John Whitehead's Commentary
The Right to Be Let Alone: What to Do When COVID Strike Force Teams Come Knocking [SHORT]
A federal COVID-19 vaccination strike force may soon be knocking on your door, especially if you live in a community with low vaccination rates. Will you let them in?
More to the point, are you required to open the door?
The Biden Administration has announced that it plans to send federal “surge response teams” on a “targeted community door-to-door outreach“ to communities with low vaccination rates in order to promote the safety and accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccines.
That’s all fine and good as far as government propaganda goes, but nothing is ever as simple or as straightforward as the government claims, especially not when armed, roving bands of militarized agents deployed by the Nanny State show up at your door with an agenda that is at odds with what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis referred to as the constitutional “right to be let alone.”
Any attempt by the government to encroach upon the citizenry’s privacy rights or establish a system by which the populace can be targeted, tracked and singled out must be met with extreme caution. These door-to-door “visits” by COVID-19 surge response teams certainly qualify as a government program whose purpose, while seemingly benign, raises significant constitutional concerns.
First, there is the visit itself.
While government agents can approach, speak to and even question citizens, Americans have a right not to answer questions or even speak with a government agent.
Indeed, you don’t even need to answer or open the door in response to knocking/ringing by a government agent, and if you do answer the knock, you can stop speaking at any time. You also have the right to demand that government agents leave the property once the purpose of the visit is established.
When the government’s actions go beyond merely approaching the door and knocking, it risks violating the Fourth Amendment, which requires a warrant and probable cause of possible wrongdoing in order to search one’s property. A government agent would violate the Fourth Amendment if he snooped around the premises, peering into window and going to other areas in search of residents.
Second, there is the danger inherent in these knock-and-talk encounters.
Although courts have embraced the fiction that “knock and talks” are “voluntary” encounters that are no different from other door-to-door canvassing, these constitutionally dubious tactics are highly intimidating confrontations meant to pressure individuals into allowing police access to one’s home, which then paves the way for a warrantless search of one’s home and property.
The act of going to homes and taking steps to speak with occupants is akin to the “knock and talk” tactic used by police, which can be fraught with danger for homeowners and government agents alike. Indeed, “knock-and-talk” policing has become a thinly veiled, warrantless exercise by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night.
“Knock and talks” not only constitute severe violations of the privacy and security of homeowners, but the combination of aggression and surprise employed by police is also a recipe for a violent confrontation that rarely ends well for those on the receiving end of these tactics.
Third, there is the question of how the government plans to use the information it obtains during these knock-and-talk visits.
Because the stated purpose of the program is to promote vaccination, homeowners and others who reside at the residence will certainly be asked if they are vaccinated. Again, you have a right not to answer this or any other question. Indeed, an argument could be made that even asking this question is improper if the purpose of the program is merely to ensure that Americans “have the information they need on how both safe and accessible the vaccine is.”
Of course, there is always the danger that this program could be used for other, more nefarious, purposes not related to vaccination encouragement. As with knock-and-talk policing, government agents might misuse their appearance of authority to gain entrance to a residence and obtain other information about it and those who live there. Once the door is opened by a resident, anything the agents can see from their vantage point can be reported to law enforcement authorities.
Moreover, while presumably the targeting will be of areas with demonstrated low vaccination rates, there is no guarantee that this program would not be used as cover for conducting surveillance on areas deemed to be “high crime” areas as a way of obtaining intelligence for law enforcement purposes.
Finally, you have the right to say “no.”
Whether police are knocking on your door at 2 am or 2:30 pm, as long as you’re being “asked” to talk to a police officer who is armed to the teeth and inclined to kill at the least provocation, you don’t really have much room to resist, not if you value your life.
Mind you, these knock-and-talk searches are little more than police fishing expeditions carried out without a warrant.
Here’s the bottom line.
These agents are coming to your home with one purpose in mind: to collect information on you.
You shouldn’t answer any questions you’re uncomfortable answering about your vaccine history or anything else. The more information you give them, the more it can be used against you. Just ask them politely but firmly to leave. It’s important to be as clear as possible. And you may wish to record your encounter with the government agent. You can also post a “No Trespassing” sign on your property to firmly announce that you are exercising your right to be left alone.
In this case, as in so many interactions with government agents, the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments (and your cell phone recording the encounter) are your best protection.
Under the First Amendment, you don’t have to speak (to government officials or anyone else). The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. And under the Fifth Amendment, you have a right to remain silent and not say anything which might be used against you.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, while the courts may increasingly defer to the government’s brand of Nanny State authoritarianism, we still have rights.
The government may try to abridge those rights, it may refuse to recognize them, it may even attempt to declare martial law and nullify them, but it cannot litigate, legislate or forcefully eradicate them out of existence.