Wally Wonders Why No editor, no publisher, you get what you get

November 20, 2010

But Upon Probable Cause

Filed under: Feature,National Issue — Tags: , , , , — wally @ 9:03 am

Profiling is as American as apple pie and football played with a brown pointy ball.  Profiling has its basis both in common sense and our Constitution’s 4th Amendment.

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.

The 4th Amendment should protect us from our government acting upon us without probable cause.  It does not ensure that there will be no intrusion into our personal space, just no unreasonable intrusion, nor intrusion without probable cause.   Generally, a judge must be convinced by law enforcement that they have probable cause to search a person or their effects before they conduct the search.  And to do so they develop a suspect profile that blends probability and facts.

For instance if a child is abducted a profile of the abductor immediately starts to compile;

  • a witness might see a red truck speeding away
  • statistics may suggest family members as likely suspects

That’s a quick profile of a suspect in a crime that has occurred.  And is doesn’t have to be about a crime that has already occurred.  Let’s say you were sitting in traffic and overheard the person in the red truck next to you talking on the phone about abducting a person.  The profile would be the same: red truck and family member.  Through this profile, the police have now have probable cause to stop red trucks near the incident and to search and question family members who either own or have access to a red truck.  That’s common sense and that’s how profiling work.  Without profiling what would police do, stop everyone?  question everyone? search everyone?  I know that sounds silly, but out of fear that’s exactly what we have going on in our airport everyday.  Allowing the police to profile the suspect helps protect the rest of us from unreasonable searches.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is stopping, questioning and searching everyone who wishes to board a flight and that is a huge intrusion into our rights because there is no probable cause for the vast majority of travelers.  I think most of us  of us would agree that these blanket intrusions were more reasonable and warranted immediately following 9/11 because the scope of the situation was not known.  Now we have a better handle on the scope through profiling, yet the TSA is still searching and questioning everyone.

profilingTake a look at this photo montage.  All but one of the photos is of someone who has committed an act of terrorism or is accused with evidence of committing acts of terrorism, yet all would be screened equally at your local airport.  Is that reasonable or unreasonable?   How does probable cause come into play for these suspects?  Certainly there is more to probable cause than skin color and I’d never suggest that skin color be used as a key factor in profiling a suspect.  We could though consider age, culture, destination, affiliations, ethnic origin, family ties, associations, skin color, even religion and many other factors when creating a profile of a terrorist.

I have no doubt that agencies such as the FBI, CIA, or NSA have been creating terrorist profiles since well before 9/11 and I think it is long past the time that the TSA should have started using them.  All airline travelers are not suspects and it doesn’t make us any more safe to treat us all as suspects.  How many 7 year old, blonde, white kids have committed acts of terror?  Any?  Yet the suspect above has his kid’s toothpaste in a 1 quart zip lock and his shoes off when he goes to Sea World.   How many 50 year old white guys have blown themselves up on an airline?  Any?  None come to mind.   Yet, last week I went through a full body scan.  Why?    What was the probable cause?  What was the reason?

It’s time we quit wasting time and money indiscriminately searching everyone out of some false sense of equality or political correctness.  The longer we allow this to go on, the more numb we grow to the pain of losing our liberty.  How long will it be until we are considered subjects rather than citizens?  We need to more deeply scrutinize those for which we have probable cause and for the rest of us it’s time to return us our 4th Amendment rights. 

It’s time we  returned to profiling and common sense to protect our people.

Update: I woke up this morning to see a Facebook post that Dusty Gulleson had shared via one of his friends.  The TSA is another government agency that was started with good intentions, but has since run amok.  How would your  child react to this? 

August 31, 2010


Filed under: Feature,National Issue — Tags: , , — wally @ 10:43 am

AP source That’s what the frick & frack! as in what the frick & frack is going on with our government, our law enforcement and the media who ought to be helping us keep them in check.

When I opened the page that the Herald titled, AP source: Unlikely that 2 men plotting terror I expected to hear about a couple of people with fingernail clippers getting the 3rd degree by some over zealous TSA officers.  I was expecting that AP was making a big deal out of nothing, but instead I found that our law enforcement apparently taking what I see as a big deal and treating it as if it were nothing.  Here’s what they

WASHINGTON  The FBI probe of two men arrested in Amsterdam after suspicious items turned up in one of the men’s luggage is finding they were probably not on a test run for a future terror attack, a U.S. official said Tuesday, casting doubt on earlier suggestions even as Dutch authorities held the pair on suspicion of conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

The U.S. does not expect to charge the men, a law enforcement official said.

Earlier, U.S. officials said they were investigating whether the two men had been conducting a dry run for a potential terrorist attack. But as the probe evolved, officials said that appeared unlikely.

I’d be willing to dismiss this if the officials had found fingernail clippers, which by the way there is no mention of, but here’s what the article does mention that they found.

When Customs officials discovered one passenger was not on the flight from Dulles to Dubai, they called the plane back to the gate and removed his luggage. It was then they discovered suspicious items in his bag, a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, multiple cell phones and watches taped together, and a knife and box cutter, according to another U.S. official who had been briefed on the investigation.

Call me a bit backwards, but how can I view this as anything but a test of airline security and the fact that they found this in baggage that was already on a plane that had left the gate, tells me that security failed big time.  And don’t even get me started about the size of that Pepto-Bismol bottle.  Really, we have to take off our shoes and divvy up our bathroom stuff between family members to get through security, but these guys get their cell phones taped to bottles loaded on a plane that they aren’t even on?  Maybe I’ll try that next time I want a full size toothpaste on vacation.

Okay, okay time to calm down. The article does say that the President Obama had been briefed on the situation.

"Everyone in government was impressed with the amount of information-sharing that happened with some of our partners overseas, and the speed with which we were able to run incidents to the ground," Burton said.

Oops, call me backwards again, but I’ll only be impressed when guys and situations like this are taken as serious threats at all levels of government.   And now I will hold my breath until President Obama refers to these men as terrorists.

October 22, 2008

What is not surprising

Filed under: Local Issue,Media Issue — Tags: — wally @ 6:29 am

gopter I just read an unsurprising letter to the Herald editors this morning.  It’s titled GOP using ‘terrorist’ label to win election and opens with this bold statement.

We should not be surprised that Barack Obama is being called a “terrorist” by John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Republican National Committee.

What is not surprising is finding this type of letter written to the Bellingham audience.

What is not surprising is that apparently fact checking is no longer required on opinion letters as I don’t think John McCain, nor his campaign has said that Sen. Obama is a terrorist.

What is not surprising is that the old rule of 30 days between published letters seems to be waived for letters that slam Republicans.  This letter dated Oct 20, previous letter Sept 24.

What is not surprising is that commenter opposition to the authors opinion is met with words such as this “I’d sooner shoot you, northpass, seriously. If I had the two of you lined up, and had to fire, it’d be at your head, not Ayers.”

What is not surprising is that I pushed the online Report Abuse button on the previous comment.

What is not surprising is that there is no button to report abuse on part of Bellingham Herald for printing this letter in the first place

What is not surprising is that the physical paper, in which this letter was also printed and distributed throughout the county, has no comment section attached and no paper version of an abuse button. 

What is not surprising is that the Herald is having a trouble making the jump to a responsible credible online forum.

What is surprising is how I recalled a blog post by opinion editor Scott Ayers, where he lamented the shortage of letters and remarked that he only received 3 that day and 2 of the 3 had problems.

One makes a bunch of factual claims about how Americans are using up the world’s resources and we are about to run out – statistics that I want to at least verify from a reliable source before I publish the letter.

A second letter makes a bunch of claims about Muslims that border on racism and demand at least a second look before publishing.

I am again unsurprised.  Unsurprised that this letter, published just prior to the election, containing a lie about Sen. McCain, just one lone claim, couldn’t be fact checked, nor given a second look before publishing. 

I am unsurprised by the left leaning bias in the Bellingham Herald, yet I am surprised at the blatantly poor judgement it took to approve this letter.

Powered by WordPress