The federal government (and especially this current administration) appears at times to be conducting a jihad against the privacy rights of the people they are supposed to represent.
The Declaration of Independence references "a long train of abuses and usurpations." The framers then delineated the history of "repeated injuries and usurpations."
I have written and talked about "Echelon," "Know Your Customer," a gaggle of assorted flavors of "national ID cards," "subdermal biochip implants," and the tangential issues of abuse of power under the color of authority, malfeasance, corruption, hubris, and bureaucratic bovine scatology. Misinformation, disinformation and sleazy spin have become our government's standing operating procedure.
The latest affront to the republic is misinformation, which has started to circulate regarding a recent Supreme Court decision, which overturned three lower court rulings. The issue was the duplicitously named Driver Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA).
This Act was intentionally (and specifically) misnamed by the nomenclature Nazis to slide it through Congress and to stroke naive Americans into thinking it would really "protect their privacy." In reality it does (with a vengeance) exactly the opposite.
This foul legislation would make Machiavelli and Sun Tzu smile (for very different reasons). It personifies the cruel distinction between perception and reality. The DPPA includes one, single-sentence paragraph that limits the release of information. That's good right? Simple, direct, clear and acceptable to most honest people. However, as is inevitably the case, the devil is in the details, and the details of this female dog bite.
This act (consider the multiple meanings of the word) has 15 (count 'em) "exception" clauses. A plethora of government initialed agencies, bureaucracies; entities get around the stated purpose of the "act" for a wide variety of "authorized uses."
When the "Supremes" ruled the DPPA was "constitutional," they reversed three lower court rulings from three separate states: South Carolina, Alabama, and Colorado -- all three courts had ruled the DPPA was in violation of the 10th Amendment.
The intended consequences of the Supreme Court's decision will result in the creation of a plague of centralized databases, all authorized by and courtesy of the DPPA.
However, before you sink into despair over a half-filled glass and slink off into the shadows to delay the intrusion of Big Brother, reflect on the counterpoint.
County sheriffs in Wyoming (that is a state far to the west of the 87-square miles surrounded by reality of the District of Criminals) have scored a big one for the 10th Amendment and states rights. The sheriffs slapped federal intrusion upside the head and are insisting that all federal law enforcement officers and personnel from federal regulatory agencies must clear all their activities in a Wyoming county with the Sheriff's Office. Deja vu for those who remember big Richard Mack in Arizona.
Bighorn County Sheriff Dave Mattis spoke at a press conference following the recent U.S. District Court decision (Case No. 2:96-cv-099-J) and announced that all federal officials are forbidden to enter his county without his prior approval. "If a sheriff doesn't want the Feds in his county he has the constitutional power and right to keep them out or ask them to leave or retain them in custody."
The court decision was the result of a suit against both the BATF and the IRS by Mattis and other members of the Wyoming Sheriffs' Association. The suit in the Wyoming federal court district sought restoration of the protections enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution.
Guess what? The District Court ruled in favor of the sheriffs. In fact, they stated, "Wyoming is a sovereign state and the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding that of any other state or federal official." Go back and re-read that quote. The court confirms and asserts, "the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers EXCEEDING that of any other state OR federal official." And you thought the 10th Amendment was dead and buried -- not in Wyoming, not yet.
But it gets even better. Since the judge states the sheriff "has law enforcement powers EXCEEDING that of any other state OR federal official," the Wyoming sheriffs are flexing their muscles. They are demanding access to all BATF files. Why? So as to verify the agency is not violating provisions of Wyoming law that prohibits the registration of firearms or the keeping of a registry of firearm owners. See, that would be wrong. The sheriffs are also demanding that federal agencies immediately cease the seizure of private property and the impoundment of private bank accounts without regard to due process in state courts.
Gosh, it kinda makes you wish the sheriffs of whatever counties have Waco, Texas, and Oklahoma City in their jurisdictions were drinking the same water these Wyoming sheriffs are.
Sheriff Mattis said, "I am reacting to the actions of federal employees who have attempted to deprive citizens of my county of their privacy, their liberty, and their property without regard to constitutional safeguards. I hope that more sheriffs all across America will join us in protecting their citizens from the illegal activities of the IRS, EPA, BATF, FBI, or any other federal agency that is operating outside the confines of constitutional law. Employees of the IRS and the EPA are no longer welcome in Bighorn County unless they intend to operate in conformance to constitutional law." Amen.
However, the sad reality is that sheriffs are elected, and that means they are required to be both law enforcement managers and politicians. Unfortunately, Wyoming sheriffs are the exception rather than the rule ... but they shouldn't be. Sheriffs have enormous power, if or when they choose to use it. I share the hope of Sheriff Mattis that "more sheriffs all across America will join us in protecting their citizens. ..."
If Wyoming Sheriffs can follow in the steps of former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack and both recognize their power and authority, they could become champions for the memory of Thomas Jefferson who died "thinking" he had won those states' rights debates with Alexander Hamilton.
This case is not some amusing mountain melodrama. This is a BIG deal. It is yet further evidence that the 10th Amendment is not yet totally dead, atrophied, or in complete decay in the United States. It is also significant in that it can/may, and hopefully will be interpreted to mean that "political subdivisions of a State are included within the meaning of the amendment, or that the powers exercised by a sheriff are an extension of those common law powers which the Tenth Amendment explicitly reserves to the People, if they are not granted to the federal government and specifically prohibited to the States."
Churchill observed, "If you will not fight for right when you can easily
win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure
and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight
with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.
There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope
of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."