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Going Through the Garbage 730

frankejames writes "This is a very funny piece on how Portland politicians said it was okay for police to seize a citizen's garbage without a search warrant. But when some reporters swiped their garbage (and reported the contents!) they screamed foul play! Read Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs."
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Going Through the Garbage

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  • by dagg ( 153577 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990754) Journal
    Ok. So I need to delete all of the data on my hard drive at least 7 times before it is *really* deleted, and now I need to pulverize all real life garbage just to make sure the cops (or reporters, or neighbors) don't use it as evidence? Jeesh.
  • hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by juan2074 ( 312848 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990759)
    Surprise! Government officials are hypocritical.

    How often do they consider how it would feel if these laws were applied to them?

    Will the government officials who enacted the USA PATRIOT act ever have to really be subjected to the same things they allowed to be done to us?

  • If you... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by craenor ( 623901 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990760) Homepage
    Really cared about the security of your garbage, you wouldn't set it on the curb so a guy who makes $7.50 an hour can come by and take it with him.
  • Small Difference (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ancukiewiczd ( 614805 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:53PM (#4990769)
    Yes... but there's a difference between police swiping your garbage and news reporters swiping your garbage and then publicly reporting it.
  • 2600 Mag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wilburdg ( 178573 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:55PM (#4990777)
    Last issue of 2600 magazine had a four page article dedicated to the art of dumpster diving. Best advice: Bring a bunch of empty boxes in your car, that way, you can tell a police officer that you are helping a friend move, and your just looking for more empty boxes.
  • Re:Anthro (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordNimon ( 85072 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:55PM (#4990784)
    It's also pointless. I could buy a case of beer to drink over the next three months, and only when I'm done will I throw the case out. I could claim that I drink only one beer a week, but if you happen to search my garbage the week I throw out my case, you'd think I was an alcoholic.

    I could also host a party for people who drink, even though I don't.

    Yes, these are just examples, but they illustrate that the survey technique is fundamentally flawed.

  • by Cyclometh ( 629276 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:57PM (#4990789)

    Yeah. The difference being that the police doing it violates the 4th Amendment to the Constitution if they did it without a search warrant, while the reporters may have violated your right to privacy.

    Go ahead, ask me which one I think is worse...

    And then think about which one you might have more redress for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:57PM (#4990792)
    So your arguement boils down to: Its alright for the police to do it and not other people BECAUSE it takes too long to go through due process.

    Brillant arguement...

  • by Badge 17 ( 613974 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:59PM (#4990803)
    This seems to be an interesting precedent...

    As I understand it, the basic claim of the police is that if it's easily accessible, it's public information.

    So, how does this apply to the Internet?

    For instance, is unencrypted email now public information? What about information on a HTML page - with no links leading to it?

    I particularly like the police officers claiming that the lack of a "No tresspassing" sign / "don't open garbage" sign gives them the right to do this... Does a woman have to wear a "Don't Rape" sign to make this clear to potential attackers?

    Perhaps the "Don't Rape" sign should really go on the Constitution - particularly the Fourth Amendment.
  • Effective... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jjccss ( 238401 ) <jstanko AT users DOT 65535 DOT net> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:59PM (#4990808) Homepage
    Doing things of this nature are becoming an effective means of grabbing attention of the people involved. It is much more effective that "changing the system from the inside" because it allows people who don't want to be politicians, executives, etc to shake things up. It is also is exponentially more effective than just being a pain in the ass.

    Now...if we could only figure out a way to limit the power of major players in the news business. Drudge Report [].
  • Re:confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pavera ( 320634 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:00PM (#4990811) Homepage Journal
    It might be legal for anyone to take it,
    I think the biggest issue here is in using that trash as *evidence* in an investigation, who's to say it's actually *your* trash?? I throw garbage in other people's trash all the time, if I throw some some drug residue in there, and the cops confiscate it, they can prosecute the home owner for possession?? That is not a good thing.
  • It's legal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jdhutchins ( 559010 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:00PM (#4990814)
    I haven't read the article because it seems slashdotted (already?).
    It is legal for police to take garbage without a search warrant. IANAL, but from civics classes, trash falls under "abandoned property", so police can take it without a search warrant. It's kinda like if a police office thinks you're speeding, he doesn't need a search warrant to aim his radar gun at you to check your speed. Not exactly the same thing, but kinda in the same category.
  • by bobthemuse ( 574400 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:01PM (#4990820)
    I completely disagree, as in your example your as assuming that the judge will approve the warrant. The police could go throw the garbage, have the warrant refused, and say 'Oh well, we already have the evidence and it was obtained legally'. Why not work on shortening the time required instead of giving more leeway to the police?
  • by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:02PM (#4990827) Homepage Journal
    Because being a policeman myself, I know that by the time a search warrant is signed off by a judge and executed (around a week), the trash will be long gone. So, the policeman have a perfectly valid arguement.

    The councilman have every right to call foul play, because the police are an investigation bureaucracy devoted to helping people (legally), while the reporters are going through garbage in order to report what bills the councilman paid last week (illegally).

    Being a policeman yourself, you'll know that a policeman without a warrant is just a citizen like any other, and if it's good and leagal for you it's good and legal for anyone else.

  • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@y a h o o . com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:02PM (#4990832)
    It seems to me there is a difference between the police, who are guided by local, state and federal laws regarding use of evidence, and reporters, who have pretty much free reign under the US constitution in what they report. Quite honestly, despite the anti-government, anti-authority slant by both the article and the comments in the posting here, I would be far less comfortable with reporters stealing my garbage than with police collecting it. And I can entirely see the city's point about why reporters going around rummaging through peoples' garbage is a bad idea. Reporters are not answerable to anybody - government is.

    That said, why would anyone expect that something they've acknowledged they no longer want and have therefore basically thrown up for grabs on the curb to be secure? As someone who lives in NYC, where it's routine for people to pick up junk they find lying on the side of the street, this just strikes me as idiotic. Not just dumb, not just stupid, but completely moronic. You threw it away; it's on the curb, it's no longer yours. End of story. Whether it's the police or the press taking it, if you're at all worried about it you should have either kept it or destroyed it.

    There's a reason why shredders exist. And if you don't want to use one, that's your choice. But then don't complain when people go rummaging through your garbage looking for credit card statements and pay stubs. You put that stuff out on the curb of your own free will.
  • by Cyclometh ( 629276 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:04PM (#4990842)

    The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution:

    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.

    Garbage may not be property per se, but it may also be (YMMV by state, I understand). However, the implication is that your "effects" are not to be improperly searched, which includes things you may not own- for example, the police can't search your rented home without a warrant and/or probable cause, even if you don't own the house. You don't necessarily have to own something for it to be protected from search under the 4th Amendment.

  • Buy a shredder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:06PM (#4990849) Homepage Journal

    Screw privacy: Speaking as someone who had my credit card numbers stolen from my trash, EVERYONE should have a shredder to shred bills. It's incredibly cheap insurance.

    As far as people taking the rest of my garbage, they're welcome to it. Less I have to take to the curb!

  • by Rai ( 524476 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:08PM (#4990859) Homepage
    The U.S. Government seems very fond of this phrase so I'll throw it back their way...

    If you're not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn't have anything to hide.
  • by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:12PM (#4990891)
    I believe in Dallas the new chief of police earned some respect from the citizens around here by arresting city employees, policemen, and firemen for unpaid tickets, etc. etc.

    If there is a problem with Judge's taking two weeks to sign a search warrant, then there is a problem with the judge and the system, not a reason to create 'special rights' for people who should not be considered 'special people.'

    Just my 2c.
  • Re:If you... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:14PM (#4990901)
    Agreed, its the same in NY. I hate these people whose logic is so ass-backward. Just because they sling trash for a living doesn't mean they make little money. Infact, you seem to asume that because its a crappy job they would be paid a low salsry. Infact, thats the reason they make decent money. Do YOU want to pickup trash for a living?

    As for lowing paying jobs in general, how differnt would your life be without them? Have you thought about that? Chances are your daily life would turn upside down if these people did not show up to work one day. So, take a moment to thank the people smarter than you for invetning things like trains, planes & automobiles and thank those not as fortunate as you for pumping your gas, flipping your burgers and stocking the food at your local grocery store.
  • by Zwack ( 27039 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:14PM (#4990902) Homepage Journal

    Because being a policeman myself, I know that by the time a search warrant is signed off by a judge and executed (around a week), the trash will be long gone. So, the policeman have a perfectly valid arguement.

    So you are claiming that the police should be allowed to ignore due process because "due process takes too long". Nice argument. Would you like to define "too long" for us. If a week is too long, how about 6 days? 5 days? The point was that the police (in this case) had absolutely no proof before they stole someones garbage and then had some of it analysed. Can I ask the relevance of testing a used sanitary pad for semen? Is being sexually active a crime? If so then I suspect a lot of us are in trouble... So, in this case they stole some garbage (not knowing what was in it) found some evidence and then considered due process. I suspect they didn't wait for a judge to sign a search warrant because any judge in his (or her) right mind would say "you want to search this persons garbage because you think it might contain some evidence to some crime that may have been committed, but you don't actually have any evidence at all. Just some rumours, innuendos and 'hunches'... Go away and come back when you have a clue."

    The councilman have every right to call foul play, because the police are an investigation bureaucracy devoted to helping people (legally), while the reporters are going through garbage in order to report what bills the councilman paid last week (illegally).

    Huh? The Mayor claimed foul play, the Chief of Police claimed foul play, the City Attorney cracked some jokes... The police (and we are talking Portland Police here) have been shown frequently to not be an "investigation bureaucracy devoted to helping people"... In fact some recently leaked documents show that that same police force performed various illegal investigations into all sorts of innocent citizens. Check the Portland Tribune coverage [] of this for details. The reporters did not say what bills were paid last week. They reported the contents of the three "victims" garbage and painted an interesting picture of their lives.

    What I found scariest was that the Chief of Police threw internal police memos into his own trash. Surely these should be disposed of in a much more secure manner.


  • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:14PM (#4990906) Journal
    Giving police special previledge to look through ones garbage is inviting potential abuse. And even if they are given those rights with a warrant, evidence found in the garbage should be taken with a pitch of salt.

    What if a cop just doesn't like someone and is looking for a reason to book them? My I made the mistake of dating a cops ex-girlfriend. It's in the outside, in the open, in the garbage so probable cause is easy to "justify".

    What if the person is part of a prosecuted social or political group? "We just know they had something to do with it but we need proof" mentality.

    Again, How do you know these things in my garbage are really mine? How easy is it for a someone else to drop something illegal in my garbage?

  • by rdmiller3 ( 29465 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:17PM (#4990923) Journal
    Now I know most comments on this article are talking about the legality of taking someone's garbage... but the real issue here is deeper.

    The article (which was kindly copied by a decent slashdotter) said that the police not only took a fellow officer's garbage without her permission... they went further against the privacy of her body itself by using a bloody tampon as a drug test sample which led to her dismissal!

    Folks, this is not a case of stolen "property". This is an involuntary medical examination; an invasion of privacy to the highest degree.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:21PM (#4990952)
    It seems to me there is a difference between the police, who are guided by local, state and federal laws regarding use of evidence, and reporters, ...

    Yes, the former are agents of the government, who are prohibited from doing certain things by the US Constitution AND the laws, while the latter are private citizens who are covered only by laws.

    ...I would be far less comfortable with reporters stealing my garbage than with police collecting it.

    I think you missed the point completely. The police say that it is not stealing. They say that you've abandoned the trash and thus they do not need a search warrant to search it. If the police are correct, then it cannot be stealing for someone else to take the trash. The fact that you call it "stealing" only points out that you disagree with the cops.

    What I haven't seen yet is how the cops are justifying entering the suspect's property to get to the trash to search it. The can belongs to me, and the driveway it sits on belongs to me. If they don't need to have a warrant to conduct a search ON my property without my permission, then just what is this 4th Amendment thing supposed to be all about?

  • Quite the contrary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:25PM (#4990976)
    A policeman, on duty, is an arm of the government, not a citizen. The policeman has sworn an oath to uphold the law *as* an instrument of the government. Actual ordinary citizens have to trust the police to do so or their entire function, indeed, the entire function of *law* falls into disrepute.The Constitution puts certain limits on the actions of police officers *because* the second they put on the that shield they are the government, not a citizen. Police have *fewer* rights than citizens.This is why the police have adopted the dodge of hiring ordinary citizens to go places and do things that they cannot.

    A policeman who does not follow due process is the greatest threat to lawfulness there is.

    Contrarywise, a journalist going through the trash of a public official to find out the truth has long been held to be one of the *greatest* preservers of democratic law that there is. See the Pentagon Papers.Protections for such behaviours were specifically written into the Constitution.

    The entire function of the Constitution is to *restrict* the actions of government and law enforcement and *empower* citizens.

    Indeed, some of the restrictions on law enforcment ( such as it taking a week to get a warrant) were overtly written to make it impossible to effectively prosecute certain unjust laws. That's the frikkin' *point.*

    I don't wonder why some polititians might object to this.

  • by grungy ( 634468 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:29PM (#4991002)
    As far as the city getting annoyed at the journalists, they can be annoyed, but I doubt there is much they can do about it, for much the same reason that the police can rummage though trash.

    I lived in Portland until 6 months ago, and I Loved the WWeek's reporting. Mark Kroger (the police chief, one of the officials who got his garbage peeked at) calls the stunt "cheap" in the article, but people in government need to be kept in check by having exactly this kind of thing done by the press. WWeek is honest enough to spell out the fact that no scandalous material was uncovered, and thourough enough to print a full, detailed list of the "dirt" they did dig up. If I were religious, I'd thank God there are reporters out there willing to do this kind of thing.

    Way to go WWeek! Three cheers for the Free Press. Great way to ring in the New Year!!

  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:33PM (#4991024)
    Someone up the block threw out a perfectly good, actually quite expensive skateboard. My friend told me about it so I went up to swipe it. By the time I got there the garbage truck was there.
    He wouldn't let me swipe it. I explained it was trash going to the landfill, he still said it was quite illegal. Couple minutes of protest got me nowhere. I would have used some whup-ass but I was only 14 or so at the time and this was a big fat smelly teamster looking guy...

    But to this day I still have no idea why such a thing would be illegal. I think we need to pay the legislators less, they seem to have too much time on their hands...
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reggoh.gip'> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:35PM (#4991037) Journal
    Because being a policeman myself, I know that by the time a search warrant is signed off by a judge and executed (around a week), the trash will be long gone. So, the policeman have a perfectly valid arguement.
    The councilman have every right to call foul play, because the police are an investigation bureaucracy devoted to helping people (legally), while the reporters are going through garbage in order to report what bills the councilman paid last week (illegally).
    Wheter the reporters were trying to make a point or not, they still broke the law.
    It's funny how the pigs think themselves waaaay above the common citizens. The above prose is ample proof that in a cop's bird-brain, they are not like anybody else, and they can do things to people they would never tolerate being even suggested being done to themselves.

    Hey, copper, GARBAGE IS FAIR GAME. It is not against the law to take someone else's garbage, because it is abandonned property left on the public way.

    But of course, you're only a cop. A lawyer would be smart enough to be the difference.

  • Re:Buy a shredder (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grungy ( 634468 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:37PM (#4991048)
    No No No!

    I don't want to live in a world where I have to shred everything I throw away. My vote is for more privacy. Aside from the convinience, it's:

    a.) not fair to make everyone buy a shredder: even if they're cheap, some people won't be able to afford them, and

    b.) impossible to shred a tampon (see "blood sample" posts elsewhere).

    This is a serious problem, and a shredder won't and shouldn't have to solve the problem!

  • Re:confused... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:39PM (#4991061)
    You lack imagination - under civil forfeiture laws the cops can grab the house and the owner has to put up a bond and prove he wasn't using it for a crime.
    Yup, welcome to America.
  • Re:If you... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blitziod ( 591194 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:39PM (#4991069)
    i had a teacher that worked as a trash man during the summer when i was in middle school. The kids where making fun of that one day. He said , " Don't laugh, my summer job pays better than teaching"
  • Re:Buy a shredder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:48PM (#4991109) Homepage Journal

    I don't want to live in a world where I have to shred everything I throw away.

    Well, I don't want to live in a world where people break into my house either, but I still have locks on my doors.

    Something tells me that if a criminal isn't worried about using stolen credit card numbers, then they won't be worried about breaking some privacy laws either.

  • you're wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:49PM (#4991119)
    If you want it changed, change the law.

    This is ancient news. Heck, it was covered on the TV Show "Law & Order" 5 years ago or so.

    You cease to have an interest in something when you put the garbage out. It becomes literally garbage.

    Don't like it? Shred it? Or keep it. There are secure disposal companies you know.

    How can something which doesn't even have value to you be considered valuable enough to protect?
  • by RedHat Rocky ( 94208 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:50PM (#4991121)
    Important questions that were missed:

    How do they know it was her tampon? Could have been a guests who used the bathroom.

    Can they prove it was her garbage? Do they need to for court purposes?

    Anyone can drop a bag of garbage on someone's lawn.

    All in all, very very disturbing.
  • by Myopic ( 18616 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:10PM (#4991255)
    I agree. It's not that I want the police rifling thru peoples trash all the time (I don't, and I agree with the article in calling it "reprehensible"), but what other legal conclusion could you come to? I mean, at what point DOES trash become public?

    Clearly it has to become public at SOME point, right? You don't think it should be criminal for the people at the junkyard to, for instance, sift thru trash looking for soda bottles do you? Or rubber tires? I mean, you THREW IT AWAY, you SENT IT OFF via public servants to a public land, to be stored by agents of the state. Do you think you still "own" the trash you threw out in 2001? 1996? 1939? Why not? At WHAT POINT did you think you lost that ownership?

    Anyway, like I said, I think it's sneaky, but I also think the Supreme Court made the only reasonable legal decision. Here's the bottom line: if you want to throw away something incriminating, break it apart, shread it, or what have you, first; take it to a public dumpster; no, take it in pieces to FIVE public dumpsters; better yet, don't throw it away in the first place.

    It makes me wonder whether an entrepeneur could make money with a "private" trash collection scheme, where things are left on your driveway (private land), picked up by private trashmen, put in a private truck, and taken to a private landfill where things are (perhaps) stirred up, burned, crunched, and otherwise mangled before being burried forever -- where the government would have no rights to the stuff. Hmmm...
  • Re:hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:13PM (#4991269) Homepage
    Jenna Bush's garbage should be offlimits because it could give away info that could lead to her kidnapping and would distract the president away from important duties.

    Jenna Bush's garbage is more likely to give away info that she gets stoned. The news stories on that would probably distract the president away from important duties even more than her kidnapping would.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:31PM (#4991352)
    Think about it. Teachers work indoors, during day hours mostly, usually in air-conditioned buildings, and get most of their summers off.

    The guys who collect your trash work are up at the butt-crack of dawn, freezing in the winter, roasting in the midday sun in the summer, collecting the smelly things we don't want in our houses anymore. They go back smelling like all of our garbage mixed with their own sweat.

    How many of those teachers work as garbage collectors in the summer?

  • by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:31PM (#4991353) Homepage
    From the article []:
    If the chief got overheated, the mayor went nuclear. When we confessed that we had swiped her recycling, she summoned us to her chambers. "She wants you to bring the trash--and bring the name of your attorney," said her press secretary, Sarah Bott.

    Ok, so she all but commands the reporter(s) to her office. Abuse of authority big-time, though you could argue that they didn't have to appear.

    We filed into the mayor's private conference room. The atmosphere, chilly to begin with, turned arctic when the mayor marched in. She speared us each with a wounded glare, then hoisted the bin of newspaper and stalked out of the room--all without uttering a word.

    If this is accurate and not missing any details then the mayor STOLE that material. After all, if the garbage is "open for trash men and pickers" then it belonged to the reporters. It was no longer the property of the mayor. So the mayor, under color of authority, robbed a reporter.

    That is positively amazing.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:31PM (#4991354) Journal
    I wonder where the White House garbage goes? Most likely taken under armed guard to an incinerator under DickHead Cheney's house.

    Probably nothing in there except for razor blades, dusty mirrors, pretzel bags and whiskey bottles. Maybe a Constitution or two.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:01PM (#4991491)
    I remember being outraged by this case when I read it in law school, thinking that this could not possibly be right. But, like it or not, this is the state of the law.

    Part of the rationale for the decision is found in the following line from the case: "It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left along a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public."

    So, yes, if you put out trash, anyone can get it -- even police and identity thieves.

    Use your common sense here -- buy a shredder. Other stuff that might be incriminating? Don't throw it in your trash.

    P.S. This news article illustrates one of the reasons why David Brin's thesis in the "Transparent Society" will never be right -- government will never allow the public to shine a light on activities that they'd rather we not know about. What do you want to bet that Portland passes a law making it a crime to go through someone else's garbage?
  • by JimmytheGeek ( 180805 ) <jamesaffeld AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:05PM (#4991516) Journal
    The mayor in particular should apologize to the reporters, probably buy them lunch. Yeah, her privacy was violated. She thought it was o.k. that other people's privacy was violated. Now she has a personal understanding of the issue.

    I think it's bogus to say that cops can rummage through trash without any oversite because they are officials, and reporters can't because they aren't. The fact that one is acting in an official, governmental capacity doesn't settle the issue at all! Cops are not necessarily good guys. The subjects of investigation are not necessarily bad guys. We have to watch the watchmen. Who does that better in our society than journalists?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:09PM (#4991536)
    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.

    California supreme court really screwed over your rights.

    Do I expect my garbage men to go through my trash, yes. Do I expect them to analyze my trash, test blood samples, look for suspect criminal activities? NO. Unreasonable, i dont think so.

    Its a shame, when common sense can be loop-holed. The whole purpose of the 4th amendment is to protect the citizens against unreasonable/unsupported searches. The police searching the garbage have no probable cause.

    This is the exact reason the patriot act runs around the 4th amendment, they need to monitor everyones activity on the affirmation that there are criminal activities.

    My head hurts...
  • Re:Buy a cat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrCode ( 95839 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:30PM (#4991619)
    Empty the litter box on top of everything else.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:32PM (#4991634)
    Problem is, it's destroying that which might be potential evidence against you know not what crime you might be charged with.

    Remember: Nobody, nodoby!, knows all the laws that they are required to obey. This includes you.

  • State actor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:33PM (#4991638)
    A policeman, on duty, is an arm of the government, not a citizen.

    Good post. The actual legal term you're looking for here is "state actor".

    It's not entirely accurate to say that "police have *fewer* rights than citizens", since as citizens themselves they have all the rights afforded to citizens. However, one power that citizens do not have is the power to arrest people and throw them in jail. That is reserved for (certain) state actors.

    A state actor can (as a citizen) search your trash for crack pipes. But then he is doing it as a citizen, and not a state actor, because state actors are forbidden to do that. If the cop does find anything, he cannot follow through and arrest you any more than I can. However, being a citizen, he can put whatever he found on a web page or in a newspaper. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. Paparazzi take pictures through windows all the time. The Constitution does not protect you from paparazzi. Stuff like that is left up to legislation.

    Most civil rights are defined as controls on the power of state actors- not citizens or private organizations. For example, a newspaper editor can fire a reporter for writing something he doesn't agree with. Since the newspaper is not a state actor, no First Amendment violation has taken place. This point seems to sail over the heads of most people when they bitch and moan about their First Amendment freedoms being violated by private citizens or organizations. Unless the cops are involved, the First Amendment issues are usually irrelevant. But this isn't always the case. For example, when a state university fires a professor for his political views, that is a First Amendment violation- because as a public institution the university is a state actor! The same rule wouldn't apply to, say, a Bible College that receives no public funds. It makes sense, but no wonder people are confused.

    A cop is perfectly free to search your trash and put up a web site with pictures of everything he found, but if he then tries to prosecute you with what he found, a court will be obliged to throw it out. Unless you live in Portland, where judgeships are apparently being dispensed from Cracker Jack boxes. The article doesn't mention whether any Cracker Jack boxes were actually found in these people's garbage so I cannot speculate any further.

  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:42PM (#4991664) Journal
    For instance, is unencrypted email now public information?
    Since the email travels entirely through privately owned computers and wires during its entire existence, then the only way for a member of the public to access it would be to:
    • Break in to a location with a computer that has a permanent or transient copy of the email (your house, ISP server farm, router farm, etc.); or
    • Splice into a telecom company's trunk lines to intercept the message.
    Either action is illegal, so the public isn't considered to have unfettered access to the email.

    A proper analogy would be to ask, if you send a letter through the USPS, is it accessible to the public? Even if it's unencrypted (hence making it analogous to a postcard), the answer is no. Only the intended recipient and employees of the USPS are able to access the letter legally. Any random individual who wanted to access that letter would have to:

    • Break in to a location where the letter is physically stored (your house, the recipient's house, or a USPS office); or
    • Intercept the letter en route (on a mail truck or plane, or in a mail carrier's possession after pickup or delivery).
    But why am I telling you all this? This was all obvious, wasn't it?
  • Re:hypocrites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dizco ( 20340 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:51PM (#4991700)
    bullshit. Jenna Bush, and George Bush for that matter, is no more important than anyone else. Viewing government employees (and thats what the job of President is) as somehow above the average citizen leads to a fucked up society. If Jenna Bush's garbage is offlimits because it might help someone kidnap her, then so is mine.
  • Re:Oregon laws (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:52PM (#4991710)
    Entry-level jobs for teenagers and immigrants.


    Also, Oregonians are ornery and like being different from other states. That's why, in a single day, a person in Oregon can (a) smoke pot for their painful illness, (b) have gas pumped for them free, (c) buy a magazine and not pay sales tax, and (d) end it all by taking some pills the doctor gave them.
  • by Mac Degger ( 576336 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:55PM (#4991716) Journal
    Christ, this is 1984, or [insert big brother novel here].

    This is just...evil?....sick?

    Hypocracy has reached it's peak in the 'land of the free'. I'm just glad I don't live there. The problem of course is the old joke "When the end of the world comes, be glad you live in the'll come six months later".

    After the PATRIOT acts I was amazed. After the Homeland Security act I was frightened. Now I'm just scared. Call me naive, but this is just freaky scary.

    I knew that science fiction writers are prophets of a sort. What they qwrite is what people aspire to. Case in point, Isaac Asimov, William Gibson. People read their work, and aspire to create giant Manga robots, the internet, geosynchronous satelites. What sci-fi predict comes to pass, because young kids think it's cool, and thionk of that for the rest of their life. But they also have nightmares...and this is one.

    Maybe it's the champange, but this double standard scares the shit out of me. This just shouldn't happen. In the seventies, people marched against a war which didn't really even effect them. But now the problems are at home, and no-one gives a peep!?!? WTF!?

    That's really all I can!?!?

    People, posting on /. is no longer enough. E-mail doesn't work. March...let them know that they've crossed the line. Tell, them, vocally. Just don't sit, cos they'll never see. I'm just scared that what's happening over there will make the crosiing to the EU.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @09:07PM (#4991768)
    I would note that nothing prevents you from doing the same. It would be perfectly legal for you to keep your garbage in sealed, locked containers and pay armed guards to take it to an incenerator. If you did that, a warrant would of course be required to seize it.

    Not saying that the curbside seizure is right, but you can take steps to insure that noone can get at your garbage, it is just a matter of if you want to spend the time, money or effort.
  • Re:hypocrites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rmohr02 ( 208447 ) <mohr@42.osu@edu> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @10:18PM (#4992018)
    After all, police are, for good or ill, given legal authority to investigate. Reporters...are not.
    What about freedom of the press?

    When you get down to it, policemen (and women) are just people. And if they can't get enough cause to get a warrant to search your garbage, then they shouldn't even be thinking about you as a suspect.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @10:19PM (#4992021) Journal
    Collecting garbage is one of the most hazardous jobs on earth. Heavy machinery, sharps, biological and chemical hazards, exhausting hours... doesn't matter if it takes brains or not, if you want people to work an unpleasant, essential and extremely dangerous job, you need to pay them well.
  • by Suidae ( 162977 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @11:14PM (#4992197)
    (and garbage is *obviously* one of those)

    I don't agree with that. As someone else pointed out, if you want your trash handled in a secure manner, you either need to do it yourself, or contract with someone else to do it. Most trash companies have no obligation to keep the trash they have collected from you, which is now their property, private.

  • Re:hypocrites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @11:32PM (#4992245) Homepage
    Generally, the police have to be even more careful to follow the law than reporters. Judges will throw out tainted evidence, while a reporter's editor likely isn't as scrupulous.

    The police are NOT given the power to break the law. The police are expected to uphold the law while doing their job.

  • Re:hypocrites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Metrol ( 147060 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:56AM (#4992440) Homepage
    Wrong. You missed the whole point. Policemen are agents appointed to investigate and enforce the law.

    Wrong back atcha. A law enforcement official is subject to the same laws of trespass as any other citizen. That's kinda why they need a warrant to search someone's private property.

    There are exceptions to this, involving blanket warrants in the case of emergency or if the possibility exists that someone's life is in danger. Other then the few exceptions, the police have no more right to your private property than a journalist has. What's worse is that evidence taken from a private residence without a warrant, no matter how guilty someone might be, will be thrown out in court.

    This IS the point of the actions taken. To point out the fact that the police are over stepping the consititutionally established boundaries of the 4th amendment. Allowing unwarranted search and seizure to go unchecked weakens civil liberties as well as the successful prosecution of those that really should see time behind bars. There's no win here for anyone.
  • Re:2600 Mag (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:55AM (#4993573) Homepage Journal

    right, I think it's more the publishing what they found that was the issue (something the cops don't do).

    Unless they (the cops) find something 'interesting'. In that case, they'll get a warrant and toss the contents of your home upside down looking for something more interesting.

    If they find nothing more (perhaps because 'your' trash contained 'evidence' thrown into your can by someone else), you're left with a house looking like a disaster area and a lot of gawking neighbors who won't be convinced that the police found nothing. At this point, you might expect that the police would pay for the damages and trouble and tell your neighbors it was all a mistake, but you'd be wrong.

    I do think you're on to a decent distinction that gets to the heart of how we REALLY feel about our trash.

    We do not want the contents of the trash at all, just as the law assumes. If someone wants any of the physical items for themselves, we generally don't mind if they help themselves. However, when we put the trash out, we are definatly not in our minds willingly publishing all of the personal information that may be inferred by digging through it.

    We expect that it will be picked up by someone who sees us as just another anonymous can on the curb and mixed in with everyone else's trash. Anything a 'garbologist' might determine about the population as a whole doesn't matter to us because we are rendered anonymous in the aggregate.

    The actions of these reporters and others like them may be exactly what is needed to get the courts to revisit the issue and make that distinction about exactly what we have freely relinquished by taking the trash out.

    Alternativly, they may help fuel demand for trash service where the trash is placed in a locked box on our property with the trash collectors (and only the trash collectors) contracturally permitted to take posession for the purpose of disposal only.

    Yet another alternative (slow to develop but quite possible) would be a common neighborhood dump where we mix our trash with our neighbors' to at least gain reletive anonymity in aggregate.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye