Doug Casey’s REAL State of the Union – The 4th Amendment
Joel Bowman: G’day, Doug. Greetings from Medellin, Colombia.
Doug Casey: Medellin. A delightful place. I was there a couple of times during the Bad Old Days of FARC and the drug wars.
Joel: Thankfully that’s largely settled down now. The bad press lingers, of course, but perhaps that’s a story for another day. Let’s jump into our ongoing REAL State of the Union dialogue, shall we?
Doug: Ready when you are…
Joel: Readers who have been following along these past few weeks will be familiar with our little project, whereby we examine the present day United States against the ideals enumerated by the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights.
[Ed. Note: If you’re just joining us, you can catch up here:
- 1st Amendment – Part I, Part II, Part III & Part IV
- 2nd Amendment – Part I, Part II
- 3rd Amendment – Part I, Part II
Today, we pick up the action with the 4th Amendment, which reads as follows…
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.
As with all of the Amendments discussed previously, it helps to view them within their historical context. Can you tell us, Doug, a little bit about what was going on in America during the late 18th Century that might have prompted this particular amendment?
Doug: In those days the British government issued “general warrants” and “writs of assistance.” General warrants allowed the Crown’s agents to conduct a search for any reason—or no reason. Writs of assistance allowed searches for “smuggled” goods—i.e., those that were imported without paying duties. It was a very contentious issue. John Hancock, for instance, made his fortune smuggling. And nobody wanted armed men rooting around their homes at will. It violated the principle of common law—which trumps legislative law—that a man’s home is his castle.
The Fourth Amendment is routinely abused when it comes to physical searches, and essentially disregarded when it comes to the use of electronics or other technology.
Yes, it’s true that cops have to get a judge to issue a search warrant. But they’re notorious for going “judge shopping”. And it’s easy to fabricate an excuse—a supposedly open door, or supposed noise heard inside, among many other things—to enter premises uninvited. In reality, if they want to invade your home, they can.
Look what happened to Roger Stone recently, which is all too typical in this era of militarized police. Instead of giving him or his attorney a phone call to say, “Please come downtown, we want to talk to you”, they sent in a SWAT team for a pre-dawn raid, with 29 heavily armed operatives, including armored vehicles.