In a case eerily similar to David Eckert’s
humiliating ordeal at the hands of cops in Deming, New Mexico,
a federal lawsuit
charges U.S. Border Patrol agents with subjecting a U.S.
citizen to six hours of degrading and fruitless body cavity
searches based on an alleged alert by a drug-sniffing dog. The
lawsuit, filed yesterday by the ACLU chapters in Texas and New
Mexico, says the plaintiff, a 54-year-old New Mexico resident
identified in the complaint as Jane Doe, was crossing the bridge
between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso after visiting a family
friend last December when she was chosen at random for “additional
screening.” This “secondary inspection” involved a pat-down during
which an agent “inserted her finger in the crevice of Ms. Doe’s
buttocks”—a rather startling incursion inasmuch as the agents at
this point had no basis to suspect that the woman was carrying
contraband. But they were just getting started.
The agents instructed the plaintiff to stand in line with other
people who had been selected for additional screening and walked a
dog past her. According to the lawsuit, the dog handler “hit the
ground by her feet, but did not hit the ground by any of the others
in the line,” and “the dog responded by lunging onto Ms. Doe and
landing its front paws on her torso.” Why did the dog do that?
“Because Ms. Doe did not possess any contraband,” says the
complaint, “the dog either did not alert or the response was not a
proper alert.” Yet this possibly manufactured and in any event
erroneous alert was the basis for all that followed.
First the agents strip-searched the plaintiff, examining her
anus and vagina with a flashlight. Finding nothing, they took her
to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where they forced her
to take a laxative and produce a bowel movement in their presence.
Again they found no evidence of contraband. At this point one of
their accomplices, a physician named Christopher Cabanillas,
ordered an X-ray, which likewise found nothing suspicious. Then the
plaintiff “endured a forced gynecological exam” and rectal probing
at the hands of another doctor, Michael Parsa. Still nothing.
Finally, Cabanillas ordered a CT scan of the
plaintiff’s abdomen and pelvis, which found no sign of illegal
drugs. “After the CT scan,” the complaint says, “a CBP [Customs and
Border Patrol] agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could
either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had
not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the
searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be
billed for the cost of the searches.” She refused, and later the
hospital sent her a bill for $5,000, apparently the going rate for
sexual assault and gratuitous radiological bombardment.
David Eckert, you may recall, also got a bill (in his case for
about $6,000) after undergoing a similar exploration of his
orifices and plumbing, which likewise continued, becoming
increasingly invasive, precisely because the cops were not finding
any evidence to substantiate their suspicions. And while the police
in his case did obtain a warrant, the main basis for it was a dog’s
purported alert, which in Jane Doe’s case seems to have been the
only evidence that she was smuggling drugs. Although such alerts
frequently wrong and can easily be faked, the Supreme Court
has said they qualify as probable cause for a search as long as
the dog is properly trained. The burden of showing a dog is not
properly trained lies with the person challenging the search.
Aside from the dangers of putting too much faith in
drug-detecting dogs, this case, like Eckert’s, illustrates the
appalling complicity of doctors in waging the war on drugs, even
when it involves utterly unethical participation in dehumanizing
pseudomedical procedures performed on involuntary and audibly
protesting “patients.” In addition to Border Patrol agents, the
lawsuit names the hospital, Cabanillas, and Parsa. Lest you
think the criminal malpractice described in this complaint is an
aberration, the ACLU offers evidence that it is in fact
During the car ride to the Medical Center, Ms. Doe asked if the
agents had awarrant. One of them responded that they did not need a
Medical Center policy L-13 on searches by hospital personnel
does not permit an invasion of a person’s body for purposes of a
search without either consent or a search warrant. However, in
practice, the Medical Center staff and CBP agents routinely conduct
invasive cavity searches without a warrant, consent or sufficient
suspicion to justify the searches. When Ms. Doe expressed dismay
about the unreasonable searches she suffered, a Medical Center
employee responded that these procedures were routinely followed
when an individual is brought in by CBP agents. The employee also
told Ms. Doe that what happened to her was not invasive.
This kind of abuse tends to draw attention only when the victim
is “innocent,” meaning he or she is not in fact smuggling drugs.
But how can any society call itself civilized when it allows human
beings to be treated this way in the name of locating arbitrarily
proscribed substances? Having arrogated to itself the authority to
regulate what people put into their own bodies, the government ends
up forcibly delving into those bodies in search of the chemicals it
has anathematized. To enforce politicians’ pharmacological
prejudices, the government’s agents and their medical accomplices
become kidnappers and rapists. There is nothing noble or decent
about this immoral crusade, and anyone associated with it ought to
be ashamed of himself.
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/drug-warriors-kidnap-and-sexually-assaul