September 22, 2010

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that representatives of government agencies may sneak onto your property, put GPS devices on your vehicles, and follow you around, without bothering to obtain a search warrant.

That astonishing, Orwellian decision affects nine western U.S. states. The court’s decision upheld the conviction of an Oregon man for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana, from a 2007 case. Part of the evidence against him, which the court allowed to stand, was obtained when U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operatives sneaked onto his property and attached a hidden GPS device to his car, which was parked in his driveway just a few feet from his trailer home.

That decision affirmed a January ruling of a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court.

Interestingly, the decision has aristocratic overtones: the judges ruled that open property, such as an individual’s driveway, was not protected even though it is indeed personal property. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, noted that this decision benefits the rich, as a Time magazine commentary notes:

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month’s decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out whose homes are not open to strangers: rich people’s. The court’s ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes. People who cannot afford such barriers have to put up with the government sneaking around at night.

The Time commentary by Adam Cohen includes a very revealing aside. Cohen writes:

Judge Kozinski is a leading conservative, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, but in his dissent he came across as a raging liberal. “There’s been much talk about diversity on the bench, but there’s one kind of diversity that doesn’t exist,” he wrote. “No truly poor people are appointed as federal judges, or as state judges for that matter.” The judges in the majority, he charged, were guilty of “cultural elitism.”

According to Cohen, concern for individual privacy is a characteristic of liberals, not conservatives, and liberals are for the underdog while conservatives support elitism.

Cohen reinforces this by writing, “In these highly partisan times, GPS monitoring is a subject that has both conservatives and liberals worried,” and acting so surprised at Kozinski’s having so strongly articulated what Cohen sees as a liberal position: “Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately.”

This premise, that liberals are the protectors of people’s rights and conservatives are willing to let government act however it wishes, is entirely ludicrous, and obviously so. It is especially absurd in the current times when the national, state, and local governments controlled by those described as liberals are running roughshod over every individual right: speech, association (including commerce), public assembly, religion, bearing arms, protection against self-incrimination, and the lot.

So-called conservatives have been the loudest proclaimers of these rights in recent years, expressed most vividly at present by the Tea Party movement. For this they have been vilified by the old media and reigning political class. So-called liberals, by contrast, have been aggressive and relentless in their destruction of these rights through ever-increasing government intervention into every aspect of Americans’ lives. For this the old media have showered them with praise and protection.

For Cohen—a former Time magazine writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board—to be ignorant of such obvious realities shows that he, too, is guilty of “cultural elitism,” in Kosinski’s words.

The public knows what the people described respectively as conservatives and liberals today are all about. The fact that Cohen, Time magazine, the New York Times, and the other social climbers and careerists who remain in the old media are too obtuse to understand such obvious facts shows how richly they deserve the ongoing decline in their fortunes.

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.