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You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! (says the DOJ)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hit a brick wall when its Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) of 1966 (5 U.S.C. § 552) lawsuit requesting detailed documents on GPS tracking procedures was rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice.

I. GPS Tracking is Back

The issue of GPS tracking has been a contentious one.  In some high profile incidents federal agents, state police, or local police have attached GPS trackers to citizens’ cars and used the continuous tracking as incriminating evidence.  While law enforcement agencies contend that GPS surveillance is a powerful tool for fighting crime, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) clearly thought otherwise, deciding unanimously (U.S. v. Jones, 10-1259; PDF) that planting GPS trackers on citizens' vehicles generally is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights.

Following the January ruling, the FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann provoked ACLU scrutiny when he spoke at a February law enforcement convention in San Francisco, suggesting that other forms of location tracking were arguably legal.


While not specifically mentioned, one such form of tracking would be to seize citizens' cell phones or request records from mobile carriers in order to gain a record of locations based on tower pings.  Such tracking has only been used in a handful of cases nationwide, but is growing in use.

GC Weissmann also suggested that boats and other types of vehicles may be fair game for tracking as his interpretation was that the SCOTUS prohibition was narrow, only covering GPS tracking on cars.

Boats in harbor
The FBI argues that it may still be legal to use GPS tracking on boats.
[Image Source: Ron Niebrugge]

He also makes reference to a pair of memos, detailing how tracking was to be carried out.

II. ACLU Gets Non-Answer From DOJ

In the wake of those comments the ACLU filed suit to obtain those memos, arguing that their release would make clear whether the FBI and other DOJ agencies are actively pursuing such forms of location tracking, and what the rules are (e.g. whether a warrant is required).

The DOJ gave the ACLU the memos this week, but they were almost entirely redacted, leaving little useable information.  The sweeping redactions were justified in a note from the DOJ that cites the stipulation that FOIA requests can be redacted to prevent the release of information that would aid criminals.

In a blog post Catherine Crump, an attorney for the ACLU, blasts the DOJ memos, writing:

The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking — possibly for months at a time — or whether the government will first get a warrant.

Privacy law needs to keep up with technology, but how can that happen if the government won’t even tell us what its policies are?

Redactions
The DOJ release the FBI memos, but it redacted most of the details in the documents.
[Image Source: Iceni]

Given the DOJ's relative non-response it appears that the DOJ and ACLU will continue to square of in federal court or possibly in another Supreme Court case.  

The ACLU's position is clear -- warrantless tracking is a danger to Americans' freedoms.  

The DOJ's position appears to be that while it will respect the SCOTUS rulings narrowly, it will freely engaged in any form of investigation not explicitly prohibited.  The Obama administration has gone to bat for the DOJ in court, arguing that when it comes to law enforcement, sometimes safety trumps the need for transparency and protection of civil liberties.

Source: ACLU



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Tip of the Iceberg
By Argon18 on 1/17/2013 2:26:01 PM , Rating: 4
Obama's DOJ has been weaseling its way out of things for four years now. Fast-n-Furious anyone?




RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By Omega215D on 1/17/2013 4:11:00 PM , Rating: 4
I find that when you criticize this administration you are either met with criticism against your own character, criticism of other pol parties, or outright deflection of the issue.

Then you have those that would blindly go along with any questionable policy put out.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By KoS on 1/18/2013 9:49:50 AM , Rating: 2
What you are seeing is...good ole Uncle Sauls tactics being played out on the national stage. Fun isn't it?


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By maugrimtr on 1/21/2013 9:42:10 AM , Rating: 3
It's no secret both Reps and Dems would do the same thing. It's a disgrace on all politicians that they continue to stubbornly pass laws contrary to the constitution knowing that the Supreme Court will eventually get around to quashing their idiocy when someone gets a case that far.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By bdunosk on 1/20/2013 8:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
I'm thoroughly amused by subsequent posters doing exactly what you said.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By AntiM on 1/17/2013 4:29:55 PM , Rating: 3
There's definitely a conspiracy afoot to undermine the constitutional rights of American citizens. For example, one of the provisions of The National Defense Authorization Act,,,

In December 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA's dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield

It doesn't exclude american civilians.

Lets not even talk about gun control.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By Spuke on 1/17/2013 4:36:50 PM , Rating: 2
The final revision of that does exclude American civilians.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By ilkhan on 1/17/13, Rating: 0
RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By MechanicalTechie on 1/17/2013 6:50:12 PM , Rating: 4
Oh well then... that makes it totally fine.

So then when lets say china or russian pass the same sort of law in retaliation, you wont have any sort of problem with it...


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By HrilL on 1/17/2013 7:20:42 PM , Rating: 2
No it doesn't it only excludes them while in the US. If you're out of the country it applies to everyone.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By TSS on 1/17/2013 11:32:08 PM , Rating: 2
Except that the final, final revision that was passed, had only 1 paticular line scrapped. The line that excluded american civilians.

Then there was a judge who struck down the provision, But then that judge was struck down by the higher courts again.

soooo... Yeah american citizens can still be detained without due process until "the end of the hostilities" with terrorists. Which ofocurse, will never end under the current line of administrations.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By Piiman on 1/19/2013 2:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
Pssst Bushed used this already on a citizen names José Padilla
So its not just the current administration. Get a clue.

"June 9, 2002, when President George W. Bush designated him an enemy combatant and, arguing that he was thereby not entitled to trial in civilian courts, had him transferred to a military prison. Padilla was held for three and a half years as an "enemy combatant" and was interrogated with sleep deprivation, shackling and stress positions, the administration of psychotropic drugs and solitary confinement.[1] After pressure from civil liberties groups, the charge was dropped and his case was moved to a civilian court."



RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By Samus on 1/18/2013 1:48:59 AM , Rating: 3
People act like fast and furious is a new thing.

It's a renewed policy left over from renewed policies that were renewed by policies that previous presidents renewed. We've been selling weapons to our enemies since World War II.

Firearms are big business. Obama, Bush, Clinton, and previous presidents administrations have little to do with the sales of small arms to enemies. They turn a blind eye to it simply because exposing it would open the biggest can of worms imaginable.

This is why 'Fast and Furious' blew over as quick as the fact the what is now Al-Qaeda was trained and armed under the Reagan administration.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By KoS on 1/18/2013 9:53:28 AM , Rating: 2
You really have no clue what Fast-n-Furious is then, by those statements.

We were selling firearms to Al-Qaeda through our guns stores? The guns were are supplying Syria fighters come from local gun stores? Interesting.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By espaghetti on 1/19/2013 1:44:02 PM , Rating: 2
You're right about there being a history of gun running from our government. You might have to go a bit further than Wikipedia to find out that those operations were done with some kind of coordination with another country's government.
Our current regime did this one on it's own.

Not that this washes anyone's hands.


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By Piiman on 1/19/2013 1:55:43 PM , Rating: 3
This isn't new. Under Bush all you had to do is declare them an enemy combatant and poof you're gone.

The whole so called Patriot Act is anything but.

With that said its also good to read the whole act

"Addressing previous conflicts with the Obama Administration regarding the wording of the Senate text, the Senate-House compromise text, in sub-section 1021(d), also affirms that nothing in the Act "is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force". The final version of the bill also provides, in sub-section(e), that "Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States ." As reflected in Senate debate over the bill, there is a great deal of controversy over the status of existing law "


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By marvdmartian on 1/17/2013 4:32:55 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget they habitually ignore the finer points of the Constitution too! Who has time for pesky constitutional adherence, anyways??


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By foolsgambit11 on 1/17/2013 6:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
Playing devil's advocate, do they ignore the finer points of the Constitution, or do they simply have a different interpretation of it than you? Can you site specific examples where they've gone against the Constitution, as interpreted by Supreme Court precedent?

I'm not a fan of the expanding powers of the DOJ (a process that has been underway for over a decade, at least), and F&F was certainly illegal, but what has been unconstitutional that they've done?


RE: Tip of the Iceberg
By Piiman on 1/19/2013 1:45:03 PM , Rating: 3
F n F was started under Bush. It had a different name but was the same program.


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