Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Thrash day at Politech

Declan McCullagh is having a thrash day at Politech, following his recent concerns about the rules allowing law enforcement authorities access to peoples' rubbish without a warrant. He's pointed out at an interesting story at Willamette Weekly Online. The local paper, following the police chief's, the mayor's and the district attorney's support for the right to search a suspect's rubbish without judicial oversight, decided to do a little rubbish trawling themselves. Reporters from the paper went through the garbage left by the roadside, by each of these three officials, for refuse collection. The public prosecutor was the only one of the three who saw the funny side. The mayor's threatening to sue.

"Each, in his or her own way, has endorsed the notion that you abandon your privacy when you set your trash out on the curb. So we figured they wouldn't mind too much if we took a peek at theirs.

Boy, were we wrong.

Perched in his office on the 15th floor of the Justice Center, Chief Kroeker seemed perfectly comfortable with the idea of trash as public property.

"Things inside your house are to be guarded," he told WW. "Those that are in the trash are open for trash men and pickers and--and police. And so it's not a matter of privacy anymore."

Then we spread some highlights from our haul on the table in front of him.

"This is very cheap," he blurted out...

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...

...her office issued a prepared statement. "I consider Willamette Week's actions in this matter to be potentially illegal and absolutely unscrupulous and reprehensible," it read. "I will consider all my legal options in response to their actions."

In contrast, DA Mike Schrunk was almost playful when we owned up to nosing through his kitchen scraps. "Do I have to pay for this week's garbage collection?" he joked...

It's worth emphasizing that our junkaeological dig unearthed no whiff of scandal...

But if three moral, upstanding, public-spirited citizens were each chewing their nails about the secrets we might have stumbled on, how the hell should the rest of us be feeling?"

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