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Ryan, a friend of mine, asked me for an article about “Operation Thunder” the other day.  I misunderstood and thought he meant “Operation Rolling Thunder.”  I was going to be slow in getting to that as it is a dated issue. 

Rolling Thunder was a U.S. bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese from 1965 to 1968.  It was part of one of our undeclared wars to stop communism.  I’m sure the bombs killed plenty of people but the sorties and the war was a failure in the end.  The communists won or at least we left them alone once close to 60,000 American men died.  Like most wars, this one was pointless.  The Vietnamese never tried to attack the U.S. and, forty years on, we now trade with and generally have good relations with Vietnam.

I learned today what the new “Operation Thunder” (“OT”) is.  It’s a bombing campaign a little closer to home.  Well, they’re not bombing yet, but it is as pointless as the war effort in Southeast Asia.  It’s also illegal.

OT was implemented by the State of Georgia in 2007 (I wonder if I had heard of it earlier?) and it’s mission is to “detect Georgia’s high-crash corridors and reduce mounting highway deaths and serious injuries by introducing a high visibility law enforcement presence to help stabilize the extreme and illegal driving behaviors of careless motorists who cause those crashes.”  See: http://www.gahighwaysafety.org/campaigns/thunder-task-force/.  Rather than stabilize illegal driving, why don’t the police try to stop it?  Of course, this is government and is not supposed to make any sense. 

I have learned that the real purpose behind OT is collect more taxes from the citizens of Georgia.  The cops (State and local) are looking for drunks, expired tags, unused seatbelts and anything else they can issue a citation for.  You may be thinking, “Well, isn’t that what the police do?”  Generally, it is – on a case by case basis.  If a deputy on patrol sees you weaving all over the road he has probable cause to stop you and determine whether you are impaired.  That’s not what they are doing here.

Rather than going after actual criminals, the police are going after everyone on the road.  Or, at least those motorists who roll up to one of the OT roadblocks.  There officers ask for driver’s licenses and registration and any other information they can get.  I have information they are not limiting the practice to “surface” streets.  apparently, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, with the cooperation of the Highway Patrol recently locked down the Bobby Jones Expressway (Interstate 520) in order to harass the driving public.


(Local Roadblock.  Source: Google Images.)

Some say this is an acceptable practice if it takes drunks and other dangerous drivers off the road.  Others say “good” drivers have nothing to worry about and so it’s all okay.  It isn’t.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits warrantless searches and seizures.  Georgia’s Constitution has a mirror provision.  If you are stopped at a roadblock one night the odds are 0% the police have a warrant to arrest or search you, particularly.  Particularity is a requirement for obtaining warrants.  Just driving a car does not give them probable cause to believe you may be committing a crime.  Thus, they have absolutely no legal basis for these illegal stops. 

I have reports the police are flat-out asking invasive questions like, “Have you been drinking.”  They can ask but you are under no compulsion to answer them.  In fact, it’s a good idea to not talk to the police if you can help it.  That’s where the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution comes into play.  As drivers are effectively under arrest and not free to leave during their time stopped at these roadblocks, the right to remain silent comes into play.  By asking inappropriate questions while holding you hostage, the police violate your 5th Amendment rights in addition to the those covered under the 4th.  There’s also a natural right to move around freely – sometimes called the right to travel.  They’re violating it too.

Again, some gleefully say they will endure such treatment so long as it fights crime.  They miss the point entirely.  As I noted in Natural Law, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” Sir. William Blackstone, backed by Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire.  Why do all the good drivers have to sit through the roadblocks.  Such a notion turns Blackstone’s statement on its head: “It’s better that all innocent motorists suffer, than one guilty escape.”

How much do they suffer?  All suffer the violation of the natural rights.  For some the consequences may be more tangible.  What if you are coming home from a ten-hour road trip and find yourself stopped for thirty minutes only a few blocks from home?  What’s that time worth?  What if you run out of gas while waiting?  Will the cops run down to the gas station with a can for you?  What if your child is dying and you are desperate to get to the hospital?  This all flies in the face of American tradition.  Ben Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Franklin, Reply to the Governor of Pennsylvania, 1755. 

The public that accepts schemes like OT deserve neither liberty nor safety.  And they have neither.  Intrusive government operations never go away.  The freedom is dead.  Idiots and criminals will always flout legitimate laws.  There goes safety. 

This alarming, demeaning practice happens all across the country.  Why then haven’t the Courts, those guardians of our freedom, addressed the issue?  they have, and they wholly endorse the measures.  The Courts are part of the government, if you recall.  There is no legal recourse for the people.

So, what is to be done?  The probable answer is “nothing.”  Freedom is fading fast in the wreck of America.  The idealistic answer is to write to your Sheriffs, Governors,and other elected officials to demand they halt such abuses of liberty.  In Georgia you can reach Governor Nathan Deal at: http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form or at (404) 656-1776.  Just don’t expect a positive response.  The communists seem to be winning here too.