As we come to the end of a year that saw revelations about massive government spying programs, horrifying stories of police abuse, and brazen violations of the Fourth Amendment, I thought I might offer my own grim predictions about where civil liberties are headed in the coming year. Sure, some of these may seem outlandish. But to borrow from H.L. Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the grade and lubriciousness of the slippery slope.
So I predict the following for 2014:
1. Not content with their current powers to employ drug dogs and dubious accusations to engage in asset forfeiture shakedowns of motorists, some states will pass laws making it illegal to have a space in your car where drugs could possibly be hidden, regardless of whether or not you've actually hidden any drugs in those spaces.
2. Also on the forfeiture front: Taking the private prison idea one step further, prosecutors will begin hiring private security firms to pull over motorists in order to seize property for the local government. And they'll get to keep a cut of what they take.
3. Now that they've turned America's cities into surveillance societies, city officials will incredibly claim, incredibly, that using similar cameras to prevent abuse by law enforcement officers would be a violation of police officers' civil rights.
4. Big Brother will begin watching you in toilet stalls -- in order to prevent you from having illegal public sex in them.
5. Governments at all levels will start using license plate scanners to keep lists of who attends protests, political rallies, advocacy group meetings and -- yes -- even worship services.
6. It may soon become a crime merely to be in the general area where police believe other people are committing crimes.
7. It will become a crime for the police to mistakenly shoot at you while you are unarmed -- and not a crime by the police, but a crime by you.
8. College campus SWAT teams will begin protecting themselves against land mines. Not because there are any landmines on college campuses. Just because. Also, college campuses will have their own SWAT teams.
9. Speaking of SWAT teams, the police will begin using them to enforce zoning laws and property codes. In fact, in some places, the police will begin using SWAT teams to serve all felony search warrants, regardless of the crime.
10. The government will spy on you through that little camera hole in your laptop.
12. Judges will start issuing warrants based on predictions of future crimes.
13. Local governments will ban people from growing food on their own property, for their own consumption.
14. Police will finally give up any pretense about "protect and serve," and just explicitly declare that they are now soldiers, and American neighborhoods are "battlefields."
15. Some states will begin paying allegedly independent crime lab analysts based on how many convictions they help prosecutors to win.
16. College kids suspected of underage drinking will be treated as if they were violent felons who had just escaped from prison.
18. NSA records will be utilized by law enforcement agencies for purposes that have nothing to do with national security -- like drug investigations. The government will then destroy any records showing how those investigations actually began.
19. So long as they can plausibly claim that they're looking for a suspected cop killer, the police will basically be given carte blanche to open fire on innocent people.
20. Taking videos of your young kids playing in the bath will be cause for prosecutors to bring child pornography charges against you, effectively ruining your life and ending your career.
So as you've probably guessed by now -- especially if you clicked on the links -- the gag here is that none of these are actually predictions. They all happened in 2013. (A couple in 2012.)
I will make one real prediction for 2014: It's probably going to get worse.