Pubdate: Sun, 26 Jun 2016
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Ukiah Daily Journal
Author: Jeff Konicek
Note: Jeff Konicek is a retired educator and bonsai expert, living in 


If there was ever a time when we should restore the fourth amendment 
to the constitution, this is it.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, 
papers and effects against unreasonable searches ans seizures, shall 
not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable 
cause, supported by oath or affirmation..."

This month a federal appeals court ruled that law enforcement 
agencies can scan credit, debit and gift cards without running afoul 
of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.

Why? So under civil forfeiture law, police departments across the 
nation can take your money electronically, if they suspect the money 
is somehow related to illegal drug activity. Not just money on your 
person, or found under your mattress, but the money in your child's 
college savings account, funds you are saving for retirement, to 
start up a business, or just to pay bills.

Civil forfeiture law was designed to help law enforcement confiscate 
anything suspected (!) of being related to the manufacture and sale 
and transportation of illegal controlled substances. And to "enhance" 
cooperation between law enforcement agencies. And BTW to shovel money 
towards those agencies, who could "keep" a share of the confiscated 
money. See any potential for abuse here?

According to the Justice Department, "Civil forfeiture is independent 
of any criminal case, and because of this, the forfeiture action may 
be filed before indictment, after indictment, or even if there is no 
indictment. Likewise, civil forfeiture may be sought in cases in 
which the owner is criminally acquitted of the underlying crimes..."

That's right, even if you are found innocent in criminal court, the 
government still claims the right to take your money and property. 

"From 2005 to 2010, government seizures of assets from both criminals 
as well as innocent citizens went from $1.25 billion to $2.50 
billion." (Wikipedia) A lot of that money bought "toys" for law 
enforcement, or was added to their general funds. "In March 2012, in 
the middle of the night, without a warrant, New York City police 
burst into the home of Gerald Bryan, ransacked his belongings, ripped 
out light fixtures, arrested him, and seized $4,800 of his cash, but 
after a year, the case against him was dropped. When Bryan tried to 
get back his money, he was told it was "too late" since the money had 
already been put into the police pension fund." (Wikipedia)

April 15, 2016, Oklahoma law enforcement confiscated $53,000 from a 
Christian rock band from Burma. They were touring the US to fund a 
religious college in their home country. Also confiscated was $1,000 
in envelopes with the name of a Thailand orphanage written on them. 
The band's leader was charged with felony "acquiring proceeds from 
drug activity." The charge was based on a drug sniffing dog's "alert, 
but no drugs were found in their vehicle.

Ed Wah, the band's sponsor for the tour says, "We thought America was 
the best in the world," he said. "But unfortunately this happened, 
and it made us [think] like American police are the same as our 
police in Burma."

Because even corrupt politicians can't flout public opinion, an 
Oklahoma district attorney, who paid off his student loan with asset 
forfeiture money, was forced to give the money back. How did he get 
the money in the first place? Forfeiture abuse stories are rampant.

In some states, police ask stopped motorists to sign a "roadside 
property waiver," which states that the motorist will not be arrested 
if he doesn't contest the seizure. That fits my understanding of the 
meaning of extortion. "If you don't give us money, something worse 
will happen to you." Doesn't that make those law enforcement agencies 
criminal enterprises?

Let's take this a step further. It's been reported that some state 
law enforcement agencies coordinate across state lines, by 
surreptitiously recording the license plates of "suspicious" drivers, 
and forwarding that information to other law enforcement agencies, 
who can then be "on the lookout" for out those vehicles with out of 
state plates; making the constitutionally protected guarantee of 
probable cause a joke.

Then there's the question of the FBI abusing terrorism legislation to 
gain access to private information that's not terrorism related, and 
giving it to local law enforcement.

And the recent Supreme Court decision allowing cops to search after 
illegally stopping a citizen.

We have a situation where the ordinary citizen must now "prove" that 
his money has been acquired legally, or face the prospect of that 
money being "legally" stolen by government. So much for presumption 
of innocence?

Some state legislatures, like Arizona, are reining in forfeiture 
abuse. But it doesn't answer the basic question of why it's ok to 
take people's money without proof of criminality in the first place?

Big picture, I contend that there's a conspiracy (a confluence of 
self-interest) between big banking interests and the government to 
make all your money transactions electronically accessible. The 
Patriot Act allows government to monitor your bank transactions (over 
$10,000), and asset forfeiture puts you at risk of seizure for 
carrying large amounts of cash for business or other purposes. The 
American public is now faced with the prospect of having their 
government legally steal their money, whenever an individual's 
private business is transacted, whether in cash or electronically.

Easy credit, inflation, and government policy combine to pressure the 
American consumer to use digital money in transactions, which can be 
accessed by government for its own reasons.

Bottom line, regarding your personal finances, Fourth Amendment 
privacy protections no longer exist.

What's in your wallet?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom