Boston & Civil Liberties–VIDEO

Posted on April 23, 2013 by


There are forthcoming stories, and now video, surrounding the house-to-house search for Tsarnaev in Watertown, MA. The video is interesting for several reasons. First, notice the harshness of the interactions. Citizens are yelled at and berated as soon as they are visible to the law enforcement agents. Second, the use of force is implicit. Everyone within the citizens’ view is armed and with weapons drawn and at the ready. Third, and I am clearly no expert on how close quarter combat troops are trained for this environment, but there appears to be an extreme amount of inefficiency in how this unfolded. A line of soldiers surrounds the house, dozens more appear to be standing at each end of the street, and citizens are frisked at two separate points as they are herded away from their home. This looks like a big knot of people focusing all of their attention on one home and then, one assumes, moving on to the next home after it is done. Granted, we cannot see what is around this scene–vehicles, helicoptors, or UAVs–but it seems any mobile fugitive would be able to see this coming from a mile away and simply move away and around the search. Again, speaking from just observation, one would assume that a faster dragnet would be more effective as opposed to this plodding exercise. I hope someone with knowledge reads this and enlightens us on how these operations are designed and the extent to which this follows established protocol.

Additionally, I am not sure what, if anything, this tells us about possible constitutional deprivations. There is clearly a public safety issue at play here that must grant the government latitude even as it relates to the Fourth Amendment. Authorities could not know whether there was a safe house with a gaggle of terrorists, trip wires, and other ghoulish surprises waiting behind any particular front door. At the same time, there are passive ways to observe that may have been just as effective and far less intrusive. With thousands of people on high alert, there seems little chance that Tsarnaev, or even people working to aid him, would have remained undiscovered for long if the citizenry had been allowed outdoors and mobilized as part of the search.

What do you think about this? Does the video change your conception of what took place? Should we continue a serious conversation about civil liberties in light of this?