For being the freest country on Earth the United States sure reflects a police state more and more every day. While the heavily armed nature of the police is an easy piece of evidence to point to in support of this claim another piece of evidence is the rapid disappearance of legal protections. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Warrants, expressly mentioned in this amendment, have long been considered a legal protection against government searches. But warrants are becoming less relevant as law enforcers concoct new ways to bypass them. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) may have just pulled off one of the most blatant scams seen so far by a law enforcement agent to bypass the legal need of obtaining a warrant to perform a search:
When the FBI applied for warrants this summer to raid three $25,000-per-night villas at Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino, it omitted some key investigatory details that eventually resulted in the arrest of eight individuals, including an alleged leader of a well-known Chinese crime syndicate, defense lawyers maintained in Las Vegas federal court documents late Tuesday.
The authorities built, in part, a case for a search warrant (PDF) by turning off Internet access in three villas shared by the eight individuals arrested. At various points, an agent of the FBI and a Nevada gaming official posed as the cable guy, secretly filming while gathering evidence of what they allege was a bookmaking ring where “hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal bets” on World Cup soccer were taking place.
Cutting an establishment’s Internet connection and then posing as the repair guys is certainly one way to get yourself invited into a place you want to search to collect evidence in order to obtain a search warrant. If the charges are upheld it will also render warrants entirely irrelevant as a legal protection.
The angle the FBI seems to be working here is the fact that a warrant is unnecessary if an officer is invited into the place they wish to search. By posting as cable repairmen the FBI agents were able to get invited in and thus avoid the need for a warrant. Of course it first required disrupting the target’s Internet access, which leads one to question whether or not the FBI has a right to purposely damage infrastructure in order to create a scenario its agents can exploit. And if that’s legal one has to wonder how much further the FBI could go in pursuit of gaining entry without a warrant.
Could an FBI agent cut off a home’s Internet access and use a fake cellular tower to intercept the homeowner’s call to his or her Internet Service Provider (ISP) and act as a representative of the ISP? That would allow the agent to arrange a time to arrive at the home, search it, and head back to the courthouse to submit that evidence as probably cause for a search warrant.