Press "Enter" to skip to content

IRS, Governor Patrick Violate Privacy; Anyone Care to Defend Fourth Amendment?

Now that we've all paid our taxes, we can get back to challenging the government on its violations of the Fourth Amendment. According to internal documents obtained by our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union, the Internal Revenue Service believes that you have no privacy in your e-mail, Twitter direct messages, or other online communications that you are foolish enough to believe are private. The 2010 U.S. v. Warshak ruling indicates otherwise, but in response, the IRS issued internal policy updates in 2011 telling its investigators that they "can obtain everything in an account except for unopened e-mail or voice mail stored with a provider for 180 days or less" without a warrant.

You can also expect to be searched without a warrant if you're riding the subway in Boston today. In response to yesterday's bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon, Governor Deval Patrick, a good Democrat who ought to be championing civil liberties in the face of fear, says folks riding the T can expect random searches of backpacks and parcels. You're not doing anything wrong. You're just going to work or school or the store with a backpack for your stuff... and because you had the audacity to step out of your house after someone else committed a crime, the state now assumes the authority to detain you and rummage through your belongings.

Let's drop all the simpering about Agenda 21 and Obama coming to take our guns. The violation of the Fourth Amendment is the clear and present danger our overreaching government poses to every American every day.


  1. Mark Schuler 2013.04.16

    Its time to find someone who will defend are "Bill of Rights" and to do it proudly! Isn't that why we hold elections to represent "We the People" and shouldn't "We the people" DEMAND the people we put in public office to uphold these truths? Instead the political wheel churns and spews lies and deceptions! Why after 200+ years, the polititions think they are smarter than our founding fathers? I'm upset about what happened at the Boston Marathon! While criminals are adapting to out smart cops, why or where were the cops with bomb sniffing dogs? Didn't they think that this wouldn't happen? They must have cameras in Boston to go through to see what they can find or people responsible for the bombing. The news talks about a lone wolf approach, but in any case I hope they catch then! IF any political involement is noted, which I hope not, its just a way to take little bites that erode our rights and I'm most certainly don't like the path this country is headed down and all of "We the People" need to demand our voice heard in government, whether it be our county,state, or in Washington, D. C..

  2. Dana P. 2013.04.16

    I can totally see where you might think this is a violation - but depending on how these "searches" are conducted, they are not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. There are exceptions to the Fourth Amendment and what would be deemed "reasonable or unreasonable". But yes, there are limitations.

    If I understand Gov. Patrick's instructions correctly, these "searches" will be random. Also, he is issuing this direction in less than 24 hours after this attack. Therefore, it falls under the "public safety" exception to the Fourth Amendment. He is making it clear and evident where this will be happening. So if I'm a person that just doesn't want to take the chance that my stuff is going to be searched, I need to find another route to get where I want to go. Now if Gov Patrick just willy nilly issued this direction when no attack had occurred, and just for the fun of it??? oh yeah, that would be a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    Courts would ask if there is adequate justification for the invasion of privacy. Are the searches effective? Do they address a real danger? Do they maintain a proper balance between the individual's freedoms of property and movement? Scope and duration would definitely come into play on this direction given by Gov. Patrick.

    Bottom line, as the courts have said on all of the amendments. They are not absolute. There can and are exceptions. This is something that the Second Amendment "addicts" can't and refuse to understand. (I see that DWC already is attempting to make this point, this morning)

  3. Donald Pay 2013.04.16

    To whine about these searches is kinda silly. Spearfish ain't on anyone's list for mass bombing, so you probably wouldn't be using this tactic there. But there has been a history of mass bombing attempts in subways, and officials are right to be concerned about follow-on or copycat activity.

    Besides, they are looking for certain items, like bombs, not searching your papers. You got no bombs, you got no problem. You got an illegal item, like heroin or an illegally concealed weapon, you got a problem.

    It takes about a minute of your time, so it's not a thorough search by any means. If you go to a any major college or professional sporting event (many being in government-owned edifices) your ticket indicates that you could be searched and any of several items confiscated. In fact, if you bring certain supposedly legal items (eg., glass bottles) with you and they are found during a search, they will be confiscated.

  4. Owen Reitzel 2013.04.16

    Dana, do you mean the 4th amendment is regulated? Hmm I think the 1st amendment is as well. The 2nd amendment-not so much is what some people want

  5. bret clanton 2013.04.16

    2nd amendment, 4th amendment, apples, oranges,.........hypocrites......

  6. John Hess 2013.04.16

    Law specifics aside (and not understood), seems pretty reasonable to look through bags after a terrorist attack.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.16

    Everyone's bag, John? Or random bags? That sounds like security theater, meant to make us all feel like the police are doing something but targeting whatever real threat may be out there. Why random? Why not target searches on people who fit profiles of individuals suspected of planning crimes? (Careful....)

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.16

    4th Amendment and 2nd Amendment are pretty clearly apples and oranges. 4th Amendment protects the expectation of privacy every citizen needs to conduct daily business without interference from the government. 2nd Amendment protects and outdated notion that we all need guns to protect ourselves on the frontier far from community assistance.

    But lay it out for me, Bret: are random searches of bags an acceptable infringement of privacy?

  9. grudznick 2013.04.16

    Next thing you know they'll be doing random searches for bowel bombs or something not carried in a purse.

  10. bret clanton 2013.04.16

    second protects the fourth.....

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.16

    What? I'm supposed to pull a gun when a cop asks to look in my bag? I don't see that turning out well. Fourth protects the Second: the tyrant can't come take my concealed weapon if he can't search me without a warrant or probable cause.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.16

    Donald, I'm a little concerned about the "if you're innocent, you've got nothing to hide" response. The presumption of innocence says the police don't mess with us without probable cause. Restraining my movement in a public place without probable cause gives me pause... and should be giving our conservative friends pause.

  13. John 2013.04.16

    "public safety exception to the Fourth Amendment"- in who's Bill of Rights?

    The conservative courts riddled the Bill of Rights to a swiss cheese fragment of its original text and intent. The founders knew what public safety was - yet they didn't carve out an exception. The founders knew a lot of things about their daily lives that are directly applicable to ours today; yet were not so cowardly to carve out exceptions to the rights they enumerated for us. Cowardly, fearful courts created the exceptions.

  14. Winston 2013.04.16

    The key to this debate is the word "random." "Random" makes it constitutional according to the SCOTUS. Prove a bias or a pattern of enforcement then you might have a case. We live in the world of Rehnquist and not Douglas, when it comes to the Fourth Amendment.

    As far as the "second protects the fourth...." .... it can, but the fourth can also protect the second. The Bill of Rights is a legal work of harmony and not one of first versus secondary interests or rights.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.16

    Here's the Fourth Amendment text: "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." John, could we read the "public safety" exception in "unreasonable"?

  16. bret clanton 2013.04.16

    The tyrant will not care about a warrant or probable cause......

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.16

    Nor will the tyrant care about your peashooter when he rolls up with modern military hardware. Stalemate?

  18. Winston 2013.04.16


  19. bret clanton 2013.04.16

    upon this issue we disagree Cory but thanks to the fourth we can do so in public.....

  20. Winston 2013.04.16

    That would be the First..........

  21. Troy Jones 2013.04.17

    I support the 2nd and 4th amendment. They are both clearly absolute.

    Whether it be the attitude of those who oppose gun rights or think Patrick's action "reasonable," they believe Americans have a right to absolute safety from crazies.

    What happened in Boston is horrific, evil and barbaric. My heart cries for those killed, maimed, injured and their families. But, there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not equally vulnerable to a horrific, evil and barbaric act of equal proportions. But, if so inclined, Cory or I could kill alot more than 3 people. We could do it with common household items, guns, our car, and probably other means if we thought about it.

    I and my neighbors are safer because of how I choose to defend myself and my family. And, I am not safer because Gov. Patrick is allowing the searching of people's backpacks in Boston.

    The world, our nation, our local streets are all dangerous places. The sooner we acknowledge it, the safer we will be. For-warned is for-armed.

    P.S. The drones and nukes argument is stupid. You guys are smarter than that.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.17

    More people will be injured or killed today in Boston and around the country by cars than by things in backpacks.

    Troy, I can't go with you in declaring any right in the Bill of Rights absolute. Each Amendment has exceptions. I simply contend that random searches don't meet the threshold for a proper exception. They are security theater, not a targeted approach at stopping criminal activity.

    You and your neighbors actually aren't safer if your self-defense choices include having a gun around.

    And the drones and nukes argument is great. It's greater if I add electronic surveillance and corporate oppression. The Second Amendment does not secure our rights against the tools of modern tyranny.

  23. Troy Jones 2013.04.17

    CH: Absolute was a bad choice of words. But so is exception. Since more here are friendly to the 4th amendment, I'll stick with this one. ANY unreasonable search is unconstitutional. Period. The test is what is reasonable and it has been determined this is a high standard. In this case the standard is efficacious and limited to what is believed to be a reasonable threat. I think you are right. It is security theater and unreasonable.

    Your other comments I don't have time to comment on. I will just stipulate I disagree. Don't want silence to be interpreted as agreement.

  24. bret clanton 2013.04.17

    you are correct Winston or whoever you are.....

  25. WayneB 2013.04.17


    While I do not accept the conclusion of the article you cited, ultimately it doesn't matter; the Bill of Rights are designed to protect us from our government, not ourselves. The world would be a safer place without cruise missiles, nuclear arms, and yes, even guns.

    The world would also be a safer place if we had armed soldiers on every street corner, and video cameras in every room of our house, and spy drones flying 24/7 monitoring our activities. There would be little room to do naughty things like cook meth or engage in sodomy (remember those laws?).

    But sacrificing our rights & liberties in the name of safety is not the answer. You felt it keenly when you expressed distaste at random searches on the subway. I agree with you. But you draw the distinction that the 2nd Amendment is antiquated because it doesn't jive with your view of social safety and public health... because "guns cause more harm than good" on the balance.

    Maybe that's true. Maybe it's not. On the balance, guns have done more good for me & everyone I know than they've done harm.

    In any case, the right to defend myself against aggressors shouldn't be cast aside because some abuse the tool.

    If we look at the crime statistics, guns are used predominantly in murders( a good 66%), but they account for a very small percentage of all violent crimes (5-8%).

    Where you & I differ, Cory, is it seems you think getting rid of the tool will solve the problem, whereas I feel strongly we need to attack the problem at its source, rather than focus on the tool.

    Our Bill of Rights has its faults; it was made by humans afterall. But on the balance I think it's a pretty darn decent guiding document to help keep the tyranny of government in check, and to ensure our natural rights are kept intact. To erode one right in the clarion call for increased safety invites the erosion of others.

  26. Les 2013.04.17

    Guns in homes for protection is similar to economic development Cory. You will only realize how much they kept a neighborhood safe after they no longer exist.

  27. Les 2013.04.17

    Of course we do have history to predicate those outcomes. That is unless you still believe an education, a fierce desire for freedom and and a higher moral standard dictate a future not aligned with our past? Paste that on our nation where it might fit.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.17

    That is an interesting proposition, Les: do guns in households produce a general level of security that remains untestable until we remove guns from every household and allow evildoers to declare open season on the unarmed populace? We can take several spins on this proposition; permit me to offer this data showing that as gun purchases have spiked under President Obama, we've seen more of the mass shootings that provoke our conversations on this topic.

    Wayne, I agree: the Bill of Rights secures our liberty against government overreach. But we live in an era when the Second Amendment seems almost irrelevant to that purpose. Consider: how often can any of us reasonably say, "Hmm, the government might infringe on my rights, so I'd better have my gun at the ready"? Invariably, that approach ends poorly. Our workable and civil bulwarks against government overreach are the courts, the press, elections, education, and getting people to give a good gosh darn. Plus, those bulwarks don't backfire: I don't see crazy people picking up a court or a newspaper and killing 20 school kids (hmmm... even as I say that, I can see where folks who disagree could take that statement...).

    Because I see so little net utility from guns in securing our liberty and so many other better ways to secure our liberty, I'm more open to restrictions on guns.

  29. WayneB 2013.04.18


    The net utility in me using a firearm to secure my liberty from our dear fluffy federal government is, I admit, practically nil; it surely wouldn't end well for me. But the rule of large numbers would indicate it would be extremely difficult for our government to prosecute the most severe of tyranny against its populace. Let's hope that need never arises, and we can rely on our legal system and democratic process to effect the change we desire.

    I think you stumbled onto a very real and disconcerting point; people do use courts & news media to create massive amounts of harm.

    But while the ability of the 2nd Amendment to secure our liberties from government may be individualistically impractical, that doesn't detract from the inherent and natural right to, as the people, have the onus and locus of control.

    Nor does it abrogate our natural right to self defense - and to use the best force equalizer practicably invented.

    I'm no raving gun nut. I definitely don't want firearms in the hands of those who would do ill with them. I'm definitely okay saying violent offenders shouldn't have them. I'm less okay saying the mentally ill cannot. I'm not okay that our laws create no way for someone to regain their rights. Even felons can regain the right to vote. In a society that criminalizes so much, we're already marginalizing so many. It's unjust.

  30. Les 2013.04.18

    Thank you Wayne for the words. You write well, teacher? Or just should be?
    Cory, my mother used to send Sarah Brady as much as she thought I sent NRA. We were visiting about it one evening and I asked her what it was she thought kept the bad folks from breaking down the door of this little old white lady and taking her ten pieces of silver. She answered the usual, from police to neighbors to values to etc. I told her, if I was a burglar driving down Laurie Lane looking for a target, it would be a home with no known weapons. You only find that in a country with extreme gun control.
    I believe the recipe to cure the mass killings has been lost by the progressives from both sides of the aisle.
    Until you start teaching life skills and family values, our society is lost to the inevitable herd logic that will generations to replace.

  31. Les 2013.04.18

    Btw Cory, more mass shootings since a change in society appears to show a change society is not happy with. A bunch of whining babies? Most of the shooters have a liberal bend, you tell me.

  32. WayneB 2013.04.18

    Les, I taught college for a wee bit, but moved on to more prosperous work (and hopefully just as if not more impactful).

    I share Cory's distress seeing armed forces deployed domestically and conducting random searches. I still have a great deal of angst about the Patriot act, and hearing about how our intelligence agencies may be indiscriminately monitoring the citizenry without warrants. I have done no wrong, and intend no ill to any of my countrymen & women, so I have nothing to fear nor hide. However, my innocence is not reason to accept intrusion.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.18

    That's a reach, Les. I haven't seen anyone connect the motivations of the shooters with the political regime. The point here is that if you assert that more guns make a safer society, American history argues otherwise.

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.18

    That said, I have no problem whatsoever with everyone doing a better job to teach life skills and family values... although I'd like to have a bit more specific description of what falls under that umbrella before we start buying textbooks. That teaching, of course, can't just happen in the public schools. That's probably not a government solution. I'll happily teach democracy and civics and philosophy, but Moms and Dads and extended families and neighbors bear primary responsibility for teaching the basic values that I need kids to bring to my classroom to behave and pay attention and not hurt each other. Teaching those basic values requires moms and dads to be home more, which requires better wages so they aren't having to both work all the time and shunt their kids off to daycare. We need to keep our kids home more when they are little, home where we outnumber them and set the better example.

    And none of these solutions are advanced by carrying guns or making it easier to buy more guns.

  35. Les 2013.04.18

    There is barely a family unit left Cory. I used to scoff and say "it's the parents responsibility". That no longer holds water with broken homes or auntie caring for more than she has energy for.
    Find their interests and go there. Cooking, cleaning, basic life skills. There is no end to that list that also should include the trades. If the schools will not bring basic and trade skills to our children this wreck of a society will grind on into perpetuity.

  36. Les 2013.04.18

    There is a floating piece on the shooters coming from liberal families or being liberal supporters and voters Cory. I can drop a link, I haven't proven or disproven and don't intend to as your commenters will do so if they wish.

Comments are closed.