An L.A. Times story that ran early last week focused on a new clause in Capital One’s credit card agreement–one of those lengthy, small-print “disclosures” that cardholders get periodically, and rarely read.
The story described an unusual clause in Capital One’s most recent contract iteration. The update sent to cardholders specified that “we may contact you in any manner we choose” and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or even a “personal visit.”
The L.A. Times story, written by someone named David Lazarus, characterized the “personal visit” warning as creepy and over the top–an understandable enough reaction. But in the course of criticizing the provision, he suggested that Capital One might be violating the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Excuse me while I hit my head repeatedly against this wall.
The L.A. Times used to be one of the nation’s premier newspapers. How is it that they have a reporter who doesn’t know that the Bill of Rights only restrains the government? How is it that no editor caught an error that egregious?
This is civics 101. Private parties cannot violate the Fourth Amendment. Only “state actors” (people acting on behalf of the government) can. Ignorance of this absolutely foundational principle should disqualify one from being a journalist.
I’ll grant you, banks seem to occupy a highly privileged status, and too many bankers seem to consider themselves above the law. But whatever their pretentions, they aren’t government–at least not yet.
They ought to be worried about being punished for a lot of things, but “breaking” the Fourth Amendment isn’t one of them.
When we cannot rely on reporters to understand the most basic principles of the constitution, is it any wonder that the broader American public is civically illiterate?