Supreme Court Strikes Blow To 4th Amendment With Homeowner Consent Ruling

The Supreme Court ruled today that police, without a warrant, may legally enter and search a dwelling even over the vehement protestations of an occupant, so long as a co-occupant grants them access.

That decision reverses a 2006 ruling, which held that the refusal of even one occupant to allow a warrantless search was sufficient to keep law enforcement from entering a home.

Today’s ruling in Fernandez v. California was handed down in a 6-3 opinion, led by Justice Samuel Alito writing for the majority. The case involved an LAPD search of a house they believed harbored a robbery suspect. The suspect, Walter Fernandez, wouldn’t let them inside the house. But the police argued that Fernandez’ girlfriend, Roxanne Rojas, looked sketchy enough to suggest a probable cause for domestic violence – an unrelated charge. They went in and arrested Fernandez on the DV charge, removed him from the home, and in the meantime sought and got on-site permission from Rojas to search the home. That search produced evidence that tied Fernandez to the robbery – the reason the police had shown up in the first place.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito argued that Rojas’ permission carried equal weight (really, greater weight) with that of Fernandez’ denial:

A warrantless consent search is reasonable and thus consistent with the Fourth Amendment irrespective of the availability of a warrant… Denying someone in Rojas’ position the right to allow the police to enter her home would also show disrespect for her independence.

Compare Alito’s words with those of retired Justice David Souter, who wrote the majority opinion for a similar case – with a very different outcome – in November of 2006:

The pragmatic decision to accept the simplicity of this line is, moreover, supported by the substantial number of instances in which suspects who are asked for permission to search actually consent, albeit imprudently, a fact that undercuts any argument that the police should try to locate a suspected inhabitant because his denial of consent would be a foregone conclusion.

This case invites a straightforward application of the rule that a physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search is dispositive [that is, settled and absolute] as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant.

It appears evident that the police got their man, and no one is bemoaning a travesty of justice for a man whom evidence suggests had committed a crime. But today’s ruling is a back-door way into people’s homes – one without a guarantee that law enforcement will always be in the right. It invites the police to escalate impromptu searches by keeping them persistent at a dwelling until they get what they came for. It creates an invitation to law enforcement to find someone – anyone – living in a home whom they can convince to grant them access, after first being explicitly refused access by another occupant.

Whereas Souter and the majority found, in 2006, that one refusal was enough to force police to demonstrate probable cause to search a home, Alito has invited the police to go fishing for the most gullible or legally naive resident who might be found at the premises. All they need is a “yes” – any “yes.”

Americans View Obama As A Weak Diplomat Who Gets No Global Respect

President Barack Obama is, in the eyes of the majority of Americans, a President who is failing to earn respect from his global peers – even as Americans continue to believe the U.S. as a Nation commands international respect.

That’s the finding of a Gallup poll released Monday, which revealed 53 percent of Americans now view Obama as a man who isn’t respected by other world leaders. Only 41 percent believe the President does hold the esteem of foreign heads of state.

Those are the lowest polling numbers for Obama’s diplomatic prestige since he first took office. The President fell not only in the eyes of Republicans, but also of Democrats and Independents – in fact, the sinking numbers are primarily the result of his drop among Democrats and independents.

Last year, 80 percent of Democrats said Obama held the respect of global leaders. This year, that number is down to 69 percent. Only 19 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independent voters said Obama is respected as a world leader this year – down from 21 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

Here’s more from Gallup:

Americans’ perceptions of how other nations view the U.S. have not changed in the past year, but their opinions of how world leaders view the president have. Now, Americans believe other world leaders generally do not respect Obama. This could be related to a series of tense moments in the past year between Obama and prominent foreign leaders, many of whom are close U.S. allies.

Americans themselves are not overly positive about the way the president is handling foreign affairs specifically, with 40% approving of his job in that area, one percentage point above his low last November.

The President still has a way to go before sinking to the lowest poll number ever, set by George W. Bush in 2007, when only 21 percent of Americans believed other leaders respected him.

Then again, Obama’s overall poll numbers have begun to bear a peculiar similarity to his predecessor’s.

Soros Group’s Political Spending Tripled In 2013

George Soros, billionaire hero to progressive activists looking for a financial lifeline everywhere, ramped up political spending threefold through his Open Society Policy Center and its financial affiliate in 2013 – and there’s no reason to believe he’s slowing down.

According to The Washington Post, Soros-funded lobbying tripled in 2013, from $3.25 million to $11 million. Unlike many of the business titans that top the list, which either orchestrate their own lobbying from within or dole the money to paid professionals, the Soros group prefers to give their causes the money and turn them loose – grass roots style.

The Open Society Policy Center itself attributes most of the jump in spending last year to the mounting progressive push to get Congress to accept a wholesale immigration reform plan in 2013.

The Open Society Foundations – the money-granting policy machine affiliated with the Open Society Policy Center that Soros first launched in 1979 – gave the lion’s share of its 2013 grant funds to the Alliance for Citizenship, an immigration-reform nonprofit. So far, that money hasn’t produced results – and in a Congressional election year, it’s unlikely to in 2014.

From the Post:

The Alliance for Citizenship organized hundreds of events across the country in August, hoping that its town halls, prayer vigils and sit-ins would propel action on immigration. While momentum has stalled, the organization is still at it, marching and meeting with members of Congress and their staffs.

But the spending appears to be more about saturation than quality, with sheer volume trumping short-term success. As the Post observes, Soros agreed late last year to co-chair the most well-organized of the several political action committees anticipating a Hillary Clinton bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination – pledging titanic resources to back “a candidate who hasn’t even announced.”

Obama’s False ‘7 Million’ Obamacare Claim Earns Dubious Four Pinocchios From WaPo

President Barack Obama told an assemblage of Democratic governors last week that, thanks to Obamacare’s mandatory Medicaid expansion in States that match the Federal government’s health care subsidy, “We’ve got close to seven million Americans who have access to health care for the first time.”

It’s nowhere close to being true. Even Obama Administration apologist The Washington Post couldn’t find a grain of truth in the statement.

The newspaper’s Fact Checker feature targeted the President’s boast today, noting that debunking the Administration’s frequent lies about Obamacare’s success “is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time we rap someone for getting it wrong, the same problem pops up someplace else. But here is the ultimate authority — the president of the United States — making the problematic claim that everyone counted under the administration’s Medicaid math is getting ‘access to health care for the first time.’”

What is true is that there’s no way to know right now how many people have access to health care “for the first time” because of the Medicaid expansion – but it’s certainly lower than 7 million. That’s because Obama included in his boast new Medicaid enrollees not only from the Medicaid-expanding Obamacare States, but also in the 21 States that have rejected the plan. Whoever enrolled in Medicaid in States like Florida and Texas would have enrolled in it anyway since last October. Obamacare simply doesn’t have any effect on Medicaid eligibility in States that aren’t participating in Obamacare.

Of those enrollees who do live in States that embraced Obamacare, many of the claimed 7 million were already on Medicaid last year – they just renewed their coverage and got counted in Obama’s imaginary 7 million figure. Obama likely used an even less rigid standard: the CBO’s estimate of people who were simply eligible for continued Medicaid coverage in 2014.

The Post’s various sources peg the tally of people who are getting (free) insurance for the first time because of Obamacare somewhere between 1.1 million and 2.6 million.

“In any case, no matter how you slice it, it does not add up to 7 million,” the Fact Checker states. “It is dismaying that given all of the attention to this issue, the president apparently does not realize that the administration’s data are woefully inadequate for boastful assertions of this type.”

What a great observation: the President doesn’t realize that his data is too transparently false to be useful as a bolster for his own lies. And for that – and not for actually lying – does the Post question his judgment.

2012 The Strongest Gun Manufacturing Year In U.S. History; Thanks, Obama!

The most recent report on firearms manufacturing from U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reveals that American gun makers churned out more weapons in 2012 — the last full year for which the ATF has complete data — than any other in the Nation’s history.

Thanks, Obama.

The ATF’s Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report, released in January, shows U.S. manufacturers produced 8,578,610 weapons in 2012, and exported only 287,554 of them — about 3.4 percent. The rest were sold domestically, both to government and to private consumers.

To no one’s surprise, industry professionals thank President Barack Obama’s gun control agenda for the surge in public interest in firearms.

“Barack Obama is the stimulus package for the firearms industry,” Gun Mag editor Dave Workman told Bloomberg Businessweek. “The greatest irony of the Obama administration is that the one industry that he may not have really liked to see healthy has become the healthiest industry in the United States.”

Topping manufacturing volume in 2012 were Sturm Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson. Both companies have also seen dramatic jumps in revenue, particularly during the first year of Obama’s second term. Sturm Ruger’s sales through the first three quarters of 2013 rose 45 percent above the company’s nine-month figures for 2012, while Smith & Wesson enjoyed a 25 percent increase over its fiscal year 2012 sales.

The ATF has tracked manufacturing statistics since 1986.

FCC Backs Away From 1st Amendment-Infringing Plan To ‘Study’ Newsrooms

Facing massive backlash from the public over its announced plan to place government contractors in the newsrooms of TV stations and print media to “study critical information needs,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it would abandon the idea only one day after the plan was made public.

The FCC billed its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” as a hands-off way to gauge “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations” by placing monitors at news outlets to observe the degree to which news organizations rely on input from the communities they serve.

But the FCC has absolutely zero authority to regulate print media, and it would introduce unConstitutional infringements by extending the scope of its regulatory practices over broadcast services to include government scrutiny of content and content creation.

“No one’s that stupid – we know exactly what they’re trying to do,” said Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Thursday in an interview with Ajit Pai:

Pai, himself an FCC commissioner, was among the earliest and most vocal critics of the plan. He described its methodology this way:

First, the agency selected eight categories of “critical information” such as the “environment” and “economic opportunities,” that it believes local newscasters should cover. It plans to ask station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters to tell the government about their “news philosophy” and how the station ensures that the community gets critical information.

The FCC also wants to wade into office politics. One question for reporters is: “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?” Follow-up questions ask for specifics about how editorial discretion is exercised, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions.

The FCC caved today, releasing a statement that tried to control the damage by minimizing the eventual scope of the project and admitting that the study, in its present form at least, reaches too far:

By law, the FCC must report to Congress every three years on the barriers that may prevent  entrepreneurs and small business from competing in the media marketplace, and pursue policies to eliminate those barriers. To fulfill that obligation in a meaningful way, the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities consulted with academic researchers in 2012 and selected a contractor to design a study which would inform the FCC’s report to Congress. Last summer, the proposed study was put out for public comment and one pilot to test the study design in a single marketplace – Columbia, S.C. – was planned.

However, in the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate. Chairman Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required. Last week, Chairman Wheeler informed lawmakers that that Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters and would be modifying the draft study. Yesterday, the Chairman directed that those questions be removed entirely.

To be clear, media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the Columbia, S.C. pilot study. The pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final. Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters.

Any suggestion that the FCC intends to regulate the speech of news media or plans to put monitors in America’s newsrooms is false. The FCC looks forward to fulfilling its obligation to Congress to report on barriers to entry into the communications marketplace, and is currently revising its proposed study to achieve that goal.

Holder Feeling Heat From House Democrats Over Furtive Use Of FBI National Security Letters For Domestic Spying

A pair of House Democrats is adding a bipartisan flavor to months of GOP-led protestations over the way President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice circumvents the spirit of Constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures.

Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and David Cicilline (R.I.), both Democrats, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder this week demanding the DOJ explain its rationale for relying on the FBI’s secret National Security Letters, which allow Federal law enforcement to compel banks and Internet providers to give up private customer information — without their knowledge or consent.

National Security Letters are among the Patriot Act’s many freedom-choking legacies. The DOJ welcomes the FBI’s interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act to include the FBI’s use of National Security Letters to collect wire-based data, as the two Congressmen point out, on a “case-by-case basis.”

Here’s the full text of the letter:

Dear Attorney General:

Over the past several months, the media has focused on Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  Section 215 permits the government to obtain “any tangible thing” if there are “reasonable grounds to believe” the information sought is “relevant” to an investigation “to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

Under this authority, the National Security Agency collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States.  We understand that the Federal Bureau of Investigation may also use Section 215 to collect telephone records on a case-by-case basis.  Section 215, of course, requires the government to obtain the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it may demand these records from a communications service provider.

On February 4, 2014, at a full committee hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, we questioned Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole about a different investigative tool—National Security Letters, or “NSLs.”

NSLs permit the FBI to obtain, among other things, telephone records, email subscriber information, and financial transaction records that are “relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”2 NSLs are issued by senior FBI officials.  No judicial finding is necessary.

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies noted that “foreign intelligence investigations are especially likely to implicate highly sensitive and personal information and to have potentially severe consequences for the individuals under investigation.”3 The Review Group was “unable to identify a principled reason why NSLs should be issued by FBI officials when section 215 orders . . . must be issued by the FISC,”4 and therefore recommended that “all statutes authorizing the use of National Security Letters should be amended to require the use of the same oversight, minimization, retention, and dissemination standards that currently govern the use of section 215 orders.”

As we consider reforms to the government’s surveillance capabilities, it would be helpful to understand more about the interplay between Section 215 and NSLs.  To that end, we ask the following questions:

  • Presumably, anything that the government can obtain through an NSL it can also obtain through a Section 215 order from the FISA court.  Given the overlap with Section 215, why are NSLs necessary?
  • In what instances would the FBI choose to use an NSL instead of Section 215?  In what instances would the FBI choose to use Section 215 instead of an NSL?
  • In 2009, the Department of Justice reported that the FBI had made 21 applications for business records to the FISA court.  In 2010, the number of requests jumped to 205.  In a 2011 letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, FBI Director Robert Mueller explained that “over the last two years, the FBI has increasingly had to rely on business records orders to obtain electronic communications transactions records that historically were obtained with NSLs.”6 Why did the FBI shift from NSLs to Section 215? Does it still rely on Section 215 for these purposes?  Does the FBI’s dependence on one authority or the other shift over time?

Although the government periodically reports certain aggregate numbers to the House Judiciary Committee, we require a side-by-side comparison of (1) the FBI’s use of NSLs, (2) the FBI’s use of Section 215, and (3) the NSA’s use of Section 215, which often generates leads for the FBI.

We therefore request that you provide, for all fiscal years from 2006 to the latest available reporting period, the following information:

  • The number of NSLs issued by the FBI, the statutory authority for each such NSL, and the number of U.S. persons targeted by such NSLs;
  • The number of times that the FBI has requested a Section 215 order from the FISA court, the number of such orders modified and granted, and the number of U.S. persons targeted by such orders;
  • The number of “RAS-approved” selectors used by the NSA to query telephone metadata; the number of searches conducted with those selectors; and the number of times these queries generated a tip to the FBI.

We ask that you provide this information as soon possible, but no later than March 7, 2014.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions, please contact John Doty from Congressman Nadler’s Office at 202.225.5635 or William Walsh from Congressman Cicilline’s Office at 202.225.4911.

Sincerely,

Jerrold Nadler   Member of Congress

David Cicilline     Member of Congress

Even the NSA must go through at least a pantomime of the judicial process, via the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to obtain legal authorization to spy on everyone. But, as The Hill’s Julian Hattem notes, the FBI can rely on National Security Letters without any judicial review whatsoever.

While it’s obvious that this election season has plenty of Democratic Congressmen pretending to act like outraged Republicans in order to save their seats, Nadler and Cicilline have at least — perhaps unwittingly — made a bipartisan matter out of something the Obama Administration has preferred, so far, to treat as a fringe issue that draws complaint only from “right-wing” Constitutionalists.

New Hampshire Legislator Moves To End Pass-Throughs Of Federal Military Equipment To Local Police

New Hampshire State Representative J.R. Hoell witnessed citizens’ outrage at one local police department’s refusal to listen when Concord residents petitioned against the department’s decision to buy a Lenco BearCat armored personnel carrier with $258,000 of Homeland Security grant money.

Concerned that their police force, like many others throughout the country, was coming to resemble a military outfit more than a civilian-funded, protect-and-serve crime-prevention and response unit, 1,500 Concord residents signed a petition last year opposing the department’s purchase of such a vehicle.

Here’s how Lenco describes the vehicle:

The BearCat, our best selling truck, may be used as a S.W.A.T. or Military Counter Attack and Rescue Vehicle and is often used in hostile Urban Environments or as a Patrol/Reaction Vehicle on a Military Base. The BearCat, with its standard NIJ IV armor and 4WD system, can carry up to 10 people through varying terrain. The BearCat has been embraced by several DoD and DoE Security Forces and, because of its affordability, low maintenance expenses, ease of use and superior armor level, is increasingly the replacement vehicle of choice for up-armored Humvees. It may also be equipped with our optional Mechanical Rotating Turret with Cupola (Tub) and Weapon Ready Mounting System, suitable for the M60, 240B and Mark 19 weapons system.

Sounds Beirut-ready.

At an August city council meeting, hundreds of people showed up to oppose the pending purchase; about 50 of them got to speak at a public hearing that night to voice their concern over the police-on-steroids message that buying such a vehicle would send.

The department committed to the BearCat anyway, on the strength of an 11-4 council vote a month after the hearing.

Police Chief John Duval tried to paint opposition to the purchase in extremist colors, arguing that libertarian radicals from the Sovereign Citizens, Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire pose “active and present challenges” to the Concord police department.

But the controversial move didn’t just upset a few alleged nut cases; it became the central bickering point for an active city council election later in the fall, when five of the seven contested council seats were challenged by a total of eight newcomers who framed the race as a referendum on what kind of police department the city should maintain. Here’s a local resident’s blog post about how that turned out. (Hint: Three of the incumbents who voted in favor of the purchase aren’t on the council anymore.)

After watching Concord residents’ concerns go unheeded, Hoell, a Republican with a libertarian streak, introduced a bill in the current legislative session that aims to end municipal acquisitions of military equipment — not only via Federal grants, but also through the Department of Defense Excess program, which essentially gives police departments cast-off military equipment for free.

Under Hoell’s bill, the Police Equipment and Community Engagement (PEACE) Act, no State or municipal agency would be permitted to buy or acquire any “military style equipment” for a police force unless the purchase is first approved by affected citizens at a public meeting.

“I introduced the bill because the citizens of Concord were overwhelmingly opposed to their police department having MRAP vehicles and it was ordered anyway,” Hoell told Dave Lindorff of investigative nonprofit WhoWhatWhy:

I don’t see any reason for police to have armored vehicles, or even fully automatic weapons.

…The role of the state is to make sure the citizens have the best law enforcement and not one that’s overly militarized. Whatever happened to police wearing blue? Now they are dressed in black, head to toe, and when they go to serve warrants at people’s homes, they break the door down, and they wear masks.

…I don’t know, maybe it’s a military thing. But it’s not community policing.”

The bill is currently before a Legislative committee. Here’s hoping this idea spreads beyond the Granite State.

UPDATE: Texas May Investigate Alleged Voter Registration Overreach By Battleground Texas

Well, that didn’t take long. We told you this morning about the Project Veritas video that documents a Battleground Texas representative who gleefully appears to be breaking Texas election law by admitting that she and other Wendy Davis activists retain contact information for voters whom they’ve registered.

Today, an elections administrator for Bexar County (population 1.7 million) told a local television station she had filed a report on the allegations with the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The same administrator also said the woman depicted in the video, had submitted 861 voter registrations in Bexar County.

If the Secretary’s office deems the allegations fit for an investigation, it can forward the case to the Texas Attorney General’s office, which holds investigative authority, according to Breitbart Texas.

Battleground Texas responded to the allegations by keeping things general, saying their voter registration activities are patriotic and that their field agents had broken no laws.

 

Biden: Puttering Obamacare Off To A ‘Hell Of A Start’; NSA Wants More; DHS Scraps License Plate Database; GOP Plans Anti-Reg ‘Blitz’; McCain Would ‘Love’ To Be In Charge Of Armed Services Committee – Thursday Morning News Roundup 2-20-2014

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it would be a good start for the Federal health care law if 5 million to 6 million people sign up by the end of March, an acknowledgement that enrollments might fall significantly short of the Obama Administration’s unofficial goal of 7 million. Biden acknowledged that “we may not get to 7 million, but if we get to 5 or 6 million that’s a hell of a start.” Source: NBC News… 

 

  • The government is considering enlarging the National Security Agency’s controversial collection of Americans’ phone records — an unintended consequence of lawsuits seeking to stop the surveillance program, according to officials. Source: The Wall Street Journal… 

 

  • Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to develop a national license-plate tracking system after privacy advocates raised concern about the initiative. Source: The Washington Post… 

 

  • House Republicans next week will pass a legislative package aimed at making Federal regulations more transparent and less costly to the economy. The legislation is the GOP’s latest attempt to reduce the regulatory red tape that they say is stifling job creation. Source: The Hill…

 

  • Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday night said if Republicans win control of the Senate this year, he would want to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee. McCain was asked in an interview on Phoenix radio station KFYI’s “The Mike Broomhead Show” how he would envision a GOP takeover.  “I would be so happy to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee,” he said. Source: The Hill…

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