Fortress Amerika continued: John Perry Barlow takes on the US govt for illegal mission drift on Fourth Amendment searches

Read it and weep, my Amerikan friends. And support the EFF.


December 10, 2004

A Taste of the System

02:07 AM | Current Affairs/ Drugs/ Politics

Since the election, as you’ve doubtless noticed, I haven’t had much to say here.

Having lost that crusade – and I do think we lost, election skullduggery notwithstanding – I have been quietly gathering myself up for the countless smaller contests arrayed before us that, taken collectively, will determine the future of freedom in America. We can’t afford to lose many of those, and we will have to emulate our authoritarian adversaries’ disciplined resolve if we are are to prevail.

As it happens, I am already personally engaged in one of these battles, and it has been testing my resolve for over a year. Now that it seems to be coming to a head, I want to tell you about it. My own liberty is at stake, but so, I think, is the liberty of anyone who wishes to travel in America without fear of humiliation or arrest.

On September 15, 2003, shortly after Burning Man, I was hauled off an airplane that was about to depart San Francisco for New York and charged with the misdemeanor possession of controlled substances that had allegedly been discovered during a search of my checked baggage.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to relate this event. Embarrassment certainly played no part. Generally, I like to be fully disclosed, no matter how far I may wander beyond the normative fringe. I suppose that, for legal reasons, I wanted to avoid any apparent admission of guilt, and only now do I realize that it’s possible to tell this tale without making one. This is because, in most cases – and this is almost certainly one of them – contraband that is illegally discovered does not legally exist. If that seems a technicality to you, you may want to re-read the 4th Amendment, as well as the subsequent case law (notably Mapp v. Ohio) which sets forth the “exclusionary rule.” However shredded by the War on Some Drugs, the 4th Amendment remains part of the Constitution. In order to see that it goes on meaning something, I decided to fight this charge and have spent the last 14 months doing so.

Now I will tell you my story.