Pubdate: Sun, 21 Nov 2004
Source: Ogdensburg Journal/Advance News (NY)
Copyright: 2004 Johnson Newspaper Corp.
Contact: : P.O. box 409 Ogdensburg NY 13669
Author: Lee Monnet
Note: Does not accept  LTEs via feedback form. All LTEs must be mailed


To The Editor:

Chief Border Patrol Agent Stanley V. Spencers' letter to the editor
certainly was a detailed description of the border patrols mission in NNY.
In light of the continuous checkpoints we endure in the course of our daily
lives in St. Lawrence County his carte blanche approach to enforcing laws is
no surprise.  Mr. Spencer's statement that agents can conduct warrantless
searches on vehicles within 100 air miles of the border is somewhat contrary
to the information that I have reviewed on the matter.  In November 2002,
St. Lawrence County Court Judge Eugene Nicandri dismissed marijuana
possession charges against two Syracuse men after a brief suppression
hearing.  According to the 11/24/02 Watertown Daily Times article. "Judge
Drops Marijuana Charges, says Agent had no Cause to Search Car." Judge
Nicandri ruled that Border Patrol Agent Gonzales had no reason to stop or
search the blue Cadillac that contained the drug, and he coerced the
occupants into opening the trunk.  The reason Agent Gonzales gave for
stopping the vehicle was the occupants "failed to make eye contact."
Further information revealed that agents at checkpoints do not need probable
cause or a traffic violation to stop and question drivers. Federal law say
drivers are obligated to answer questions about citizenship.  However,
agents are not allowed to search cars without the permission of the driver
or without probable cause.  The bark of a drug dog is reason for probable

On 08/28/03 border patrol agents took warrantless search to another new
level when they raided a Jefferson County home looking for marijuana.
Jefferson County Court Judge Kim Martusewics dismissed the charges and
blasted the agents for violating the 4th Amendment, repeatedly referring to
"the occupation" by federal agents of the family home.

Agent Spencer cites terrorism as the primary reason for checkpoints and drug
interdiction as a secondary motive but, if anyone frequently reads the local
newspapers it becomes clear that marijuana is the primary focus. From my
perspective, the Government is playing on the publics' fear of terrorism in
an attempt to convince citizens to obediently submit to the intrusive nature
of the checkpoints.

The most important issue Mr. Spencer never addressed is safety at
checkpoints. Four people died in a fiery crash September 20, on I-87 when a
tractor trailer struck three vehicles waiting at a border patrol checkpoint
and on February 22, three people were critically injured when a charter bus
ran into a line of cars at another I-87 checkpoint.  We have the right to
safety and, our lives should not be put in jeopardy on some obscure section
of highway waiting for a federal agent to ask our travel plans.

In closing, I would like to say that it is not my intensions to question the
integrity of Agent Spencer or any other law enforcement officers.  My
contention is the United States of America is a constitutional republic and
our unalienable rights are not granted from men or Governments and it
becomes very distressing to watch the incremental destruction of our civil
liberties by the government.

Lee Monnet
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