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Federal Agency Says It Can Search Your Home Without A Warrant

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If you have an unlicensed Wi-Fi router, the Fourth Amendment no longer applies

Steve Watson
Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Federal Communications Commission has confirmed that its own guidelines claim the right to enter and search your home without a warrant at any time of the day or night.

If you have devices in your home that function using radio frequency energy, such as a Wi-Fi router or a cordless telephone, the FCC claims it can inspect them if it suspects they are being operated on an unlicensed spectrum.

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” FCC spokesman David Fiske has told Wired magazine.

The rules stem from the Communications Act of 1934, and have been used in the past to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. However, critics contend that because almost every house in America now has devices that use radio waves, the guidelines should be altered.

“The rules came to attention this month when an FCC agent investigating a pirate radio station in Boulder, Colorado, left a copy of a 2005 FCC inspection policy on the door of a residence hosting the unlicensed 100-watt transmitter,” Wired’s Ryan Singer writes.

“Whether you operate an amateur station or any other radio device, your authorization from the Commission comes with the obligation to allow inspection,” the statement said.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The warrantless search policy could be applied to a number of devices including remote car-door openers, baby monitors or even cell phones.

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“It is a major stretch beyond case law to assert that authority with respect to a private home, which is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien commented.

“When it is a private home and when you are talking about an over-powered Wi-Fi antenna — the idea they could just go in is honestly quite bizarre.”

The constitutionality of the FCC’s rules remain untested in court, and some believe the FCC’s interpretation of the Communications Act is skewed.

As Raw Story’s John Byrne points out, Rogue Radio Research, a company that promotes unlicensed broadcasters, says on its website that agents of the FCC don’t have the right to search homes.

“If FCC agents knock on my door and say they want to talk with me, do I have to answer their questions?” the site asks rhetorically on its Frequent Asked Questions page.

“No,” they say. “You have a right to say that you want a lawyer present when and if you speak with them, and that if they will give you their names, you will be back in touch with them. Unless you have been licensed to broadcast, the FCC has no right to ‘inspect’ your home.

“If they say they have a right to enter my house without a warrant to see if I have broadcasting equipment, do I have to let them in?” they continue.

“No,” the site replies. “Under Section 303(n) of Title 47 U.S.C., the FCC has a right to inspect any transmitting devices that must be licensed under the Act. Nonetheless, they must have permission to enter your home, or some other basis for entering beyond their mere supervisorial powers. With proper notice, they do have a right to inspect your communications devices. If they have given you notice of a pending investigation, contact a lawyer immediately.”

However, these facts pale into insignificance somewhat when you factor in the little matter of the United States government having become fundamentally and criminally corrupt.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union uncovered details pertaining to a secret Justice Department memo from October 2001 that revealed the Bush administration effectively suspended the Fourth Amendment after 9/11.

As we commented back in March, the Obama administration has not deviated from the precedent set by the previous administration.

This underscores the fact that the U.S. now has a government willing to completely disregard the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

This article was posted: Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 9:22 am

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