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Encouraging Police States

A CNN legal analyst today comments on a Secret Service agent who told a citizen to delete pictures taken of a sports stadium because there happened to be a security checkpoint out front. She correctly notes that the Secret Service cannot legally order a citizen to delete the images. She also points out that the Secret Service confirmed that they cannot order citizens to delete pictures.

(USAToday quotes a Secret Service spokesperson as saying the agents “were certainly within their rights.” And WUSA9 news quotes them as saying they “have the authority to ask them to remove the picture from the camera.” However, as the Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area notes, there is no law that allows law enforcement to do this. Note that the Secret Service spokesperson said they had the authority or “right” to “ask.”)

The CNN Legal Analyst then goes on to state that “your job” as a citizen when you encounter a law enforcement officer is to make the encounter as pleasant and short as possible. That’s your job. You are responsible for making sure that your encounter with the State and to make sure the State stays happy. She notes that if a citizen refused to delete the images, “your investigation has been elevated and you’re in a lot of trouble.” Even though the Secret Service has no legal justification to override your rights as a citizen.

The attitude expressed by this CNN analyst partly explains why America is rapidly becoming a dictatorial police state. We aren’t — yet, anyway — an actual dictatorship. We still nominally have an elected president. But we have already reached the point where every officer of the State, no matter how low his or her rank, can arbitrarily restrict the rights of citizens, even when the law favors the citizen and not the desires of the individual officer.

Frankly, when even our legally-trained analysts say things like this CNN analyst said, we deserve it.

Stand up for your rights, or lose them. Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation’s Founders, said, “Sell not…Liberty to purchase Power.” (You usually see this written as, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”)

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