What do you call it when law enforcement agents invade your home, terrorize your family and hold you captive for hours, for what turns out to be no cause? When you find that their actions were pre-approved by a judge? When they refuse to show you any evidence to justify this needless assault on your privacy, your property and your liberty?
This is the world we live in. The Harte's, a quiet upper-middle-class family from Leawood Kansas, buy hydroponic equipment so they can start growing organic vegetables indoors. But in this insane post-911 paradigm, law enforcement is given carte blanche to respond to minor offenses and even completely innocent behavior as if they were dealing with dangerous terrorists. Local police take notice of the family's activity. Buying hydroponic growing supplies is apparently enough cause to suspect them of growing marijuana. Their home is put under surveillance, their trash sifted. The police extract loose tea leaves from the garbage and wrongly identify them as marijuana. The police conclude that the Harte's are indeed growing the horrible weed. And so, as a result of a police investigation that can only be described as either inept or corrupt, a SWAT team is dispatched, the family's home is raided. The children are forced to watch as their house is torn apart for two hours as their father is forced to lie face down on the floor while an officer of the law stands over him with an AR-15 pointed at his head. The police find nothing illegal growing: only tomatoes and squash. It was just one of a series of raids on that day across two states that was declared a success at the time after police reported confiscating a total of 43 plants and one pound of pot.
The problems here are painfully obvious: they indicate a new paradigm of ever expanding secret surveillance, and militarization of law enforcement, that should make us all re-think what's going on in this country, how we got here and where we are headed. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post, "The Slippery Slope: Surveillance:"
The slippery slope has already become an avalanche. The issue of encroachment on the civil liberties of ordinary citizens is further compounded by the increasingly overt militarization of many police forces, again encouraged and supported by Dept. of Homeland Security, leading directly an increasing frequency of highly aggressive actions by police in response to non-terrorist, even non-criminal situations. Add to that the NSA's vast expansion of its domestic surveillance capacity and the government's insistence that it has the right to operate such programs in secret. This has led to a situation right out of Kafka, in which the Justice Department denies any challenge to the legality of being subjected to surveillance unless the subject can prove the government was spying on him, but that can't be proven because the government classifies that information as secret.If an ordinary family could have their life turned upside down by local police over something as trivial as marijuana, what do you think the CIA, FBI, NSA and the rest of the Dept. Homeland Security are capable of? Is there any reason to trust that any of us couldn't be put under surveillance, attacked or imprisoned, based on bogus evidence that more than likely will be politically motivated?
Of course, we live in a fair society. The victims have filed lawsuit against the police, and perhaps they will have their day in court. Justice is wonderful if you can afford it. But what of the many others who have been or will be victimized in similar fashion, but don't have the energy, resources or courage to go up against their own government?
November 2013: Leawood couple files lawsuit filed over mistaken marijuana raid
December 2014: Leawood couple helps change search warrant law
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