View Full Version : Living In A "Constitution Free Zone"

10-22-2008, 07:07 PM
Living In A "Constitution Free Zone"



(Gold9472: I do.)

Using data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the ACLU has determined that nearly 2/3 of the entire US population (197.4 million people) live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.

The government is assuming extraordinary powers to stop and search individuals within this zone. This is not just about the border: This " Constitution-Free Zone" includes most of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.

We urge you to call on Congress to hold hearings on and pass legislation to end these egregious violations of Americans' civil rights.

Fact Sheet on U.S. "Constitution Free Zone"


The problem

Normally under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American people are not generally subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches.
The border, however, has always been an exception. There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply. For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a “routine search.”
But what is “the border”? According to the government, it is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States.
As a result of this claimed authority, individuals who are far away from the border, American citizens traveling from one place in America to another, are being stopped and harassed in ways that our Constitution does not permit.
Border Patrol has been setting up checkpoints inland — on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminals in Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship. Unfortunately, our courts so far have permitted these kinds of checkpoints – legally speaking, they are “administrative” stops that are permitted only for the specific purpose of protecting the nation’s borders. They cannot become general drug-search or other law enforcement efforts.
However, these stops by Border Patrol agents are not remaining confined to that border security purpose. On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.
The bottom line is that the extraordinary authorities that the government possesses at the border are spilling into regular American streets.
Much of U.S. population affected

Many Americans and Washington policymakers believe that this is a problem confined to the San Diego-Tijuana border or the dusty sands of Arizona or Texas, but these powers stretch far inland across the United States.
To calculate what proportion of the U.S. population is affected by these powers, the ACLU created a map and spreadsheet showing the population and population centers that lie within 100 miles of any “external boundary” of the United States.
The population estimates were calculated by examining the most recent US census numbers for all counties within 100 miles of these borders. Using numbers from the Population Distribution Branch of the US Census Bureau, we were able to estimate both the total number and a state-by-state population breakdown. The custom map was created with help from a map expert at World Sites Atlas.
What we found is that fully TWO-THIRDS of the United States’ population lives within this Constitution-free or Constitution-lite Zone. That’s 197.4 million people who live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.
Nine of the top 10 largest metropolitan areas as determined by the 2000 census, fall within the Constitution-free Zone. (The only exception is #9, Dallas-Fort Worth. ) Some states are considered to lie completely within the zone: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Part of a broader problem

The spread of border-search powers inland is part of a broad expansion of border powers with the potential to affect the lives of ordinary Americans who have never left their own country.
It coincides with the development of numerous border technologies, including watch list and database systems such as the Automated Targeting System (ATS) traveler risk assessment program, identity and tracking systems such as electronic (RFID) passports, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), and intrusive technological schemes such as the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBINet) or “virtual border fence” and unmanned aerial vehicles (aka “drone aircraft”).
This illegitimate expansion of the extraordinary powers of agents at the border is also part of a general trend we have seen over the past 8 years of an untrammeled, heedless expansion of police and national security powers without regard to the effect on innocent Americans.
This trend is also typical of the Bush Administration’s dragnet approach to law enforcement and national security. Instead of intelligent, competent, targeted efforts to stop terrorism, illegal immigration, and other crimes, what we have been seeing in area after area is an approach that turns us all into suspects. This approach seeks to sift through the entire U.S. population in the hopes of encountering the rare individual whom the authorities have a legitimate interest in.
If the current generation of Americans does not challenge this creeping (and sometimes galloping) expansion of federal powers over the individual through the rationale of “border protection,” we are not doing our part to keep alive the rights and freedoms that we inherited, and will soon find that we have lost some or all of their right to go about their business, and travel around inside their own country, without interference from the authorities.

Border Security Technologies


The government's approach to keeping our borders safe has been marked by an increasing focus on high-tech gimmicks and ineffective identity-based security. Worse, programs intended for border security purposes have had a tendency to expand toward the rest of the country. This "mission creep" has been broadly observed in border security programs, and the programs listed below especially reflect the way security at our borders is being implemented in ways that have the potential to affect Americans in their domestic lives.

Automated Targeting System (ATS):
The Automated Targeting System (ATS) is a security and tracking program for cargo that DHS has extended to travelers by assigning all who cross the nation's borders with a computer-generated "risk assessment" score that will be retained for 40 years – and which is secret and unreviewable. This program represents a monumental change that will have profound effects on Americans' privacy.

Aviation/Border Watch Lists:
Since its creation, DHS has been attempting to build a domestic, identity-based airline passenger and border-control screening scheme. These bloated watchlists contain the names of many thousands of innocent Americans, who now encounter problems when they try to fly and cross the border.[1] (http://www.aclu.org/ACLU/default.asp?_task=edit&_lastsubtask=&_lasttask=preview&_lastassetid=37295&_in_preview=1&_subtask=&_assetid=37295&_assettype=2&_back=&_path=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/&_path_ids=/828/8443/&_noteson=&_pagenum=&_inarchive=False&_selectedid=&_render_states=&_copy=&_move=&_copy_id=&_move_id=&_extra=&_selected=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/Border+Security+Technologies&_rnd=554235#_ftn1) Members of Congress, nuns, children and others have been tagged by these lists. Those innocent Americans have generally found it impossible to get their names cleared, as there is no meaningful system for redress. And incredibly, for all this trouble the aviation lists do not even contain the names of many of the worst suspected terrorists, because the government is fearful that its secrecy will be compromised. The questionable benefits of identity-based systems such as watch lists do not justify their costs and harms. Unfortunately, the TSA and CBP have moved headlong toward broader use of these watch lists, without fixing the fundamental problems with the underlying data, and the lack of a process for innocent people to clear their names.

Data Collection and Retention:
Through a program called the Border Crossing Information System, the government has been collecting and compiling information on all U.S. citizens crossing the border by land for potential later use in criminal and intelligence investigations. Data including name, birth date, gender, date and time of crossing, and a photo of every U.S. citizen crossing a land border may be retained for 15 years.[2] (http://www.aclu.org/ACLU/default.asp?_task=edit&_lastsubtask=&_lasttask=preview&_lastassetid=37295&_in_preview=1&_subtask=&_assetid=37295&_assettype=2&_back=&_path=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/&_path_ids=/828/8443/&_noteson=&_pagenum=&_inarchive=False&_selectedid=&_render_states=&_copy=&_move=&_copy_id=&_move_id=&_extra=&_selected=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/Border+Security+Technologies&_rnd=554235#_ftn2)

The United States is currently issuing biometric passports and immigration documents that contain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips that can be read remotely. This wireless technology could leave Americans open to identity theft, to terrorists interested in singling out Americans traveling overseas, or to routine tracking by the government or private sector.

SBINet, or the "Secure Border Initiative Network," is intended to be, if it is ever fully constructed, a “virtual” border fence that relies on sensors and long-range cameras mounted on high observation towers. In addition to the serious privacy concerns raised by long-range surveillance cameras capable of observing the activities of everyday Americans living along the border, SBINet has repeatedly failed to achieve its operational objectives and appears to be a fundamentally impactical and misguided concept for guarding our borders.

U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT):
US-VISIT is another program that, despite years of work, remains functionally inoperative. US-VISIT tracks visitor entries into the country by running their fingerscans and photographs through a terrorist database. However, the program still fails to track their departures, and hence provides maximum privacy invasion with minimum security. Also, the watch lists used by this program and others are full of errors and are missing the names of suspected terrorists.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs):
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or “drones” are currently being used over certain restricted sections of the northern and southern US borders. UAVs respond to sensor activation on the ground and capture images that are both stored and relayed to CBP Agents. UAVs can utilize technology such as infrared cameras and laser illuminators, so surveillance is possible at any time of the day or night.[3] (http://www.aclu.org/ACLU/default.asp?_task=edit&_lastsubtask=&_lasttask=preview&_lastassetid=37295&_in_preview=1&_subtask=&_assetid=37295&_assettype=2&_back=&_path=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/&_path_ids=/828/8443/&_noteson=&_pagenum=&_inarchive=False&_selectedid=&_render_states=&_copy=&_move=&_copy_id=&_move_id=&_extra=&_selected=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/Border+Security+Technologies&_rnd=554235#_ftn3) This type of surveillance technology has a vast potential for abuse, as law-abiding citizens in border areas may not be aware that they are being monitored. The use of UAVs has already begun to expand from the exclusive domain of the military and CBP to state and local police operations, and this trend of broad "mission creep" is expected to continue.[4] (http://www.aclu.org/ACLU/default.asp?_task=edit&_lastsubtask=&_lasttask=preview&_lastassetid=37295&_in_preview=1&_subtask=&_assetid=37295&_assettype=2&_back=&_path=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/&_path_ids=/828/8443/&_noteson=&_pagenum=&_inarchive=False&_selectedid=&_render_states=&_copy=&_move=&_copy_id=&_move_id=&_extra=&_selected=/Development+Site/Privacy++Technology/Border+Security+Technologies&_rnd=554235#_ftn4)

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI): WHTI regulations authorize the states to create an enhanced drivers’ license (EDL) for the purpose of crossing the border. This document would contain the citizenship status of the cardholder and other personal data. The WHTI would violate our privacy by vastly expanding the use of unproven biometrics such as facial recognition and creating a tracking database of travel by US citizens that could be linked to our private information.

Constitution Free Zone Victim


Below are the remarks of Craig Johnson on October 22, 2008, at the ACLU's press conference on the U.S. "Constitution-free Zone (http://www.aclu.org/privacy/spying/areyoulivinginaconstitutionfreezone.html)."

Good morning. I am Craig Johnson. I’m an associate professor of music at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. First, I want to thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. Point Loma, I’m proud to say, encourages its faculty and students to involve themselves in social justice and reconciliation issues. And it was through my involvement in one such event that my story begins.

On June 1st of this year I was privileged to participate, along with my two oldest children, in a vigil sponsored by the San Diego Foundation for Change and supported by members of the Point Loma campus community at the Border Field State Park on the U. S. border with Mexico. My involvement in this event was to demonstrate my opposition to the Federal government’s proposed construction of a dual layer border fence through this park and the nationally protected estuary and research center that are part of the grounds. One activity during the vigil was to have been what is known in some faith traditions as a “love feast” – it was to have been the sharing of food through the fence to demonstrate solidarity and hospitality between citizens of both countries. That day, however, there was a much stronger presence of Border Patrol agents, a dozen or more, than is typical at events of this nature. They informed us that if any food was passed through the fence, we would be arrested on violations of customs regulations. We took them at their word and the love feast became a love lament, with only the US citizens eating while our Mexican neighbors looked on. Incidentally, an article appeared in yesterday’s New York Times about this park and the Border Patrol agents, and it seems that they have softened their position on this considerably.

While there was a strong presence of agents at the park itself, other officers were recording license plates of all the vehicles in the parking lot, which unfortunately was a mile and a half away. In fact, one student’s car was even towed for expired registration during the event.

Six days later, on June 7, I went to Tijuana, Mexico to sing a benefit recital. On my re-entry into the U.S., I submitted my current passport to the Customs agent was then told to freeze with both of my hands on the desk in front of me. After being asked if I had any weapons on me, I was handcuffed by Customs agents and told that I was listed as “armed and dangerous.” At that point I was escorted in front of literally hundreds of onlookers waiting to enter the U. S. and taken to a holding room where my suit coat, tie, outer shirt, belt, and shoes were removed, my pockets emptied and the contents confiscated and I was aggressively searched. This was not your typical airport security pat-down. Every inch and crack of my body was thoroughly pressed and probed. I was in complete bewilderment. I felt violated and frankly, I was embarrassed. I could not believe what was happening.

After this I was questioned about my reasons for being in Mexico, my length of stay there, and where specifically I would be returning to the U.S. After about 45 minutes I was released to collect my belongings and rejoin my friends with whom I had been in line.

I normally travel to Mexico for any reason that presents itself – escorting visitors from out of town or just going down for the sights and sounds of the country. I even worked regularly there in 2006 with Tijuana Opera and would cross the border several times per week. Never before my June 7th experience had I encountered the slightest problem.

It took me four months to muster the courage to try crossing again. I had hoped that this was a mistake and that I would be removed from “armed and dangerous” status. On October 5, I decided to go to Mexico to try re-entering in order put my mind to rest. I was hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst, and once again I was subjected to the same treatment – arrest, searching, questioning, and detainment.

I do not own firearms. I do not have a criminal record. Yet when I think of the treatment that my own government shows to me, I am alarmed. It’s frightening enough knowing that my personal and private data is being accessed with unknown consequences, but when I know what some of those consequences are, I am even more disturbed.

It took me four months to return to Mexico after June 1st, not because I’m afraid of travelling outside of my own country, but rather because I’m afraid of returning home. This should not be.