The US Air Force ignores the Constitution to fight crime in America. Most people don’t know that city police forces are doing likewise. They probably also don’t know that a free society does not have to hold itself at the mercy of criminals, in or out of government.
The US Air Force fights crime
Robert Johnson, summarizing for Business Insider, shares how the Air Force got into the crime fighting business. He begins with a new law that authorizes the Air Force to build and fly 30,000 drones (“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”) in American skies. Then he cites this briefing that came to him from InfoWars and The Drudge Report. The briefing does not baldly say that the Air Force may spy on Americans without their permission. But if it takes a picture by accident of an ordinary American citizen or lawful resident, going about his business, it may keep that picture for months. And it may share it with the local police.
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano was, as anyone could imagine, apoplectic.
Bureaucrats gave themselves the authority to [take pictures] of us in the privacy of our backyards.
The judge pointed out that the Constitution and several federal laws forbid the Air Force to do any of this. He’s right, of course. This violates “freedom and security of the person” under the Fourth Amendment. If watching someone in his back yard is that urgent, says the judge, get a warrant! Warrants are easy to get, especially under exigent circumstances. Any judge knows that sometimes probable cause takes on a new meaning if the police have good reason to suspect that someone is going to kill another person, for example. Crime need not rule to respect civil rights.
Napolitano could have cited the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. It says that military service members do not fight crime on American soil. Nor do they help the local police, unless other laws let them do this. Any officer who does break this law can go to prison. Surely that would apply to flying drones over American cities. (Or it should. Judge Napolitano fears that Congress will “look the other way,” as it did when the putative President sent the Air Force and Navy to Libya.)
Local police fight crime, and make a hassle
Yesterday, Richard Cohen wrote in Investors Business Daily about another side to crime fighting. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, has ordered the New York Police Department to “stop and frisk” people, seemingly at random, for weapons. In his city, only a police officer, military service member, or other person with very special permission, may carry a gun. Mayor Bloomberg knows the old proverb:
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
So he decided to take the guns away from the outlaws. To do that, he must stop and frisk people. Most of these people are minorities, because that is where the crime happens. So Bloomberg claims 5600 people who did not die from an act of murder since he became mayor. But the mayor also admits that New York’s Finest stopped 685,724 people and took away 780 guns.
Cohen admits that Bloomberg has brought results:
New York City is largely crime free…, and that, as the number-crunching mayor is glad to tell you, is central to a robust economy. Whole areas of the city have risen from the dead. Stores have opened. People stroll the streets. The sound of a car alarm is almost nostalgic and the handmade sign to save thieves the bother — “No Radio” — is seen no more. New York is a vast movie set.
But, says Cohen, the price might be simply too high. Mayor Bloomberg beat crime. But is his city a police city-state? How attractive is that?
Two ways to fight crime
Any society can fight crime in one of two ways. It can have the police anywhere and everywhere, looking into anything and everything it pleases, when it pleases. That costs money to hire the extra cops and have them run down often fruitless leads. It also deprives everyone of the liberty that the Constitution guarantees to everyone.
The second way is to let the targets harden themselves. Today the stores are open, and people stroll the streets, only because, if they don’t have a gun, neither does the next guy. Suppose instead that would-be criminal and target were each as likely as the other to have a weapon. The result would be the same.
An armed society is a polite society.
It also costs far less to keep it polite. And it leaves people free to be their own masters. That is what the Constitution means by “secur[ing] the blessings of liberty” for the people who wrote it, and the generations to come.
Sadly, too many people have chosen the first way to fight crime. That is why Judge Napolitano took alarm. Have the people turned their society into a prison as the price for removing the gangsters and the petty thieves and murderers? Which is the better model for fighting crime? Is it New York of 2012? Or might it be Coffeyville, Kansas, in 1892? The answer might well say whether we are free, or slaves.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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