"Do you have anything out of the ordinary?"

When the Patriot Act was passed, concerned civil libertarians were assured that the measures were to be used only against terrorists.

So what in the hell does a "24-hour street sweep" in which "federal, state and local law enforcement agencies pulled over cars, climbed on boats on the Mississippi River and served fugitive warrants" (link via Glenn Reynolds) have to do with terrorism?

Nothing that I can see. Except it's being called an "anti-terrorism initiative," called "Operation Sudden Impact."

And what are they doing raiding ordinary businesses?

According to a local news item titled "Do Tennessee Businesses Have Ties To Terrorism?" that's exactly what they're doing, and the explanation is downright pathetic.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Federal agencies raided several Memphis businesses in a coordinated effort to find information about possible terrorism ties.

The operation has been named known as "Sudden Impact."

The FBI along with hundreds of officers said they are looking for anything out of the ordinary. Agents take computers and paperwork from businesses.

What in the world is going on?

"We're the FBI and we're just here to search for anything out of the ordinary?"

Can they get a search warrant for "anything out of the ordinary"? Or are they doing these things without even getting search warrants?

One store owner said he was told the agents were looking for stolen electronics. While some business owners feel they are being targeted, law-enforcement officers said they are just trying to track down possible terrorists before something big happens.

"What we have found traditionally is that terrorists are involved in a number of lesser known type crimes," said Mark Luttrell, Shelby County sheriff.

There has been no word on if any of the confiscated goods have led to any arrests.

This almost seems too fantastic to be believed. Homeland Security and Patriot Act powers are apparently being used to conduct routine law enforcement -- all promises to the contrary notwithstanding.

Have the people involved no idea that we still have a Constitution? That police aren't allowed to just rummage through files and computers to search for "anything out of the ordinary"?

Before I lose it completely, let me try to calm down and be fair to the other side. The argument (if you can call it one) of the law enforcement officials involved is recited in the video here:

"Sometimes drugs, gangs and fugitives point to something else. Another crime: terrorism."
Huh? Well, why not trot out the old routine about terrorists selling pirated DVDs? (Yes, they invoked "Homeland Security" for that one too.)

That way, they could conduct door to door searches to look for possible "evidence."

And remember! Terrorists are also making money selling cigarettes. (Fortunately, for our brave law enforcement officials, the task of searching for terrorist-connected cigarettes has been made easier by the fact that the terrorist-enablers who smoke have been forced outdoors and onto streets where they are easier to surveil and search.)


I'm hoping this is just an isolated instance of a tyrannical fishing expedition, and that all of the officials involved are disciplined, or held accountable in court. Federalization of local law enforcement is unconstitutional, and the use of the Patriot Act for routine law enforcement ought to be illegal. I'd note that this is by no means the first time; last summer the Patriot Act was used to go after cockfighting in East Tennessee. (Say what you want about cockfighting, but it's just not terrorism -- by any stretch of the imagination.)

Until I hear a good explanation of what happened and why, "Operation Sudden Fascism" sounds like a better name for this than "Operation Sudden Impact."

Seriously, this is an outrage, and people need to stand up to it.

Of course, I don't live in the area, so the only thing I can think to do is possibly contribute to the ACLU.

Where's my checkbook?

MORE: Regarding the apparent cooperation of citizens with the authorities, I like Megan McArdle's recent observation:

...the act of moving in compliant herds through the TSA lines, mindlessly adhering to the most ridiculous procedures the government can think up, contributes to making us what Joseph Schumpeter called "state broken". Citizens should not acquire the habit of following orders with no good reason behind them.

posted by Eric on 04.20.08 at 10:30 PM


Easiest answer to why...

They wanted to spend the $$$ allocated by Homeland Security,rather than try to justify next years "budget" when they hadn't been able to spend THIS year's budget.

They also wrote something like 200+ traffic tickets!!!

Terrorism, not so much....

flicka47   ·  April 20, 2008 11:02 PM

Google the RICO act and the Bank Secrecy Act for two other federal laws that have been grievously and un-constitutionally enacted and enforced. Because of these two acts, the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments were already in tatters long before the Patriot act. Repeal them all.

Jardinero1   ·  April 20, 2008 11:27 PM

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