Humiliation is the law of the land. When you fall into the clutches of the police, for any reason, or no good reason at all, you can be compelled to bare your private parts before being placed in the general jail population. Five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that Constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches end at the jailhouse door, even if there is no reason to suspect that the person under arrest is in possession of anything that could be called contraband.
The decision throws out laws against unreasonable strip searches in at least ten states, and overrides federal law enforcement regulations against intrusive searches. The High Court decision also flies in the face of international human rights treaties to which the United States is a signatory. In effect, the Supreme Court majority ruled that the whim of the local jailer trumps any standard of reasonableness. The American Correctional Association, which represents jail guards, is pleased that its members now have the “flexibility” to look into virtually every human orifice that enters their domain, even though the association’s own standards currently discourage blanket policies of strip-searching everyone.
The casual observer might conclude that the ruling is more evidence of a rightwing court on the warpath against what remains of the Bill of Rights. But, on this issue, the Obama administration is marching in lock step with the High Court’s rightwing majority. U.S. Justice Department lawyers spoke and filed briefs in favor of blanket strip searches. Indeed, the oral argument put forward by Obama’s lawyer was, perhaps, the most curious of all. Most of the discussion about the smuggling of contraband into jail settings involves drugs or crude weapons and other petty criminal concerns – the day-to-day stuff of life in a jail. But the administration’s lawyer chose to use hypothetical political protesters as the bad guys of his argument. In this weird scenario, a protester with a gun, traveling in a car that was about to stopped by police, would hide the gun on his person in hopes of avoiding a pat-down search, and then bring the gun into the jail when he is arrested – presumably for some minor offense connected to the demonstration.
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This is quite strange reasoning, and shows what kinds of conversations the Obama folks are having at the Justice Department. Crushing political dissent, not safety in jails, is what motivates the Obama administration to ally itself with the most reactionary wing of the Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court. The Left is not paranoid; the Obama administration really is preparing its legal arsenal to smash dissent in the United States. They are getting ready for a “full spectrum” assault on civil and political freedoms, ranging from the big hammer, suspension of all due process through preventive detention, to the intimately chilling effect on potential protesters of knowing that Uncle Sam wants to look into all of your bodily cavities if you get arrested at a demonstration.
Obama’s lawyer was not talking off-the-cuff before the U.S. Supreme Court. This administration is obsessed with political protesters. They want you to bend over, and spread ‘em – literally and politically.