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Chief Judge of 9th Circuit: "1984 here at last," especially for poor

By       Message Adam Bessie       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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"1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last."

"If you have the a cell phone in your pocket, then the government can watch you."

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"Are Winston and Julia's cell phones together near a hotel a bit too often? ".The FBI need no longer deploy agents to infiltrate groups it considers subversive; it can figure out where the groups hold meetings and ask the phone company for a list of cell phones near those locations."

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These are not the paranoid ravings of an anarchist blogger to fifteen of her friends, nor the neo-con conspiratorial palather of a sobbing Glenn Beck to a frothing million, but rather the words of a Chief Judge of the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to his fellow judges in the wake of an August 12 ruling in the PINEDA-MORENO case, in which the Court upheld the right of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to plant GPS tracking devices in a person's car in his driveway that is, unless they can afford a large fence or gated community to ensure a right to the Fourth Amendment.

"I don't think that most people in the United States would agree with the panel that someone who leaves his car parked in his driveway outside the door of his home invites people to crawl under it and attach a device that will track the vehicle's every movement and transmit that information to total strangers," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski writes in his vitriolic and elegant dissent on the ruling of the 9th Circuit, which refused to hear an appeal of defendant Juan Pineda-Moreno, who was caught "green-handed" with two garbage bags of marijuana in his trailer. "There is something creepy and un-American about such clandestine and underhanded behavior."

Kozinski believes that the FBI acting with "un-American" and "underhanded behavior" violated Pinedo-Moreno's Fourth Amendment right to privacy by placing the GPS under his jeep without a warrant. And more striking, he frames the 9th circuit's refusal to hear his case as some form of discrimination against the poor, a form of judicial class warfare:

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"But the Constitution doesn't prefer the rich over the poor; the man who parks his car next to his trailer is entitled to the same privacy and peace of mind as the man whose urban fortress is guarded by the Bel Air Patrol. The panel's breezy opinion is troubling on a number of grounds, not least among them its unselfconscious cultural elitism."

A judge critiquing the judicial system for a bias towards the wealthy? Accusing his fellow justices of cultural elitism? Calling the FBI "un-American" while defending a man caught with two garbage bags full of weed? Kozinski must be some sort of liberal plant in the system, an activist judge who makes Sotomayer look like a regular Scalia.

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Adam Bessie is an assistant professor of English at Diablo Valley College, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a co-wrote a chapter in the 2011 edition of Project Censored on metaphor and political language, and is a frequent contributor to (more...)

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