Random Searches


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Tierhog
September 29, 2004, 03:13 AM
I just saw on the news (king5) that the washington state patrol will be doing "random searches" of vehicles prior to boarding the ferries. Even though this is a violation of the state constitution. Anybody hear any more on this? How will the determine what means "random", what happens if they find a gun or ammo, how long will they detain you for interviewing? Seems like a very dangerous idea.

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Preacherman
September 29, 2004, 03:16 AM
Trouble is, you're using someone else's property when you use the ferry. If they make it a condition of passage that you must consent to a search of your vehicle, property or person before you board, or while under way, then you have the right to refuse the search, but they have the right to refuse to transport you. It's the same way with the TSA and airline security. You have the right to refuse the intrusive (and essentially useless, from a security point of view) searches at the airport: but if you refuse 'em, you ain't flyin' that day... :(

Tierhog
September 29, 2004, 03:51 AM
I always thought that the ferry system here in washington was owned and operated by the state, that makes it public property, just like the highways. Does that mean that I would be subject to random search by driving on a public road? How about a toll road? I am not trying to be a smart a** but just because I have to pay to use something shouldn't mean I have to give up my rights. Airlines are privately owned, as are stores and cruise ships, so I can understand that they have the right to run their business the way they think, but public transportation that I help support by taxes should not violate the law. I am not a constitutional scholar, nor am I particularly bright on political matters, but this just seems wrong.

borderguy
September 29, 2004, 12:04 PM
The searches have been going on for awhile. In June I went to Port Townson and the local PD was checking cars while they waited in the ferry line. They're also checking trains too.

Old Dog
September 29, 2004, 12:07 PM
Newsflash, guys ... they've been doing this. Try taking the Seattle-Bainbridge Island or Seattle-Bremerton ferries ... quite often, the WSP is out there (with other agencies, too, I might add) and lots of dogs. If you are legally transporting your firearms and ammo, absolutely no problems. If you have a CPL and are packing, no problem. The guys go through the lines and even if a dog alerts on your vehicle or you're lookin' mighty suspicious, things are gonna be sorted out in plenty of time for you to catch your ferry.

Anyone remember the guy of middle-Eastern descent nabbed up here coming in on the ferry from B.C., with a trunkful of explosives not all that long ago?

Plus, taking out a Seattle ferry would not only kill a few thousand folks at a time, but it would clog the shipping lanes in the sound. I for one am not gonna bent out of shape if I have to pop my trunk or let the guys look in my backseat (as long as they clean up the dog hair afterwards).

pax
September 29, 2004, 12:10 PM
Preacherman ~

Washington state ferries are not private property.

Legally, they are equivalent to state highways and should be accompanied by the same freedom from search that is guaranteed while you are driving your car down the public thoroughfare.

Tierhog ~

They did those searches for awhile after 9/11, then stopped when the public outcry got too great. Somewhere in my files I have copies of correspondence I sent to the governor, to the bureaucrat in charge of the ferry system, to the chief bottlewasher in the state's cop shop, and to one of the main reporters who was following the story. I might have even saved responses from a couple of them.

Probably time to dig the letters up again, or write new ones.

*sigh*

Lord, I'm tired.

And I'll bet you -- naw, never mind, no bet, it'd be stealing -- that we will shortly have several allegedly "freedom-minded" High Roaders commenting that the 4th Amendment doesn't matter that much when there's physical danger involved.

pax

The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security. -- Louis Freeh

pax
September 29, 2004, 12:12 PM
borderguy, Old Dog ~

Does either one of you know when they started the searches up again?

As I said, they did quit for awhile, because so many folks screamed about it.

pax

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin

FPrice
September 29, 2004, 12:13 PM
"Seems like a very dangerous idea."

Well, if someone can come up with a fool-proof way of identifying terrorists without inconveniencing us law-abiding honest citizens that person would become a billionaire fairly quickly I would imagine.

But, until that time the folks who are responsible for operating such systems and providing some measure of safety and security to the public are going to continue to fall back on the old, standard methods.

pax
September 29, 2004, 12:15 PM
Frosty ~

You're right.

Safety is more important than freedom.

How could we have missed that all these years?

pax

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? -- Patrick Henry

Old Dog
September 29, 2004, 12:38 PM
Pax, I don't know when they started this again ... I did a round trip on the Seattle-B.I. run last month, and WSP was out there (with the USCG and at least one other agency).

Is there a 4th Amendment issue here? Hmmm... If WSP pulled me over on I-5 or Hwy 3 simply to search my vehicle ... yeah. This ferry thing, I'm sure has been wrestled with at a much higher level than an internet forum. As I said, I think there are some valid security concerns with this mode of transport, much more so than using public roads. Am I giving up my freedoms letting the dogs walk by my vehicle or letting someone look in my trunk or backseat (after I give them permission, which, if I don't, I'm simply not allowed on the boat)?

The process doesn't seem to inconvenience anyone (since it's done during the lengthy waiting times anyway) unless someone would be forced to miss their boat ...

Yeah, it's a nagging question, but perhaps I've simply become, as a member of the armed forces lo this past quarter-century, to giving up some of my rights to make sure that others are safe.

priv8ter
September 29, 2004, 12:49 PM
I take the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry a lot to go visit my mom. As far as I can tell, they have NEVER stopped having the dogs walking the rows of cars, sniffing around.

But now....they are actually going to start searching cars physically again.

greg

TallPine
September 29, 2004, 01:03 PM
So what about all the trucks that pass over major bridges every hour of every day ...? Going to search every one of them, too? I don't think so.

A suicide bomber blowing up a truck in the middle of an interstate bridge over the Mississippi would be so simple and about as catastrophic as a bomb on a ferry.

At some point we are just going to have to learn to live with these dangers.

Tierhog
September 29, 2004, 01:11 PM
I agree, it would be nice if you could wave a magic wand and all the bad guys go away, but that's not going to happen. To give up your rights out of fear just goes against everything my Dad taught me. Besides, if we were a little more diligent about who we let into this country...I mean its a lot easier to keep the fox out of the chicken house than it is to go in and fight him as well as the chickens.

I have to strongly disagree with you Old Dog, "The process doesn't seem to inconvenience anyone..." To be subjected to random physical searches is a huge inconvienience, it disrupts my plans, scares the children, (after all it is for the children right), it embarasses me (my cars a dump), makes my dog nervous and is generally a pain in the a**. How soon until they decide that my safety is so important that they will come to my home and do random searches there?

The police do NOT protect me nor do they ensure my security, I do that. And I always will, as long as the dirts under me and not over me.

WT
September 29, 2004, 01:31 PM
Tierhog

I am truly sorry that the War inconveniences you.

Perhaps the thought of terrorists driving on board the ferry with a van full of explosives is something you don't concern yourself with. After all, you will defend yourself and your children. God forbid your upset dog should accidently void in the backseat.

Old Dog
September 29, 2004, 01:58 PM
I dunno, Tierhog ... they've got these searches down and get 'em done pretty quickly. My kids always thought getting our vehicle searched at the gate (almost every freakin' day, lengthy, thorough, painful -- and I know I'm a good guy) of the base in Bahrain was kind of interesting, although yeah, my wife would get kinda embarassed about her messy car. Sorry to hear that your right to not be inconvenienced trumps the rights of everyone else to not be killed. By the way, the 4th Amendment protects us against unlawful (there's that key word) search and seizure.

FPrice
September 29, 2004, 02:05 PM
"You're right.

Safety is more important than freedom."

Did I say that?

I guess your rahther humorous (:scrutiny: ) response is supposed to highlight the imagined mutually exclusive states of safety and freedom.

Position 1: You can't be safe and have any personal freedoms.

POsition 2: You can't have all your personal freedoms if the state makes any effort to protect us against terrorists.

I wonder where you would place your efforts, if any, in trying to hamper terrorists in planning/carrying out their next attack.

FPrice
September 29, 2004, 02:08 PM
Tierhog: "To be subjected to random physical searches is a huge inconvienience,..., scares the children,..."

Typical anti-gun soccer Mom: To allow anybody to carry a gun scares my children.

Is there any similarity here?

Tierhog
September 29, 2004, 02:16 PM
I will now let the thought of the bad guys override my life. I will advocate that all drivers take a BAC test before allowed to drive, after all one of them may be a drunk driver. I will concern myself about the faulty wiring in your home and insist that building inspectors check your house regularly, in case you have done something not allowed. I will give up everybodies rights just to protect the nervous few. I know, lets set up an interstate passport system and make travelors apply 4 weeks in advance of any travel plans. How about random strip searches in Pike Place, in case someone has a bomb, or God forbid a gun. how about we have an officer on every street corner checking ID'd and fingerprints, after all we must be protected from the bad guys...at any cost. Thanks for setting me straight on that WT. I will now go hide under my bed with my nervous dog.

dav
September 29, 2004, 02:53 PM
Pax, YES!

Almost everyone else on this thread <explitive deleted>

Why are you other people here if you have no understanding of what freedom and our constitution mean?

Old Dog
September 29, 2004, 03:20 PM
I'll tell you why I'm here:

Just so you know, I do have an pretty thorough understanding of "what freedom and our Constitution mean." As an aside, I've recently spent a year of my life undergoing the "inconvenience" of trying to help another nation's people try and achieve freedom. And not from the comfort of my deskchair armed only with a computer keyboard, either.

The 4th Amendment, as noted, specifies that we should not have any freedoms abridged and we are not to be subject to unlawful (again, that is the KEY word) search and seizure.

The passing annoyance of getting a vehicle quickly scanned before boarding a ferry with thousands of other people is hardly an unlawful search, nor does it constitute an abridgement of ANY of my rights.

There is the ideal, and then there is the real world. It would be ideal that these pesky "infringements" on our rights not be necessary. But, sadly, this is the real world. At least from where I sit.

If you think that you, and maybe a few more of your freedom-loving gun-packing friends can protect a ferry full of a couple thousand motor vehicles and a few thousand passengers, without any governmental assistance, have at it.

pax
September 29, 2004, 03:51 PM
I think it is very telling that when the issue is freedom, so many people respond as though the issue is merely convenience.

Old Dog, thanks for your service.

Now tell me: what, exactly, were you trying to preserve by serving?

I cannot find it in my files, but I do recall one of the President's spokespeople commenting that the President had taken an oath to protect the United States, an oath he took very seriously.

That's great, except the oath he took was not to protect the States. The oath he took was to protect the Constitution of the United States -- the same oath you yourself swore.

You cannot honorably claim that your service means that you are allowed to trample the Constitution or to urge its trampling under the guise of "protecting people." That would be a violation of the oath you took.

There is a fairly strict standard in the 4th Amendment. That standard, by the way, is not whether the search is "unlawful." The phrase "... but in a manner to be prescribed by law..." is language from the 3rd Amendment, not the 4th.

The exactly language of the 4th Amendment is: 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.
The 4th Amendment says that there is no law which may lawfully be passed allowing unreasonable or warrantless searches and seizures.

In a random search, probable cause is utterly lacking. Without more cause than a mere desire to travel, if such a search were taken before a judge, a warrant could not lawfully be issued for any particular one of these searches. So the issue becomes whether it is "reasonable" to randomly search people who are merely going about their lawful occasions and peacefully travelling upon a public thoroughfare.

Frankly, given the sorry state of freedom in America in these post-9/11 days, I hold out no hope that the court would rule that such random searches are "unreasonable." They would do as you and others have done, and immediately hare after such tangents as whether I am inconvenienced by having agents of the state paw through the contents of my private automobile.

But I say again, the issue is not mere convenience. The issue is whether or not I, as a private individual, have a right to be secure in my person, home, papers, and effects -- or whether the state busybodies may nose their way through my private belongings on a mere whim.

pax

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too. -- W. Somerset Maugham

pax
September 29, 2004, 03:57 PM
Frosty ~
Did I say that?
Yes, you did.

"Well, if someone can come up with a fool-proof way of identifying terrorists without inconveniencing us ..."

You said that our safety from terrorists was more important than our freedom from warrantless (and unwarrantable!) searches.

pax

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficial. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding. -- Louis D. Brandeis

FPrice
September 29, 2004, 04:05 PM
"Yes, you did."

Well, I guess if YOU say so, then that's what I said.

Ahhh, these exchanges become so pointless after a while.

Mr. James
September 29, 2004, 04:49 PM
With the exception of pax's posts, this thread may be the most depressing thing I've read on The High Road.

As a former Bainbridge resident, and past daily commuter on WSF, I find the whole notion of random searches disgusting and violative of our basic freedoms. "Ihre papieren, bitte!"

The blythe acceptance of same by members of this forum is ... well, the mind boggles.

We're one step closer to the Nerf State - where we'll wrap everything and everyone in foam rubber so the nasty, scary, pointy, jagged world can't hurt us.


God bless.

Sawdust
September 29, 2004, 05:00 PM
What pax and Mr. James said.

Down the slippery slope we slide, oblivious to the slow erosion of personal freedom.

Basic axiom: Ya can't have it all - pure freedom comes with a degree of risk.

Sawdust

Old Dog
September 29, 2004, 06:13 PM
Surrounded by strict constructionists. Yes, the searches, being warrantless, would then fall under the 4th Amendment ... unless one objects on the basis of probable cause. I submit there is in fact probable cause to believe that there are certain folks out there who have considered attacks on the ferries, and in particular, the Washington state ferry system. If you want to argue against that supposition, fine.

I am under no delusion that the state has the obligation to protect me or my family; indeed, I too believe that responsibility is mine, and mine alone. However, the searches are a fact. That's the direction the state has chosen to go. The state owns the ferries. The state wants to protect its ferries and its waterways (and presumably, those citizens that still chose to use the ferries).

Does the state not have a right to protect its own property? Are the searches unreasonable? If one takes issue with the searches, simply opt not to ride the ferries.

My original point was that -- for me personally, and speaking for myself only -- I would not find the searches unreasonable. After all, I choose to ride the ferry, I want to believe that the folks running said ferry are ensuring that it is safe for me to ride it -- much the same way I want to see enough life jackets on the boats. Could the searches be inconvenient? Of course.

This is not a matter of random searches of my house or my person ... riding the ferries is a choice (for most of us, at any rate).

We are charting new ground in this war against unconventional foes. Frankly, I just can't buy that this is another series of steps in the slow erosion of my constitutional rights. There are far more troubling aspects of the gradual erosion of our 4th Amendment rights that I see in other governmental actions ... we are slowly moving toward a society where we should have no expectation of privacy -- and our uncontrolled technological advances are the vehicle ... I am more worried about that -- and various implementations of law such as portions of the Patriot Act, than I am about having dogs sniff inside my truck in the ferry line.

pax
September 29, 2004, 06:26 PM
I submit there is in fact probable cause to believe that there are certain folks out there who have considered attacks on the ferries, and in particular, the Washington state ferry system. If you want to argue against that supposition, fine.
Old Dog ~

Pretend I agree with you: there is probable cause to believe that there are folks out there who have considered attacks on the ferries.

How, exactly, does that vague and general suspicion rise to probable cause to search one specific vehicle, the one right in front of the inspectors?

It doesn't. It is no different from knowing, for certain, that there are people in my county who have contemplated the horrible crime of child rape, and whose homes contain child pornography, how-to instructions, and equipment such as ropes or handcuffs.

Those people are out there, they intend to do something vile and evil -- and that still does not give the government the right to send its busybodies over to paw through my personal effects.

That said: There are far more troubling aspects of the gradual erosion of our 4th Amendment rights that I see in other governmental actions ... we are slowly moving toward a society where we should have no expectation of privacy -- and our uncontrolled technological advances are the vehicle ... I am more worried about that -- and various implementations of law such as portions of the Patriot Act, than I am about having dogs sniff inside my truck in the ferry line.
Me, too.

But it is not necessary to ignore one human-rights violation in order to speak out against another, more blatant violation of those same rights.

(I am more afraid of murder than I am of being raped -- but I won't submit to either!)

pax

I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in -- and the West in general -- into an unbearable hell and a choking life. – Bin Laden, quoted by CNN report televised in February, 2002

Standing Wolf
September 29, 2004, 07:24 PM
Well, if someone can come up with a fool-proof way of identifying terrorists without inconveniencing us law-abiding honest citizens that person would become a billionaire fairly quickly I would imagine.

Obvious solution: refuse to admit anyone from any of the numerous Islamic terrorist states.

Old Dog
September 29, 2004, 07:45 PM
Pax,
So I take it there's no difference, for you, in the random searches of vehicles in the ferry lines than, for example, the random searches at the border of U.S. citizens crossing back into the U.S. from Canada or Mexico? Or having to submit to the indignities of TSA staff at airport security checkpoints?
At what point do measures to protect our country, our citizens or property become "human rights violations?"
If one is making a choice to utilize a particular mode of transportation -- of one's own free will -- when there may be alternative modes of travel available -- does not the carrier have any liability regarding the safety of travelers? Does the traveler maintain the express right to set forth every condition of his travelling experience, regardless of potential impact on safety of his fellow travelers?
I'm sorry; I just don't believe that brief indignities necessarily constitute human rights violations.



It doesn't. It is no different from knowing, for certain, that there are people in my county who have contemplated the horrible crime of child rape, and whose homes contain child pornography, how-to instructions, and equipment such as ropes or handcuffs.

It is different. Your example -- we are talking about one's own property, one's own abode. Travelling on the ferries is using someone else's property -- the state's. Just as you and I have the duty to protect our own property, so also does the state. If I tell someone they can't bring explosives or drugs into my home, and they then decline the pleasure of my company, fine. Same for riding the ferries.

FPrice
September 29, 2004, 08:00 PM
"Obvious solution: refuse to admit anyone from any of the numerous Islamic terrorist states."

Hmmm. I take it then that you would allow the Bader-Meinhof gang, Sendero Luminoso, and Timothy McVeigh a free pass?

I'm not suggesting that all of these examples have committed terrorist actions on American soil, but none of them are from Islamic terrorist states. Nor would any of them, or most of them anyways, be confused for people from Islamic states. But I do believe that all of them have committed terrorist acts against Americans in their own countries.

fjolnirsson
September 29, 2004, 08:13 PM
Travelling on the ferries is using someone else's property -- the state. Just as you and I have the duty to protect our own property, so also does the state. If I tell someone they can't bring explosives or drugs into my home, and they then decline the pleasure of my company, fine. Same for riding the ferries.

Hmm. I would say that the state is not a property owner in the private sense. State property is in fact, public property.

On the other hand, if the state were to treat "state property" as private, then the state has the right to forbid concealed carry of firearms while we "use" the street. Would they also then, have the option of forbidding the wearing of clothes so long as we "choose" to travel outside of our homes? After all, someone might have explosives strapped beneath their clothing. Surely we can put up with the "inconvenience" of going naked? At least in the more temperate states. Although, I suppose we could "choose" to stay inside during inclement weather.

Sorry, I can't accept these searches as being within the confines of the Constituion. I can't accept the violation of my rights in order to support the illusion of safety.
There is nothing in place to this date to stop a terrorist from boarding a plane with a non metal knife and reliving 9/11. Oh yeah, random searches. These people blow themselves up, does anyone honestly think the possibility of jail time is gonna give them pause?

Michigander
September 29, 2004, 08:24 PM
Well we all know that "the right of the people" means the State, or at least a very large number of people. So random searches of individuals is not covered by Amendment IV. (note sarcasm)


pax is right on here people and it is very sad indeed to think that so many here at THR do not see nor understand how random searches on public property is an unreasonable, and therefore unlawful, search.

Very sad indeed.

13A
September 29, 2004, 10:30 PM
No problem. In the near future we can just show them our national ID card.

Wanna bet you'll STILL be searched after you show the card?

I have great confidence the 3 million illiegal aliens strolling across our borders each year are thoroughly searced!

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