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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Bucket Course takes on the fourth ammendment

By Nora Coghlan

“How many of you think that the government intrudes too much on our personal privacy now?” asked Senior District Court Judge Stephen Carroll to a full house at Drake Community Library on Wednesday morning. Many hands rose in response. “How many think that the government is doing a good job as to national security now?” This time, very few hands rose.

Carroll, a Grinnell native, delivered a lecture to address these questions and more as part of the ongoing “Bucket Courses” put on by the Community Education Council. Carroll’s course, “The Fourth Amendment: Search, Seizure & Surveillance in an Age of Advanced Technology” drew an enthusiastic crowd, eager to learn the ins and outs of the amendment over sticky-buns and coffee.

Carroll began his lecture by outlining the fourth amendment and its two clauses: the first states that citizens should not be subjected to unreasonable searches, otherwise known as the “reasonableness clause,” while the second stipulates that in order to search and seize property, the government must have probable cause and obtain a warrant, or the “warrant clause.”

After explaining the amendment, Carroll discussed the contexts in which the fourth amendment is often employed, what he called the “criminal and national security contexts.”

“There are differences in the applicability depending on the goals of the search or seizure. In criminal context, it’s to apprehend the criminal and it’s usually … after the crime has occurred, so we want to focus on the individual after the crime has occurred,” he said.

“National security, we know who [committed acts of terror] so our focus isn’t on apprehension and conviction, but we want to protect, we want to deter and we want to prevent that from happening again. So it’s to detect, investigate and prevent a terrorist attack. The two goals are much different.”

Carroll went on to outline a number of examples where the fourth amendment has appeared in his court room, and discussed the importance of the law in most cases he has presided over.

After a quick break, Carroll went on to explain the relevance of the fourth amendment in cases of government surveillance and corporate data mining, focusing on several examples of companies gathering small bits of information through credit card purchases and google searches to predict consumer preferences and personal information.

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