Friday, October 16, 2009

Is the Fourth Amendment nothing but a pile of ash?
Feds bust Twitter Tweeter, Impound Curious George and Buffy Videos in Terror Probe

(not a joke)

Madison spent his time in Pittsburgh monitoring police calls and using Twitter to report real-time police movements around the G-20 protests. In one contentious tweet, Madison reported on a police order closing a street near the protest and ordering everyone on that street to disperse. Anyone subsequently on that street would be arrested, whether or not they were informed of the closing. People monitoring the Tin Can tweets or subscribing to Tin Can text messages knew to avoid the closure area and hence avoid arrest by eschewing lawless behavior they otherwise might not have known was lawless. MSNBC and local news organizations also provided live coverage of the demonstrations.


Madison's tweeting came to an end, however, after the Pennsylvania State Police stormed his hotel room, guns drawn, and, according to the New York Times, arrested him for "hindering apprehension or prosecution," "criminal use of a communication facility," and "possession of instruments of crime." The hindering charge stems from the tweet in which he essentially acted as a reporter, reporting real-time news about the police dispersal order and street closure. By reporting on the closure and hence dissuading people from breaking the law, Madison allegedly hindered prosecution; thanks to him, there were no laws broken and no one to prosecute.

One could charge a high school guidance counselor with a similar crime if she convinced a student to forgo illicit drug abuse and hence avoid prosecution as a drug offender.

So if it's five minutes before the alternate side parking begins on my street, and I notice my neighbor's car still on the wrong side, with a parking enforcement cop just waiting to slap a ticket on it at the stroke of nine, should I get thrown in jail for knocking on their door to remind them? The cop might be pissed at not making his quota, but he has no right to arrest me. Isn't law enforcement about prevention, not to give the officers the thrill of arresting people or ticketing them? Alternate side parking, for example, is supposed to be about making room for the street cleaners (even though that purpose has been twisted into revenue generation). Did these officers feel impotent as they went to beat down some hippies, only to find their prey vanished?
Madison was eventually released [...]—except one week later the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force stormed Madison's Queens home at 6am, knocking down his front door with a battering ram and raiding his home with over a dozen officers, guns drawn.

After searching Madison's house for 16 hours, police carted away and impounded a Curious George doll, passports, computers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, refrigerator magnets, a needlepoint portrait of Vladimir Lenin, letters, tax records, books, phones, flags, photos, and, according to the New York Post, gas masks, hammers, triangular pieces of metal, some kind of ammo, and about a liquid ounce of mercury. [emphasis mine]

(and I don't actually think it's illegal to possess mercury...a lot of weird men like to have it because it IS a neat, albeit dangerous substance)

I find it frightening that police think it's okay for them to take things like books, flags, Buffy DVDs (how much you want to bet some idiot was a fan and wanted them for himself?) and STUFFED FRICKEN ANIMALS. And I also find it scary that they will take ANYTHING that is legal to possess--hammers?! Do you have any idea how many hammers are in my house? And sure, okay, you don't like Lenin. I don't like Lenin. But this guy's freedom of expression allows him to have a portrait of Lenin in his home. You know what you do about it? You don't visit him or be friends with him if that bothers you. But the police have NO right to confiscate it. Ammo, but no weapon for it--it sounds to me like this guy collected war memorabilia or something, and these cops picked up ancient shell casings, but even if it were live, usable ammunition, it is generally legal to have it, and where the hell is the NRA on this one?

Of course, I question everything they confiscated because I do not see anything remotely resembling probable cause.

I feel I should post this, just to remind us:
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that:
"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."

The War On Drugs has shit upon this amendment for decades. The Patriot Act took laxatives beforehand, and had a good wank all over it for good measure. I'm disappointed in the current administration's continuation of these policies. Tea protesters complain about taxes being used for health care reform, but it'd be nice to see them protesting the incredible waste of dollars funding operations like these. Aren't YOU angry that American taxpayers' money went toward bagging and logging a Curious George doll as evidence? That they went toward arresting this man because his free speech prevented a potentially violent clash between police and protesters? I'd rather my taxes go toward helping sick people get well rather than this kind of insanity.

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