A commenter on a phillyburbs.com blog asked this question in response to eRobin's post about the Pennsylvania Roots Project: what are you worried about? doing something illegal?!?!?
It's easy for those of us who are nostrils-deep in the details of this issue to forget how powerful such simple, misguided questions can be. This particularly facile talking point is aired so often in Letters to the Editor and on talk radio that I'd like to offer a response, in the form of a modest proposal:
I'm going to offer a new ballot initiative in my state, called the "Only Criminals Need Be Afraid Act of 2006." It will allow local police to "data mine" individual homes in order to detect criminal activity.
Under my new law, police officers will be allowed to enter any citizen's home whenever the residents aren't there. They can look through your family's underwear drawers, check the level of booze in each bottle in your liquor cabinet, check under your bed for obscene magazine, rifle through your nightstand drawers and medicine cabinet, make notes about what books are on your shelves, burn a copy of your computer hard drive and read your mail.
The police won't need a warrant to search your home; that's just expensive and time-consuming paperwork. Police are professionals; if they think there's a good enough reason to search your home, that's good enough for me. But my law won't leave you completely unprotected: I understand how icky it feels to know your privacy has been invaded, so my law will make sure you never know. So, when they're done, the police will have to put everything back so neatly -- even gluing your mail back shut -- that you'll never even realize they were there. If anyone tells you that the police were searching your home, they'll go to jail for interfering with law enforcement activities, and if you ask the police whether your home is one of the ones they've searched, they won't tell you. After all, what you don't know can't hurt you. (Unless you're a criminal, in which case you deserve it.)
Of course, I haven't forgotten about the Fourth Amendment. If the police find something illegal in someone's home, then they'll have to go ask a judge for a warrant in order to use it against them. Innocent citizens like you, on the other hand, won't have some activist judge deciding what the police are allowed to do. You don't need any protection, because you're innocent.
My law is guaranteed to catch some criminals, and law abiding citizens have nothing to fear. Will you vote for my law? Or not? If not, why not?
Scalpel-sharp conservative intellects, slice away. I can't wait to read your comments.
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The "Only Criminals Need Be Afraid" Act of 2006 *