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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Constitution Free Zone - Map


On a previous program we asked the question: “Does our Constitution really matter?” When considering “Constitutional Free Zones” we have to ask if this is an example of where the lines regarding our constitutional rights are eroding.
The “Constitution Free Zone,” is the area within “100-miles of the US land and coastal borders.” Airports are also in these zones, regardless of their geographic location. According to 2007 figures from the US Census Bureau, 197.4 million people, 2/3 of the United States population, including the entire state of Florida, live within “Constitution Free Zones.”
The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to stop, search and detain anyone, for any reason within a “Constitution Free Zone,” resident or traveler.



The Controversy Over the “Constitution Free Zone”
In theory, having a 100-mile radius within which to apprehend criminals, international drug lords, terrorists and others with ill intentions may not be a bad idea. However, problems frequently occur. Numerous case studies show that American citizens have been harassed and that the FBI has used Homeland Security to bypass normal search & seizure guidelines as outlined in the Constitution’s 4th Amendment, “The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of Americans to be ‘secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects’ from unreasonable and unwarranted government intrusion.”
Search & Seizure by TSA
The Washington Times recently reported an incident that happened at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston:
“FBI agents had identified an individual suspected of downloading child pornography on an Internet chat room. The suspect’s passport was flagged and FBI agents asked officials at the Department of Homeland Security to seize and search the individual’s computer at the airport. Three incriminating images were found during the examination, conducted without a warrant.”
The newspaper did not countenance child pornography- but did question the individual’s being searched without a warrant and asked if this constituted abuse of the Fourth Amendment.
Search & Seizure
When Homeland Security officers check on a person, within their boundaries on United States soil, they can ask travelers for papers, detain them, question them, bring in drug dogs to search vehicles, etc. They are not required to have probable cause. The question to ask is: does this loophole create/ or should it create concern for Americans regarding their Constitutional rights?
“Border patrol officials say that checkpoints are anything but unconstitutional. ‘The 100-mile zone absolutely is not a Constitution-free zone,’ said Jason Ciliberti, a supervisory border patrol agent with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. ‘Those 100 miles are what essentially is said to be a reasonable distance from the boundary from the United States, and the Supreme Court has come down firmly on our side and said that what we’re doing is not unreasonable.’”
According to a Wired Magazine article, “The government has long had the power to set up such check points, but has recently expanded the number of permanent and ‘tactical’ check points and deployed them in areas they hadn’t before — such as near the Canadian border.”
Effects of Skipping Due Process – Operation Ore
Operation Ore is an excellent example of why a constitution free zone where standard procedures aren’t followed and due process lines become blurred has caused some to be cautious.
“Operation Ore was a British police operation that commenced in 1999 following information received from US law enforcement, which was intended to prosecute thousands of users of a website reportedly featuring child pornography. In the United Kingdom, it led to 7,250 suspects identified, 4,283 homes searched, 3,744 arrests, 1,848 charged, 1,451 convictions, 493 cautioned and 140 children removed from suspected dangerous situations and an estimated 39 suicides. While Operation Ore did identify and prosecute a number of sex offenders, the validity of the police procedures was later questioned, as errors in the investigations apparently resulted in a number of false arrests.”
They later realized that there was a serious error in the data that had been collected. The “UK police received no information on the scale of the credit card fraud which had occurred within the Landslide business. Many of the charges at the Landslide affiliated sites were made using stolen credit card information, and the police arrested the real owners of the credit cards, not the actual viewers. Plus, thousands of credit card charges were made where there was no access to a site, or access to only a dummy site. When the police finally checked, they found 54,348 occurrences of stolen credit card information in the Landslide database.”
People were convicted and lives destroyed when in fact they were simply the victims of credit card fraud. That is the reason for due process of law.
Just because something may appear to belong to a person, does not mean that it necessarily does. “Computer hackers use zombies and botnets to gain access to others’ computer resources so they can carry out illegal acts, such as collecting social security numbers, according to AccessData.”
At the end of the day, Homeland Security is important to all Americans. However, are our fourth amendment rights being blurred and are officials arriving at conclusions without all of the facts? We’re interested to hear your thoughts on the matter as we simply present some questions.

Fact Sheet
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.

How is the Constitution Free Zone assuring we have better safety? Is the cost worth it?

 Global Research Articles by ACLU

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