The 4th Amendment vs. "strict constructionism"

A wonderful appeals court ruling today:

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that federal investigators' seizure of drug-test results of more than 90 major league baseball players five years ago was illegal.

The decision recommended new guidelines for computer searches to prevent investigators from using information about people who are not named in a search warrant but whose private data is stored on a computer being searched.

Investigators looking into steroid use by professional baseball players obtained search warrants and subpoenas for the drug tests results on 10 major league players, but they took the results on 104 players.

The Major League Baseball Players Association sued for the return of the seized results, while the government argued investigators should be able to use them since they were “in plain sight” along with the other results during the search.

The appeals court’s decision says such a standard for computer searches would be dangerous to everyone’s privacy as protected by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

“Seizure of, for example, Google’s e-mail servers to look for a few incriminating messages could jeopardize the privacy of millions,” wrote the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges.

Such an important pro-privacy ruling! So consistent with the intent of our Fourth Amendment’s “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

I sure hope the four fascists on our Supreme Court — “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. often adopt an expansive view of government power” — fail in their inevitable attempt to overturn this most sensible ruling.

I can already hear their weaselly defense of corporate and governmental power over individual rights: “the search and seizure was ‘reasonable.’ Too bad innocents get swept up in the dragnet, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs” and “the right of the people extends only to ‘their persons, houses, papers, and effects’… not to information sitting on a server they neither own nor possess (even if they created that information and retain copyright and other ownership rights on it).”

Disgustingly, these Supreme Court justices will “justify” their reasoning on the grounds of being “strict constructionists.” They’ll claim they’re ruling based solely on the actual words in the 4th Amendment. They’ll conveniently ignore the fact that the spirit of the 4th Amendment is completely obvious. They’ll similarly ignore the inability of early Americans to conceive of the Internet, remote servers, Facebook, Google, etc. And then they’ll apply a nit-picking interpretation of the 4th Amendment’s words to rob Americans of the very rights the 4th Amendment clearly intended to guarantee.

Posted by James on Friday, August 28, 2009