Morning Links

Monday, July 7th, 2008
  • Walmart reports nude photos, leads to SWAT raid on family.
  • I don’t really agree with their ultimate solution (basically, that illicit drugs should be made legal, but distributed by the federal government), but Judge Jim Gray and David Fleming do a good job outlining the problems with the drug war in the L.A. Times.
  • Interesting ad campaigns.
  • Britain’s mostly useless Big Brother government tactics cost taxpayers some $40 billion per year. So Brits are paying their government $1,600 per household to take away their civil liberties, with no measurable increase in corresponding safety.
  • John McCain: You should put your country before everything else. And no, Obama isn’t much better on the cult of collectivism.
    Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark
  • 40 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  Darko | 

      I think it’s misleading to write that John McCain thinks people should put country before everything else. He was simply describing what being a patriot means, to him.

    2. #2 |  Nando | 

      On the Wal-Mart photo incident, the guy admits to having nude pictures and agreeing to let Wal-Mart shred them. Are these pictures of nude children? How did he obtain them? Who are the children and what were the intentions of the photographer?

      If they are merely pictures of his kids taking a bath (as so many parents have of their children), then it’s not child porn. Either way, his privacy was violated by Wal-Mart employees, who should have to compensate him accordingly. The police, tho, did nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe they could’ve come to his house during normal hours and just knocked on the door instead of a middle of the night raid, but that’s only an inconvenience more than a civil rights violation.

    3. #3 |  J Mo | 

      “but that’s only an inconvenience more than a civil rights violation.”

      Do people actually read this blog?

    4. #4 |  Michael Pack | 

      Nando,You call using a S.W.A.T. team,late at night,to raid a peaceful family nothing?These teams were created for hostage situations and heavily armed criminals.Not every day encounters.It seems there not are enough circumstances to warrant there original use.To justify their cost,extreme force is becoming the norm.I’d also like to know what was on the pics.Did the police see them or just take the Walmart employees word?If they had no pics in hand,how did they even get a warrant?

    5. #5 |  J Mo | 

      Perhaps I should elaborate. Having to wait in line at the DMV for longer than you should have to is an inconvenience. Having someone break into your home in the middle of the night where all kinds of bad things can happen (as detailed extensively at this site) is much more than a mere inconvenience.

    6. #6 |  MikeT | 

      It is putting the country first, before party or personal ambition, before anything.

      Since anything includes “God” and “family,” he will only lose more Republicans, especially religious ones, if he continues with this rhetoric.

    7. #7 |  MacK | 

      Nando; Do you consider an armed SWAT team pointing weapons at you in the middle of the night, calling you a “sick person” and a “child pornographer.” in front of your children an inconvenience.

      My mother had a picture of me completely naked as a baby, and I would never have considered her a sick person, or a pedophile, or anything other then a good mother.

      I know that had the US been in a WAR against everything under the sun at that time she may have been accused and convicted of such crimes, but even today I still see it as mother having a loving photo of her son.

      My mother passed away 6 years ago, so I now have that photo. Do you think it would be an inconvenience if a SWAT team raided my house, and accused me of child pornography, because I have a photo of myself naked as a child?

    8. #8 |  FP | 

      You’re a perv Mack and you know it! :P

    9. #9 |  MacK | 

      LOL, I will admit I get a chuckle, when I look at myself as a child in the old photos .

    10. #10 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

      I don’t necessarily mind what Fleming and Gray propose. It would be a start. It also jives with the correlation of the repeal of alcohol prohibition, which went from illegal-to-sell to regualted-to-sell.
      Now, if we could just lift a lot of the alcohol regulation as a next step……

    11. #11 |  Chris M | 

      Heh, I read the Parade article yesterday and immediatly thought of this post:

      http://www.theagitator.com/2008/04/02/mccain-on-individualism/

    12. #12 |  Matt Moore | 

      “Maybe they could’ve come to his house during normal hours and just knocked on the door instead of a middle of the night raid, but that’s only an inconvenience more than a civil rights violation.”

      Jesus Christ on a pogo stick! That is rivaled in stupidity only by its insanity.

    13. #13 |  Nando | 

      You guys mean to tell me that doing a raid in the middle of the night instead of, say, 6pm, is a civil rights violation? That was my argument; that and that alone. I’m not saying I condone SWAT raids, be them at 1pm or 1am, merely that the hour of the night in which they were conducted is a mere inconvenience added to the pain of the raid, but it’s still NOT A CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION.

      I said in the beginning of my post that we’d have to know the nature of the pictures. It also doesn’t say in the article that all the pictures were shredded, which leads me to believe that they weren’t and then shown to the police who used them as evidence to obtain a warrant, even though it’s not spelled out in the article. Also, we don’t know if those pictures remained in the memory of the picture machine. Maybe they shred the pictures that were printed and then printed new ones after the guy left.

      If I were a clerk at Wal-Mart and someone came in with pictures that depicted what I thought was a crime, I’d rather invade his privacy and provide them to the police than just let it go. How many out there would, if working as a picture clerk somewhere, not turn in someone who came to develop some pictures that showed him/her having sex with a child? I know I would.

      Notice the tone of the article, too. It’s written in the “poor man was violated by police” tone. The journalist took that angle so it’s obvious that (s)he wouldn’t explicitly state what happened to the pictures, their nature, and whether they were turned into the police or not. It’s not a very fair or balance article.

      BTW, there are plenty of pics of me and my siblings naked as children. My mother had tons of them, eve of us running around naked at the beach. I have no problem with those types of pictures, as stated in my first post. That’s why I said we need to look at the nature of the pictures.

    14. #14 |  Bot | 

      Adding to what Mike said, it is not clear that Fleming and Gray are suggesting that the Federal government take responsibility for the manufacture and distribution of Schedule I and II drugs. Seems to me there is room for privately owned entities in the supply chain akin to something like say Coors, and Walgreens. I too would be okay with government oversight and regulation – bodies like the FDA and FTC could play their usual role.

      Some questions that have been debated on this site and others remain. Are there any substances that should remain outright illegal (crack, heroin, etc.)? How to deal with new and derivative substances, etc?

      This is obviously something that isn’t going to change at the state level given recent rulings by the Supremes.

    15. #15 |  J Mo | 

      Nando,

      I was clearly just stupefied by the “that’s only an inconvenience” part. As Radley has shown, these SWAT raids can turn deadly. I can’t stand when people seem to think something isn’t wrong just because it isn’t against the law. I could care less if it’s a civil rights violation or not.

    16. #16 |  Andrew | 

      Nando — In what world is that not a civil rights violation? Ever heard of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution? Yes, there are exceptions to the 4th which allow for no-knock raids. But even if you agree with those, which I don’t, this doesn’t fall within those exceptions.

    17. #17 |  Andrew Williams | 

      I read the Gray and Fleming essay. I’m torn. Out here in CA, we could use the tax revenue. But I’m leery of money from drug sales becoming a panacea for bad government. Good essay, though. Every drug warrior should read it.

      And yes, I thought both the Obama and McCain essays on patriotism were very high-sounding and equally useless and could easily have been written by a staff member. Sorry, but my cynicism about politics is hard-earned and not overcome by flowery speeches and fine rhetoric.

    18. #18 |  dave smith | 

      Good Grief. The two parties have left us with a pair of rotten choices.

      Worst presidential nominees since 2004, for sure.

    19. #19 |  Matt Moore | 

      #13 – Give me a fucking break. A nighttime raid for pictures? Yes, that’s a civil rights violation, not an inconvenience. A no knock, nighttime raid for anything other than immediate danger (hostages, bomb, etc.) is a civil rights violation.

    20. #20 |  Nando | 

      I take it you guys have never been in force protection. I spent 10 years in the military and if there is one thing I learned it’s that it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

      Anytime police think they might encounter hostile fire (like from a drug dealer or a child pornographer trying to stay out of jail), they are going to try to use the element of surprise. I’ve been in their shoes and I don’t envy what they have to do one bit.

      About half of those in prison for murder weren’t violent criminals until they killed someone. You never know when someone is going to react violently and with hostile fire when you try to arrest them, especially if they’ve done something horrible (child pornographers don’t last too long in prisons).

    21. #21 |  MacK | 

      Nando, like another on here I was aghast at the minor inconvenience portion of your statement. That being said; I still think that there is a problem with a SWAT raid under any but the most dire situations.

      If there is no danger to life, or limb to anyone including the “pigs” that perform these actions they should not be used. This includes the possibility of lost evidence, because more often then not the evidence can’t be gotten rid of as easily as many think.

      Lets look at it like this: The Walmart employee reported to the police that he either had, or saw nude photos of a child (thats cool report it, I would also). Now we have two scenarios to work with.

      1. The cops have photos so they do not need to bust into the suspects home, for evidence.

      2. They have the word of some person that is working at the local Walmart, and they need evidence. First they need to look at the employee, and find out who he is, does he know the suspect, does he have mental problems, has he made false accusations before, does he have a grudge against the suspect, make sure he is on the up and up. Next stake out the suspects house, go through his garbage, talk to his friends to find out about him, get a warrant for his camera, and computer, do some investigating (investigating is what cops are supposed to do). In this situation they find some evidence or they do not.

      If they do find evidence then arrest him on his way to work, so that you do not endanger his innocent children.
      If they do not find evidence then move onto real crimes.

      In both situations SWAT was not needed, no civil rights were abused, and danger to all was reduced.

      One thing from the story is confirmed though, the suspect was never arrested, and this is big, because if there was even a piece of crap that could be used as evidence he would have been.

    22. #22 |  Andrew | 

      Nando:

      1. “Child molesters don’t do well in prison” is a myth. Plain and simple.

      2. By your rationale, shouldn’t police use SWAT for any and all warrant service, no matter the charge? I mean, people naturally want to stay out of jail, so better safe than sorry, right?

      3. If you’re using the “element of surprise”, doesn’t that justify people opening fire on raiding officers, since they have no way to know in the moment that they are raiding officers?

    23. #23 |  Nick T | 

      Nando,

      The 4th Amendment protects us from “unreasonable” searches and seizures. In essence, the governments interest in searching and/or seizing you will dictate the level at and and with which it can do the same. In detemrining reasonableness, courts have said it’s not just in terms of whether or not you are searched or seized but the severity and scope of the actual search or seizure.
      A no knock raid is a search of the home as well as a seizure of everyone in the home. It is a violent and incredibly intrusive method, and by not involving a knock, it desecrates the sanctity of that individual home and the person’s rights to be private within it (even though a knock may just be a formality, it is significant in that respect).

      Without getting into whether these severe methods were justified by the government’s interest (though I don’t think that’s really open to much debate), your (apparent) assertion that a no-knock raid can not be a civil rights violation when compared to a traditionally executed warrant is just wrong. Unless you would argue that violating someone’s 4th Amendment rights is not necessarily a civil rights violation, which I suppose you could argue. Though I would submit it is, per se.

    24. #24 |  supercat | 

      //Anytime police think they might encounter hostile fire (like from a drug dealer or a child pornographer trying to stay out of jail), they are going to try to use the element of surprise.//

      If the police break into someone’s house in such fashion as to deliberately deny the occupants any opportunity to assess the situation and determine that they are in fact police officers, the occupants cannot be blamed for not determining that the invaders are cops.

      No-knock raids may be more exciting than milder tactics for the people involved. Given the level of danger they pose to everyone involved, however, they are grossly unreasonable in any but the most dire circumstances (e.g. hostage rescue).

      In addition to the direct rangers, no-knock raids impose an indirect danger of a type which would only exist in a tyrannical regime: the greater the risk of an innocent homeowner being invaded by government agents, the greater the danger that a homeowner can be disarmed by bandits who yell “police”. If real police only used such tactics a few times per year, nationwide, a homeowner could safely assume that anyone who broke into his house was a robber regardless of whether the person yelled “police”. Robbers would thus know that they couldn’t use such tactics without getting shot. If, however, one is as likely to be raided by the police as by robbers, that gives robbers a green light for how to safely disarm their victims.

    25. #25 |  Nando | 

      Can someone please tell me what a reasonable and unreasonable search is, in definite terms? NO, you can’t, because the framers of the Constitution DELIBERATELY used vague language (you can’t tell me it wasn’t deliberate when the Constitution was read and changed over and over until it suited everyone involved. They obviously agreed on the word unreasonable).

      There are intelligent arguments on both sides of the issue. I agree with Radley (and other libertarians) on many issues, maybe even 75% of the issues, but I do not agree with them on this one. I don’t think no-knock raids should be an everyday thing, but they do have their place and time. They should be used in situations where the probability of encountering force is high. I’d say that a child pornographer (who clearly doesn’t have a mainstream or normal way of thinking) is a risk high enough to warrant these types of raids.

      The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “no-knock” entry into a building where a suspect is thought to be hiding is acceptable if the officers have reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence would be “dangerous or futile,” (see Richards v. Wisconsin and United States v. Ramirez).

      There are great arguments on both sides. Can’t we just respect each other’s position?

    26. #26 |  Highway | 

      Andrew #22

      2. By your rationale, shouldn’t police use SWAT for any and all warrant service, no matter the charge? I mean, people naturally want to stay out of jail, so better safe than sorry, right?

      It’s been documented, on this site, that there are jurisdictions where this is exactly the case. No matter what the warrant, they roll the SWAT team.

      I know you were trying to be absurd, but the government beat you.

    27. #27 |  Matt Moore | 

      Nando – Just because the police think they have a good reason for knocking down your door doesn’t give them the right to violate your rights. And as Radley has shown, again and again, no knock raids don’t even make the police safer… in the case of this “child pornographer” they could have just picked him up on the way to Eckerd’s to have more pictures developed.

      So no knock raids? They’re both stupid and a violation of the 4th amendment.

    28. #28 |  Matt Moore | 

      “There are great arguments on both sides. Can’t we just respect each other’s position?”

      Not when you think knocking down doors in the middle of the night, with no proof that anyone is in immediate danger, much less proof that the “criminal” in question is violent, is an “inconvenience.” Nope, I can’t respect that.

    29. #29 |  Nando | 

      #28 Matt Moore

      Not when you think knocking down doors in the middle of the night, with no proof that anyone is in immediate danger, much less proof that the “criminal” in question is violent, is an “inconvenience.” Nope, I can’t respect that.

      The thing is, we DON’T KNOW if they had proof or not. You’re assuming that they didn’t. And, we don’t have proof that the person in the house ISN’T an immediate danger to the police or that he isn’t violent. There is no way to prove that they are not a threat and violent, so you must treat them as being POSSIBLY a threat and violent.

      If you can’t respect that, then I suggest you put on a uniform and go out and do the Police’s job for a day. Just one day. You never know when the next person you pull over for running a stop sign or that you try to arrest for missing his child support payments is going to pull out a gun and shoot you. Everyone must be approached with caution and suspicion, less you don’t care about your own life.

    30. #30 |  Nando | 

      BTW, the highest court in the US says that no knock raids ARE NOT a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Are you more of a Constitution scholar than the 9 Justices (5 liberals and one swing, at that time) who stated this in their opinion?

    31. #31 |  Radley Balko | 

      #30 –

      Go back and re-read Wilson v. Arkansas. The Court explicitly said no-knocks are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, unless police can show exigent circumstances–either that the suspect is dangerous, or that he may dispose of evidence in the time it takes police to announce before entering.

      I don’t know that either of those applies in this case.

    32. #32 |  Radley Balko | 

      Also, re: your comment #29 –

      And, we don’t have proof that the person in the house ISN’T an immediate danger to the police or that he isn’t violent. There is no way to prove that they are not a threat and violent, so you must treat them as being POSSIBLY a threat and violent.

      That isn’t the standard. The Supreme Court clearly says in Wilson that the police must show specific evidence that the suspect could become violent.

      The problem is that the courts don’t scrutinize police claims of possible violence. It’s gotten to the point where having a legal gun permit is enough for a no-knock raid — a scary thought, given that (a) people who go to the trouble of obtaining a legal permit aren’t likely criminals, and (b) the same people are likely (and justified) to use their weapons against someone who breaks into their home at night.

    33. #33 |  Matt Moore | 

      “If you can’t respect that, then I suggest you put on a uniform and go out and do the Police’s job for a day.”

      I have no interest in being a hired thug, even for a day.

    34. #34 |  Nando | 

      Radley, the USSC has then contradicted themselves in the Wilson case because in US vs. Ramirez, they clearly state that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t require that police officers have more than a “reasonable suspicion” that knocking and announcing their presence before entering would be dangerous, futile, or inhibit the effective investigation of a crime when a “no-knock” entry results in the destruction of property. So, it seems that the 9 Justices in 1998 would disagree with the the Wilson decision.

    35. #35 |  Radley Balko | 

      Uh, no. You’re thinking of Wisconsin v. Richards. All Ramirez did was apply the holding in Richards to the destruction of property.

      And the ruling in Richards is a direct refutation of your your assertion that, “there is no way to prove that they are not a threat and violent, so you must treat them as being POSSIBLY a threat and violent.”

      In Richards, the Court explicitly rejected the state of Wisconsin’s policy of allowing police officers to use no-knock entry for all narcotic warrants, stating instead that they must show “reasonable suspicion” of exigent circumstances.

      The “reasonable suspicion” threshold is far too low for my taste, but it is by no means an instruction to police to assume all suspects could be violent.

    36. #36 |  Matt Moore | 

      Nando – Where, in this story, do you find any “reasonable suspicion” that knocking would have been futile, dangerous, or inhibit the investigation? The man in question was never even arrested. Also, making assumptions that child pornographers will shoot cops rather than go to prison doesn’t count.

    37. #37 |  Matt Moore | 

      “BTW, the highest court in the US says that no knock raids ARE NOT a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Are you more of a Constitution scholar than the 9 Justices (5 liberals and one swing, at that time) who stated this in their opinion?”

      I didn’t realize I had to go to law school to disagree with the Supreme Court.

      Do you think Dred Scott was a good decision, too? Who are you to argue with those distinguished scholars who voted 7 to 2 against the citizenship of slaves?

    38. #38 |  Andrew | 

      Nando — I’m an attorney, I’m admitted to the bar in 3 states and I aced the Constitutional Law section of the Bar Exam all 3 times, does that count? And discounting the fact that you’re reading the decisions wrongly (as Radley pointed out), yes, the Supreme Court would be wrong for saying that, yes.

    39. #39 |  Les | 

      I’d say that a child pornographer (who clearly doesn’t have a mainstream or normal way of thinking) is a risk high enough to warrant these types of raids.

      Nando, you’d have to demonstrate that child-pornographers are prone to violence when apprehended. Now, I’ve never heard of such a thing, but if you have a link to support this assertion, I’d appreciate it. If you don’t, I hope you can admit that there was no reason whatsoever for this type of raid.

    40. #40 |  supercat | 

      //Can someone please tell me what a reasonable and unreasonable search is, in definite terms?//

      If a group of twelve ordinary people would regard a search as unreasonable, it almost certainly is.

      Likewise, if such a group, informed of all the facts in a criminal case, would regard as excessive the punishment imposed by a judge, it almost certainly is.

      If such a group, informed of the accuracy record of a prosecution witness in earlier cases, would regard him as unreliable, he almost certainly is.

      Most generally, if knowing certain truthful information would cause a jury to acquit, any guilty verdict obtained by concealing that information is almost certainly unjust (even if the defendant committed the crime, there is no justice in framing even a guilty man).

      Judges and lawyers like to complicate things, and to accumulate power. They want to pretend that the Constitution is some strange and bizarre mystical entity that can only be understood by members of an elite priesthood. People who try promote such a view are enemies of the Constitution.

      The Constitution was written to be a relatively simple and straightforward document, comprehensible by any literate person. The Founding Fathers would be appalled at the notion that the question of ‘reasonableness’ should be answered by studying thousands of pages of excuses as to why something is reasonable, rather than by asking a jury to use common sense.

    Leave a Reply