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Unreasonable Searches When Going to Work? 786

Posted by Cliff
from the realities-of-post-9/11-America dept.
Chico Science asks: "I'm a scientist, not a lawyer, so I'm a little beleaguered by the fact that since 2001-Sep-11, I have been forced to submit to searches on my campus as I enter buildings. I work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and have been shouldering the burden of increasingly draconian security measures. Most recently, they've instituted a policy of 100% bag/package searches on entering buildings. Initially it didn't bother me, but after having my bag searched on my way to my car (which was also thoroughly inspected) after work, I decided I'm not comfortable subjecting myself to searches of my personal belongings at every turn. I want to know if I have a right to refuse searches? And why should it be considered acceptable for me to relinquish my Fourth Ammendment rights so I can go work on in my lab?" In this climate of increasing security consciousness, how far can vigilance go before it becomes an invasion of our rights?
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Unreasonable Searches When Going to Work?

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  • And you ask /. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @11:53AM (#2466287)
    You can't ask this on /., you'll never get an answer. You'll get 3,000 "IANAL but.." posts. Talk to an attorney. Then write a followup and post it here. You won't get the answer you seek from /.
    • by Anonymous Coward


      Some posters seem to act as if you need a lawyer to scratch your own ass.


      This is unnecessary: All he has to to is talk to his fellow employees- If enough of them agree that the searches are unreasonable them they can have a strike. (or a Work to Win strike if a normal one is too risky)


      And even if noone else cares about it- then he should start hunting for a better job- at a place with a no body cavity policy. Once his current employer loses enough scientists, theyll fix their problems.

  • Check your contract, terms of employment, what have you...when you took the job, you may have agreed to such measures. Given your line of work, don't you feel a little more secure that things are being monitored after all. I do agree that the number and level of searches is a little extreme. however, I also feel that being checked in and out at the entrance is not a horrible thing.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @11:56AM (#2466312) Journal
    and they have a right to fire you for doing so. You don't have to work there, so the searches can be considered voluntary, or a condition of employment. You're working for the Federal Government, which is definitely a target for attacks these days.
    • That statement seems a little bold, but it is true. Think about it. Companies routinely censor employees, demand random drug checks, spy on you, and many other things. The difference between your employer and America, is that your employer PAYS you to be there. As long as you agree to it, they will do what they want. If you don't like it, leave. It's harsh, but I once quit a job because they started random drug tests. I've never touched a drug stronger than asprin, but I felt they were going too far. It's not like I was going to get them to change their policies.

      The only rights afforded to you at a job came about because someone sued someone else, and the new 'guideline' was the result.
      ---
      "That's Homer Simpson, sir. One of your drones from sector 7G." - Waylan Smithers
      • "Companies routinely censor employees, demand random drug checks, spy on you, and many other things."

        This may be the norm in America, but it certainly isn't normal in Canada, and I doubt it's normal in many other free nations.

        When will the American public wake up to the fact that their nation is no longer free? That nearly everything the founding fathers fought for (ooh, nice alliteration) has been decimated over the past couple decades?

        Come the revolution, comrades. Wake up! Throw off your shackles etc. (Seriously, you all got a big problem, and seem to be mostly blind to it.)
        • You are aware, are you not, that our Prime Minister is adamantly in favour of new, sweeping legislation that severely limit our civil liberties? That proposed Canadian anti-"terrorism" legislation defines "terrorist" as anyone employing civil disobedience in order to influence the government?

          Yes, Canada has big problems too. I'm trying to figure out what I can do about it that will actually have an effect. I'm really concerned that all this anti-terrorism stuff will be applied to reduce our ability to disagree with the government, provoking terrorist actions. After all, terrorism is what people do when they feel they have no options left.

    • Wake up! You should be *happy* they are doing these searches. They are protecting you.
    • by Ellen Ripley (221395) <ellen@britomartis.net> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:27PM (#2466621) Journal
      ... it's not perfect, but it's better than what we have now.

      wiredog said:
      You have a right to refuse searches... and they have a right to fire you for doing so. You don't have to work there, so the searches can be considered voluntary, or a condition of employment. You're working for the Federal Government, which is definitely a target for attacks these days.
      You're talking about the Federal Government as if they were a private business. They're not. The U.S. Federal Government is constrained by the U.S. Constitution -- de jure, if no longer de facto post Marbury v. Madison -- and has to follow a tougher set of rules than a company in the private sector.

      More to the point, we crazed philosophers who believe in the American ideal of freedom believe in the Constitution as a higher standard to live up to. The Feds are supposed to be the champions of freedom, not a bunch of control freaks cowering in their offices who just can't stand the idea that there might be something scary in that big bad world out there and wishing that darned Consitution wasn't in the way of making things oh so *very* much safer.

      Ellen
    • I'd like to use the right of your employer to have a mandatory drug testing policy as a parallel to this issue.

      As I was taught in my MBA Business Law class, private companies have the right to require drug tests if they choose, but governmental organizationas do not have the right to require drug testing.

      Because of this, I believe the person who asked this question, as a federal employee, has the right to refuse a search without being terminated as a direct result. Remember, they can always find another reason to remove you, so make sure you keep your nose clean in every other way.

      If the asker of this question worked for a private company, I would say the opposite.

      And remember, folks, surrendering to a search by a government representative without probable cause is a breach of the fourth amendment. Period. Even if you have nothing to hide. Times like these do not automatically allow for the universal interpretation of our constitution to change, but official interpretation of our constitution cannot change without someone fighting what they believe is a transgression of their rights. If you feel your rights are being ignored, take it up with a lawyer, not slashdot. Get the case escalated as high as possible to sustain your interpretation of the right. If the court disagrees with you, it's not because you're wrong, it's because times have changed. They'll probably change back some day.

      ::Colz Grigor

      --
  • Right... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GiorgioG (225675)
    I'm sure if they caught someone entering your building with a bomb, or exiting the building with 'suspicious' materials - you'd be relieved. Put it in perspective and deal with it.
    • Re:Right... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pe1rxq (141710)
      So we should just abandon privacy and freedom completly.
      I am sure you would feel really comfortable in your police state knowing that your 'goverment' (lets also get rid of democracy in case one of those terorists gets elected....) controls your every move.

      Freedom has risks, deal with that.

      I think its ironic that after what many people call an atack on 'the free/democratic/western world' the first thing we do is get rid of the things it stood for.
      Looks like the attacks were successfull afterall...

      Jeroen
  • Given the recent anthrax attacks, and our national War posture, your security hassles are not inconsistent with US 20th Century history. You might look at a good history of the Manhattan Project for a picture of just how draconian security measures can get during wartime in the US. As they say, "you haven't seen anything yet!"
  • If you're employer was a private entity, I think they could basically do whatever they wanted, as long as they did not discrimnate (the Fourth amendment doesn't apply to private entities)

    On the other hand, it sounds like you work for the government, so the Fourth amendment might apply. However, I know that defense contractor employees (Lockheed Martin, etc) are subject to searches by the DOD when they enter or leave the site, and those searches are legal.

    I'd say your best bet might be to talk to an attorney, or pay your legal dept. a visit and ask them about it. If the searching is legal, there is almost surely a federal or DOD statute that makes them legit - ask for a copy.

    Oh, IANAL of course.
  • Democracy at work (Score:3, Informative)

    by gentlewizard (300741) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @11:58AM (#2466342)
    To paraphrase a line from the movie Crimson Tide:

    "We're here to sell things in a democracy, not to practice it."

    Manufacturing plants have always had searches like this. You'd be amazed what walks out of the plant in lunchboxes, etc. What is new is that we white collar workers are starting to be subject to the same rules that blue collar workers have had to put up with for decades.
    • Re:Democracy at work (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cid Highwind (9258)
      Manufacturing plants have always had searches like this.
      True dat.
      I worked as temporary manufacturing help for A large mobile phone company [nokia.com]. We had to enter and leave through metal detectors, and any bags or boxes you carried were searched as you left. And since the plant was in a free trade zone, there were warnings posted all over that any crime committed on the premises was a federal offense.We had the "right" to refuse to be searched, but if we did, they had the right to tell us not to come back the next day. It was a hassle, but it maked sense to search poeple there, you could carry out the pieces of a phone with a lot less trouble than Johnny Cash had trying to sneak a Caddy out one piece at a time.
  • look were you work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rubbersoul (199583)
    I work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD,

    While I do not agree with all of the searches and invasions of privacy that have begin in the country, you have to keep in mind were you work.

    If I worked at the National Institutes of Heath I would expect to be searched due to the threat of a biological attack and all. If I worked at Burger King or something of the like though I would be a bit more tense if they searched me every time, but that is just my 2cents.
  • by dinivin (444905) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @11:59AM (#2466353)
    And why should it be considered acceptable for me to relinquish my Fourth Ammendment rights so I can go work on in my lab?

    I hate it when people do this... The Bill of Rights is a list of limitations on the federal government. When you submit to a search for your employer, you are not forfeiting your fouth amendment rights. That's like saying that you have the right to say whatever you want while in my apartment without fear of repurcussion. While you obviously can't get punished by the federal government (except in some extreme cases), I can certainly kick you out.

    Dinivin
    • The Bill of Rights is a list of limitations on the federal government.

      True, but you don't hand over all your rights when you walk through your employer's door either. Unless conspicuously stated, they can't listen in on your phone calls, watch your net usage, or anything like that. They can't discriminate against you because the DOL says so. So yes, while this is not a constitutional issue, there are still some protections afforded you as an employee by the government. Fortunately (in this case, I'd have to think), this is not one of them.
    • Of course, this person does work for the federal government...
    • In case you didn't notice, his employer is the Federal Government. Any search conducted at the behest or order of a federal official is definately subject to 4th amendment restrictions.


      However, working for the Fed. Gvt. is voluntary. By accepting a position in a secure federal facility, you have given explicit prior consent to submit to things like searches, wiretaps, etc., as a condition of your employment. If we still had conscription, that would be a different story. Typically, you sign a consent form when you take a gvt. job. About the only thing you can do in that situation is force them to produce the consent form with your signature -- if they can't produce it, they can't search you.

  • Chances are you just have to live with it.

    • You work in a government laboratory that works with dangerous pathogens that could be suitable for biological warfare.
    • You probably signed a contract stating that you must consent to all necessary searches. (These are common in contracts for workers in critical government facilities as part of your standard security agreements.)
    • We're currently facing the first known biological attack in US history.

    Considering all these factors, you either have the choice of quitting or just living with the inconvience. There is certainly nothing unreasonable about throughly searching someone who works in such a critical environment. While, yes, IANAL, I don't really thing you have any case to object to these searches.

    • Um, a few things...


      One, they don't keep dangerous pathogens at NIH in Bethesda. NIH is across the street from where the President gets his checkup, and is only a few miles from the DC border. If they're worried about him carrying out a smallpox/ebola/lassa fever/whatever culture, they have the rent-a-cops in front of the wrong building.


      Two, he probably did sign something, but there's also a difference between what he consented to then as opposed to what they are doing now. The contract may be vague, but that vagueness is often interpreted in context of what was to be expected at the time. And again, NIH is not a high-security super-secret facility.

      Three, the fact that we're facing a biowar attack is irrelevant...what, he's more likely to steal something because another entity has mailed anthrax to various public figures? See under "non sequitur."

  • It'll only get worse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. Sketch (111112) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `hcteks.retsim'> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:00PM (#2466360)
    Especially if the Uniting and Strengthening America Act of 2001 (S.1510) gets finalized today. Newsforge [newsforge.com] had a little article written by RMS about it. It's pretty scary, but you can read the link for more information. It will basically:
    * Allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens, denying them the chance to defend themselves in court.

    * Expand secret searches.

    * Grant the FBI broad access to sensitive business records about individuals without having to show evidence of a crime. See http://www.aclu.org/congress/l100801a.html.

    * Allow officials to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations. Membership in such an organization would become a deportable offense; see http://www.aclu.org/congress/l100801d.html.

    • * Allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens, denying them the chance to defend themselves in court.

      * Allow officials to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations. Membership in such an organization would become a deportable offense; see http://www.aclu.org/congress/l100801d.html.

      # 1 & # 4 are the most interesting together!

      Just think, you're in some organization that you feel is fairly harmless and just exersizing your free speech (or assembly) rights. All of a sudden, you're deemed a "terrorist" and deported!

      Well, you'd do something about it, but now you're not an American Citizen, so they detain you.... INDEFINITELY

      This is not a far jump in logic here folks, and if you think that our government is any less prone to corruption than any other gov. your fooling yourself.
  • Scientist (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745)
    Since you claim to be a scientist, I suppose you're a smart guy. Why would a smart guy like you, ask the /. crowd this question instead of a lawyer?
    It would seem to me that you could do yourself a favor(and the /. crowd as well) by talking to a lawyer and then report what you find out to /.

    How much leverage do you have? If you are wroking on an important project, and the company thinks your irreplacable, make a demand that they stop searching property.
    OTOH if your only a step above bottle washer, go to a lawyer. If you do have the right to refuse, document every activity you do, save every eMail, and be ready to sue when they fire you on some unrelated matter. I hope you do have the right to refuse, and I hope to hell you do refuse and stand your ground. If you do not have the right to refuse, use your intellegnce to figure out how you can get a law passed that makes it illegal for a company to search personal bags, even if an employee says its ok. Or at the very least, be forced to show probable cause.
    I'm the guy that won't let people at the exit of stores search my purchase, and I refuse to stop if some stores alarm system goes off when I happen to be leaving. Personally I am very tired of having to prove my innocense, and I'm not stopping just becuaes soe faulty piece of hardware beeps and whirs at me.
  • by nairnr (314138)
    They say the first casualty of war is the truth, the second seems to be personal liberty and freedom. The problem with terrorist war, is that you really don't know for certain who your enemy really is. The net result is that in order to catch the few, you inconvience the many. We have enjoyed a great deal of freedom as a result of being somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. The only threats were fairly well defined and easy to differentiate. The security measures are a reaction to events rather then precaution.

    This is not unusual, witness the guarding of schools with the tragic violence experienced in the past. We recognize that the gun toting kids are not the norm, however we figure out who they are by searching everybody.

    It is a balance, a pendulum. I am sure when we are not actively fighting a terrorist war things will relax. For now, we inconvience ourselves for perceived safety. As a Canadian, I haven't had to deal with this to any great degree. So, how free do you want to be, at what cost would you have freedom at the expense of safety...
  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Syberghost (10557) <syberghost@@@syberghost...com> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:01PM (#2466376) Homepage
    You have an absolute right to refuse those searches, by terminating your employment.

    Either you signed a contract, in which case I guarantee you agreed to searches, or your employment is at-will, and every day is a new contract.
  • by darklord22 (263184) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:01PM (#2466377) Homepage
    Amendment IV
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Where is it written that this doesn't apply to private property?

  • What's wrong with you? Are you a terrrorist/thief/hacker? Why would object if you have nothing to hide? It's for your own protection!

    Does that all sound familiar? When you didn't object to being x-rayed and having your bags searched at the airport, or going into city hall to pay a parking ticket, or being searched by the Fry's door nazis...You Asked for this! You allowed your freedom to be taken a little bit at a time for an illusion of security. Why are you complaining now? This is how we lose our rights, a little at a time.


    [/rant]

    • american lies (Score:2, Insightful)

      by any1 (96459)
      You think the american people are the only ones that gave up our rights a little at a time, the terrorists that attacked took our freedom/rights on sept. 11th. the best one is the people that keep complaining about the excessive searching are the first ones to complain about the fact that most of those terrorists on the 11th didn't even belong in this country at the time. My personal thoughts, this country should be on lock down, we are fighting a war both abroad and at home, which should put us all on military lock down. I, as an american who lives in NYC, feel that I am willing to comply with the american government and any searching party, with reason of course, to any delay or search of my belongings. These attacks might have been done by foreign terrorists, but the last american terrorist attack was done by one of our own, MCVEIGH. Until the smoke clears, the safety is 99% ensured, we should all just put up w/ this and maybe even thank those that are doing such a good job trying to prevent the next terrorist in succeeding. Just my 2cents, you can either take it or toss em, the choice is yours.
    • by the_quark (101253) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:01PM (#2466999) Homepage
      On the Fry's door nazis - I got fed up with them a long time ago. At some point, I decided Fry's had wasted enough of my time, and just walked around the six-person line of folks getting searched. The receipt-checker said, "Sir, can I check your receipt?" And I replied, "No, that's alright, I don't need that, today," and kept walking. When he didn't follow me out in into the parking lot, I made this my Fry's SOP. Most times they don't even ask, anymore - if they do, I politely decline without slowing down.


      Now, the Best Buy Nazis are a lot more serious about it. They tend to be big, bouncer-types and take their job very seriously. I walked right past one of them the other month, and he said: "Sir, can I see your receipt?" I replied with my standard, "No, that's OK, I don't need that today," while continuing to walk. He followed me out into the parking lot (!): "Sir, I NEED to see your receipt." I kept walking. "No, I believe you're mistaken: You don't need to see my receipt." (A little Jedi-mind-trick action there). He stopped following, realizing the basic impotence of his position, and yelled at my back: "Well, you're NOT WELCOME here as a customer, anymore!"


      I was so surprised I unfortunately did not put my purchase in my trunk and go back to speak to the manager, but I did call the manager when I got home. He wouldn't come out and say that I didn't need to get my receipt checked, but when I pressed and said, "I spend about $250 a month with you guys, would you rather have me walk through without showing my receipt, or would you rather have my money go somewhere else?" He replied, "Oh, we absolutely want your business!"


      Anyway, bottom line, the Fry's receipt checkers are imminently ignorable. They don't have the right to detain you or search you. They could detain you until the police arrive if they suspect you're shoplifting, but they don't want to engage in that hassle (and a possible lawsuit) for the average customer.

      • It's easier to embarass them by stopping. I love it when the little beeper-detection deals go off on me. I just drop my package, or set it down, walk over to the wall, hands on the wall, feet spread and ask the guy loudly, "You're not doing the rubber glove thing again, are you?".

        You get some weird looks...
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:07PM (#2466441) Homepage Journal
    Start carrying increasingly bizarre/disgusting items in your bag. Start with an industrial sized box of trojans and K-Y Jelly. Throw some issues of goat porn monthly into the mix. A dead fish might be a good one day gag. If they ever question what the hell you're doing with, say, a tupperware container of dog poo, make up surreal non-sequetor answers designed to confuse. Make it a competition to make the searcher go eww! It could be fun!
    • by ferd_farkle (208662) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:19PM (#2466563)
      Friend of mine at Gigantic Manufacturing got tired of the "Plant Protection" personel's attitude about searches. One night he caught this enormous Luna moth and put it in his lunch box. Upon leaving, he fussed about the box being opened, but the (lady) guard prevailed, and when this bat-sized thing came flapping out into her face, she shrieked like a banshee, ran back into the guardhouse and slammed the door. He hasn't been searched since.
    • That's a scream - reminds me of when I worked at a naval nuclear reactor training facility. They x-rayed everything that went into the facility, so we would put things that would produce interesting x-ray silhouettes in our lunch coolers... loads of fun on the swing shift!
    • That's actually not a bad idea. As long as you aren't bringing in anything that you aren't allowed to have with you, or that you could get fired for bringing in (like the goat pr0n, though there's no reason you couldn't have it in your car if they're searching that too), why not have fun with it? You'll lessen the stress it puts on you (after all, you're carrying stuff you WANT them to find) and at the same time demonstrating the absurdity of what you're being subjected to.

    • Before you pack KY Jelly, make sure sodomy is not illegal in MD (I'm a Canadian, so I dunno). I know that sodomy is illegal in many states. Goat porn is also illegal. Try legal things .. blow up dolls, dog poo, old folx porn. You can check out the ACLU website in order to find out what states are sexually repressed.
      • Before you pack KY Jelly, make sure sodomy is not illegal in MD

        There's no problem with KY jelly. Just take some grapes, a coconut, or a frisbee or something too, and tell them (with a straight face) that the KY is for the random item. If they make any suggestion of something sexual, act shocked and threaten to sue.

        -- MarkusQ

      • Tell 'em you keep KY jelly with your lunch just in case they decide that lunchbox checks are no longer adequate, and start going for body cavity searches...
    • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:40PM (#2466749)

      During one stage of my life, I sported a shaved head, a weird beard, a gruff attitude, and clothes fit for a biker-zombie movie. (It passed, thank goodness.) I was also traveling in my job a great deal and apparently fit some sort of profile. I was singled out for by-hand searches of my carry-on baggage with some frequency. It was happening on 2 out of 3 flights and I just got sick of it. So I fought back. I only carried one bag, so right on top of my packed clothes, right where it would seem to jump out at you when you opened the bag, I started carrying the biggest, most realistic dildo I could find. The thing was more than a foot long.

      I still got searched. But the searches became a slightly different experience. I'll never forget one poor little old lady of a bag checker in Cincinnati who opened the bag, looked in, slammed the lid, and literally ran straight to a little service area behind the checkpoint and started frantically washing her hands in full view of everyone. I actually pitied her. Even those searches that were completed seemed to be much briefer than before. They were into and out of my bags in mere seconds. :-)

    • Not a good idea (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Monte (48723)
      Just this week someone got fired at my company for a little joke involving some dairy creamer spread on a co-worker's desk. No warning, no stern lecture, no "mark on your permanent record": terminated. Escorted to the door by security, "we'll mail you your personal items".

      A company-wide memo went out saying (distilled from the corp-speak and legalease): "We just fired someone for being a smart-ass. Don't be a smart-ass."

      This is not the best time to be pushing the boundries of pranksterism.
  • by ChelleyBean (196830) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:11PM (#2466481)
    Where you are working probably has a huge impact on the level of security being exercised. I hope airports look at it and consider putting their employees through tighter security instead of just their passengers. The car search seems a bit over the top, especially if they've searched your person upon leaving the building. If they have guards on the parking lots themselves then the most they should have to do is a light search upon entering the property.

    We're currently under a bio-terror panic that is being fueled, for the most part, by the media. It's understandable that businesses, especially those in medical research and healthcare, are trying to cover their own rear ends. Under these circumstances I think you'd have a hard time proving that the searches are "unreasonable". I think the current body count is possibly three, if the two postal workers they discovered yesterday prove to be the result of anthrax. Dozens have tested positive for exposure, but they are not ill. A handful has tested positive for the disease itself. Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's tragic. No, it's not yet an epidemic, in spite of what the media says.

    Anthrax is hard to catch. It's all around us every day, but few actually get ill from it. People who work in the wool industry are exposed to hundred of anthrax spores per hour and may never get ill. It takes a high dose in the right form at one time to actually get sick and it is very treatable with antibiotics. Still, you shouldn't run out and take Cipro as a preventative, or we're likely to end up having Super Anthrax, just like we're now beginning to see Super Tuberculosis. On top of that, it's getting into flu season. With the current panic level in the US and the fact that the first symptoms of Anthrax are similar to those of the flu, do you realize the nightmare physicians are about to face? I'm glad I work off campus and not in the hospital proper. I wouldn't want to be caught up in that fuss.

    Everyone, keep your heads screwed on straight. Things aren't likely to really start floating back to something resembling normalcy until after the Super Bowl (think stadium full of people plus airliner, you know the FAA probably has). Maybe not until after bin Laden is either locked up or buried. We'll all be subjected to some major pains in the hindquarters for a while yet. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and be prepared to pitch a bitch if the ruling powers really start stomping on our rights.

  • When will the American public (especially the /. crowd) realize the rights guarenteed by the government are guarentees regarding government behavior. Any company can do WHATEVER it wants to limit "free speech" or so forth except what is limited by law. This is an extension of freedom, not a limit of it. You, personally, can choose not to abuse private property, etc.
  • There is an answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by debrain (29228) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:13PM (#2466490) Journal
    This answer is not for everyone. Leave your draconian country while you can. Few countries permit such embarassing yet incredibly futile actions. Much less condone them. Look to Amnesty International for a list of countries with human rights violations and campaigns they have engaged in; their largest human rights campaign was directed against the US rights violations.


    Be thankful you still have your free speech and freedom to leave. You've exercised the prior, now I suggest you exercise the latter. You can rest assured that things will get worse before they get better. You can grin and bear it. I would leave. But that's not the answer for everyone. The alternatives will be listed here; contact your society-altering hooks: lawyers and politicans. Start a riot. Get noticed.

  • Your choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jathos (170499)
    You work for the federal government, in *their* lab, not yours. I live just a few miles away from NIH, and I personally am quite glad that they are instituting tough security measures.

    If you worked for a corporation, you would most likely be searched in case you were trying to steal intellectual property. But in this case, you work for a government *at war*, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be. Downtown Washington DC is just a 10 minute drive from NIH, and people are dying from anthrax in DC. You being searched is a small price to pay for the increased security of my loved ones.

  • by jnik (1733) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:15PM (#2466518)
    First off, I think the car search is a little ridiculous and you should probably speak briefly with your superior about it. Heck, just talk to your boss and explain that you understand the need for increased security, but you'd prefer it be a little less in-your-face.

    The other thing to do is minimize what you bring in and out. What are you taking home? A laptop to do work at home? Just leave the work at the office for a few weeks. Use a paper lunchbag and throw it out when you're done. Don't wear cargo pants. And when you talk to your boss, let him/her know that you're taking these steps to make life easier for both you and the security people.

    In other words, do what you can to make the intrusion less of an intrusion, and make it know that you do still consider it an intrusion, but are willing to be reasonable, especially in the short term.

  • by blair1q (305137)
    You don't like it, quit.

    You work in a (target) sensitive (target) government (target) facility (target).

    If not for those (prophylaxis) searches (diligence), there's no telling (anthrax) what (ebola) might (plague) get (guns) through (bombs).

    So stop your whining. I'm sure you took a low-paying government job because you like the job security and the pension plan, but you also took on a responsibility to the public--which includes you--and a risk in case of war.

    You're not contracted to the military, so you have the privilege of leaving your job at your pleasure.

    --Blair
  • by ragnar (3268) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:16PM (#2466528) Homepage
    I work for a federal agency [dol.gov] and my bags are inspected every day I come to work. I don't like it, but I suspect this is the sort of treatment people have undergone at other more sensitive offices like the Pentagon, CIA and FBI for years. Like it or not, heightened security has come to many of our lives in the DC area.

    Does that mean I'm rolling over and letting "the man" trample on civil liberties? No, it simply means that I recognize the change in climate that has come to my workplace. I don't like it, but the alternative could be much worse.

    Most people would be in favor of searching the parsels of NIH employees. I don't know all the stuff that you do at NIH, but I have heard it is similar to the CDC. In these times, a bit of diligence and inconvenience will be worth it. This isn't very popular with much of the /. crowd, but residents of DC (like myself) are glad to see more stringent controls and searches.

  • Everything in the U.S. Constitution doesn't directly translate over to the workplace very well. As a paid individual, you are basically forking over your person to a company or agency. They own you for that period of time because they are paying you for it.

    You don't have a right to free speech, from searches, to bear arms, etc. Certain other rights, such as being able to practice your own religion, are only specifically granted by Federal labor laws. Sexual harrassment isn't illegal because it's in the constitution, neither is equal opportunity rights. Employees all work within the framework of labor laws, not the Constitution. Once you clock out, and aren't on company time, then you actually have all your "personal" rights again.

    So unfortunately, there isn't much you can do, except for extraordinary circumstances such as being racially singled out when being searched. If you don't like it, you either grin and bear it, or resign.
  • by dtrent (448055)
    You don't have a *right* to work in your lab, it's something your employer allows you to do, with their own conditions.

    Quit if you don't like it, but don't escalate your situation to an *unreasonable search*, that's not what it is.
  • by dschuetz (10924) <slash AT david DOT dasnet DOT org> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:17PM (#2466540) Homepage
    Most recently, they've instituted a policy of 100% bag/package searches on entering buildings.

    I'm more concerned why they're not checking your bags when you exit the buildings!

    Truthfully, in the government world (especially in the Intelligence or Defense communities, but I can understand it happening in key health-related establishments like NIH, too), employees are subjected to more stringent security than in most private companies. Mostly, they're restricted to preventing guns going in or information going out.

    I wouldn't be surprised if, eventually, the 100% check got reduced to a 50% spot check or something. But the big question still remains -- "how far can vigilance go before it becomes an invasion of our rights?"

    I don't have an answer to that. In certain professions, you give up some 4th amendment rights (such as submitting to drug testing if you drive a train), in others, you give up certain rights of association (yes, they still ask you if you belong to the communist party when you get a clearance). I'd say it's a necessary balance between protecting the public (or nation) from risk, and protecting individual rights.

    Hopefully, eventually, one will calculate the overall risk to the organization to certain threats. Like, what's the chance of someone bringing in a grenade? What would they have to gain from that action? What's the potential damage? It's a RISK = THREAT * DAMAGE calculation. Then you structure your security program around those calculations, for each risk type.

    Eventually, they may determine that the risk associated with not having an in-bound bag check (that is, the sum of all risks that could be averted with such a check) may be at such a level that they can reduce the 100% bag check to a 100% badge check and 10% spot check on bags.

    All this is simple risk management theory, though...where, the question was asked, is the line between group and individual rights? I'd suggest that you could perform an "Annoyance" measurement -- multiply frequency of checks by time wasted in line waiting your turn and by embarrasment caused when they find the bottle of, say, viagra in your briefcase, and you get some arbitrary measurement of the "SEARCH COST" against employees. Better to include, also, things like a measure of the chance that employees will get sick of the searches and find a new job, or that productivity will drop due to reduced morale.

    The line, then, is when the ANNOYANCE level outweighs the RISK level. Something could be very annoying, like a 100% outbound bag check for departing toxins, but as long as the RISK is very high, it's reasonable. On the other hand, if someone decides to check for explosives in every package within every car upon entry to, say, a desert park where there are no humans for a hundred miles (and, thus, a low risk for harm), then your rights to privacy should win out.

    Or something like that. Of course, all the numbers used in such a calculus are totally arbitrary, so it'd also be important to make up-front "value judgements" to calibrate the system against "obvious" cases where a search is good, or where it'd be bad...

    You might try skimming FindLaw.com for stuff, I'm sure there's got to be some caselaw or opinions on this. It sort of relates to drug checks, sobriety checkpoints, and workplace monitoring, to some degree.

    If you find any very good resources, or get real advice from an attorney, be sure to post a follow-up story...

  • Perhaps because CDC is located in NIH, and with this crazy bioterrorism frenzy going on about you, security does become a bit overzealous. I myself contract at the *high-profile* target of the Dept of Labor, and am subject to searches as well. One of the costs of living in a capitol city.

    I also do some afterhours doorstaff work at a local club, and can understand where the security is coming from. They are not there for your convenience. They are trying to protect you, your coworkers, the (expensive) labs at NIH, and themselves. Unless they're slipping on a latex glove with a dab of lubricant on the index finger, I'd say get used to it.

  • Rant (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bckspc (172870)


    I work in the Empire State Building.. now the tallest building in New York. Every day I have to walk through metal detectors, empty my pockets of cellphone, PDA and keys, put my bag through an x-ray machine, open my laptop and show security it's a real working laptop.

    Like the poster, at first I didn't mind, but after weeks and weeks of this it's become a major hassle. If I want to leave the building for any reason at all I still have to wait in line to be hassled by the security goons. And now they're letting tourists back in to visit the observatory at the top. How long must we endure this daily harrassment? Until we've stopped bombing Afghanistan?

    Oh, and my favorite are the posters in the lobby that say 'no knives or cutting instruments of any length are permitted on the premises.' So.... we don't try and hijack the building and fly it to DC?

  • You could always sprinkle mysterious white powder inside your bag,

  • There is a rule of security I came to realize, however I doubt I am the first to do so. As you increase security of anything, you cause more work and generally make it more of a pain in the ass, for those people who are being kept secure. For example, a home alarm system, you have to rush into your house and type the code to turn the alarm off every time. Firewalls you either block your user's legitimate activities or leave holes open.
    Today as you live your life see how many things you do daily that are for security. You lock your car, your house, your windows. If you wanted to be as secure as possible you would spend all day doing security related tasks. Can you think of any security system that doesn't create a hassle for someone?
  • Yeah there's going to be a lot of shit going on. Here's another bizarre story: Novel Security Measures [citypaper.net]. In my mind I imagine a group of ten terrorists sneaking by with sacks of plastic explosives, while "Security" goes through this guy's Harry Potter book.

    I also see the subtext here: Do you look different? Act different? If so, you're going to be suspect. And I don't mean, do you look Middle Eastern, I mean, do you have black hair? Listen to weird music? Read books with pictures of dynamite on them?

    You thought Zero-Tolerance bullshit and picking on geeks and gamers was bad.. that's nothing!

    But of course, you don't have the God-given right to fly in an airplane, go to work, walk on the street, or leave your house at all, right?

  • band together to resist these laws. there's power in numbers, join the ACLU [aclu.org]
    • band together to resist these laws. there's power in numbers, join the ACLU [aclu.org]

      What laws are you talking about? This is nothing more than a trade.

      All trade involves each side giving up something it has a right to. Employment is just another form of trade and when it is "at will", either side can terminate the employment relationship at any time for (almost) any reason. You can quit if you don't like the searches, or you can voluntarily agree to allow yourself to be searched and they can voluntarily agree to pay you.

      If the employer (who may be the US government) deals with items that are potentially useful to terrorists, I think it would be negligent for such a company to not implement security measures that stop such material from walking out the front door. That means they can do one of three things: A) not do business at all B) do business safely, with inspections of employees C) do business unsafely and risk liability damages is something happens.

      They are probably being responsible by choosing B.
  • Security upgrade (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @12:28PM (#2466635) Homepage
    Maybe you could get them to upgrade to an AS&E BodySearch system. [as-e.com] Until recently, these backscatter X-ray units were used mostly in prisons, but they're now being deployed much more widely. Each scan imparts a radiation dose of only 2% of daily background, so a few scans a day are OK.

    They're very impressive systems. Check out the pictures. [dtic.mil] Detects both weapons and drugs. Price is about $120K, and the machine is rather bulky (12' high), but that will come down when the new model comes out.

    It's still an invasion of privacy, but it only takes three seconds.

  • Do not take a bag and it will not be searched.

    Leave work at work and leave home stuff at home; you will be amazed how wonderful evenings can be when you stop taking work home.

  • ...and I've been subject to search for years. Lately, for understandable reasons, things have gotten ridiculous. Our guards won't even let you go thru the metal detector with your hands in your pockets. What can you do about this rampant over-reaction? I dunno. I'm searching for answers, too. But I do know that there are a few things to keep in mind.

    1. 18 USC 930 defines a weapon and what is prohibited from being brought into a federal building. Don't bother reading it. It's being (illegally) ignored these days and has been replaced by the whim of the contract security guard service, the Federal Protective Service (FPS), or whoever guards your front door.

    2. Vehicle searches are the same deal as personal searches. As soon as you get on govt property (the parking lot), you're subject to search. Someone like me who frequently has a rifle or two rattling around in the trunk has to remember when they can go into the parking garage and when then need to park across the street. If you don't like having your car searched, find parking somewhere off govt property.

    3. Talking to your Union can help, depending on the Union and the attitudes of the FPS execs in your location. In some cases they can get local management to encourage the guards to lighten up. In other cases (such as mine, unfortunately), the FPS execs seem to get a personal thrill out of telling the agency executives to piss off. At the very least, try to get your Union to negotiate with management an agreement that people will not be disciplined for arriving late to work when the searches get really bad. Such an agreement (or at least the willingness of the Union to bring it up) will help management understand that there's a real price in lost productivity to be paid by going along with excessive searches.

    Personally, my biggest worries aren't at work but at the hastily erected "security check points" some businesses are putting up. They aren't doing pat-downs, but some are installing metal detectors. I'm not looking forward to the first time I get trapped and have to go thru the magnetometer at some company office or other public place that lacks the state-mandated signage necessary to prohibit carrying a concealed firearm. I'll be perfectly legal to be armed but the guards will go ape-shit, anyway. Sigh.

  • Rights (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Stultsinator (160564)
    First of all, regardless of whether or not you believe there are "universal" Rights, every person has boundaries that they want to protect. If you are the only person who objects to being searched then I'd say that you are out of place there and look for a more satisfying job. However, some would say, along the same lines as equal opportunity arguments, that you should have a right to work there and that everyone should protect that right.

    So I guess the first thing you should do is decide whether or not you like working there and if you would want to take action to continue doing so. If you decide that you want to stay and change the policy, find out which of your co-workers agree with you. At the end of that exercise you'll have a pretty good idea what sort of force you can put behind change (either you have a lot of people who agree with you or you have a choice few who have political power.) Also keep in mind who opposes you.

    Then act.

  • Searches and my dad (Score:2, Informative)

    by The Diver (310313)
    My dad, a retired defense contractor, fixed this problem over 30 years ago. His searches were on the way out of the company, not on the way in. He took his lunch in brown paper bag. He never carried a briefcase. He never took work home and only a few times, that I remember, did he work overtime. During the Gulf War, I worked for the Federal government and we had searches. I learned from my dad and to this day, I do not carry any thing to or from work. Other than a brown paper bag. I have never been searched.
  • The NIH, like it or not, is the US's central asset in fighting biological terrorism. Just like NORAD is central to missile defence/offence.
  • You do not have to submit to searches at every turn.

    It's easy: Quit. Tell your supervisor, your department head, other important people in the heirarchy, and your congresscritter that you are quitting because of the unreasonableness of the search policy.

    Less drastically, tell your boss that if something doesn't change, you'll quit - that you can't be productive and creative if you're constantly being treated as a criminal at work.

    There's security, and there's security. Some level of increased security is appropriate under the current circumstances, but the constant searches sound ridiculous. Can't they maintain a "secure perimeter", where they search coming in and going out, but allow people to move freely within?
  • If you are American, there are not just people who want to kill you, there are people who are still trying to kill you. All of you. As many as possible in the most horrific fashion possible. And there is no means too vile or deplorable to consider.

    Perhaps I should put this another way. I am a parent. I have a family. If I can't directly protect my family against the types of weapons that anti-Americans would willingly use , then I expect my government to help with the protection. If one of the ways of coming close to having protection is by searching people who are coming into and going out of government facilities, so be it. If our government can only protect us by exercising more power in the area of surveillance, so be it.

    The alternative, of course, is to leave our intelligence forces as emasculated and impotent as they have been for the last 10 years. And we all saw how effective they were on Sept. 11th.

    Keep bitching and moaning about your rights being chipped away. But think about the alternatives in a world where someone wants you dead. Wouldn't you want law enforcement to be able to find out who wants you dead so that they can be stopped? For the safety of my family, I know that's what I want.

    • by ethereal (13958) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:03PM (#2467018) Journal

      Yes, the message is loud and clear: once it's all about the children, it's no longer even remotely about freedom. Thank you for betraying the way of life that was your children's birthright; you may now scurry back to your hole in safety.

      Personally, I don't have too many problems with this particular topic, since some sort of search does seem to be a reasonable approach in this instance provided that its done equitably and professionally. (Where I work the searches are done haphazardly, so as to provide the appearance of security without the actual security benefits - now that's annoying). And, it's optional since you could choose to work somewhere else.

      But I'm sick of hearing from folks who would rather trade my freedom for their security, by allowing civil liberties of all people to be infringed in the interest of the "war on terrorism". There is no security in this world, pursuit of it is illusory at best, the best that we can do is stand up as free men and women for what we believe in, and be willing to fight and die for those things if necessary. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling something, Princess.

      • Just for the sake of continuing the debate...

        First of all, let me say that taking away civil liberties, especially those dealing with privacy, leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. Also, just as a point, living in a free society is not a birthright. It is something fought and suffered for.

        That being said, I'd like to remind you that we are now living in a time where there are people who not only want badly to kill us but are willing to die so long as we, the relatively innocent masses, are killed as well.

        Given that our government have many, many surveillance techniques at their disposal, wouldn't you think it to be prudent that they use said techniques in an effort to prevent more heinous acts like these from happening to our citizens?

        And yes IMHO, once it reaches to the next generation, it does become more important. My generaion is dead to me, now. Once we have children, it becomes almost obvious to me (in a very primal sense) that I'm no longer alive for my benefit, but for that of my children. My productive, rather happy life is a great bonus, rather than the entire goal. As such, I see our children inheriting two different possible societies. In one, we (my generation and older) have had to suffer some temporary indignations in the hopes of keeping our nation strong. In the other, we still have an underpowered intelligence and law-enforcement community, or perhaps, no such community at all since the nation has shaken itself apart in fear.

        Apocolyptic? Sure. All I can hope for at the moment is that it's just the paranoia talking and everything'll work out just fine.

  • Sticky Question (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mouse (1273)
    The short advice to give you is most definately discuss the issue of search when entering buildings with a lawyer. The best group to contact in this case is the ACLU -- they are best equiped to answer these questions and take action if you so desire.

    The long of your question is that the NIH is a special case employer since they are the federal government. The Bill of Rights does not apply to private individuals and organizations, but it does (obviously) apply to the federal government and its agents. This precendent was recently verified in the von Bulow(sp) case. Now, government agency operate in a merky space with which the ACLU has a great wealth of experience. They have lititgated a number of cases on this subject.

    These types of searches are completely legal at a private company provided that the right was enumerated in a policy document or employment contract. There is not a private company that I have ever encountered that didn't give itself the right search anything and everything they wanted. Think of it this way, if they listen to your phone calls, read your email, and search your desk, they can search your person so long at its on their property. Also, bear in mind, that it is perfectly legal to sign away your Constitutional rights in a relationship through a contract -- a perfect case in point is private elementary and high schools.

    I hope that helps. Good luck.
  • This will both ease entry into secure areas, and reassure the vigilant among us that you, as agent of government, aren't carrying, say, surveillance devices in your pockets.

    By strange coincidence, "Stand in the place where you work" is intoned by REM on my stereo just as I compose this, confusing the coherence of my reply.
  • It's the NIH. National Institute of Health. Choose your favorite nasty. They have it in there.


    There *are* concerted efforts to use these type of agents against the public right now. Would you feel comfortable if people *could* walk in and out of NIH unchecked? Sandia National Laboratory?


    There are plenty of civil rights issues to worry about in the current climate. Searches by that particular employer are not one of them.


    hawk

  • The answer to the question "In this climate of increasing security consciousness, how far can vigilance go before it becomes an invasion of our rights? " is, only so far as to upset a large number of their employees enough that they quit and cannot be replaced by employees who would welcome a more secure environment to work in. People are often told to "vote with their pocketbooks", and I would say that in essence the same advice applies here as well.
  • "There is more freedom in any moderately deStalinized dictatorship than there is in the American workplace."

    -Bob Black, "The Abolition of Work"

    Look it up on Google. It's instructive.
  • Try this (Score:2, Informative)

    by natefanaro (304646)
    I would say that you could talk to the head of the department there. If he is not behind this, then find out who is and express your concerns (or gripes) about the amount of searches, and find out if it really nessicary. I am sure that you could find other people that are not keen to the searches to join you in filing a complaint.
  • by mikosullivan (320993) <miko&idocs,com> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:05PM (#2467037)
    The motivation for searches like this is initially honest enough: 5,000 people were killed and the administrators and executives don't want it to happen again.

    The problem is that they can't keep it up: searching everybody all the time becomes a serious drain on resources (financial, emotional, and otherwise). So eventually the searches have to be more selective... and how do you think those selections are made? First, the higher-ups will opt themselves out of searches. Oh, they won't write out a memo declaring themselves unsearchable, but security will know who butters their bread and won't choose to search the big guys. Ask any corporate security guard: everybody thinks security shouldn't apply to them, and the higher up the stronger the perception.

    Then searches become based on random quirks. That guy acts looks weitrd, that woman's carrying unusually bulky bags. Sometimes the quirks may be valid red flags... I'd be suspicious of unusually bulky bags myself. But many of them will be based on random and unbased imaginings.

    Eventually the searches are punishment. They become an overwhelming temptation when the powers-that-be realize that searches are not only demeaning but accusatory: "John gets searched a lot, they must suspect him".

    The public has the perception that searches are only used to search for the bad guys. This is a dangerous perception. Left unchecked, searches are used for harrassment, fishing trips, and general amateur spying.

    Freedom is our Strength. We need to protect freedom and the strength of America.

  • by chinton (151403) <chinton001-slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:11PM (#2467103) Journal
    When defining the term unreasonable has to be defined based on where you work. If you work at 7-Eleven the most harmful thing you could smuggle out would be, say a twinkie. Nasty as it may be, I don't think a twinkie dust poses a serious health risk. Working at the NIH, however, what could you smuggle out? Anthrax, probably. Smallpox, probably. The Plague, probably. All things more deadly than the afformentioned twinkie.

    To summarize: Is it unreasonable to search a 7-Eleven clerk coming and going from his job? Yes. Is it unreasonable to search an NIH employee coming and going? Much tougher call, but I would rather see them err on the side of caution than to let Osama get out with the Super Contageous Ultra Ebola virus.

  • Look around, Chico (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fobbman (131816) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:24PM (#2467209) Homepage
    You work in a federal building, in a very federally-present city. These are times of war, and you are working in a highly sensitive building.

    What alarms me more than your feelings of loss of rights is that you weren't always subjected to at least an occasional search.

    Welcome to federal employment. Those of us who share your employer accept the responsibility, knowing full well that it comes with the job.

  • A few thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by catseye_95051 (102231) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:39PM (#2467385)
    (1) You work for the government, there are special laws regarding govt activities and security may well be par tof them.

    (2) Some wise jurist ocne poinetd out the approximate observation that "During war, the law is suspended." I am afraid that, whetehr you've realized it ro not, you are at Ground Zero. We are beign attacked with disease, the national health infrastructure is thus a very strategic target.

    (3) Given that yo uare at ground zero, if Iw ere you I'd be HAPPY about the tightened security. Would you rather have your private self and private posiessiosn blown to private-bits by a bomb someone snuck in?

    This is a terrorist war. They don't march up in pretty unfirms and say "okay, pleas esend your amry otu to fight." They hit by stealth wherever they think it will most harm our infrastructure.
  • by CyberGarp (242942) <<Shawn> <at> <Garbett.org>> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:47PM (#2467468) Homepage
    I used to fly around the country on business non-stop for months at a time. I got sick of the "heightened" security searches after TWA800. Fat lot of good those did, look where we are today.

    So anyway, in New York I stopped in a store that sold plastic crap made in Taiwan. I bought a ton of it (you know, plastic apples, plastic toys, plastic nick-nacks) and even bought some expanding foam fruit and bunnies. Then I packed my brief case till it was completely overloaded and had to sit on it close it.

    Then when the airport search came. They ask to see my carry on bag. I said "you don't want to see my carry on bag." They said, "Sir, if you don't hand me that bag, you're not getting on your plane." So I did. When opened it and plastic toys exploded out in all directions. I said, "Happy now, look at the mess you made." While the security guard was still in shock. I closed my briefcase and walked on through. The other guards just started laughing.
  • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me@noSpAM.hotmail.com> on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @01:54PM (#2467524) Homepage Journal
    National Institute of Health, not 7-11 right? It would be one thing if the material and information you were handling were non-threatening and your place of "business" didn't provide a nice ripe target but... it DOES! Frankly, if I worked in such a place and they DIDN'T have such searches I'd be unhappy.

    We're presently living in a time where folks think it's funny to grind up Life Savers and leave them on desks to see the reaction. We're living in a time when sicko' mislead idiots send postmarked mail purporting to be from 4th Grade Elementary schools with ANTHRAX in it! We're living in a time where perfectly innocent people floating down a river minding their own business are getting buzzed by crop sprayers squirting only God knows what on them. And you're upset because someone is asking to poke through your things?! You're serious?

    The place where you work is supposed to be concerned with public health, yes? What better place to spread something nasty to scare the public you're supposed to be worried about? It's quite possible that this has occured to your management and rather than sitting on their hands waiting to see if it occurs to someone else when employees start dropping dead they've chosen to take steps to protect both themselves and YOU. I'm surprised that yu're not just a little bit more appreciative of that fact. While they may be simply trying to cover their butts and protect themselves thay ARE also protecting you and making it that much harder for someone to commit some sicko' act. Perhaps six months ago when a few thousand other folks were still breathing and the idea of a plane crashing into a tall building was a Hollywood fantasy I'd have had some sympathy but right now I'm having a pretty tough time generating much of it. Believe it or not we're all in this together and it's not just about YOU. Bend a little and realize that what you give up in comfort provides a little comfort to your co-workers! I face shotguns and worse coming in the gate, while that would obviously freak you out I am happy that those folks are looking out for myself and my coworkers. I can only hope that they won't be needed!

    Don't like it? Then quit and go work someplace that's a less interesting target like 7-11. There you've only got to worry about a gun in your face and a demand for mere money....

  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @02:13PM (#2467708) Homepage Journal
    Laws about unreasonable search and seizures do not apply in the context of being employed by and in the normal operations of government on their own facilities. OTOH if they demanded to search your home they'd need a warrant (one would hope, more or less as it relates to criminal investigation). If they stopped your car off premises they'd need a search warrant or a criminal complaint or arrest warrant. But while you are on site they own your ass and there is nothing you can do about it.
  • by Chris Y Taylor (455585) on Tuesday October 23, 2001 @02:44PM (#2467978) Homepage
    "And why should it be considered acceptable for me to relinquish my Fourth Ammendment rights so I can go work on in my lab?"

    If it was "your lab" then you would have a point, but it isn't. Good grief, you work at N.I.H. in Bethesda, MD; you should be upset if they DIDN'T search you!

    If it really bothers you, then quit and start your own lab, then you can take whatever stupid risks you want.

    As for some of the "have fun with it" suggestions for putting gross things in your briefcase; I would be careful about that. I'm sure most of these people have never worked in a secure facility and have no idea how little of a sense of humor a good security force is supposed to have. If you still want to "make it fun" that is fine, just be careful how you do it. Putting that creative mind to some positive use and doing a little "cross functional teaming" with the security manager could make it more tolerable and also improve security. For example, get together with some of the folks you work with, and the supervisor of the security guards and suggest ongoing "tests" of the searchers. A good security force needs to be audited at irregular intervals anyway; and if the supervisor has the co-operation of some non-security employees, that can make it easier. What I recommend for audits is to use dice. If I need to audit a dept. about once a week, I roll a 10 sided dice (you do have some of those left over from D&D, don't you) and if it comes up 9 or 10, then I do an audit that day. That way, the audits occur about the right frequency but are not predictable. The supervisor could even add a carrot along with the stick and offer some small prize (a "quality" pen or a gift certificate for a box of donuts) to whoever finds the employee trying to smuggle the test item through. Of course, there would have to be more employees in on the audits than just you, or else they would soon figure out to just search you thoroughly, and the whole point is lost.

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