After Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed the existence of a massive right-wing conspiracy against her husband, some members of the press fingered John Whitehead -- an attorney and president of the Rutherford Institute -- as one of the leading conspirators. After all, the Rutherford Institute had helped fund the Paula Jones lawsuit against the president.
Here are some recent indications of what Whitehead is actually up to. He writes a syndicated newspaper column, Freedom Under Fire, which appears in more than 100 newspapers around the country.
Focusing on random drug testing -- without reasonable suspicion -- of public school students, Whitehead accuses the Supreme Court of failing to give students a clear lesson about the Fourth Amendment:
"The same students that are being educated about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in their government classes are being stripped of their own constitutional rights when the bell rings and the class is over."
Whitehead insists the time has come for the Supreme Court to inform the schools that the "Fourth Amendment's constitutional protection from unlawful search and seizure applies to everyone, regardless of age or education." Especially now with the "oppressive safety measures" after the Littleton, Colo. shootings.
Is there any member of Congress these days who will so boldly challenge the rampant "zero tolerance" approach of school authorities? Even among the very few civil libertarians at the Capitol?
In another column, Whitehead is appalled at the April Supreme Court decision that a police search of a car can include the personal belongings of passengers who themselves are under no suspicion of unlawful activity.
Whatever happened, asks Whitehead, to "innocent until proved guilty"? From now on, "associating with friends in a car or sharing a ride to work carries a criminal risk. . . . By allowing the police such unfettered discretion . . . the Supreme Court decision will force people to forfeit their rights at the automobile door" -- as students forfeit their rights at the schoolhouse door.
In his column on law enforcement agents' profiling of airplane passengers, Whitehead quotes from Georgetown University Law School Prof. David Cole's carefully documented book, "No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System." Cole charts the degradation of our abstractly cherished Bill of Rights.
Whitehead cites Cole's report that "the list of characteristics used by law enforcement officers to identify drug traffickers includes:
"Being one of the first to deplane, the last to deplane or deplaning in the middle; buying a first-class ticket or buying a coach ticket; using a one-way ticket or using a round-trip ticket; traveling with a companion or alone; and wearing expensive clothing or dressing casually."
Whitehead goes on to tell what happened to Lawrence Boze. At Los Angeles International Airport, he was taken from a ticket counter and detained in a security area. He and his bags were searched, and he was interrogated as to his identity and where and why he was traveling.
Boze kept demanding an explanation for this abrupt interference with his travel plans. The only answer he got was that he matched "the profile." Boze, former president of the National Bar Association, is black. When nothing of police interest was found, he was sent on his way.
Whitehead also writes of a Chicago travel agent, Patricia Appleton, "who has been repeatedly stopped and searched -- even strip-searched -- by U.S. Customs Service inspectors." During one trip, the well-dressed black passenger was traveling alone. Writes Whitehead: "Stripped, forced to bend over and grab her ankles, she equated the humiliation and vulnerability she felt to when she was brutally raped when she was 15." Appleton is one of "84 African-American women who have filed a class action suit against the U.S. Customs Service."
I am sure John Whitehead would be glad to put the White House on the mailing list for his Freedom Under Fire columns. In the spirit of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, he also sends a free pocket-size copy of the Constitution to anyone who writes to him at the Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, Va.
The president, who has eviscerated the right to habeas corpus, could benefit from Whitehead's offer.