Does the Fourth Amendment mean anything anymore?

Yesterday, I was at the airport where I was subjected to the same invasive procedures that all Americans are now forced to undergo.  I was asked to stand on a mat on top of a pair of footprints, take off my shoes, belt, jacket, take out my computer and empty my pockets — even paper.  I then held up my hands in the air like a criminal under arrest.  Finally, the body scan failed to go through so I received a government pat down.  Most Americans are willing to make this sacrifice in the interest of safety.

I am not.  Does the Fourth Amendment mean anything anymore?  Stick with me-

If being patted down isn’t infringing on the security of my person and taking papers out of my pockets doesn’t violate the first statement in the Fourth Amendment, what does?

The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Yet, the horror of 9-11 has seen Americans do as Benjamin Franklin warned against — trade freedom for security.

What does the Fourth Amendment mean?  Do we waive our rights just because we want to fly in an airplane?  Is the Fourth Amendment contingent upon you never flying in the Twenty-first century?  What if America begins having bus or subway bombs as Europe, India and Russia has experienced, will we give up our Constitutional rights to travel at all?

If the Constitution guarantees the right to travel (and the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that it does), shouldn’t that guarantee also carry with it the right to the other Constitutional rights?  Can one Constitutional right come at the expense of another? 

The answer is no.  The bill of rights present a consistent list of rights that do not come at the expense of one another.

To be clear, I am not in favor of rogue airplane flights where we all carry weapons.  However, the governments ability to violate the Fourth Amendment without a warrant simply because you want to visit your family is a frightening interpretation of the Constitution.  The Constitution says, our rights to be secure in our persons shall not be violated.  They can’t be violated.

Americans demand to be safe on their airline flights.  But it should be the airline flights who are responsible for airline safety.  The Fourth Amendment does not protect us from being patted down from a private company.  In the private instance, there is no Constitutional issue at stake and private companies would race to have the safest and most efficient form of airport security as no one wants to be the plane company that allowed a repeat of 9-11.  This is an instance where the free market would deliver the consumer the least invasive and safest manner of airport security that would still protect against unreasonable search and seizure.

At the same time, the federal and state governments have a vested interest in security and ensuring that no one tries to run a plane into a building or the ground.  But the government has already taken measures to ensure that pilot’s cabins are locked with no way for intruders to enter while in flight.  While passengers could be in danger of other nefarious passengers, planes themselves are no longer in danger of being taken over by “terrorists.”

As the years wear on, Americans cannot become resigned to the fact that our government will pat us down without a warrant or probable cause.  We must teach our children that this is something that goes against our Constitution.

When nominating and electing judges at the state and federal level, we should know their view on the Fourth Amendment.  Does it still stand or do they believe it should be bent for security reasons?  Mainstream, center-right conservatives should defend the Fourth Amendment with the same vigor as they do the Second.  For it is of paramount importance in protecting our children from the slippery slope of government overreach.

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4 thoughts on “Does the Fourth Amendment mean anything anymore?

  1. What’s your favorite amendment. Mine is the 4th. Everyone always talks about the first, but it was the 4th that really made us diferent from other governments in the late-1700s and that really established principles of freedom and privacy … the right to be left alone. I love the 4th Amendment.

    • Well said. If we are putting aside the Tenth, which is kind of impotent these days, it is hard to decide between the First and the Fourth. I kind of view the First as our bulwark against tyranny. I think of it as the one that all of the rest fall on because as long as you have the ability to redress grievances and persuade others to join your cause, you have a defense. However, the same could be said of the Fourth. I honestly take the Fourth for granted and therefore probably don’t appreciate it as much as I should. Then there is the Fifth which protects life, liberty and property with due process. I don’t know. Can they all be my favorite?

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