Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

Reprinted from, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive

Drugs, Government, and Our Rights

  • Everybody hates drugs and would love to see them blocked from getting into the hands of Americans. But how much of our constitutional rights to privacy and protection from government abuse are we willing to give up?
Exclusive To The SPOTLIGHT
By Mike Blair

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) is trying to organize support in the House to halt the passage of the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act (H.R. 2987), which would allow police to enter a person's home with a search warrant while they are not at home and take what they want from the residence without notifying the homeowner immediately.

The Justice Department contends that the act would provide a key tool for law enforcement in fighting drugs, but Barr and other opponents of the law maintain that if the act is passed it would not restrict the hyper-aggressive searches solely to suspected drug labs.

Barr claims that a judge could issue such a warrant for any type of search, such as searches for guns and tax records.

"These provisions [of the act] would apply generally," Barr said. "They have nothing to do with drug laws. They are not limited in any way, shape or form."

Warrants that allow federal agents to enter a home without the knowledge of the owner and then to take items that they choose are rarely issued by a judge, only in cases where there is no other way to gather evidence.

If H.R. 2987, sponsored by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), passes the House they could become routine.

In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the FBI accused the Branch Davidians at Waco of manufacturing methamphetamines in order to exploit a federal law allowing military equipment and officials to be used during raids on suspected illegal drug manufacturers.

H.R. 2987 flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitu tion, stating in part: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

Critics note that it should not come as a surprise that the assault on the Constitution is being expanded. Janet Reno's Justice Department has already waged a full assault on First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the press through so-called "hate crime" legislation and with the Second Amendment "right to keep and bear arms" under virtually under siege.

A Senate-version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already passed. The legislation awaits action in the House, where it is before the House Judiciary Committee. Barr is a member of the committee.

The Justice Department backs the legislation as a means to fight trafficking in highly dangerous methamphetamine, a form of speed commonly called "crystal meth" or "meth." It is a drug of choice among white teenagers in America.

According to Barr, a former federal prosecutor, the act "would in very substantial ways change the law about notice of a search warrant being given. It would loosen two aspects of search warrants -- when notice of a search had to be given and when a person had to be told of property seized."

Ironically, in the fight to halt the legislation Barr finds himself aligned with the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

An ACLU spokesman stated that if the act is passed "the government could enter your house, apartment or office with a search warrant when you are away, conduct a search, seize or copy things, such as your computer hard drive, and not tell you until months later."

"If a man's home is his castle," the ACLU's legislative counsel said, "this is a tunnel under the moat."

Federal law already allows so-called "sneak and peek" searches, in which federal agents can enter a suspected drug warehouse or laboratory and document their suspicions without immediately informing those who occupy it. In addition, in limited cases federal judges can approve wiretaps, listening bugs and tracking devices without the knowledge of the person being investigated. But, according to Justice Department spokesmen, there has been confusion about when some search warrants are appropriate.