In Virginia, a man was charged with killing two hawks, which violated the Migratory Bird Act. While we think that killing protected birds is wrong, the way the government caught him is even worse.
Game wardens had set up a camera on private property and used the video of the man and the birds as evidence to convict him.
In the article posted by The Virginian-Pilot, the game wardens said that due to lack of manpower, cameras have been used for years for surveillance.
The judge ruled against the Virginia man.
She cited case law that allowed survellience of open fields without a warrant. Granted, according to the article, this case law dates back to the 1920s – before video cameras were regularly used by police officers.
The judge granted that it was unsettling, which we think is an understatement. Of course it is unsettling, if nothing else than because it evokes the grim, Orwellian image of Big Brother watching over people to make sure they are behaving.
With the Patriot Act still in effect, we think this is another straw that is going to finally break the camel’s back in regard to privacy and free will. Sure, it might not happen because of this case, but if government officials can put cameras on private property, what would stop them from putting cameras in homes? Your cell phone (even one without GPS) can be used to find your location, even with the phone turned off. It is frightening to think that the government has sanctioned efforts to watch its own citizens. The founders put a lot of power in the average citizen, even as a republic. However, the government, in an effort to “protect” us, is making it easier and easier to keep tabs on the individual. We shouldn’t need to be watched. The government is not going to prevent any crimes from happening. The only place that happens is in bad Tom Cruise movies with robots. Whenever robots enter the picture, it always turns out badly (according to the movie world, but seriously).
All joking aside, we think this sets a dangerous precedent. In some places, there are traffic cameras that will catch you speeding or running red lights and send you a ticket in the mail. While that is just a nasty surprise amongst your junk mail, it is still on public property. Government agents going in to set up cameras, even with probable cause, is a violation of a fundamental liberties. In Virginia, the game wardens had an idea that the soybean farmer might catch an illegal bird in his cages from a tip they received. However, they did not have a warrant.
What will it come to before people take notice of their liberties being eroded by the government? Will it take a loss of liberty and security?