Tuesday, August 05, 2008

DHS How I Hate Thee

These are only the latest reports that the DHS is allowed to treat US citizens like criminals as SOP (except that criminals have rights, at the border I don't, apparently). This year alone I have been accused of lying by a border guard and the car I was traveling in was twice asked (I was questioned only once) "when the last time I smoked marijuana." (As it is not illegal to have smoked, it is not entrapment.) I have traveled across the US border 5 times and I only recall one occasion without episode. Each time I present a valid US Passport and I have no criminal record. Why must DHS treat Americans as criminals and deprive us of our rights? At some point someone thought that rights make us safer. Apparently Chertoff does not agree.

If you think searches like these have merit you ought to show that 1) they are effective 2) they do not undermine "American values." So if searches are a good idea, why not do them at random traffic stops as you might catch more criminals that way? One might contend that the US has tight security control within its borders, but God only knows what is going on in Cambodia. A blanket DHS rule like this also targets me driving from the US to Canada too (and there is a lot of human traffic along this border). Is Canada particularly lax and does that warrant relieving citizens of their rights at this particular location? I think there is a difference, and it should be made explicit, but based upon my experience at the border it does not appear to me that DHS has told their agents to conduct themselves as if there is one.

A further normative concern might ask why crossing a border relinquishes one of their rights? I would contend (though I am certain there is legal precedent to which I am not aware) that once I present a US border officer with my passport I have demonstrated my citizenship and am thus entitled to my rights as an American. How does being at that particular location compromise me?

No comments: