Then, last week, while traveling West on I-10 across Texas, and spending our 11th hour traversing the Lone Star state, we passed by a "check point" on the East Bound lanes (link here). Traffic was backed up for more than a mile from the check point, back towards El Paso, and I foolishly thought to myself "well, at least they're not bothering us". We continued towards El Paso, seeing the plumes of black smoke and pollution rising from Waurez Mexico just South of the city, with a feeling of foreboding. Keep in mind, I spent 4 years in Terre Haute, and my paternal grand parents used to live just down the street from the East Chicago sewage treatment plant, so I am personally well acquainted with nasty smells and poor air quality.
After we crossed into New Mexico (link here) and passed Las Cruces on our final leg of the three day journey, out in the middle of nowhere NM (link here) we encountered a check point in the West Bound lanes identical to the one we saw in West Texas! The check point was rife with DEA, Border Patrol, ICE, and Home Land Security vehicles and personnel. Traffic slowed to a crawl as we exited the barricaded highway in an Orwellian scene.
- Uniformed government agents with drug sniffing dogs circled each car and truck.
- Forward facing and rear facing cameras (and flood lights for night settings) monitored and digitally recorded drivers & passenger's faces, car make & model, and license plate IDs
- un-marked boxes on stands "electronically scanned" the cars that drove between them (x-rayed? chemical sniffers? un-sure what they were)
Since we were a rental car with 3 blond haired Caucasians, we were merely "looked over" by the armed check point guard, however Penske rental trucks, and any car driven by a brown person, were
- pulled over to the side,
- personal identification paper work reviewed,(licenses and green cards handed over)
- vehicle identification paper work reviewed, (we watched a lady driving a Penske rental hand over papers that looked like a manifest with a Penske Header on it)
- contents of vehicle unloaded & inspected, (we saw a rickety old '80s sedan being disgorged of passengers and contents with Federal agents probing through it)
- drivers and passengers questioned.
Had I not been blond haired and blue eyed, or if any of my passengers had looked even slightly suspicious (instead of blurry eyed from just waking up from their naps), I am sure we would have been searched intensely and randomly hassled. The drug sniffing dog took a mild interest to the trunk of our car, circling back and forth twice before continuing on to the next vehicle. It was a bit un-nerving, to have this happen in my country, 'America, the Land of the Free' - yeah right.
At the end of 2008, New Years 2009, we saw a similar check point in the middle of California's stretch of I-10, late at night, on our way home from San Diego, and I thought it was a random occurrence. The NM and TX check points were firm, hardened structures, not just "quickly thrown up". If I wanted to waste 20 or 30 minutes looking on Google Earth I could probably find the CA I-10 check point is also a hardened inspection point.
I thought Obama was going to end the BS draconian erosion of civil liberties that Bush began after the historic 'asleep at the wheel' atrocity of 9-11. It doesn't look like much has changed. Keep monitoring the masses phone calls and emails with Carnivore, monitor who is traveling from state to state, rendition people to Bagram instead of Gitmo. Same ole same ole.
My indignation on being monitored by my government when traveling between states was quelled somewhat, when I began researching the US Constitution's wording on "freedom of instate travel" - it's not in there (link here). US Citizens have no Constitutional right, explicitly stated, to freely move from state to state. Yes, there Have Been SCOTUS cases involving residency and movement between states (links here and here), and yes, the Article of Confederation, which were enforce for the 5 years from the Declaration of Independence until Congress ratified the Constitution DID explicitly give freedom of travel between states as a right (link here) with the caveat: "paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted". But the US Constitution gives ONLY Congressmen the right to travel between states (Article 1, section 6, link here) in order to go to and from annual meetings to perform their jobs. For everyone else, it is implied, but not stated. So if you don't like being monitored, recorded, searched, and detained (all in the name of National Security of course) I guess you're supposed to renounce your US citizenship and live on a boat in international waters perhaps?