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Police-state proponents sent back to the drawing board as highest court beats back Fourth Amendment erosions

In a blow to the President Obama and pro-police state organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled [PDF] that police and federal agents cannot track U.S. citizens via GPS without a warrant.  The decision is a dramatic departure from lower courts, including a U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, which had previously opined that police could invade citizens' private property and plant tracking devices on their vehicles for 24-hour surveillance.

I. Obama v. The Fourth Amendment

The issue all boils down to the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, part of the Constitution -- the U.S. federal government's most important legal document.  The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The argument has revolved around whether efforts to invade "suspects'" property without court authorization and tracking them without court authorization counts as "unreasonable searches".

By looking to creatively redefine the meanings of "reasonable", "searches", and "effects", the Obama administration, Bush administration, and others have looked to subtly erode Fourth Amendment protections, allowing the government to remove the burdensome civil liberty, which has long stood in the way of those whose goal is unchecked federal power.

Obama Big Brother
Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush defended warrantless tracking of American citizens, part of both administrations' broader plans to expand federal government in different ways. [Image Source: Fits News]

Officer Shelley Broderick of the Fairfax, Virginia Police Department -- one of the departments to embrace the device -- defended the device and police departments decision to prevent the public from knowing how it's being used, stating, "We don't really want to give any info on how we use it as an investigative tool to help the bad guys.  It is an investigative tool for us, and it is a very new investigative tool."

U.S. police trooper
Powerful forces have been working to erode Fourth Amendment protections in the U.S. over the last decade, clearing the way for an unchecked "police-state". [Image Source: Reuters]

The wireless, warrantless GPS tracking of suspects first came into vogue between 2006-2008, as wireless GPS bugs replaced cruder "beeper" devices, which emitted a supersonic tone along a vehicle to be tracked.  In several cases, GPS tracking has led to evidence that incriminated suspects, which in turn resulted in appeals.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers California, and other Western states) and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Texas and several other states) had both ruled that the practice was acceptable [1][2][3].

Faced with the prospect of life in prison, the suspects in both the Texas and California cases appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but saw it reject their claims in 2010.  The Federal Appeals court ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling U.S. v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276, a 1983 case on beeper tracking, had already decided that such tracking was legal.

II. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case 

However, questions remained even after the Federal Appeals court ruling.  Beeper tracking was not digitally recorded and was only viewable within a short area, where as GPS surveillance could be carried out 24-7 from a remote location.  In other words, the technology and the scope of the surveillance were quite different.

The Supreme Course announced [PDF] that it would review the case in June 2011, prompting the Obama administration to warn them that the warrantless surveillance was a powerful tool to "fight crime and terrorism".

U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court [Left: U.S. Supreme Court; Right: Deadline Hollywood]

President Obama and the lower courts sought to creatively redefine the Fourth Amendment to only apply in cases where the officers had to go to great lengths to enter a suspect's property.  In other words, unless you had a fence, the administration argues that police should be able to invade your property and plant tracking devices on your vehicle without any sort of regulation.

As fencing your property is not free -- this caused the debate to take on class injustice overtones.  In a dissenting opinion in the Ninth Circuit Court's decision, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski argued that this system equated justice to the amount of money you have.  He points out that the rich with electric gates, fences, and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes -- which allows their property to qualify for the creative reinterpretation of Fourth Amendment protections.

III. Ruling Beats Back Lower Court, Executive Branch Fourth Amendment Erosions

Unfortunately for President Obama and fellow proponents of warrantless tracking, the Supreme Court has ruled (U.S. v. Jones, 10-1259; PDF) unanimously (9-0) that it is illegal for police to track citizens without warrant, using GPS.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest serving Supreme Court Justice and an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, delivered one of the main opinions.  In a reversal of the 1983 decision Justice Scalia, rights that even the act of entering a residential property (regardless of "fences", etc.) constitutes a search and requires a warrant.

He writes:

It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case: The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information.  We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.

He explains that Oliver v. United States, 466 U. S. 170 (1984) the case lower courts used to justify the invasion of unfenced properties, was being inappropriately applied.  He points out that Oliver involved an empty lot, versus the residential setting of the current case and others.  He writes:

[O]ur conclusion in Oliver v. United States, 466 U. S. 170 (1984), that officers' information-gathering intrusion on an "open field" did not constitute a Fourth Amendment search even though it was a trespass at common law, id., at 183. Quite simply, an open field, unlike the curtilage of a home, see  United States v.  Dunn, 480 U. S. 294, 300 (1987), is not one of those protected areas enumerated in the Fourth AmendmentOliver,  supra, at 176–177.  See also Hester v. United States, 265 U. S. 57, 59 (1924).  The Government’s physical intrusion on such an area—unlike its intrusion on the "effect" at issue here—is of no Fourth Amendment significance.

He also argues that Knotts was misinterpreted by the lower courts, writing:

United States v. Knotts, 460 U. S. 276 (1983), does not foreclose the conclusion that GPS monitoring, in the absence of a physical intrusion, is a Fourth Amendment search. As the majority’s opinion notes, Knotts reserved the question whether “ ‘different constitutional principles may be applicable’ ” to invasive law enforcement practices such as GPS tracking. See ante, at 8, n. 6 (quoting 460 U. S., at 284).

The vehicle was an "effect" and hence the police committed yet another Fourth Amendment violation in invading it without warrant:

The Fourth Amendment provides in relevant part that "[t]he right of the people to  be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."  It is beyond dispute that a vehicle is an "effect" as that term is used in the Amendment.  United States v. Chadwick, 433 U. S. 1, 12 (1977). We hold that the Government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a "search."

In other words, the Supreme Court could have delivered a narrow ruling against simply GPS tracking (based on the invasion of an effect), but it instead both did that and delivered a far broader rebuke of invasions of private residences without warrant, which it says are being justified by abuse and misunderstanding of Oliver.

IV. What This Means for Americans' Freedoms

The decision puts a firm end to the federal government's growing efforts to expand warrantless searches:

Under the new laws the government cannot:

1. Enter your property without warrant.
2. Plant a GPS tracker on your "effects" (car, bags, etc.) without warrant.
3. Use evidence collected by above warrantless tracking in court.

The government can:

1. Enter unfenced open fields without warrant and search them (though it presumably cannot search vehicles "effects" in them).

The decision is important as it prevents both more Orwellian abuses in which a federal authority could look to use these privileges to quell political opposition and consolidate power.  But it is equally important for preventing the more common micro-abuses in which individuals could look to abuse the unchecked power in unauthorized ways.  For example in 2010 a police officer used a department GPS tracker to stalk his ex-girlfriend who eventually found the device and realized it was how he had been knowing where to find her after several harassing encounters.

GPS Stalking
A police officer used a department GPS tracker to stalk his girlfriend in 2010.
[Image Source: KABC/ABC 7]

The Supreme Court decision clears Washington, D.C. nightclub owner Antoine Jones, who had been facing life in prison. It will likely lead to several other similar verdicts being overturned.  In the short term this may seem like a bad thing, as suspected drug dealers will be back on the streets.

But in the long term it simply means that police will have to catch criminals by Constitutional methods -- good old fashioned warrant-backed police work.

The words of Leonard H. Courtney, a luminary British reformist politician, seem to apply in this case.  He famously stated, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."

And then there's the words of American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who , "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."

Source: Supreme Court [PDF]



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Hell just froze over
By aebiv on 1/23/2012 2:10:40 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
...unanimously (9-0) that it is illegal for police to track citizens without warrant, using GPS.


Whoa... Does everyone grasp the significance of this?




RE: Hell just froze over
By pyro637 on 1/23/2012 2:20:55 PM , Rating: 5
I'm not very well versed on supreme court cases, but I've never seen a case with a unanimous decision. This decision made by the supreme court is exactly how the US government was intended to work.


RE: Hell just froze over
By geddarkstorm on 1/23/2012 2:48:51 PM , Rating: 3
Boo-friggin-yah!

This is a massive restoration of our freedoms. Watching the checks and balances our country is founded on at work, is a beautiful, beautiful sight.


RE: Hell just froze over
By aebiv on 1/23/2012 3:26:29 PM , Rating: 4
This is amazing considering how Congress passed the NDAA.

Let's hope it meets the same unanimous fate as this.


RE: Hell just froze over
By SiliconJon on 1/26/2012 4:24:38 PM , Rating: 4
Unfortunately such outcome may be entirely different. This decision was based upon a doublespeak interpretation / argument of older laws. I hope I'm wrong, but so far the courts have shown no sign of negating the massive constitutional reversion present in the last two administrations' Owellian law making.

While this is finally some good news for liberty it's only a small step, for we still have the PATRIOT Act, ACTA, NDAA, EEA, and TSA among several others and more to come that could very well make this decision an expired footnote in our march towards our Brave New Orwellian Nightmare.

I don't mean this to be an excuse for apathy, but quite the opposite - the fight to restore liberty is by no means over. Have a celebratory nightcap if you wish, but when you wake tomorrow the battle still ensues.


RE: Hell just froze over
By Joz on 1/23/2012 2:22:47 PM , Rating: 2
Faith in humanity, somewhat restored by a large wooden chairs with old butts sitting on it.

GOOD JUSTICE!


RE: Hell just froze over
By MegaHustler on 1/23/2012 2:42:28 PM , Rating: 3
I agree with a decision written by justice Scalia...

I don't see any flying pigs, so I guess you're right - it's a cold day in hell today!


RE: Hell just froze over
By topkill on 1/23/2012 3:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
You took the words right out of my mouth!!!

I keep wondering if I'm dreaming!


RE: Hell just froze over
By drycrust3 on 1/23/2012 2:50:04 PM , Rating: 2
Not being an American, it says to me that an American police officer can't just decide they should put you under surveillance on a whim, they have to front up in an American court with hard evidence to show it is actually necessary.


RE: Hell just froze over
By GotThumbs on 1/23/12, Rating: -1
RE: Hell just froze over
By JediJeb on 1/23/2012 4:16:57 PM , Rating: 4
There may be reasons of "Probable Cause" when they see something illegal at the moment, but if they have to return later to place the tracker I would imagine they now need a warrant because if they can take the time to go get a tracker then also have the time to get a warrant.

What brought this up was police deciding they wanted to follow someone and not taking the time to get a warrant, or knowing it would be refused for lack of evidence bypassed the system. What the Supreme Court just said is that if the police are lazy or try to circumvent the system, any evidence they collect from such actions will be unusable.


RE: Hell just froze over
By mcnabney on 1/23/2012 6:17:59 PM , Rating: 1
Well, can the police just follow someone... you know, like in a car? For this case in particular the technology was used to find where the suspect lived. Using the GPS transponder was just easier than tailing them in a police car. They didn't use it to track other motions, just where he lived.


RE: Hell just froze over
By Warwulf on 1/24/2012 9:01:54 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, you can still tail a suspect without a warrant.


RE: Hell just froze over
By foolsgambit11 on 1/24/2012 7:15:37 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. The decision was 9-0, but there were several opinions on -why- the government couldn't do what they did. As I read it, the majority only went so far as saying that the intrusion occurring when placing the GPS device constituted a search and requires a warrant. They remained silent on use of the information obtained from a GPS without a warrant. So... if they can access the information from a GPS already on the car without conducting a 'search', they may be able to do that without a warrant. The GPS in your phone, OnStar, that GPS your wife secretly put in the car to track you to see if you were cheating....

A minority opinion specifically said that monitoring your every move via GPS for 4 weeks does constitute a search, but I don't think that counts as setting a precedent, since most of the Justices weren't on board with it.

The Supreme Court sure does love to not answer questions if it can be avoided.


RE: Hell just froze over
By drycrust3 on 1/23/2012 6:02:26 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
There ARE reasons why police would GPS tag a car.

I'm sure every police officer can come up with a reason why they need to track a person's car, even "I haven't met my speeding ticket quota this month" is a reason, and so is "I'm doing this to save another officer's career".
Maybe it isn't obvious to you, but I believe neither of those reasons would get a warrant to track a person in America. Those type of reasons are the sort of thing a junior officer can be bullied into believing are good reasons to track a person, but of course they aren't, which is why you need a cold impartial court to assess the actual evidence.


RE: Hell just froze over
By wiz220 on 1/23/2012 2:52:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Whoa... Does everyone grasp the significance of this?


Yes, that the SC can actually make a reasonable decision, as long as there isn't any money to be made from it. Since there was no special interest lobbying money at risk here (not overtly anyways), they had cover to do the right thing.


RE: Hell just froze over
By gunzac21 on 1/23/12, Rating: 0
Hmmmm
By NellyFromMA on 1/23/2012 3:12:38 PM , Rating: 3
Two things come to mind:

A) If you can query my location, you are searching for it. Therefor, if I did not provide permission to know where I am, then you must ask. If I decline and you intrude upon my decision and you are unable to ontain a warrant, clearly it is an unreasonable search.

B) If you can place a device on my person or property without my consent and upon request for that consent you anticipate or realistically know the answer will be in the negative and still place this device on my person or property for the purposes of using this device to steal knowledge about my person or property, that is also an unreasonable search.

I can probably extrapolate further, but really, why doesn't someone play devil's advocate herre and explain how it could NOT be considered unreasonable search. I can't think of ONE way... and that's kind of my thing...




RE: Hmmmm
By GotThumbs on 1/23/2012 3:56:23 PM , Rating: 2
Tagging your car and tracking where you drive on PUBLIC roads is not much different than having an officer follow you in a patrol car. It just makes it more economical using the GPS tracker. No one searched you or your car...they just tracked it's location throughout the day. You can't prevent an officer from shadowing you in public. This was just an improved method of tracking someone of interest. This is NOT a random GPS tagging...It's done as you have done something to become a person of interest.


RE: Hmmmm
By Skywalker123 on 1/23/2012 5:10:29 PM , Rating: 3
Right. You forgot to say "If you've done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about". Moron


RE: Hmmmm
By x10Unit1 on 1/23/2012 5:55:06 PM , Rating: 2
If you are a person of interest, then get a warrant and then place the device.

Its not about GPS tracking, it is about police and officials doing whatever they want without accountability or laws to keep them in check.

With the internet, we are now able to see the abuse of the power they currently have. They have to deal with crappy people everyday but they have to be the better person and not abuse that power we trust them with.


RE: Hmmmm
By LRonaldHubbs on 1/23/2012 6:23:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This was just an improved method of tracking someone of interest. This is NOT a random GPS tagging...It's done as you have done something to become a person of interest.

Yep. And wiretapping is just an 'improved' and 'economical' method of listening in on someone's conversation.
If they have sufficient reason to track you, then they need to do their job, prove it to court, and obtain a warrant. Abridging individuals' liberties for the sake of efficiency is not acceptable.


RE: Hmmmm
By Fritzr on 1/24/2012 4:28:05 AM , Rating: 2
Tag and track on public roadways. Make sure it turns itself off when the car leaves the public road. It is very unlikely this device does that. This then violates your reasoning as it tracks while sited on private property, including in the garage. This violates the 'search' provisions if it is placed without a warrant.


RE: Hmmmm
By NellyFromMA on 1/26/2012 4:38:55 PM , Rating: 2
If I wanted to, I could pull over and make him look stupid. He has the right to shadow me as much as I have the right to call him out on it and make his life harder than it needs to be.

When he/she trespasses or tampers with my property (vehicle or home) I can not rightly know therefor I cannot even defend myself. If he can obtain a warrant, this is obviously a non issue, but if he cannot, well, he has no right. I think that's the point, not the economics behind it.

Still, I appreciate you playing devil's advocate for me so don't take it as if I'm steam rolling you lol


THIS is how you interpret the Constitution.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/2012 2:24:08 PM , Rating: 5
So many times when a discussion of Constitutional rights comes up (boy we've had a lot of those lately) someone will make a comment like "Well the Constitution doesn't say anything about the Internet, so we have no rights to use it!". Or something similar. That is the wrong way to view the Constitution.

The highlighted statements from the judge in the article is the perfect way to interpret the Constitution. Just because the Founders didn't specifically mention vehicles or GPS devices, doesn't mean the Government can do whatever the hell it wants. The intent of the Constitution and the Amendments were to defend our rights FROM the Government. Not put us in a subservient role TO the Government from which all our rights and freedoms come down to nothing more than a literal translation of the document.

So often the lawmakers view the Constitution as nothing more than a barrier for which they have to find loopholes in to do whatever the hell they want to us. That is wrong and I'm relieved beyond words to see that, at least some judges, still care about the reason it was written in the first place.




By JasonMick (blog) on 1/23/2012 2:27:07 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
So many times when a discussion of Constitutional rights comes up (boy we've had a lot of those lately) someone will make a comment like "Well the Constitution doesn't say anything about the Internet, so we have no rights to use it!". Or something similar. That is the wrong way to view the Constitution.

The highlighted statements from the judge in the article is the perfect way to interpret the Constitution. Just because the Founders didn't specifically mention vehicles or GPS devices, doesn't mean the Government can do whatever the hell it wants. The intent of the Constitution and the Amendments were to defend our rights FROM the Government. Not put us in a subservient role TO the Government from which all our rights and freedoms come down to nothing more than a literal translation of the document.

So often the lawmakers view the Constitution as nothing more than a barrier for which they have to find loopholes in to do whatever the hell they want to us. That is wrong and I'm relieved beyond words to see that, at least some judges, still care about the reason it was written in the first place.

See I told you not to lose hope, Reclaimer! ;)


RE: THIS is how you interpret the Constitution.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/12, Rating: -1
RE: THIS is how you interpret the Constitution.
By TheDoc9 on 1/23/2012 4:31:13 PM , Rating: 2
Bush signed the Patriot act in 2001.


RE: THIS is how you interpret the Constitution.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/12, Rating: -1
RE: THIS is how you interpret the Constitution.
By Fritzr on 1/23/2012 11:44:44 PM , Rating: 1
It had nothing to do with Bush until you mentioned him :P

The police mindset though is identical. It is so annoying when we are required to get permission to violate the Constitution. The Patriot Act requested by Bush and signed by Bush was simply another in a long history of rulings granting the government and police agencies permission to ignore the Constitution.

Obama is not blameless either, so don't be unhappy when people keep reminding you that Bush was not a saint.

Both are guilty of abuse of powers. So far though Bush has a far better record as far as getting civil rights sidelined. Yes I do know that many of the abuses were implemented by Cheney, but Bush was his boss. It may be that Obama has been better able to hide his 'crimes', but if so history will correct that error in reporting.


RE: THIS is how you interpret the Constitution.
By mcnabney on 1/24/2012 9:10:38 AM , Rating: 1
And Jason's headline was also completely inaccurate. The whole incident and case that was decided here came from activities under the Bush administration. Because Bush started it, Obama legally had to finish. Maybe the 9-0 decision was because Obama told his Federal attorneys, that were defending the governments prior positions, to go ahead and lose this one. A similar situation arose when Obama had to defend DOMA. Because DOMA was a federal law the Obama administration legally had to defend it. The federal 'effort' was pretty weak because they didn't really support the law. I imagine the same thing happened here.


By Ryrod on 1/25/2012 2:39:49 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Maybe the 9-0 decision was because Obama told his Federal attorneys, that were defending the governments prior positions, to go ahead and lose this one. A similar situation arose when Obama had to defend DOMA. Because DOMA was a federal law the Obama administration legally had to defend it. The federal 'effort' was pretty weak because they didn't really support the law. I imagine the same thing happened here.


The Solicitor General went in thinking, "Oh, this is the same case as before. I'll just use the same argument and we will win this case just like we did in 1983." Instead, the Supreme Court decided to blindside the Federal Government, effectively overruling their prior decision. It wasn't a matter of the Federal Government not trying, it was more of a change in direction by the Court that caught the DOJ off guard.

quote:
And Jason's headline was also completely inaccurate.


I agree with that statement. Jason also mischaracterized the government's arguments and the situation to fit into a narrative about unchecked governmental power that the Court somehow reigned in to give people more freedoms. I've also noticed that he enjoys the use of the adjective Orwellian and uses it in situations where it really doesn't apply, such as this case.


By geddarkstorm on 1/23/2012 2:56:09 PM , Rating: 3
You are so very right.

This is also why the Constitution came with such sweeping terms like "effects", which would apply to those unknown inventions that were to come, such as vehicles. The government may try to weasel redefinitions of those general, common terms, but it's so heartening to see the Judicial branch send them packing and re-enforce the meaning of the Constitution all at the same time.


Part of the thing that drives me nuts is...
By Ryrod on 1/23/2012 2:48:21 PM , Rating: 4
this case came about because of laziness on the part of the police and FBI. They had a warrant for DC, but were just too lazy to get a new one in Maryland. If they tried, they would likely have been able to get a new warrant, and this issue would have never arisen. Apparently, someone wasn't paying attention to the requirements placed in the warrant when it was issued.

As for the piece in general, Jason, the piece reads as a hit piece, as opposed to an actual news story. Bush did the same thing for 7 years of his presidency, but only one-half of a sentence is dedicated to that. I'm not saying that this didn't fall under the Obama Administration, but the way you make it sound, the case was one of unchecked federal government intrusion that was directed by Obama. In fact, the police believed they were acting in accordance with the Constitution and prior rulings by the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the imagery is really unnecessary, as well as the language that "President Obama and the lower courts sought to creatively redefine the Fourth Amendment to only apply in cases where the officers had to go to great lengths to enter a suspect's property." This was not the argument in this case. The primary argument, and the one that worked in US v. Knotts (1983), was that the drug dealer suspect did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements while traveling on public roads. The state contends that using a tracking device to help in the surveillance of a vehicle is not a constitutional violation and Knotts would agree. However, the Supreme Court found it necessary to overturn Knotts and say that placement of a tracking device, without a valid warrant, is unconstitutional. The police were under the assumption that they were following the law, even if they failed to follow the specific requirements laid out in the warrant. It's not as though the police disregarded the Constitution as you make it sound.




By DougF on 1/23/2012 3:00:52 PM , Rating: 4
Surely you aren't suggesting reasonable discourse when discussing Presidents, are you? That would never do, in fact denigrating the President and contenders is a time-honored tradition, going back hundreds of years in U.S. politics....LOL.


w00t
By LRonaldHubbs on 1/23/2012 2:27:44 PM , Rating: 2
I'm glad to see that they made the correct decision.




Bitter-Sweet
By Raiders12 on 1/23/2012 2:37:24 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent. An example that our power-structure outlined in the Constitution can prevail. I'm glad the SC took it out of the executives and police hands who think they are above the written freedoms of the land in the name of "security".
Now reign in the TSA, PATRIOT ACT, and NDAA bill.




Johnny Drama in Viking Quest....
By tigz1218 on 1/23/2012 3:10:50 PM , Rating: 2
VICTORYYYYYYY!!!!!




Not So Fast!
By PhilM on 1/23/2012 3:35:51 PM , Rating: 2
The Associated Press (via MSN) gives a considerably more restrained interpretation of this ruling -- see
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46101025/ns/technology...




imagine
By DockScience on 1/23/2012 7:23:11 PM , Rating: 2
One small step towards the light.
Sadly, we have had thousands of leaps toward authoritarianism.

Imagine a nation where one does not need to produce identity papers and be searched for travel.
We had one.

Imagine a nation where one does not need to produce a social security card or a license to work.
We had one.

Imagine a nation where one's auto license plate was not read and tracked as you went about your life.
We had one.

Imagine a nation where who and when one spoke to was YOUR business alone and not recorded for authorities to review.
We had one.

Imagine a nation where one's property was YOURS to do with as you wanted without obtaining approval from authority and was safe from theft by government to give to its friends ala Kelo.
We had one.

Imagine a nation where taxes are used for operating government and not as a carrot and stick for social control and redistribution to others.
We had one.

Imagine a nation where one could express their religious belief in a public setting under the PROTECTION of the law and not denied by the force of law.
We had one.

But we could have this nation once more. It's up to Americans to stand up and say NO, we have had enough -- restore Constitutional restrictions on the power of government.




Excellent. Thank you.
By rm19 on 1/23/2012 8:59:03 PM , Rating: 2
Just wondering though, does this do anything to prevent sad situations like the abhorrent killing of former Marine, Jose Guerena, where a SWAT team mistakenly raided his home and he was shot 23 times defending his family and home? The subsequent police cover-up was just as disgusting. I hope that this Supreme Court decision includes an outlaw of the "no-knock" warrant.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/25/jose-guer...




By JLL55 on 1/24/2012 9:21:22 AM , Rating: 2
Mick, Except for a few snarky comments in your article, I thought it was very well written. The problem I have is your assigning it to ONLY Obama. While he has in a record way continued and expanded upon the policies that Bush W. did, as you said, it began in 2006. I am very happy that the SC stood up in this case, but to attribute all of it to Obama as the title suggests is disingenuous at best, misleading at the worst. Other than that, good article and thanks for the update.




What does a GPS search for?
By bupkus on 1/24/2012 9:35:02 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
We hold that the Government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a "search."
Search usually refers to looking for a specific thing. How does the use of a GPS identify a 'thing'.

If the act of attachment when using a GPS on a vehicle is the issue as using private property, couldn't the state declare that the license plate is licensed therefore retaining ownership and that attachment to the underside of the license plate constitutes the use of government property?

Expanding on this thought, is following a car unobserved the equivalent of using a GPS? When police get their "cloaking device" will they be disallowed from using it as it constitutes an illegal search? Is an undercover vehicle guilty of illegal search?




public vs private
By talikarni on 1/24/2012 3:01:48 PM , Rating: 2
I expect they will create a work around for this, essentially this means they will plant the device (after following you) when you are parked along a public road, say shopping, and plant it. Since it was done in public locations, it is not private property trespass or "search".
If you watch some of these TV shows about booting peoples vehicles, the police/booters cannot go onto private residential property to boot the vehicle, but if it is parked along the street in front of the house, aka "public property", then they can and will do so.




Well now
By morphologia on 1/30/2012 7:06:09 AM , Rating: 2
Couple of things...first, the decision to not allow warrantless searching and tracking is 100% in the spirit of American civil liberty. We should not have to fear extralegal persecution, only prosecution, and then only if we've done something wrong.

Second...this blog post is not the best way to promote rational debate on the topic. It's like an Onion article, lacking in professionalism and making broad simpleminded accusations and partisan rhetoric. It reads like a Republican attack ad.

That's all.




Great news!
By jay401 on 1/23/2012 10:18:57 PM , Rating: 1
Great news and a great post, Jason!




Not really a problem for Law-abiding citzens....
By GotThumbs on 1/23/12, Rating: -1
By LRonaldHubbs on 1/23/2012 6:28:02 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Idon't see the use of this device as a real concern for law-abiding citizens. It's a way of stream-lining police efforts.

You can say exactly the same things about property search warrants and the 5th and 6th Amendments. That doesn't make it a good idea.

quote:
btw....Every Cell Phone owner is carrying a GPS tracking device, so the police will only have to get court order showing your movement through your phone.

Well since it's so simple then I guess they have no reason NOT to obey the law and do exactly that. Wouldn't you say?


By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/2012 6:53:28 PM , Rating: 1
Man I would love to take a blunt object to your face...

quote:
Idon't see the use of this device as a real concern for law-abiding citizens. It's a way of stream-lining police efforts. Why have officers tail a suspect all day when you can tag the car.


Are you serious? You know what, police work is supposed to be hard. Not "streamlined" when you're talking about throwing someone in jail for the rest of his life. Better that 100 men go free, than one innocent man to be in jail.

Why not just tag the car? Gee maybe because a car going somewhere doesn't mean YOU ARE IN IT! They need to have reasonable cause and provide real evidence.

quote:
Every Cell Phone owner is carrying a GPS tracking device, so the police will only have to get court order showing your movement through your phone.


You can't prove the owner of a phone did something just by the location of the phone, that's why. The defense could always just say it got lost or stolen, and poof, there goes your case.

quote:
why does the police have to take a back seat to marketing companies.


Are you 12?


By bigboxes on 1/23/2012 9:18:37 PM , Rating: 2
I don't always agree with you Reclaimer, but when I do... I grab my blunt object and assist you! :D


By Reclaimer77 on 1/24/2012 4:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
lol Awesome. Let's tune him up a little :P


By JasonMick (blog) on 1/23/2012 2:26:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I mean Bush was simply an idiot uber-cliche Republican president, so it is expected a law like that would be proposed and passed (Patriot Act), but Obama? It seems so out of place that such an unpopular law with universal dissent from both parties would be moved forward by two completely different presidents.

Both Presidents have actually been rather similar aside from social issues. Both have support sweeping expansions of federal budget/power/authority in the name of "anti-terrorism".

Obama tended to toss tax loopholes and grants at "green" firms, certain automakers, and the banks. By contrast Bush largely focused his tax breaks on energy companies (i.e. oil companies) and defense firms (a major part of the several trillion in Iraq War/Afghanistan war costs went to private contractors like Haliburton). But either way, their special interests' mouths were getting fed @ the expense of the taxpayers.

If you don't believe me, consider this:
The occupation of Iraq (tremendously expensive) is almost over. So why are we still paying the same amount of taxes?

Contrary to popular belief overall funding of social programs didn't increase significantly enough under Obama to account for this difference. The answer is simple if you spend much time looking at the federal budget and recent legislation -- the money has been funneled to new and different corporate tax handouts. The feeding is the same, it's just a different mouth.

Not really that different...


By gamerk2 on 1/23/2012 2:50:43 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
The occupation of Iraq (tremendously expensive) is almost over. So why are we still paying the same amount of taxes?


Because unlike every other war in US history, taxes were not raised to pay for the cost of the war. So if taxes weren't raised to pay for the war, why should there be a deduction after the war ends?

Nevermind the giant deficit we currently have; lets reduce even MORE revenue! What could happen?


By JasonMick (blog) on 1/23/2012 3:12:31 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Because unlike every other war in US history, taxes were not raised to pay for the cost of the war. So if taxes weren't raised to pay for the war, why should there be a deduction after the war ends?

Nevermind the giant deficit we currently have; lets reduce even MORE revenue! What could happen?

Yes but the deficit you allude to is a side effect of giving an effect 0% tax rate (or even government refunds) to a favored handful of corporations and billions in special interest grants.

The result is the SMBs and individual taxpayers have to pay all of their taxes PLUS all of the corporations taxes, and in many cases even pay a nice healthy refund check to hand to these corporations.

From "tax holidays" to "tax loopholes", both parties have worked of late to lower the U.S. relatively high official corporate tax rate down to an effect 0 rate.

At the same time you have massive spending on bloated federal level social programs and the military.

To be clear I have no problem with responsible defense spending, but costs -- particularly among the favored private contractors -- are simply not in line with the free market (e.g. $10,000 chairs, etc.).

So you have a lot of spending, but your tax revenue is only at half strength because of all your corporate tax breaks/payouts.

What do you think is going to happen?

Debt.

If you reduced federal spending by transfering some programs to a state level, and forced stricter regulation on military contracting, along with instituting a flat tax on corporations that cannot be altered, you would be able to lower income/SMB taxes WHILE cutting the deficit, and retaining basic defense/certain social programs (e.g. education, highways).


By FITCamaro on 1/23/2012 3:40:03 PM , Rating: 2
Funny. Defense industries which you claim Republicans are behind pay quite a bit in taxes. Contrast this with GE, who's now former CEO is a friend of the Obama administration and has tried to position itself into every facet of his desires (health care and "green" energy), is one of the few who've paid none.

And please point out the contracts for these $10,000 chairs you like to mention. Now if said chair is an ejection seat, then yes, it probably costs $10,000 if not more.


By mcnabney on 1/23/2012 6:21:28 PM , Rating: 2
My dad is paid $310 an hour to give physicals to military enlistees prior to being sworn in. And this is as a contractor. I'm sure the Dept of Defense pays the INDIAN COMPANY that hired him a lot more for those services.


By TSS on 1/23/2012 11:02:18 PM , Rating: 3
Yknow, let's play devils advocate for once. I've been calling for revolution more then enough.

quote:
Yes but the deficit you allude to is a side effect of giving an effect 0% tax rate (or even government refunds) to a favored handful of corporations and billions in special interest grants.


As opposed to, what? 50% of the poorest population that effectively don't pay any taxes either?

yknow when you look up historical tax rates you'd see that taxes are the lowest they've been in 80 years for EVERYBODY.

While i'm all for the rich paying a little more because they can afford it, the poor people *have* to start paying taxes too. If they cannot afford to because they've laden themselves with mortgage debt, credit card debt, multiple cars on downpayments etc, that is not the governments problem. Used to be one was responsible for his own actions.

Traditional media is good at finding those idiots too. One of those "people" stories on CNN features a mother of 2 who "lost her job and was all sad", saying she went from 3 cars and not a problem to barely being able to afford 1 car. I'm like, why the hell does ANYBODY need 3 cars? I've got a real problem understanding 2, unless you and your spouse both work in different cities, in opposite directions.

If instead of 3 cars, she'd gone with just 2 (IMO even 1 car is a luxury and not a right) she'd still have money saved up now to be able to afford those 2 cars until the next job. Scale back a car at that point and you're not even in danger of losing the house at any point.

1 idiot, ok. But CNN manages to find *loads* of them, all with similar sob stories but still a yearly income triple mine. And other media sites do it just as easily.

How about you guys implement a MINIMUM tax of 10%. Meaning everybody pays atleast 10% of their income in taxes, no matter what deductions or whatever's put into place, or who you are. No matter wether you can afford to or not. Force people to adjust their budgets. It's easy to do as well, just implement a sales tax of 10%, nation wide, undeductable.

And once again. If you can't afford that much more taxes, screw you and learn some fiscal responsibility. I could give up another 20% of my income right now, and i live off a 75% of minimum wage disability check! I wouldn't be happy, but i can.

Otherwise i'd say drop corperate taxes comepletly. The big guys don't pay anyway, and the little guys are only giving you $200 billion a year anyway. Which is a drop in the bucket considering your current deficit. But because of the extra income companies will hire again spurring growth and giving people more money which they can then use for taxes. You'll end up in the same situation with the same revenue only this time, there *is* significant growth.

In any case. It's not just the rich. It's more then fair to say the majority got into this credit orgy now the majority will have to deal with the withdrawl. Personally i live debt free so i haven't noticed anything of the crisis in the last 4 years.


By sigmatau on 1/23/2012 11:45:48 PM , Rating: 2
"If they cannot afford to because they've laden themselves with mortgage debt, credit card debt, multiple cars on downpayments etc, that is not the governments problem..."

Wow! Maybe you need to be poor to actualy understand why these people do not pay taxes since you have no flipping idea what it is to be poor.

Poor with a mortgage? Really?
Poor with a credit card? Really?
Poor with multiple cars? Really?

What is poor to you? Making $100k a year? I won't bother with the rest of your post since you can't even get that part right.

Maybe if many greedy, slimey companies didn't try to purchase your labor @ $10 an hour things would be different. Education is another huge barrier. If you don't have a decent education, the probability that you will be stuck at the bottom is high. Environment is another factor. If you come form an uneducated family, then you have a higher probability that you will not be so well educated. This is called reality. Look it up some time.

But hey, let's all pay $1000 a year on taxes. Make it fair for everyone. Everyone! Rich... not so rich... poor... everyone. Wouldn't that be the definition of fair? Let's see how quickly our country spirals out of control and our rich become poor.


By TSS on 1/28/2012 9:58:01 AM , Rating: 1
sorry for the late replay but i can't let this go into history like this.

quote:
since you have no flipping idea what it is to be poor.


quote:
and i live off a 75% of minimum wage disability check!


And i live in europe so i still pay a 19% sales tax on nigh everything, and 6% tax on *vital essential things to live*. The only reason why i don't pay income tax is because my income is government money to begin with. And 75% of the minimum wage means i get 25% less the somebody who works 40 hours a week in the shittiest of jobs. I don't have to work, sure, i get to be certified crazy in return.

*i* am not going to bother further with such an ignorant post. But i just had to point this out. Because this is classic projection and it's clearly sigmatau who cannot concieve what it is to be poor.

have a good day.


By FITCamaro on 1/23/2012 3:41:45 PM , Rating: 2
Oh cmon. We're "only" spending about 180% of what we take in. People love to point to defense spending but sorry we weren't running $1.6 trillion deficits PER YEAR at the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars even if you added the special allocations for those wars into the budget.


By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/2012 4:03:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Oh cmon. We're "only" spending about 180% of what we take in.


Well clearly we need to raise taxes then. That's the solution!

/sarcasm


By topkill on 1/23/2012 3:47:08 PM , Rating: 1
Reclaimer,

Have you ever actually run a business? We don't sit around worrying about how much taxes something is going to cost. We're worried about making revenue and then trying to maximize profit. The taxes are just a small part of that and don't even come close to the other costs of doing business.

Would it be nice if they were lower? Yes, I could buy a new Mercedes anytime I wanted it rather than waiting every year or two. But would it change my business? No. Would it change my hiring? No.

You have to quit speaking talking points and stick with something you actually know.

As for your moronic statement:
quote:
Revenue is NOT the problem, spending is.


Do you understand simple math? They both add/subtract from the same bucket.

It is your OPINION that it would be better to reduce spending than increase revenue and in general that is true. But if you'd ever run a large company (much less a gov't), you'd know that it takes more money to try to be more efficient past a certain point than what you spent getting there.
Could we be more efficient? Hell yes. Would that solve our problem? No.

You can't spend half a $trillion a year buying foreign oil and nearly a $trillion a year on standing military and unfunded wars. Those things diminish our economy.

The amount of waste on everything else is small by comparison.

It gets so old listening to your John Birch society bullshit. You spout far right wing talking points like they were religious dogma. Just STFU for once.


By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/2012 3:58:55 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Have you ever actually run a business?


Yes I have. And guess what? If I spend roughly 200% more than I gross, what happens to my business?

Actually you know what, forget it. You're so offensive and there is so much wrong with your post, it's not worth it. No businessman I ever heard of would tell someone to "stfu" and spew a bunch of nonsense like this.


By autoboy on 1/23/2012 4:42:43 PM , Rating: 2
The government is a monopoly. It doesn't operate under the same conditions as a business which operates in a competitive environment. A business can increase revenue by taking market share from a competitor, or by creating new revenue sources, or by raising prices.

The government can only raise revenue by raising taxes or by growing the overall economy. But, simply raising taxes has a suppressive effect on the economy because you are taking money away from the economy that was normally used to grow a business. So, if you raise taxes by 180% (which is how much more we spend than we tax) then it will result in a recession of the economy. The actual results of this are difficult to predict which is why there is a big debate on the subject, but nobody denies that an increase of 180% would have a devastating effect on the economy. So yes, we have a revenue problem, but that could also be characterized as a spending problem. It won't be solved by simply raising taxes. The alternative is to decrease spending which the government has more control over, but since we have been spending so much borrowed money as "stimulus," taking that away will also have a suppressive effect on the economy.

Traditionally the government has spent 18% of the gross domestic product. We are spending over 25% now.


By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/2012 4:54:02 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, plus a business can't just print it's own money out whenever it wants.


By HrilL on 1/23/2012 3:31:31 PM , Rating: 2
More likely the Government never wants to lose a revinue source. The orignial enactment of a saliery tax was to pay for a war in the first place. It was even supposed to be temporary.

If the government actually followed the conistution then it would be smaller and there wouldn't be taxes on our equal trade of work for money. The true definition of income is a capital gain. This has been changed over the years but that doesn't make it right.


By Reclaimer77 on 1/23/2012 2:57:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So why are we still paying the same amount of taxes?


Yeah it's really a mystery.

*looks at Federal Budget under Obama. Crosschecks that with deficit*

Ohhhh...yeah. That.


By cooperaaaron on 1/23/2012 3:24:25 PM , Rating: 3
Right.... Hate Obama much ???


By mcnabney on 1/23/2012 6:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
The Sherrif is a Ni...


By bupkus on 1/24/2012 9:46:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Sherrif
There you go, showing off your education.
It's spelled "Sheriff".


By rburnham on 1/23/2012 3:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
I just want to say thank you for typing out a reasonable, fair look at both presidents. It is so easy for topics like this to devolve into bad mouthing either president, but you did not do that. I appreciate that.


By MonkeyPaw on 1/23/2012 2:44:05 PM , Rating: 2
Paranoia does crazy things to people...and nations.

Obama and Bush really aren't all that different, as sure as democrats and republicans are not that different. They may run on different ideals, but they work the people over the same way by causing more conflict than necessary. Once elected, they ignore the will of the people, instead thinking that their position is to think for us rather than represent us. That's what egomaniacs do, and DC is full of them.


By Ish718 on 1/24/2012 12:05:19 AM , Rating: 2
Can't blame the system without blaming the the people that created the system in the first place.


By LRonaldHubbs on 1/23/2012 6:17:07 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that's nice. 100% of what you said is irrelevant to the fact that warrant-less GPS tracking and warrant-less searches are unconstitutional (illegal). Therefore 100% of what you said is also irrelevant to this entire topic of discussion.


By LRonaldHubbs on 1/23/2012 6:32:21 PM , Rating: 3
And I would like to add that any honest, self-respecting police officer who is worthy of that title and genuinely cares about upholding the law will have no problem doing things by the book. Your brother may well be a cop, but that doesn't give you any special authority on this subject. If he agrees with any of the things you're saying on this topic, then he is a disgrace to his profession.


By Smilin on 1/24/2012 9:44:39 AM , Rating: 2
I've done a ride along with my Brother in-law and I would indeed recommend it.

He was killed in the line of duty last year. He has one son "his lil buddy" who was 3 at the time and a newborn who will never know him.


By mmatis on 1/24/2012 10:39:15 AM , Rating: 2
You mean like THESE fine officers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIE9OKYPf3I

Some of your brother's Brothers in Blue at their finest. Honoring THEIR oath to the Constitution about as well as your fine brother undoubtedly does.

The stench is overwhelming.


By Smilin on 1/24/2012 2:15:44 PM , Rating: 2
You're reinforcing his point.

Go do a ride, or remain clueless. A cherry picked bad deed out of millions of good ones says nothing.

You won't find my brother in law in such a video.


By Fritzr on 1/24/2012 5:51:20 PM , Rating: 2
He is one individual in a profession that has millions. You might also look into the Police Departments around the US that have been prosecuted for committing crimes and in at least one case that did make the media, filing a lawsuit to prevent mention of the departmental misconduct.

On a more local note, IN the mass media, are reports of abuse leading to death, arrest for the purpose of harassment, unjustified (non-fatal) shooting by an officer who was drunk and shot the victim while intending to get in his truck and drive.

There are bad cops out there ... a lot of them. It may shock you that onboard cameras used to monitor police actions have a higher than normal failure rate during incidents that the civilians later try to claim were police misconduct. Purely coincidence of course.

Even if your brother in law was the devil incarnate, a little bit of cunning would allow him to behave while having a civilian observer on board to report on how wonderfully the police do their job. Keep that in mind when you hear other reports of ride alongs both good and bad. Some of the bad will be observers with evil intentions and some of the good will be evil cops who are smart enough to follow the rules while under observation.


By mmatis on 1/25/2012 12:42:39 AM , Rating: 2
How many hundreds more do you want? Your brother-in-law is a filthy lying POS who has spit on his oath of office. Making him not "Law Enforcement", but instead merely a Thug with a Gun. You P&M about "riding along". Of course, that's a great idea! After all, your poor brother-in-law is out there on the streets, 25 hours a day, 7 days a week, unarmed and unprotected. Meanwhile, Mere Citizens are only out there 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, with Open Carry and body armor! How hateful of me to malign your poor relative.

The stench is overwhelming. And it smells like pig.


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