J. D. Heyes
April 26, 2013
If you ever wanted to see what a police state looks like up close and personal, look no further than Boston in the aftermath of the marathon terrorist attack.
New video footage released online following last week’s lock-down and the house-to-house searches for a lone terror suspect that followed the lock-down of Boston and surrounding suburbs by militarized police, federal agents, National Guard troops and SWAT teams provides a chilling visual of martial law in action. (Watch the invasions here here and here).
City officials, prompted by their federal masters, ordered the door-to-door, house-to-house searches of all homes within a 20-block region where a lone remaining terrorist was suspected to be.
Serial abuses of the Fourth Amendment
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick did what no other governor has done in recent memory: He ordered nearly 1 million residents of Boston, Watertown and other communities to remain in their homes and off the street until further notice – an order that would have remained in effect, presumably, until the final Tsarnaev brother was found.
One of the videos, shot by a resident from the window of his own home, documented the forced evacuation of several people from a house across the street. Per Infowars.com, the video
…shows police barking orders at men and women as they order them at gunpoint to identify themselves, put their hands on their heads, and get out of their own home. They are then ordered to run down the street to be further frisked by police as scores of armed militarized cops look on.
The second video, posted above, is a local television news report that shows serial Fourth Amendment violations by heavily militarized police and federal agents, who “rescued” residents from their homes only to burst inside them, rifles at the ready, in a bid to find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“The scenes look like something out of a disaster movie, with the backdrop of suburban America juxtaposed with what is essentially martial law playing out in full daylight,” said Infowars.com.
That is a completely accurate accounting of what police and federal agents were doing in suburban America – all on the orders of their elected leaders.
What’s more, reports that the searches were conducted with the voluntary consent of the affected residents is completely bogus, as you can see in the videos. Some 9,000 police and federal agents locked down an entire city then swooped in, full-force, in combat gear and armored personnel carriers – all for one 19-year-old terrorist suspect who turned out to be cowering under the cover of a boat in someone’s back yard.
As this unprecedented police army roamed the barren city, businesses were shuttered, people were forbidden from going to work, there was no mass transportation and there was even a no-fly zone declared over the search area.
“At this point, as military helicopters buzzed over neighborhoods, the Fourth Amendment had ceased to exist in Boston, which quickly resembled a war zone,” Infowars.com reported.
The local television news report actually contained some perspective, featuring interviews with residents who were taken aback by the violent, aggressive nature of the police presence and the searches. But other media – and in particular the left-wing media saw nothing wrong with the searches and indeed even suggested they were constitutional.
Katy Waldman of Slate offered this tortured explanation:
Is it legal for the police to search your house without a warrant? It can be. … In exigent circumstances, or emergency situations, police can conduct warrantless searches to protect public safety. This exception to the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause requirement normally addresses situations of “hot pursuit,” in which an escaping suspect is tracked to a private home. But it might also apply to the events unfolding in Boston if further harm or injury might be supposed to occur in the time it takes to secure a warrant.
The new normal?
The thing is, there is no “exigent circumstances” clause in the Fourth Amendment. It is plain – searches cannot be conducted a) without probable cause; and b) without a court-issued search warrant. Period.
Does searching every house in a 20-block for one suspect satisfy the “probable cause” requirement? Court opinions would likely vary on that. But the second requirement – a search warrant – is not ambiguous at all. And there are no reports coming out of the region saying that police and federal agents obtained this required document before cordoning off a million people, shutting down an entire city and bursting in people’s homes with militarized SWAT teams.
For the record, these types of abusive searches by government were precisely what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution. In fact, they intended for the Bill of Rights to apply not just in times of peace but especially if the country was facing a national (or regional, or local) emergency.
Boston-area residents were right to comply with police this time around, but the nation needs to have a dialogue about how improper the search for terrorists was in Boston before the next attack (and there will be one). I’m betting Americans, by and large, don’t want these abuses to become the new normal.
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This article was posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 5:33 am