Originally published November 7 2008
Threat to Liberty: Constitution Free Zone Covers Two-Thirds of Americans
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) The extraordinary authority that the U.S. government possesses at its borders is spilling into regular American streets, affecting large populations of its citizens. Nearly two-thirds of the entire population of the country now lives within 100 miles of the U.S. land and coastal borders, an area that has been designated by the government as a "Constitution Free Zone".
In a Constitution free zone, the powers granted under the Constitution no longer apply. Any person who falls into the sites of the national security apparatus while in a Constitution free zone is on his own. There is no appeal process, no case law, no Bill of Rights protection, no lawyers, and none of what Americans count on to help them when they have become justly or unjustly identified as having done wrong.
This illegal expansion of the of the extraordinary powers of agents to encroach into the internal area of the country is part of a general trend seen over the past eight years of the heedless expansion of police and national security powers without regard to the effect on innocent Americans. It is a trend that has made many U.S. citizens as well as observers in foreign lands believe that America has become a police state. Instead of a competent, targeted effort to prevent terrorism, illegal immigration, and other crimes, the Division of Homeland Security has taken an approach that turns all U.S. citizens into suspects.
Personal freedoms are eroded as the term 'border' is redefined
Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, the American people are not normally subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches. However, the area immediately at the border has for a long time been an exception. As an example, the authorities at the border do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a search of anyone that is a suspect.
The critical question is what is being defined as 'the border'. According to the new government definition, the border is now a 100 mile strip that wraps around the external boundary of the entire United States.
The result of this claimed authority is that American citizens who are 100 miles away from the border and who are going about their lives as usual are now subject to being stopped and harassed in ways that the Constitution does not allow. The border patrol has now set up check points inland on highways and at ferry terminals at which they stop people and question them about their citizenship, requiring them to produce identification. If the person stopped displays any resistance or if his name appears on a list of possible suspects, the ability to conduct a search or other law enforcement efforts kicks in. The stops by border agents are not confined to the purpose of border security. Agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on a daily basis with no suspicion of wrongdoing.
The majority of Americans live in the Constitution Free Zone
The ability to harass Americans under this new definition is not confined to the border between Mexico and the U.S. The Constitution free zone stretches inland for 100 miles up both coasts, across the Canada-U.S. border, around the Great Lakes, across the U.S.-Gulf of Mexico border, and encompass virtually all of New England. States that lie completely within the zone include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Amazingly, even Columbus, Ohio and Fort Wayne, Indiana fall within the zone.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calculated the proportion of the U.S. population affected by these expanded governmental powers. The estimates were arrived at by examining the most recent U.S. census numbers for all counties within 100 miles of these borders. They found that two-thirds of the U.S. population lives within the zone. That's 197.4 million people living within 100 miles of U.S. land and coastal borders.
The spreading inland of border search powers and the suspension of Constitutional rights is part of a broad expansion of powers that have the potential to affect the lives of the majority of American citizens, many of whom have never been outside the U.S. It coincides with the development of numerous border technologies, including watch lists and databases.
U.S. citizens subject to harassment based on new security technologies
Many of the tax dollars provided to the U.S. government by its citizens have been used to purchase high-tech gimmicks with which to harass them. These technologies are now used in the Constitution free zone. The programs listed below describe what two-thirds of American citizens are up against.
The Automated Targeting System is a security and tracking program designed to track cargo that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended to tracking travelers as well. It assigns a computer generated "risk assessment" score to all who cross the U.S. border. This score, which will be retained for 40 years, is held secret and is not subject to review. The criteria on which the scores are based are also secret.
Aviation/border watch lists reflect the efforts of DHS to build a domestic, identity-based airline passenger and border-control screening database. These lists contain the names of many thousands of innocent Americans who encounter problems when they wish to fly over or cross the border. Many have found it impossible to get their names cleared. Use of these watch lists is spreading without any process in place for people who find their names wrongfully placed on these lists.
Using a program called Border Crossing Information System, the government has collected and compiled information on all American citizens crossing the border for use in criminal and intelligence investigations. A photo is included.
The U.S. government is currently issuing biometric passports and immigration documents that contain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips that can be read remotely. In what is an obvious breach of security, the government has outsourced the making of these passports to foreign firms. The documents travel to Europe where a microchip is inserted in the back cover, and then on to Thailand where they are fitted with a radio antenna. The Netherlands company chosen to make the covers for the passport has said that China stole the technology for the microchips. This procedure creates the possibility that blank passports can get into the hands of anyone wishing them, and it raises the conjecture that the only people the U.S. government is seeking to control are its own citizens.
On the drawing board is the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBINet) that will be a virtual border fence relying on sensors and long-range cameras mounted on high observation towers.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles called 'drones' are in use over restricted sections of the northern and southern borders. They respond to ground sensor activation and produce images that can be stored and relayed to border agents. Surveillance is possible at any time of the day or night. This technology has already expanded from the domain of the military and border patrol to state and local police operations.
Victim of Constitution free zone speaks out
The ACLU website relays the story of a music professor from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego who routinely traveled to Mexico. During a recent visit he presented his passport to border agents and was told to freeze. He was handcuffed because his name was listed as "armed and dangerous". He was escorted in front of hundreds of onlookers waiting to enter the U.S. and taken to a holding room where his clothing was removed and he was aggressively searched including every inch and crack of his body. He was released after questioning, but it took him 4 months to muster his courage to cross the border again, not because he was afraid of traveling outside the U.S., but because he was afraid of returning home.
He believes that Congress needs to hold hearings to investigate the egregious violations of American's civil liberties and pass new laws protecting Americans' rights. If Americans do not challenge the new powers that can be exercised in the Constitution free zone, people almost anywhere will lose their ability to freely go about their business and to travel around inside their own country.
This article is based on information recently released at the ACLU website. The site contains an informative and eye opening map shading areas of the country that fall into the Constitution free zone designation, as well as more information about the threat to the liberty of Americans posed by this zone.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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