Sometimes you have to wonder if some lawyers actually attended law school or did they get their degrees form the back of a matchbook cover. Perhaps the FBI puts something in its water cooler that makes their lawyers think they can do whatever they want. Reporting on a currently pending California case, the ABA Journal reports that FBI lawyers approved the placing of microphones in several public places outside a headphones-680971__180California courthouse and recorded the conversations of private individuals. This “approval” was done without a warrant or other judicial supervision. The government asserted in its initial statements to the court that it had the right to plant stationary listening devices “aimed at the public space in front of the courthouse” without court approval. Apparently FBI lawyers think that their badge and law degree is all they need dispense with the Fourth Amendment – After all that whole prohibition against unreasonable governmental searches and seizures is so 1776.

We have often said that all government, while necessary, is at its core tyrannical and the citizenry must always be vigilant to curb its tyrannical inclinations – this is but the latest example of those tyrannical inclinations. FBI lawyers in their “approval” ignored a long list of Supreme Court precedent forbidding such intrusions – this is not a close call. Nearly 50 years ago, in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351-52 (1967), the Supreme Court affirmed the right of individuals to be free from warrantless government eavesdropping in places accessible to the public. Speaking in a public place does not mean that the individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy. This is not a hard concept to grasp; it is the kind of stuff you learn your first year of law school; which brings me back to the question — did those FBI ‘lawyers” actually attend law school or did they simply decide that it was easier to do their jobs if they gave in to the natural governmental inclination to be tyrants? By the way, to give you sense of how long this has been the law, in 1967, the year Katz was decided, gasoline sold for 24 cents a gallon, the minimum wage was $1.65 and Frank Sinatra won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night.

Every one of us must stand up against this kind of governmental intrusion. Government microphones in planters outside our buildings? Really? How far will this go? Speak out. Be outraged but let your voice be heard. The right to have private conversations is as basic as it gets. If we give up our right to have privacy we have given everything away.

Here is link to the ABA Journal Article:

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