The Supreme Court has just announced a ruling that police may strip search people arrested for any offense, no matter how minor, before admitting them to jail.
The decision states that this is the case even if there is no reason to suspect the presence of contraband; and in spite of the 4th amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
And if you had to guess how the vote came out, what do you think it might be? Well of course, 5-4 with all the usual conservatives ruling that conservative fear trumps liberal rights against being intimidated, humiliated, and brutalized without need by authority figures representing what we once called law and order.
Justice Kennedy wrote that the court is not in a position to second guess law enforcement, who must concern themselves with matters ranging from drugs or weapons to public health and gang affiliations.
These procedures are forbidden by law in at least 10 states, contrary to procedures approved for federal officers, and according to a brief submitted by the American Bar Association, banned by international human rights treaties.
Good old Justice Breyer wrote that people have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip-search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell. A nun was strip-searched, he wrote, after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration.
Justice Kennedy responded that “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” He noted that Timothy McVeigh, later put to death for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was first arrested for driving without a license plate. “One of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93,” Justice Kennedy added.
Presumably Justice Kennedy believes that plans for the 9/11 bombing may have been found rolled up and inserted in the hijacker's anus. Maybe justice Kennedy believes that a good dose of humiliation by nudity and probing by government officials might somehow deter or discourage a terrorist from attacking our great nation. It's really quite difficult to determine exactly what Justice Kennedy believes, except perhaps that the world is full of very scary people who might jeopardize his own position of extraordinary privilege, and thus it only follows that the more they are stripped of rights and dignity the less likely they will be to ever cause Justice Kennedy any inconvenience or trouble.
In fact, all of the 9/11 terrorists lived in houses or apartments where they sat night after night at leisure before the attack. Why should we wait until people are arrested before strip searching them? I don't see any reason this ruling shouldn't be extended to random strip-searches of people in their own homes. Even broccoli may be hiding something in it's inner folds and recesses. Caskets and bodies prepared for burial are potential hiding places for all sorts of contraband and terrorist plots. And of course courts have already ruled that cell phones are fair game, both for search of memory contents by police officers (without cause) and for use in tracking the locations of citizens. Really, by this ruling one can see no reason, no limiting principle, suggesting why the Justice's robes themselves might not be lifted to enable a close visual inspection for weapons and other illegal items or substances before they enter the court buildings, and even when they leave for that matter.
Of course the whole nation might feel safer if these Judges had their heads examined.
The bright side in this ruling is that it seems hardly possible after a ruling like this that the court could find it intrusive for the government to require that citizens purchase health care or contribute to the expense of free emergency room care by paying a tax penalty. I think most citizens would much rather buy health care than be humiliated and physically abused by police officers for minor offenses, of which we are naturally presumed innocent until proven guilty.