Thursday, April 3, 2014

Exploratory Search and Seizure

Scary article from the Indiana Star, about a raid on a collector of archaeological artifacts:
FBI agents Wednesday seized "thousands" of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a 91-year-old Rush County man who had acquired them over the past eight decades.

An FBI command vehicle and several tents were spotted at the property in rural Waldron, about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

The man, Don Miller, has not been arrested or charged.

... The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately.

Jones acknowledged that Miller might have acquired some of the items before the passage of U.S. laws or treaties prohibited their sale or purchase.
This is disturbing because the Supreme Court has held that a warrant cannot be issued without probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person or place named in the warrant is involved in the crime. Shadwick v. City of Tampa, 407 U.S. 345, 350 (1972). However, according to this article, the FBI doesn't have sufficient information to determine whether a crime has been committed--the very purpose of the seizure is to determine whether a crime has been committed. This is the equivalent of someone reporting to the police that you have a container with a white powder, and the police executing a warrant to determine whether the powder is legal (e.g., corn starch or powdered sugar) or illegal (e.g., cocaine).

You can, of course, see the immediate implications in all sorts of other contexts:

--"We heard you own guns. We have a warrant to seize the guns to determine if any of them are illegal or acquired illegally...."

--"We heard you grow your own herbs. We have a warrant to seize your herbs to see if any of them are illegal drugs...."

--"We heard you have cartons of cigarettes/bottles of whiskey. We have a warrant to seize them to check for tax stamps...."

... and so on.

Just another example of the importance of OPSEC.


  1. OPSEC doesn't help if the police hit the wrong house with a middle-of-the-night no-knock warrant. Jolted out of a sound sleep, if you reasonably assume you are the victim of a home invasion, and come out with a gun to defend you wife and children, you will be shot dead. Even though the police broke down the front door of the wrong house - your house - you are just collateral damage. Their primary objective is to go home safely at the end of their shift, and to eventually collect a pension when they retire.

    1. True. OPSEC can't protect you from the random burglary or mistaken raid. What it is good for is to avoid the purposeful burglary or raid. The three basics of CQB are speed, surprise and violence of action. So, if you are concerned about being the victim of a violent home invasion, you would probably want to adopt tactics or defenses that reduce or eliminate the home invaders' speed (for instance, having to pause to breach multiple barriers or a barrier of unexpected strength to the home invaders), surprise (e.g., both external and internal alarms and sensors, watch dogs or geese, counter-intelligence), and violence of action (e.g., countervailing force of an overwhelming nature, traps, obstacles breaking up the flow of movement or creating multiple choke points, controlling lighting). Then you have to either counterattack in order to destroy or drive off the threat, or escape and evade. Although somewhat dated as to particular products because of when it was published, Massad Ayoob's "The Truth About Self Protection" is a good book for ideas on how to harden your home against home invaders.


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