The 4th Amendment, The meaning of “Unreasonable” and the so-called Civil Libertarian Left

On Tech Dirt, I saw this – “FBI Asks Congress To Ignore The Whole ‘Probable Cause’ Part Of The 4th Amendment” :

So, in case you haven’t been paying attention, the text of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution reads:

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.

Pretty straightforward and reasonable, right? Except we’ve seen an awful lot of erosion of that recently, what with Congress’s decision to allow warrantless wiretaps and the Department of Homeland Security insisting that probable cause isn’t needed to search your laptops at the border. Well, if it’s not needed at the border, why is it needed at all?

At least that seems to be the theory being pushed by the Attorney General, who is asking Congress to approve a plan that would let the FBI begin an investigation and surveillance on someone without probable cause — actually “without any reasonable basis” at all. That would seem to be in direct violation of the 4th Amendment, but apparently, ignoring the 4th Amendment is all the rage in Washington DC these days.

This is just bullshit in so many ways.

I commented:

This is really a debate over what the word “unreasonable” means in this context.

Obviously, from the comments on this post, most people are ignore or skimming past that word, or implicitly believing that no search is reasonable, and therefore all searched require warrants.

I for one don’t have a problem with with the Feds listening on overseas calls that only “enter” the US by a quirk of technology. When I hear people call that “domestic spying” I generally ignore anything they else they say or write and mostly likely to be further nonsense.

Anyways, surveillance (public observation) is not covered by the 4tgh amendment. Starting an investigation is not covered by the 4th amendment.

While the author of the post says the 4th amendment is “Pretty straightforward and reasonable” he sure seems to be confused by it.

As I think more about this, this really isn’t a constitutional issue. This is part of an on-going fight by one part of American Society against the rest that is in this case attacking the legal system in order to weaken the parts of it used to investigate and pursue criminal actors and anti-security actors (e.g. foreign agents, terrorist).

The author isn’t dumb. He clearly misspeaks on the constitution (quoting a section about searches, then applying it to something different) hoping to riles up the masses. Given that only 3 of 56 commentators do not seemed fooled, he was successful.

BTW, here is the dictionary.com definition of unreasonable:

1. not reasonable or rational; acting at variance with or contrary to reason; not guided by reason or sound judgment; irrational: an unreasonable person.
2. not in accordance with practical realities, as attitude or behavior; inappropriate: His Bohemianism was an unreasonable way of life for one so rich.
3. excessive, immoderate, or exorbitant; unconscionable: an unreasonable price; unreasonable demands.
4. not having the faculty of reason.
[Origin: 1300–50; ME unresonabel. See un-1, reasonable]
[…]
—Synonyms 1, 2. senseless, foolish, silly. 2. preposterous, absurd, stupid, nonsensical. 3. extravagant.

Of course, the Fourth Amendment is quiet on Surveillance or on criteria for starting an investigation.

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