Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Tom Zirpoli: Terrorists win with court ruling

Within a seven-day period, the Supreme Court's conservative members argued that, on the one hand, the government did not have a constitutional right to mandate the purchase of health-care insurance. On the other hand, they ruled that the government has the right to strip-search citizens for not using their turn signal when making a left turn.

With conservative judges in the majority, the court ruled by a 5 to 4 vote that citizens may be strip-searched for violating leash laws or driving without a license. Adam Liptak, writing for The New York Times, outlined cases where citizens were strip-searched "after being arrested for having a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell."

All of this is constitutional, say the conservative majority on the high court. Mandating that people pay their fair share of health-care costs? Probably not, argued the same conservative judges.

The U.S. Constitution specifically states in the Fourth Amendment that unreasonable searches are prohibited. Yet conservatives on the Supreme Court ruled that police don't need to have a reasonable justification or even a reasonable suspicion that a person arrested might have contraband on his/her body. Indeed, they ruled that a blanket strip-search policy covering all and any circumstances is perfectly constitutional.

Ten states currently have policies that require reasonable suspicion that an arrested person has contraband on his/her body before conducting a strip-search. This reasonable suspicion policy is supported by the American Bar Association and many international human rights groups, according to Liptak.

As stated by Andrew Sullivan in his Daily Beast blog, "Yes, our government has the right to do to any of its citizens what was done to the victims at Abu Ghraib as a first step to help break down their self-respect. And it can do so for any arrest whatsoever, on even the most trifling of questions."

Sullivan wonders why "a mandate devised by conservatives to prevent health care free-loading is an outrage to everything America stands for." Yet, "the police's right to strip-search any of us, even if there is no evidence of any contraband" was considered "nothing to worry about." So, where is the outrage from conservatives and tea party members who worry that our constitutional rights are being trampled upon?

The four liberal justices on the court tried to limit strip-searches to when police had reasonable suspicion to believe the arrested citizen had contraband on his/her body. But the five conservative judges on the court didn't think that reasonable suspicion was necessary. Instead, they gave police - read the government - the power to strip-search anyone arrested for anything, and as frequently as they wish. The conservative justices voted that limitations on police strip-searching were unnecessary to protect our civil rights.

Who knows, stated one of the Supreme Court justices, one of these people arrested could be a terrorist. Indeed, they could be. And so, once again, all of us are forced to give up our civil liberties to protect us from a terrorist - or our fear of terrorism - because the court believes that the police are not smart enough to know that the old lady they just picked up for not wearing a seat belt is probably not carrying a bomb in her private parts.

Once again, the terrorists have won. They have weakened our liberty and our freedom. All they had to do was make us afraid. We did the rest for them.