state and local law enforcement agencies have seized. In some places (New York City, for example), local law enforcement agencies have begun seizing the cars of people caught driving drunk for the first time.
In last month's article, I illustrated how large corporations can often get away with committing crimes that would land must of us in jail if we were to act in a similar fashion individually. State and Federal Attorney Generals tend to ignore such crimes. The Federal Trade Commission will finally take action after they have received thousands of complaints regarding a corporation's illegal activities, but in the meantime those corporations tend to get away with such crimes. Of course, the victims of such crimes can spend thousands of dollars in lawyer fees to get their money back (as someone at the American Civil Liberties Union advised me to do), but that' hardly practical when the amounts in dispute are only a few hundred dollars to begin with. Besides, the victims of crimes shouldn't have to pay for lawyers to obtain justice-a portion of our tax dollars goes to pay the salaries of district attornies who are supposed to do that for us. Then there is the possibility that such corporations can be hauled into small claims court-an avenue that I intend to explore further. Finally, there's the Internet option. I know that my article from last month is now featured on at least two other web sites that deal with consumer rights issues. Bad publicity like that can eventually affect the "bottom line" of a corporation, even corporations as large as AIG Life and MBNA America. THAT's the kind of thing that REALLY gets their attention!
Internet articles can also be an effective tool to help curb abuses of governmental powers such as those described above. The difference here is that rather than potentially affecting the "bottom line", such publicity can contribute to the success for defeat of one political party or another in upcoming elections. Never before have individual citizens had such a potentially effective (and cheap) means for exercising the power of truth.
One last point regarding the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act. That act was supposedly passed to help fight a "war on drugs." Since then, many billions of dollars worth of cash and property belonging to innocent as well a guilty persons have been "seized" by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of Americans have been thrown in jail for "drug related offenses" (to the point where some states, like California, are spending more on prisons than they are on education). And yet, are "drugs on the street" any less available now that they were in 1984? Judging from what I've seen on TV and in the newspapers, that does not appear to be the case. So it appears that America's so-called "war on drugs" has actually done FAR more harm that good for America--not only for those who've been jailed or had their property seized--but for the rest of as well, because we no longer have our Forth Amendment rights as a result of that so-called "war." Such are the ways of Satan.
one grain of salt
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002