Privacy and free speech in America
There's a popular meme that's been circling Facebook recently telling us that we ought to start emailing the US Constitution to each other, then the government might actually read it.
With the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declaring this week that police officers do in fact need a warrant to search your cell phone, I think sharing that meme might just have paid off. It is important to note that local police departments need a warrant to collect the data in your cell phone — the US government still does not.
I am heartened by this tremendous grasp of the obvious by SCOTUS, but less so when I think about the massive and frightening militarization of our local police departments, who used to be known as “peace officers.” I can't image an ordinary citizen standing up to an officer dressed in full riot gear, holding a high caliber automatic weapon, positioned next to an army tank refurbished into a SWAT team tank and saying, “No officer, you need a warrant before you look into my cell phone.”
The police in full riot gear is pretty unnerving believe me. They look a great deal like the storm troopers out of the “Star Wars” movies only less friendly. And the tanks make it look like the citizenry is under attack by the police. Perhaps that's the intent.
It was really scary during the Boston Marathon bombing when citizens readily acquiesced to local police demands to stay in their houses and/or have their homes searched sans said warrant so tenderly mentioned by the illustrious SCOTUS. In the end the remaining bomber was found by good old fashioned police work. The rest was a great show.
Between the US government vacuuming every piece of electronic data on very citizen in almost the entire world, the US military selling war-grade equipment to police departments, and the Pentagon not only funding studies of people and groups who dissent from official government policies but declaring them low level terrorists — if you're reading this you're probably one (two more stories missed by the “lamestream media”) — I can tell you I don't like where this is going.
I also note with some very dark humor the SCOTUS has decided that the “35 foot rule” requiring anti-abortion protesters to stay that distance away from women going into clinics that provide them health care is a violation of free speech. Does that mean the “Free Speech Zones” set up at political events are also a violation? Actually, I think a more honest term for them is “Dissent Containment Zones” as the idea of free speech was supposed to pertain to the entire country — not just some space the two major political parties want to store citizens who disagree with them. And finally, I note that the buffer zone for the SCOTUS is much larger than 35 feet. It is the entire length of the plaza and steps leading up to the front door of the court.
When I was convicted in May 2007 of “unlawful free speech on Supreme Court grounds” for witnessing at the court asking to stop the US use of torture and close Guantanamo, Judge Gardner said in open court, “Your right to free speech ends at the steps of the Supreme Court”.
If only that were the only place….