U.S. District Judge William Griesbach has approved the warrantless placing of surveillance cameras on people’s private property. In a recent case, the judge ruled that it was permissible for the Drug Enforcement Agency to enter the defendants’ rural property without permission or warrant and install several “covert digital surveillance cameras” to determine whether or not the owners had 30 to 40 marijuana plants. CNet News reports:
“Two defendants in the case, Manuel Mendoza and Marco Magana of Green Bay, Wis., have been charged with federal drug crimes after DEA agent Steven Curran claimed to have discovered more than 1,000 marijuana plants grown on the property, and face possible life imprisonment and fines of up to $10 million. Mendoza and Magana asked [Magistrate Judge] Callahan to throw out the video evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds, noting that ‘No Trespassing’ signs were posted throughout the heavily wooded, 22-acre property owned by Magana and that it also had a locked gate.”
But both Judges Callahan and Griesbach stated that police placing surveillance cameras outside the curtilage does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The “curtilage” refers to the area immediately surrounding a person’s house. Callahan had based his decision on a 1984 case where the majority of Justices decided that law enforcement could search someone’s “open fields” without a warrant because it was outside the suspect’s curtilage.
I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the war on drugs. This isn’t about that so much as it is about setting a dangerous precedent. It’s the principle that is alarming. You don’t have to be a suspected marijuana smoker or grower to have your person, your car or your house searched. All law enforcement has to do is claim that you’re being “suspicious,” and that is sufficient for probable cause, arrest and detainment. Even though the Fourth Amendment requires that a warrant be obtained after probable cause is determined, law enforcement isn’t subjected to that law anymore. It’s old-fashioned, and remember, we’re living in a “post-9/11” world where everyone is a terrorist. Except government officials.
So, if you’re merely suspected of engaging in some kind of criminal behavior, whether it’s growing non-government approved plants or posting critical comments about law enforcement on Facebook, they can now set up surveillance cameras outside your house without warrant or letting you know. And at what point will they scrap the “curtilage clause” and allow covert surveillance inside people’s homes? What if they “suspect” that you’re abusing your kids or engaging in domestic violence?
If Obama’s socialistic dream comes true, we’ll all be under constant Orwellian surveillance. And it’s all thanks to those politicians who promised us security in exchange for our liberty.