According to the Los Angeles Times here, the Supreme Court has established broad new rules that gives police additional ways to enter a person’s home without a search warrant. Now, police may enter a person’s premises if the police officers believe that evidence is being destroyed (as evidenced by the sound of movement behind the door for example).
I believe that this interpretation of law will result in its overuse and exploitation by overzealous police officers. In effect, the Supreme Court majority has enabled the police to trample on our fundamental 4th Amendment protections. With increasing attempts at criminalization of more acts, I believe that this is the beginning of what will be recognized as unfair application of this ruling to the detriment of the American people.
I suspect that some police will find new and inventive ways to exploit this new rule. In drug cases, the theory is that suspects will make sounds such as flushing their drugs down the toilet. What about other crimes? What sounds will constitute the destruction of evidence? That isn’t really the issue. The case ruled that the police need only believe that the destruction of evidence is taking place. Any reason on the part of the police officers could be considered lawful reason for entry based on this ruling. Could the tapping of keys on a keyboard be the destruction of evidence? Could walking to the door to give the officers entrance be construed as the destruction of evidence? Could the mere suspicion that a suspect is in a given home be enough reason? Yes to all of these things. Furthermore, evidence obtained in such an entry for other crimes not specifically sought by the police can and will be used against the persons who live in the entered home.
I fear that police will begin finding ways to circumvent the Fourth Amendment much like Uncle Jimbo does to circumvent hunting laws in this South Park episode.
Dennis V. Byrnes wrote a very good summary of his and the other JPL plaintiffs’s position regarding their case against the US government and CalTech for what they see as NASA’s unconstitutional background check policy that took effect during the last Bush administration. You can read it here on the LA Times, and you can read about the long and winding path to the Supreme Court here on their official website.
This seems to be another case of campaign promises broken by President Obama–an alarming problem in the technology sector for a number of reasons including his administration’s defending and attempting to maintain the Bush-era NSA wiretapping of Internet traffic, ACTA support, appointments of media industry insiders to key positions, and only modest restrictions placed on the President’s Internet “kill switch.” The current administration seems to have as many or more state secrets than the Bush administration. Instead of restraining or eliminating some of President Bush’s greatest affronts to personal privacy, he has authorized his administration to actively erode personal privacy in favor of maintaining the previous administration’s status quo.
I believe that President Obama and his administration are doing the best that they can with the current situation in our country and the world, but there are seriously alarming problems with some of their policies including those specifically not addressed in briefings or by the established news media. I wish Mr. Byrnes and his colleagues the best of luck with their law suit, and I hope for the best for the rest of us as the democratic potential of the Internet, at least within the US (and without due in part to ACTA), is threatened by someone I and others thought would be one of its champions. However, there are greater threats to the possibilities of the Internet on all sides of the political and ideological spectrum. It is important for those of us who follow these things to get the word out, because it is our interests and rights, not those of corporations and the government–the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance and the Gore v. Bush case demonstrates how disconnected the electorate is from the establishment and maintenance of power–that deserve preservation. These issues may seem to some to be divorced from their everyday lives, but the continuing integration of cyberspace into daily life means that we have to secure our rights within that place as surely as we would beyond the reach of the keyboard. President Obama has done many good things during his presidency so far; I only hope that he will reconsider some of his administration’s policies regarding privacy in the workplace and online. With the continuing growth of the Internet, this could be one of his best legacies.