The Corner

More Warrant-Less Work

Generally speaking, can law enforcement authorities use nuclear detection devices against someone’s house without a warrant? This question is at root of the latest “no warrant” controversy. Readers would do well to examine the Supreme Court case Illinois v. Caballes, decided earlier this year. The Court ruled that when a dog sniffed out drugs during a routine traffic stop, without a warrant, it did not constitute an illegal search because, in the words of Justice Stevens, “Official conduct that does not ‘compromise any legitimate interest in privacy’ is not a search subject to the Fourth Amendment. Jacobsen, 466 U.S., at 123. “The Court noted that “any interest in possessing contraband cannot be deemed ‘legitimate,’ and thus, governmental conduct that only reveals the possession of contraband ‘compromises no legitimate privacy interest.’ Ibid.” Note that in an earlier case, Kyllo v. US, the Court ruled that thermal detection devices could not be used to surveil houses without a warrant because this would compromise privacy — the difference being that such devices pick up licit as well as illicit activity. In his dissent in that case, Justice Stevens pondered whether “public officials should not have to avert their senses or their equipment from detecting emissions in the public domain such as …radioactive emissions .. which could identify hazards to the community. In my judgment, monitoring such emissions with ’sense-enhancing technology,’ … and drawing useful conclusions from such monitoring, is an entirely reasonable public service.” Clearly Caballes rather than Kyllo controls in the case of using detection equipment to pick up emissions from nuclear materials banned under 18 USC 831 since, to quote Stevens’ majority opinion, such activity “reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess.” And even if you want to subject this to a balancing test, I think the government would not have to argue very strongly that there is a compelling state interest in keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of private citizens.

Most Popular

The Imaginary Trump

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is man who represents the age in which he lived. Whatever you may think of the age. Jackson embodied a generation of men who had risen and made their mark in a young country. He represented their desire for greater representation, even if it had costs for slaves and Indians. He ... Read More

The Imaginary Trump

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is man who represents the age in which he lived. Whatever you may think of the age. Jackson embodied a generation of men who had risen and made their mark in a young country. He represented their desire for greater representation, even if it had costs for slaves and Indians. He ... Read More
Film & TV

Bowing Down to Obama

‘How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” political podcaster Yvette Carnell joked two years ago when Barack Obama began his comeback tour by making sideline pronouncements about the state of the nation after his brief retirement. Now the comeback is official, with two new Kool-Aid-drinker Obama ... Read More
Film & TV

Bowing Down to Obama

‘How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” political podcaster Yvette Carnell joked two years ago when Barack Obama began his comeback tour by making sideline pronouncements about the state of the nation after his brief retirement. Now the comeback is official, with two new Kool-Aid-drinker Obama ... Read More
Economy & Business

Shopping Superstitions

It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses. This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ... Read More
Economy & Business

Shopping Superstitions

It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses. This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ... Read More
History

The 1620 Project

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower arrived on the eastern coast of North America. She had weathered the slings and arrows of maritime misfortune for almost ten weeks at that point, but the passengers thought the discomfort of crossing a small price to pay for passage to the Promised Land. After all, these were ... Read More
History

The 1620 Project

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower arrived on the eastern coast of North America. She had weathered the slings and arrows of maritime misfortune for almost ten weeks at that point, but the passengers thought the discomfort of crossing a small price to pay for passage to the Promised Land. After all, these were ... Read More