Friday, January 20, 2012

The Bill of Rights: Articles III and IV

You may have thought, based on recent discussions of more interesting things like the G-Spot, that I've forgotten about our tour through the Constitution. But you'd be wrong. It's just that my brain works in a somewhat unguided manner, and I'm easily drawn off on tangents.

But let's get back to the Constitution; specifically, to our discussion of The Bill of Rights. We discussed the First and Second Amendments already, so today we'll move on to the Third and Fourth.

The Third Amendment is pretty straightforward, and isn't of much import today. It reads as follows:

"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

At the time of the Revolutionary War, the Americans were pretty upset by the King's insistence that the people house and feed his soldiers, and they wanted to be sure that their new government didn't do the same thing. Today, we don't worry much about the government wanting us to serve as a Holiday Inn for the 82nd Airborne ... we worry a great deal more about the sort of rights spelled out in the Fourth Amendment:

"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."

Americans of the Founders' era had suffered the experience of the King's soldiers breaking into and searching their homes on questionable authority, and they weren't about to allow the new government they were devising to have such power. Thus, the Fourth Amendment found pride of place in the Bill of Rights, being one of the most invoked set of freedoms (along with the First and the Holy Second amendments). It's often cited as a right to privacy, although that isn't quite what it says.

Today, there is probably no set of rights enumerated under the Constitution that is more endangered than those guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. When the Founders wrote this amendment, the cutting edge of surveillance technology was the spyglass, and a search warrant was the battering ram the King's agents could use to break down your door in search of whatever they hoped to find. The Founders drafting our basic rights in 1787 could never have foreseen electronic surveillance technology, GPS tracking, the tapping of telephones (or, in fact, telephones themselves), or computers and the ability of evil persons (not only the government) to hack into those computers and steal our personal information. A man's home may be his castle, but nowadays there are a lot of people who know how to lower the drawbridge and invite themselves in.

The Supreme Court is wading its way through the issue of the constitutionality of GPS tracking, and may impose limits on the ability of law enforcement to track you and I 24 hours per day using this technology. But this is the same Supreme Court that, through its incredible decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, has allowed Super PACs to purchase our government as if it were a package on a Wal-Mart shelf. If I were you, I'd worry about those Fourth Amendment rights. It's too bad we don't have an all-rights/no-responsibilities organization like the NRA to protect them.

Insist on all your rights guaranteed by the Constitution ... and remember that they are guaranteed to the people whose political opinions and lifestyle you don't like, too.

We'll get funny again tomorrow with Cartoon Saturday, and move on to the rest of the Bill of Rights next week. Be here.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

In order to not be under surveillance through GPS technology, it is enough for a technology-savvy person to avoid using mobiles (other than those sold as throwaways) and other instruments that have a built-in GPS capacity. I wonder about the constitutionality of aerial surveillance that looks for heat, such as for growing marijuana in homes like on 'Weeds." Is a home's thermal or olfactory signal open to surveillance without a warrant because it's there?

Mike said...

I think we need a 4.1 amendment.

Big Sky Heidi said...

It sounds like King George was quartering soldiers on the cheap, leaving the Colonials tofoot the bill. Why were those soldiers there? It was not as if they were at war with France or Spain. They were there to keep the Colonials under thumb.