In the future, trips to Capitol Hill might get a little more unpleasant: police will no longer need probable cause to search anyone on the premises, including the outdoor grounds.
Congressional officials ordered the new rules, which grant Capitol Police broad authority for searches, Roll Call reported.
The new language reads, “At the direction of the Chief of Police, the United States Capitol Police may search packages, bags, and other containers in the immediate possession of individuals who enter and are within the United States Capitol Grounds for the purpose of detecting prohibited items.”
Police told Roll Call they would only use their authority if they had “high-confidence intelligence” about a threat—but critics aren’t convinced.
The ACLU’s Arthur B. Spitzer equated the rule to the creation of a “Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone."
“We’ve all gotten pretty much used to the idea that you have to do that when you’re entering any of the buildings of the Capitol — you go through a metal detector. Same at a court house or city hall,” Spitzer said. “That’s a different thing than just somebody who’s minding his own business, walking across the Capitol grounds. The Capitol grounds are open to the public.”
Cato’s Tim Lynch had similar concerns, noting that visitors who declined to be searched would have to leave, “And that’s not going to be feasible in these outdoor spaces.”
More from Roll Call here.