On Civil Liberties & Freedom: Take 2

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

I thought I’d do a follow-up to my Let Civil Liberties & Freedom Ring! post about the erosion of civil liberties in Britain—which, in my opinion, is akin to what has been happening here in the United States in the past decade. My inspiration for a second post on the subject was Glenn Greenwald’s most recent piece at Salon—Homeland Security’s laptop seizures: Interview with Rep. Sanchez.

I have been reading about the seizures of cell phones and laptop computers by the DHS. I have found it troubling that our government has no compunction about confiscating the personal property of some of its own citizens without any warrant, probable cause, or suspicion that the citizens may have been involved in a criminal activity.

Our civil liberties and rights are being eroded while most of us sit silent. Where is the outcry? Even a watchdog like Greenwald talks of how he had become “inured” to the abuses of our civil liberties and how “severe incursions start to seem ordinary.” Greenwald wrote:

“Such was the case, at least for me, with Homeland Security’s practice of detaining American citizens upon their re-entry into the country, and as part of that detention, literally seizing their electronic products — laptops, cellphones, Blackberries and the like — copying and storing the data, and keeping that property for months on end, sometimes never returning it. Worse, all of this is done not only without a warrant, probable cause or any oversight, but even without reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in any crime.”

Greenwald goes on to talk of how there is no law which authorizes the DHS with such powers—and how we citizens have no recourse to have our personal property returned to us if it is confiscated. Few members of Congress appear concerned. There is, however, one person who is attempting to address the problem—Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat from the state of California. Greenwald reports that Sanchez has introduced H.R. 216, a bill that would require DHS to issue rules governing searches and seizure, impose some reporting requirements, and give some “modest” rights to people who have had the property seized by DHS.

There is always a huge outcry when someone brings up gun control. Why don’t people get as concerned about the diminution of their Fourth Amendments rights as they do about restrictions being put on their Second Amendment rights? 

Amendment IV

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.


I recommend the reading of Greenwald’s entire article. I also recommend listening to his interview with Rep. Sanchez here. (Scroll down to the end of Greenwald’s article for the interview.)

Source: Glenn Greenwald (Salon)

69 thoughts on “On Civil Liberties & Freedom: Take 2”

  1. I’m on a email list that included the following this morning: I didn’t write the following, someone else did. This is from FedCURE-org:

    We ALL know how unfair things are and how it’s impossible to get a fair shake within the Fed system. Regardless of actual guilt or innocence – if the Feds want you – you are guilty period. A FAIR trial – even in this horrific instance – is impossible within the system. Mark is an attorney and knows the pitfalls. We all agree that this young man did some horrible things in Arizona – but even if we actually SAW him do it, getting a fair and impartial trial is part of our Constitutional Rights. He must be a sick young man to do something so horrible. We can be angry – very angry – at the situation, but we – of all people – should not judge him. Personally, I would be horrified if he escaped prosecution for his crimes, but there may be mitigating circumstance which caused him to do something like this. All Mark was saying is this: Let us not be so quick to judge – a fair and impartial trial is something we Americans are entitled to. So getting him the best lawyer available will help ensure that will happen.
    Let’s not start another thread of back and forth – and lets remember why we are here. Prison REFORM is our objective.

  2. I think Former Federal LEO is right. The systems that are set up shouldn’t be susceptible to fraud.

    I suppose that if you look to a physical analogy — taking coats — they inventory right away. So you could say that there is new technology to inventory data files. But the idea creeps me out. And there is a big difference between showing what’s in your pockets, like at an old fashioned customs search, and turning over your coat, or your computer.

    What kind of files would they be looking for?

    So then you think, well they could just email the files across the border. But then, how far are they going with reading our email now?

  3. Buddha wrote:

    By the way . . . reading the CFR on a belly full of tacos makes Buddha Want Some Tums. 🙂


    A hearty laugh from NY, but no sadist am I. 🙂 (Personally, I enjoy a good belt of Mylanta from time to time, especially in these trying times…)


    Elaine wrote:

    BTW, do you remember that old TV game show called Queen for a Day?


    Do I ever… You’re my QFAD for “Take2” on this issue. Hope there’ll be more. This one’s for you:


  4. pete,

    We have read in this blawg of officers planting evidence that was used to charge people. Planting unlawful material on a person’s computer after it was seized would be a very easy task.

  5. my guess is that if you press them on the seizure, then they will find something unlawful on the computer. face it, are you sure about the copyrights of everything on your computer.
    there are so many conflicting rules and regulations is it possible to be in compliance with them all.

  6. Buddha,

    There’s a great restaurant not far from where I live. They make THE BEST fish tacos! The taco fillings change on weekly basis. Last night, I had them–soft tacos filled with blackened swordfish, chipotle aioli, jasmine rice, and pico de gallo. They were SOOOOO delicious. And I didn’t need any Tums.

  7. I will also have to say this is a matter of first impression for me though. If any immigration or international trade attorneys know some loophole I don’t, please chime in.

Comments are closed.