Tag Archives: security

VIPR Searches and the American Citizen: ‘Dominate. Intimidate. Control.’

By John W. Whitehead

The transition to a police state will not come about with a dramatic coup d’etat, with battering rams and marauding militia. As we have experienced first-hand in recent years, it will creep in softly, one violation at a time, until suddenly you find yourself being subjected to random patdowns and security sweeps during your morning commute to work or quick trip to the shopping mall.

Perhaps you have yet to experience the particular thrill, and I use that word loosely, of being manhandled by government agents, having your personal possessions pawed through, and your activities and associations scrutinized. If so, not to worry. It’s only a matter of time before more and more Americans will experience such a military task force knocking at their door. Only, chances are that it won’t be a knock, and they might not even be at home when government agents decide to “investigate” them. Indeed, as increasing numbers of Americans are discovering, these so-called “soft target” security inspections are taking place whenever and wherever the government deems appropriate, at random times and places, and without needing the justification of a particular threat. Worse, not only is this happening with the blessing of the Obama administration but at its urging.

What I’m describing–something that was once limited to authoritarian regimes–is only possible thanks to an unofficial rewriting of the Fourth Amendment by the courts that essentially does away with any distinctions over what is “reasonable” when it comes to searches and seizures by government agents. The rationale, of course, is that anything is “reasonable” in the war on terrorism. And by constantly pushing the envelope and testing the limits of what Americans will tolerate, the government is thus able to ratchet up the level of intrusiveness that Americans consider reasonable.

The latest test of our tolerance comes from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the same agency that continues to make headlines with its intrusive airport searches of travelers. Thanks to TSA Chief John Pistole’s determination to “take the TSA to the next level,” there will soon be no place safe from the TSA’s groping searches. Only this time, the “ritualized humiliation” is being meted out by the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams.

At a cost of $30 million in 2009, VIPR relies on 25 teams of agents, in addition to assistance from local law enforcement agencies as well as immigration agents. And as a sign of where things are headed, Pistole, himself a former FBI agent, wants to turn the TSA into a “national-security, counterterrorism organization, fully integrated into U.S. government efforts.” To accomplish this, Pistole has requested funding for an additional 12 teams for fiscal year 2012, bringing VIPR’s operating budget close to $110 million.

VIPR is the first major step in the government’s effort to secure so-called “soft” targets such as malls, stadiums, bridges, etc. In fact, some security experts predict that checkpoints and screening stations will eventually be established at all soft targets, such as department stores, restaurants, and schools. Given the virtually limitless number of potential soft targets vulnerable to terrorist attack, subjection to intrusive pat-downs and full-body imaging will become an integral component of everyday life in the United States. As Jim Harper of the Cato Institute observed, “The natural illogic of VIPR stings is that terrorism can strike anywhere, so VIPR teams should search anywhere.”

For now, under the pretext of protecting the nation’s infrastructure (roads, mass transit systems, water and power supplies, telecommunications systems, and so on) against criminal or terrorist attacks, these VIPR teams are being deployed to do random security sweeps of nexuses of transportation, including ports, railway and bus stations, airports, ferries and subways. VIPR teams are also being deployed to elevate the security presence at certain special events such as the Democratic National Convention.

Incredibly, in the absence of any viable threat, VIPR teams–roving SWAT teams, with no need for a warrant–have conducted 8,000 such searches in public places over the past year. These raids, conducted at taxpayer expense on average Americans going about their normal, day-to-day business, run the gamut from the ridiculous to the abusive.

The question that must be asked, of course, is who exactly is the TSA trying to target and intimidate? Not would-be terrorists, given that scattershot pat-down stings are unlikely to apprehend or deter terrorists. In light of the fact that average citizens are the ones receiving the brunt of the TSA’s efforts, it stands to reason that we’ve become public enemy number one. And how does the TSA deal with perceived threats? Its motto, posted at the TSA’s air marshal training center headquarters in the wake of 9/11, is particularly telling: “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.”

Those three words effectively sum up the manner in which the government now relates to its citizens, making a travesty of every democratic ideal our representatives spout so glibly and reinforcing the specter of the police state. After all, no government that truly respects or values its citizens would subject them to such intrusive, dehumanizing, demoralizing, suspicionless searches. Yet by taking the TSA’s airport screenings nationwide with VIPR and inserting the type of abusive authoritarianism already present in airports into countless other sectors of American life, the government is expanding the physical and psychological scope of the police state apparatus.

VIPR activities epitomize exactly the kind of farcical security theater the government has come to favor through its use of coded color alerts and other largely superficial yet meaningless maneuvers. It’s an ingenious plan: the incremental ratcheting-up of intrusive searches (VIPR searches are not yet widespread), combined with the gradual rollout of VIPR teams permits the normalization of TSA activities while inciting minimal resistance, thereby muting dissent and enabling the ultimate implementation of totalitarian-style authoritarianism. And you can be sure that once VIPR has accrued a sufficient bureaucracy, it will be virtually impossible to eradicate.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Freedom’s God

By Daniel Downs

Last Friday, August 28, America commemorated the famous I Have a Dream speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. Throughout his pivotal protest speech, King alluded his religious faith, hope, and expectation of the freedom from oppression and the mundane challenges of realizing justice. He repeatedly referred to all people as God’s children. This expectant faith for freedom climaxed in the last three paragraphs in which King proclaimed:

… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,

… “Free at last, free at last.

… Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

The negro spiritual directs us back to the source and beginning of social, economic, and political freedom. The God of the Bible. This God liberated the Jews from Egyptian slavery. He is the God of Jesus who was sent to set free those enslaved by addictions, poverty, immorality, despair, as well as effects of oppression. Yet, the liberated are not free from a life without God. That would to return to Egypt or to some other source of bondage.

Is that not exactly what America has done?

The struggle for freedom that Americans enjoy began long ago in halls of Western Christendom. The legal and theological struggle for justice resulted in a long history of natural law rights that included life, liberty, property, and happiness. They were not vague principles as some seem to believe. Legal battles, social conflicts, and wars were fought against those authorities intending to deprive the descents of Anglo-Saxons and others of their inherent and inherited rights. America is an inheritor and promulgator of that long fought heritage of rights law that was firmly rooted and legitimated by biblical principles and right reason, none of which was outside the social or political geography of Christianity.

That is why the Continental Congress established the United States of America by a two-fold covenant: a covenant with God and a social compact with all citizens. That also is why America was established by a two-fold legal compact: a document defining the nation under natural law, the Declaration of Independence, and a document defining the type of government to fulfill the objectives of the national definition including the protection of those rights and perpetuate the right so defined, the Constitution.

King’s promissory note analogy of rights based on the equality of human nature is part of America’s national definition. Thomas Jefferson knew America was already in trouble with God because Negro slavery was made an exception to that equality and the enjoyment of those rights. It was made an exception by removing the clause from the national definition that would have ended slavery forever. Jefferson apprehension of divine judgment for this came to pass. Both the Civil War and the violence during the Civil Rights movement were proof. War, natural disasters, and similar tragedy represented to divine judgment to nearly all early Americans. That was the consensus view of the citizenry and leaders of Christian America until at least the beginning of the twentieth century.

The language of Abraham Lincoln’s speech the Emancipation Proclamation parallels the Declaration of Independence invoking God’s favor for an act of justice rooted in the Constitution. However, that justice was defined in the Declaration not the U.S. Constitution. The 13th Amendment did not become law until 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation was given on January 1, 1863. The language of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (1868) references the Declaration as well.

Freedom’s God is nature’s God. Nature’s God is humanity’s God who created them. God created humans with an equality of worth and dignity because human nature is a reflection of himself. God created them in his image and capable of his likeness. Natural rights are constituted in socialibility of human nature. Jefferson saw them as gifts of God. They are the goods of the promise land that had to be fought for and must be maintained by a strong defense.

Unfortunately, it seems that that defense has been weakening because the Supreme Judge of the world has been ignored. Maybe God had been ignored for such a long time because America’s intentions has not been rectifiable before the divine bar of justice and truth. Consequently, the Protection of divine Providence cannot be expected. In fact, America officially seems to disregard divine Providence even after disasters like 9/11, Katrina, the great economic recessions, and the like.

Nevertheless, freedom has always been and will always be a divine gift based on moral law and human conformity to it. Without God, freedom progresses to various forms of slavery.

U.S. Government vs. State of Arizona, A Constitutional Battle

By Daniel Downs

The federal government is suing Arizona to block the implementation of its new immigration law. The U.S. Department of Justice will argue that the new state law violates the Constitution by claiming authority over immigration policy, which has historically been the jurisdiction of the federal government, according to a Politico news report.

Does Arizona have a constitutional right to police immigration within its borders? Let’s look at Arizona’s new immigration law.

Section 1 of the new law states the intention of Arizona lawmakers:

“The legislature finds that there is a compelling interest in the cooperative enforcement of federal immigration laws throughout all of Arizona. The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona. The provisions of this act are intended to work together to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.”

Critics of Arizona’s immigration law focus on law enforcements obligation to determine immigration status of any person whose behavior warrants reasonable suspicion. Preceding any so-called racial profiling must be lawful contact between an officer and the illegal immigrant. As stipulated in the law, lawful contact means a police officer must have stopped an illegal for a traffic violation or for other public offense. The same applies to employers hiring known illegals. The law provides two mechanisms for determining whether an employer has knowingly hired illegals: One is a complaint form made available by which the public may report illegal hiring to officials; and the second is employer reporting of new hires to the state and federal government. (Sec. 2, Article 8; Sec. 4-7)

I suspect the federal government may not like Arizona’s intentions to work with federal immigration departments as well as Homeland Security in the effort to enforce strictly federal immigration laws. (Sec. 2-3, 6-8)

Another area of contention is the level of state, county, and local enforcement involvement intended by Arizona’s new law. Because Arizona is a border state with numerous entry points accessible to illegals, the potential for state and federal law enforcement overlap and jurisdictional conflict may be point of serous concern.

The question, however, is whether Arizona’s immigration law is constitutional. Throughout the text of the law, state compliance with federal immigration law is prominent in the various means of enforcing both sets of laws.

Even so, is the Dept. of Justice right? Does the Arizona law violate the U.S. Constitution?

In Section 8, Congress has the power to “provide a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” This is the only legal basis for any and all immigration and naturalization law. The federal government has a right and obligation to protect the borders of all and every state by laws defining who may legally cross those border, how they may obtain permission to do so, and by effectively policing those border to prevent illegals from entry, its obligation also requires actual enforcement of laws. If the federal agencies created for that purpose do not, it is the obligation of states like Arizona to protect its citizens from illegals as it deems necessary. Once illegals have crossed their borders, states like Arizona have Constitutional right and obligation to make and enforce laws that protect their citizens from unwanted foreigners. As long as those laws comply with reasonable existing state and federal laws, no constitutional law could be violated.

Only federal bureaucrats, who evade their obligation to enforce existing law while waiting and working to win the votes of those illegals and their sympathizers, are the only ones violating Constitutional law.

If the Obama administration wins, Ohio will also lose the right to uphold the rule of law as well as to protect its citizens from illegals. The argument that states may still protect its citizens against crime, whether committed by illegals or not, is fallacious. It is a rare occasion that law enforcement actually protects a lawful citizen from robbery or assault. Prevention is rare. Prosecution after the fact is the norm. Arizona’s immigration law at least adds a small measure of prevention to the very misleading term “protection”.

Sources: Politico, July 7, 2010 and Arizona S.B. 1070.

Rep. Austria on Immigration Reform

Last month, the state of Arizona passed a new, sweeping immigration reform law, which immediately received national attention due to its stringency. The new law would, among other things, allow local law enforcement officials to enforce existing federal laws regarding the verification of a person’s immigration status, given there is reasonable cause to do so. Supporters of the law argue that the federal government was not doing its job to enforce the current illegal immigration laws and secure our nation’s borders. Opponents of the new law claim that only the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration laws, and numerous law suits have already been filed against the state of Arizona.

It is unclear whether Congress will consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. As a Member of the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, I recognize that this problem continues to plague our nation and it must be taken seriously and addressed. It is important that we ensure our border patrol and local law enforcement have the resources and tools necessary to secure our borders and adequately enforce our existing immigration laws.