In today’s Washington Post: Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request by Ellen Nakashima
Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.
In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.
Of course, those who have been following drug policy for awhile know that all you have to do is say the magic word “drugs” and the Constitution becomes nothing more than a suggestion — something to follow when convenient — an arcane historical document that is discussed briefly in High School, but has little practical relevance.
Watch how easily it slips into a coma.
The issue is taking on greater relevance as wireless carriers are racing to offer sleek services that allow cellphone users to know with the touch of a button where their friends or families are. The companies are hoping to recoup investments they have made to meet a federal mandate to provide enhanced 911 (E911) location tracking.
So, first note that the government is requiring tracking capability. Then check out this opinion:
Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York, approving a request for cell-site data, wrote that because the government did not install the “tracking device” and the user chose to carry the phone and permit transmission of its information to a carrier, no warrant was needed.
Yes, all you need to do to protect your rights is to stop participating in society. How frightening. Under that reasoning, the government has free reign, without a warrant, to look at any information you provide to any private company.
The information age requires us all to make decisions as to how much information we want to give out — to our friends, our families, our doctors, our banks, our retailers, our internet service providers, and more. But it shouldn’t be a blanket authorization for the government to step in and assume that they are entitled to all information we give anyone else.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd is one of the more confused people in this article. At one point he says:
“We strongly recommend that prosecutors in the field obtain a warrant based on probable cause” to get location data “in a private area not accessible to the public,” he said. “When we become aware of situations where this has not occurred, we contact the field office and discuss the matter.”
Sounds good. Until…
These judges are issuing orders based on the lower standard, requiring a showing of “specific and articulable facts” showing reasonable grounds to believe the data will be “relevant and material” to a criminal investigation.
Boyd said the government believes this standard is sufficient for cell-site data. “This type of location information, which even in the best case only narrows a suspect’s location to an area of several city blocks, is routinely generated, used and retained by wireless carriers in the normal course of business,” he said.
But one of Boyd’s comments really pushed my buttons. I think he meant it well, but I tire of this vapid excuse of a nonsense phrase:
“Law enforcement has absolutely no interest in tracking the locations of law-abiding citizens. None whatsoever,” Boyd said.
That is an absolute lie. And it is the lie that feeds the virus on the Constitution.
Unless law enforcement has decided to now only seek out people who have already been convicted of a crime then they absolutely are interested in tracking law-abiding citizens. Because in the course of investigating, they are not targeting criminals, they are targeting suspects. And some suspects are guilty; some are law-abiding citizens. This weaselly deceitful notion that law enforcement only goes after the guilty apparently assumes that law enforcement officers have been granted God-like powers of omniscience. Most decidedly not true.
The rights retained by the people, some of which are enumerated in the Constitution and its amendments, are rights to protect the citizens — that’s why they are so important. Statements claiming that law-abiding citizens need not fear government intrusion are merely the words of a parasite paralyzing its host prior to feeding.