Friday, August 23, 2002

The Day *My* House was Searched

I was reading the paper one day when I read that the City was going to conduct a sample inspection of all the houses on the 200 to 800 blocks of Oak Street to look for illegal drains. Apparently those sneaky house builders of the 1920's had not guessed that under the Water Quality Act of 1970, as amended, it would be illegal to connect basement drains to the storm sewers. The City wanted to perform this inspection to calculate how many houses in the City were likely to have illegal drains. Since I was renting a house in the 400 block of Oak street, the article interested me. Rarely does the government announce its searches in advance.

Some time later, an inspector showed up at the house.

Inspector: "I'm here to inspect your basement."
My wife: "Where's your warrant?"
Inspector: "I don't need a warrant, you can just let me in."
My wife: "Oh but you *do* need a warrant because I won't let you in without one."

Later, the inspector's boss called.

Senior Bureaucrat: "You aren't going to make me bother a judge for a warrant, are you"?
My wife: "Yes I am. Consider it a free lesson in Constitutional Law."

The house had a for sale sign on the lawn so the Senior Bureaucrat called the Real Estate Agent.

Senior Bureaucrat: "You're showing the house on Oak Street, aren't you?"
Real Estate Agent: "Yes"
Senior Bureaucrat: "Can you let us in because we have to inspect the house and the renter won't let us in"
Real Estate Agent: "I can't let you in because a renter has control of entry to the house as long as he's renting"

Some time later, several squad cars pulled up to the house with lights flashing.

Polizei: "We have a warrant to inspect the basement."
My wife: "Can I read it?"

Time passes while la lectrice sits on the porch reading the warrant.

My wife: "This warrant says you can inspect the basement. Come around to the back of the house and I'll let you down the basement stairs."

Polizei and Inspector inspect the basement and find Illegal Drain.

Some time later.

Neighbor at Garage Sale: "What were all those cops at your house."
My wife: "You know how the City was inspecting everyone's basement? Well we made them get a warrant to inspect our house."
Neighbor at Garage Sale: "Gee that's neat. I didn't know you could do that."

Had we actually owned the house and were we not leaving town anyway, the next step would have been to wheel on in to court and move to quash the warrant because it was a "regulatory search" without probable cause in violation of: "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." Courts have upheld "regulatory searches" of businesses but generally have not in the case of "dwelling houses."
FT May 2002: God’s Justice and Ours by Antonin Scalia is obviously an important Read. But the line that is most quotable from my perspective (and citeable in any future criminal prosecutions of me) is the one where a sitting justice of the United States Supreme Court recognizes (and recommends!) the right to revolution.
I pause here to emphasize the point that in my view the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted, constitutional laws and sabotaging death penalty cases. He has, after all, taken an oath to apply the laws and has been given no power to supplant them with rules of his own. Of course if he feels strongly enough he can go beyond mere resignation and lead a political campaign to abolish the death penalty—and if that fails, lead a revolution. But rewrite the laws he cannot do.

Revolution presents less of a moral problem than judicial activism. I like it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Classics from the Past:

How You Can Transport Illegal Digital Content from One Place to Another Without Violating Laws Against Transporting Illegal Digital Content From One Place to Another:

From ???@??? Wed Mar 08 11:44:00 1995
Subject: Cute point from Risks

At the "risk" of passing on items already read, a short quote from the latest Risks Digest seems in order:

RISKS-LIST: RISKS-FORUM Digest Tuesday 7 March 1995 Volume 16 : Issue 87

- ------------------------------

Date: Sun, 5 Mar 95 18:50:01 PST
From: (Erann Gat)
Subject: The source of semantic content

"It's probably old news for RISKS readers, but a very difficult concept for lawmakers, that the semantic content of bit streams is in the eye of the beholder, and that the apparent correspondence between bits and semantics is the result of engineering convention and not an inherent property of the bits. Any attempt to legislate the content of digital communications is therefore doomed to fail because it is trivial to hide the source of semantic content. The following is a simple example of how this can be done:"

My summary:

1) Take porno image.

2) Encrypt it using One Time Pad (OTP).

3) Transmit encrypted file to A.

4) Transmit key file to B.

5) A & B send copy of file they each have to each other.

6) Porno has been transmitted *without* any person transmitting
any coherent information.

7) Now if A & B happen to be remailers with instructions to retransmit what they receive to C...

Too bad Law isn't Engineering or the above scenario would be ironclad.


"Daddy, daddy, I'm hungry"
"Call your Congressman. That's the only possible way of getting a bite to eat in this country of ours."

Monday, August 19, 2002

A Faraday Cage for your EZPass:

EZPass is an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system used in the Northeast. A small white box is attached to your windshield and is queried by radios in passing toll booths. Your account is debited for the toll. Your account lists all the booths passed and when so it can be very useful for law enforcement and civil attorneys (including domestic relations lawyers). EZPass has already been featured on an episode of Law and Order. In addition since the system is protected by weak or no encryption, attackers with radios could extract some information by querying your EZPass. Perhaps duplicating it to steal tolls from you.

The EZShield is a little box with a drawer to hold your EZPass. According to the photo, it doesn't increase the EZPass form factor by much. What you are supposed to do in open the drawer to expose your EZPass only when you want to use it and keep it enclosed when you don't.

The interesting thing is that EZShield's sellers believe that there is enough interest in a technological privacy fix that they are willing to advertise it on mass media. I heard it just before the Rush Limbaugh show on WABC in NYC.