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Snopes.com has made its name as the truthful source that debunks crazy conspiracy theories and “fake news” on the internet, but its response to a story on legislation allowing warrantless searches is in need of its own fact check.

As Snopes correctly noted, the story in question was published by The Free Thought Project on Aug. 24, and is on the subject of House Joint Resolution 76. What Snopes does not mention is that up until TFTP reported on the legislation, it received virtually no media coverage, aside from criticism from Congressman Justin Amash on social media.

As the original story noted, House Joint Resolution 76 creates the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which looks harmless on the surface. The bill claims that its purpose is “Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.”

In its “Fact Check” of the story, Snopes made the claim thatThe legislation does not allow authorities all over the U.S. to conduct warrantless searches, as claimed by a number of disreputable web sites.” 

This is 100% true. The legislation does not allow this, at all.SnopesHowever, The Free Thought Project never made that claim. Here’s what our original report noted about how warrantless searches could result from the creation of this safety commission:

The major red flag that comes from this bill can be found in the list of powers that are given to the safety commission, when it comes to its authority over the properties around surround the metro rail system. As the text of the bill notes:

“In performing its duties, the Commission, through its Board or designated employees or agents, may: Enter upon the WMATA Rail System and, upon reasonable notice and a finding by the chief executive officer that a need exists, upon any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, property owned or occupied by the federal government, for the purpose of making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing as the Commission may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this MSC Compact, and such entry shall not be deemed a trespass.”

The problem with this legislation is that even if the commission gives advanced notice that it will be entering a private property, that advanced notice is not a search warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment, a search warrant can only be obtained with the consent of a judge, and it must have probable cause laid out by law enforcement.

The bill received unanimous approval in the Senate, and Justin Amash was one of just five members who voted against it in the House. As he noted on Twitter, the bill gives the government the authority to enter and search private property in parts of Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland without a warrant.

Responding to critics on Twitter, Amash wrote, “This bill does authorize a ‪#4thAmendment violation. Congress has a duty not to pass such broad language even if Constitution nullifies it.”

As Amash also noted, the language of the bill is entirely too broad. “‘Safety’ presumably includes preventing criminal/terrorist activities near WMATA. Bill doesn’t contemplate potential abuse of MSC authority,” he wrote.

When a Twitter user insisted that the bill only applies to “federally owned property,” Amash replied, Read carefully. It applies to *any* property ‘adjacent to the WMATA Rail System.’ You ignored the phrase ‘including, without limitation.’”

While Snopes does acknowledge that Amash considers the legislation to be “too broad and potentially unconstitutional,” its entire article is based on the premise that “The legislation does not allow authorities all over the U.S. to conduct warrantless searches, as claimed by a number of disreputable web sites.”

Although Snopes does not list any of these “disreputable web sites,” the only website it does reference is The Free Thought Project, which it describes as a website that mostly posts stories geared towards stoking fear that the government is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian police state.”

However, the article Snopes was attempting to debunk was based entirely on the facts surrounding the bill—its text, who voted for and against it, and how it was interpreted by elected officials who were charged with the power of determining whether it becomes law. Never once did the story claim this bill would affect the entire United States, or that it would completely put an end to the Fourth Amendment.

As for Snopes’ definition of TFTP’s reputation, an outlet that mostly posts stories geared towards stoking fear” sounds a lot like the description of the many mainstream media outlets The Free Thought Project debunks on a regular basis. As for warning that “the government is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian police state,” in many ways that is essentially what the government already is—an authoritarian state that uses violence and intimidation to enforce its laws.

The Free Thought Project is dedicated to exposing stories of government corruption and police misconduct based on facts and evidence, while also fostering the creation and expansion of liberty-minded solutions to modern day tyrannical oppression. If we were solely focused on brainwashed fear-mongering, we would be no better than the mainstream media.


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Rachel Blevins is an independent journalist from Texas, who aspires to break the false left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Steemit and Patreon.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Nice factual rebuke. I love it when organizations use front “fact check” sites to “debunk”. We now essentially have a source, snopes.com, to find out what the establishment is trying to hide. You are wisely paying attention to the use of a mix of truth and falsehoods to confuse and create doubt. Strong work Rachel and the rest of the Free Thought Project team. (y)

  2. Snopes changed their rating after review from “Mostly false” to “mixture”. As for this site it does quite often post stories of the nature described by Snopes – but that doesn’t make TFTP “disreputable”. I have found errors concerning constitutional law here, but that’s in articles from outside sources and not from TFTP staff. TFTP is a tiny operation, low-budget, and doesn’t always have the time to fully vet things as well – but they make the effort. I know to read the stories and do my own fact checking. But that’s what every reader should be doing regardless of the source. Snopes did get it right that the law is badly written and vague. It’s an invite to some government flunky to do just what is being cautioned about without checking to see if such searches are lawful. Only time will tell on this one.

      • First that requires the knowledge that you are incapable. Secondly that assumes that all information is immediately available to vet. Thirdly that demands that the story writer has sufficient time to gather the data and that no contradictory information won’t appear later. That’s why it’s safest to admit present limitations but it is not a reason to simply not to publish at all. That implies inhuman, or just plain impossible, levels of perfection. To demand otherwise is insufferably arrogant.

        That being said this site is given to “muckraking” and sensationalist headlines. But they do try to find the oddball stories not reported in the major press. This serves a useful function so I put up with the grandiose elements.

  3. …it’s sad that people are unable to comprehend what they read, or maybe they just can’t read well at all….this is a 4th amendment violation and it definitely does not specify what properties may be entered and searched around that metro system…because of such a violation it will/can open the door for states/counties/cities to institute similar 4th amendment waivers around any metro system serving any area of the country….this is not a metaphorical “foot in the door”, it is an actual ‘FOOT IN THE DOOR” THE DOOR MUST BE SLAMMED SHUT BEFORE THE REST OF THE FASCIST BODY ALSO GETS IN, if it’s not, the 4th amendment might become something only read about in history books, provided if it is something that is permitted by the police state to be written about

  4. You can’t trust Snopes. I asked them at least 10 times. Did Israel attacked the USS Liberty? Everyone on this site knows the answer. They never responded or would put that issue on their site.

    • That is well known. Yes they did. Yes the incident was cleared up afterward. Yes the information is open for all to see. Why would Snopes need to check into this? Do you have information that is unavailable and not made public?

      • You are right that the information about the USS Liberty is there for all to see. But the real problem is that Snopes fears to touch that subject. They fear being called Antisemitic. People love sites like Snopes. People love Fox, CNN and other b.s. sites. Most people are not investigators or researchers, but when it comes from one of these sites, they listen.

        • Snopes is a rumor checking site. What part of that story constitutes a rumor? What part of that story needs fact checking? If your own answer is “none” then you know exactly why Snopes gave you no response. I could see the story now if they did it.

          Headline: “Did Israel attack the U.S.S. Liberty?”
          Body: “Yes”

          This rises to the same level of story as

          Headline: “Is there gravity?”
          Body: “Yes”

          and just as much a waste of time to respond to.

          • You’re missing the point. Snopes won’t touch anything Israel. They wouldn’t respond to the fact that Israelis were selling organs from dead Palestinians. That was a rumor and later proven after the Israelis admitted it. So no it’s not a waste of time.

          • Really?
            https://www.snopes.com/?s=israel
            11 pages. The latest in 2017.

            And I just checked the major Israeli newspaper.
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/pa-claims-israel-harvesting-organs-of-dead-palestinians/
            The Israelis have a funny way of admitting it. Is that why a government rep is calling this accusation “blood libel? This is six days old of course.
            What you might be thinking of is a story in the Guardian:

            Channel 2 TV reported that in the 1990s, specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.

            And they weren’t accused of selling tissues then either.

            It’s also not a rumor but a public accusation and not subject to normal fact checking. Snopes won’t touch that until the facts can be clearly establish.

            You are just pissed off that Snopes won’t support your “Israel is evil” accusations.

          • You’re right. Israel is evil. You’re still missing the point. I saw the articles. The average person doesn’t research and look to Snopes or Truth or Fiction for the truth. And Hasbara trolls love it. Am I detecting one here Ave? Not pissed off at Snopes. It proves they won’t touch any critisizm of Israel. End of story.

  5. It didn’t take Snopes to debunk your assertion. Paragraph A clearly includes the issuance of subpoenas, when necessary, meaning private property, therefore inspections are not warrantless. You only cite Para. B.
    You can “What if…” anything to reach the potential for abuse, but this Bill was passed in the context of the current program of repairing the DC area Metrorail system, and is not some broad elimination of 4th Amendment rights, as your headline states.
    You’re all just either paranoid or insane.

    • “(a) Conduct, or cause to be conducted, inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing of WMATA personnel and contractors, property, equipment, facilities, rolling stock, and operations of the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, electronic information and databases through reasonable means, which may include issuance of subpoenas” This paragraph, and the “issuance of Subpoenas”, is speaking in reference to, only, “WMATA personnel and contractors, property, equipment, facilities, rolling stock, and operations of the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, electronic information and databases through reasonable means”. This paragraph does not reference “any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System”. Furthermore, no where did the headline state that this was some “Broad Elimination of 4th amendment rights”, the headline was “Congress Quietly Passed a Bill Allowing Warrantless Searches of Homes” which it possibly did. The sub headline is that there is a major red flag in this bill and only 1% opposed it which is factually correct. Even Snopes admits that it is undetermined how this legislation could be interpreted in regards to the 4th amendment in the future. So it can be correct to say that it doesn’t give explicit permission, as in part of the power of this legislation is that you can perform warrantless searches; however it does not make it explicitly clear that it couldn’t be interpreted and used to perform warrantless searches. I get that you can what if anything, but it is not paranoia or insanity, that journalists have identified a potential avenue of abuse, and are trying to call attention to it prior to it being used as an avenue of abuse. What i think is insane is this notion that people with good intentions can’t accidentally create and avenue of abuse (‘Some of the worst things have been brought about by the Best intentions’); or, that if an avenue of abuse exists that someone won’t seek to abuse it. It is, frankly, naive at best.

      • Congress passes any legislation it does with full knowledge of how it may be abused. They do not do anything unintentionally. Do not ever believe them, they lie about everything.

    • You obviously have no experience with the gov’t and how it abuses its authority every chance it can. Also subpoenas are not warrants. Not even close.

  6. The key here is to avoid association with criminal elements and don’t engage in them yourself. Simple. I have yet to face a warrant or “less” search. In fact, at age 62 I just gave my first deposition.

  7. You can’t write a headline which says, “Congress Quietly Passed a Bill Allowing Warrantless Searches of Homes”, and then say you’re not implying what Snopes says you are. This is how you rate as a “disreputable website”… this a hundreds more reasons.

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