Justice is supposed to blind.
Sometimes it seems that our police forces and our legal system have their hands tied as they try to mete out justice. It seems that way because they do. We’ve done that on purpose. Our founders in their wisdom realized that the government could easily abuse their power if certain rights were not guaranteed to our citizens.
So we have the right to stay silent and not incriminate ourselves, we have the right to an attorney, we have the right to face our accusers, and we have the right to know what we are being charged with. We have other rights as well, rights that handcuff the government while they investigate us. The government must get a warrant to search our property or to listen to our private conversations. The government must show probable cause to get those warrants, and the government must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sometimes the government oversteps its boundaries in their zeal to prosecute criminals.
Like in a recent case in Florida that should have EVERYONE worried.
Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails.
At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect’s location from a “confidential source” rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.
A series of five emails (.pdf) written in April, 2009, were obtained today by the American Civil Liberties Union showing police officials discussing the deception. The organization has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with police departments throughout Florida seeking information about their use of stingrays.
“Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police,” the ACLU writes in a blog post about the emails. “And local and federal law enforcement should certainly not be colluding to hide basic and accurate information about their practices from the public and the courts.”
ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.
While we want to support those who work to protect us from criminals – we must remind them that the checks on their power are in place to protect us, the innocent, from them. It may make prosecuting criminals harder – but it makes protecting the rights of the innocent easier. As we are learning with each new Obama Administration scandal the government is not made up of angels and our Constitutional rights are the only thing protecting us, the masses, from the unwieldy power of the government. We must demand that the government abide by the law, no matter how good their reason for breaking the rules.