Exclusive: The Supreme Court’s GOP Five just finished a run as brave libertarians protecting Americans from President Obama’s health-care reform, but now are back to their usual role as defenders of abusive state power, allowing strip searches of anyone arrested for anything and perhaps particularly protesters, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Last week, the five Republican partisans who control the U.S. Supreme Court were all about protecting American “liberties” against the threat of compulsory broccoli purchases. This week, they are defending the rights of prison guards to strip search a nun arrested in an anti-war protest or a black guy who got nabbed by mistake for not paying a fine that he had actually paid.
But the Court’s strip-search ruling on Monday was more about the future than the past. One could almost see the GOP Five rubbing their hands together at the prospect of mass strip searches of young men and women arrested for challenging corporate greed in Occupy protests. Perhaps the justices would like to take a page from Rush Limbaugh’s playbook and suggest the videos be posted online so they could watch.
“Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the Republican majority.
Of course, the justices don’t expect that they and their powerful friends would ever be subjected to such humiliation. That’s more for the lesser beings or those with lesser money especially those who find themselves disproportionately tossed into America’s massive prison system: the poor, the minorities and the protesters.
The GOP Five’s 5-4 ruling was so extreme that it even caused the usually solicitous New York Times to note that “the procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities. According to a brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also bar the procedures.”
What the GOP Five’s ruling means for average Americans is that they can have their private parts and body cavities inspected by prison guards after arrests for even the most non-violent of charges, such as “violating a leash law, driving without a license and failing to pay child support,” the Times reported.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissenting opinion that people have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip-search” after getting arrested for a noisy muffler, not using a turn signal and not having a proper bell on a bicycle. Breyer also noted that a nun was strip-searched after getting arrested for trespassing in an anti-war protest.
But the GOP Five would have none of that human rights stuff, continuing with their disconnected logic to reach rulings that fit their ideological bent. For instance, Justice Kennedy noted that “one of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93.”
What the prejudicial 9/11 reference had to do with strip-searching someone whose dog runs off leash or whose bicycle bell doesn’t work might not be readily apparent to anyone who doesn’t spend the day watching Fox News unless Kennedy thinks that strip-searching everyone who gets a speeding ticket might prevent another 9/11.
The Naked Plaintiff
Albert W. Florence, the African-American plaintiff who lost in the Supreme Court’s ruling, was subjected to two strip searches in 2005 after his wife, April, was pulled over for speeding. Though Florence was in the passenger seat, he was arrested when a police records search discovered an outstanding warrant against him for an unpaid fine (which had actually been paid).
Before the clerical error was corrected, Florence was detained for a week, held in two jails which each required a strip search. He was forced to stand naked in front of a guard who made him lift his penis and testicles so they could be examined. Then, Florence said, he was ordered to turn around, squat cough and spread his cheeks to expose his anus.
The GOP Five claimed the extensive use of strip searches was necessary to provide security in the nation’s massive prison complex, which holds millions of detainees. But strip searches also would give authorities a powerful psychological weapon to use against protesters, like those who have participated in Occupy Wall Street and related demonstrations around the country.
The GOP Five’s latest ruling also undercuts their posturing last week during hearings on the Affordable Care Act when they presented themselves as principled defenders of American “liberties” by signaling a readiness to strike down the individual health insurance mandate at the center of a law aimed at providing near universal health-care coverage for Americans.
During those oral arguments, Republican justices demanded that U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. define a “limiting principle” to the Constitution’s Commerce Clause (though the Framers included none when they wrote the document in 1787). Justice Antonin Scalia wondered if Congress also could mandate that Americans buy broccoli; Justice Samuel Alito worried about burial insurance.
Although the individual mandate originated as a conservative idea from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and was applied against health-care “free riders” by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, it suddenly became a tyrannical infringement on American “liberties” when embraced by Democratic President Barack Obama.
At one point in last week’s oral arguments, Justice Scalia let his right-wing ideology peak out from under his black robes when he dressed down Verrilli for noting that the United States has accepted the principle of providing emergency medical treatment for a person who is injured or stricken with a sudden illness.
“We’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care,” Verrilli said in the context of explaining that those costs then get passed on as higher premiums charged to Americans who have health insurance. Scalia answer to the dilemma was, “well, don’t obligate yourself to that,” in other words just let the person suffer or die.
Again, it might be noted that Scalia and his well-to-do friends would not be the ones dumped on sidewalks outside hospitals, but rather the lesser people, i.e. those with lesser money.
Yet, after a week of posing as brave libertarians protecting Americans from President Obama’s health-care reform, the GOP Five quickly reverted to form as defenders of abusive state power, with their minds likely filled with visions of naked young anti-Wall Street protesters male and female forced to bend over and expose their genitals.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.
I think this is very dangerous. I think our government is pushing its citizenry to a point where people who feel they have nothing left to lose will begin to revolt in ways that will be terrible for this country. The fact that our leaders are apparently oblivious to this makes them eminently unsuited to serve – at least not in anything you’d call a democracy.
The reactionaries on the court were thinking about how many protesters would stay home because of this.
No wonder our prison and jail populations are bursting at the walls. THIS
is an extremely serious problem in the US, and our government’s only solution for it is apparently to build more prisons. This magnifies the problem. There would be time to treat each arrestee in a way appropriate to the suspicion or infraction if we reduced the prison population. And, one way to do that is to reduce poverty in the citizenry. Another would be to
change our addiction to punishing every person who makes a misstep and begin helping them instead. Police states treat infractions the way this new ruling is going to allow.
What is lacking in the justice system is not so much the excess of strip-searching, but the lack of redress for citizens like Mr. Florence who are wrongfully arrested and incarcerated. It is clear, as Mr. Parry says, that all the loose ends of the injustice system are being tied so tightly as to make dissent impossible in the near future. Progressively, the rights of individuals are being nullified while the rights of corporations are being magnified through the auspices of federal and state government. I’m sure the GOP5 “justices” are having similar feelings now that Roman Tribunes had at the height of the empire as it was about to fall. These are feelings that I never have felt, and never want to feel.
In this 5-4 decision last week, Republican Supreme Court justices were just following the precedent set by Republicans in the previous Bush administration regarding treatment of detainees. IOW, Republicans just like to see people stripped and their body cavities probed, whether they’re at Gitmo, at an overseas black site, or an American citizen here in the U.S., strip and probe them, strip and probe them, that’ll show them who’s boss.
First of all, no one is getting stripped search at the location where they are arrested. They are getting stripped searched at jail before being admitted as a prisoner.
It doesn’t matter why someone was arrested, virtually all jails and prisons require strip searches before a prisoner is admitted into jail. Besides, how is a prisoner going to put on the orange jump suit without first stripping?
Now this long term, nationwide precautionary practice has been judged to be constitutionally legal. This is just common sense for obvious reasons.
The focus should be on NDAA or the recent No Trespass law, both of which are clearly unconstitutional.
In other words, this equivalent of rape (sexual touching, groping, ogling a person against the victim’s wishes) is now justified. Even if the one raped is stopped merely for things that don’t qualify even as misdemeanors-e.g., having a defective head or tail light. They can also be hauled into jail for such trivialities. Surely, our law enforcement officers’ time would be more sanely spent on keeping the public safe from serious criminals.
Would someone please give these monkeys a copy of the constitution and the collection of SCOTUS decision up the beginning of the Reagan/Bush Supremes.
They are redefining the meaning of activist judge.
One key word is missing from the article and responses:
This is the only remedy left as the Fascist Five pollute OUR legal system for decades (if not centuries!) with their pro-corporate, pro-police-state, unconstitutional rulings.
I won’t vote for any more candidates that are not on the record supporting impeachment of the Fascist Five.
I will make it a point to appear at Occupy events in my part of the state. These outrages are unacceptable in a democracy!
I’m with you, Alan8!
Charlene, Alan8, I’m with you both. How do we start? Which one is obvious – Thomas! Then Scalia, then Alito; by then Roberts will have stuck his foot in it, too.
As a non-USan, I can hardly believe the disgusting duplicity of these appointed guardians of our laws, who with their pornographic minds and overweening conceit and power, decide on draconian, unnecessary procedures to prevent “terrorism” and present themselves as paragons of virtue and religious fervour.
Clarence Thomas and his wife’s financial dealings? Will they both be strip-searched on video?
The minuscule chance of a terror attack, the 30 000 road deaths a year, the 40 000 “healthcare”deaths, the gun deaths, the “lifestyle” ie overeating disease deaths, the environmental deaths: all are ignored, as our brave Christians in SCOTUS zero in on the 99%.
SCROTUS: unfortunately the bag that holds the jewels. Indeed, now we know just what ‘pricks’ these five meatheads are. ‘Slavers in drag as champions of freedom’ a quote from B. Cockburn
One expects judges to be objective and consistent in their rulings, but the “Unfabulous Five” are simply political goons–for excessive government at times, taking a libertarian position at other times, consistent only in that they consistently support Republican positions.
Thank you, Mr. Parry. You are “right on” in this piece. Those five of our Supreme Court Justices continue to operate according to their own agenda–
and that has no relationship to either objectivity or the common good.
I am not sure about their “agenda” , however these 5 all have a Catholic or Jesuit backround . It was reported that they have all attended the “Red Mass” ( given for prosecutor, judges etc.. )
Saint Thomas More is prominently featured at this mass – the same English Chancellor that pledged allegiance to the Pope back in the 1500’s and had a few persons tortured and burned at the stake because their OPINIONS were not acceptable to Papal authority – what a swell guy to pray to , let alone emulate …
Is it all just a coincidence that the Knights of Columbus displays the Fascist bundled sticks and axe (Roman fasces) emblem , as is also displayed above the podium in the US House of Representitives ?
Wow. You know it was Obama’s DOJ that specifically pushed for the strip searches, right?
Here, Glenn Greenwald lays it out for you in Salon.
It’s the left in this country who is responsible for all of the abuses … because you refuse to hold Obama to anything. It’s all the GOP’s fault. The ongoing wars, the torture, the lying, the spying, the bailouts. All Bush’s fault. As if Obama’s not Bush’s 3rd term.
“All” of the abuses? “hold Obama to anything?” I suspect you are not doing enough as many progressives are quite critical of Obama’s often “conservative” and sometimes repressive stances. no, they don’t tend to rant in the same vitriolic manner as Limbaugh or FOXPac, nor do they own worldwide media outlets. But they complain bitterly,
And there is plenty of blame to go around for both parties. Folks who give either party a complete pass are either misinformed, or pedaling a very specific agenda.
But sadly, there is some veracity to much of the Bush bashing on this issue, as he is directly responsible for the reactionary makeup and agenda of the Supreme Court right now. Obama has only had the chance top replace a moderate with another moderate.
Bush is gone, Obama did the NDAA, Obama did Eric Holder, and Obama did this.
Dude, t’was NOT the Justice Department that took strip searches to the Supreme Court, t’was a dude named Albert Florence and guess what, tis the Supreme Court that decides what cases to hear and what cases NOT to hear…but don’t let Constitutional Law get in the way of the Conned CONservative OxyVIAGRAwadded mind, the mind of the sheep!
I’m just sayin’!
lmao! Cons are certainly a hoot!
What I find baffling is that the man was stopped and then arrested for a previous minor traffic violation that he had proof with him that he had already taken care of that violation. He was incarcerated for 6 days. What officer would arrest a man who provides proof that the warrant on the minor traffic had already been taken care of. What did that officer think? That he was an officer in Sanford, Fla?