Obama's DOJ Tries to Sneak Around Supreme Court GPS Tracking Ruling, ACLU Upset
January 17, 2013 2:08 PM
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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 (
) 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,
U.S. v. Jones
; 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.
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.
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?
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
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RE: We are still lucky...
1/18/2013 10:17:17 PM
Correct, the advantage given to the current government through those who receive entitlements will quickly disappear once there is no more money to hand out. Once the rich have been stripped of their wealth, and companies move to other countries to avoid excessive taxes that will be needed to replace the missing rich, there will be no more money to hand out and promises only satisfy for a very short time. Let's only hope that we are taken over from forces from within nstead of some other country taking advantage of our dilemma.
Humans appear to want to be enslaved...
I don't think they want to be enslaved, I think it is actually worse. They have a total aversion to personal responsibility and want everything done for them to the point of giving up their freedoms in order to avoid those responsibilities.
The saving grace here though is that for most if you take away the assistance, they will take on the responsibility because they do not want to do without. At least a majority will, there will always be some who completely refuse and suffer rather than take up that responsibility. Once people have to take up those responsibilities you will see them become more involved in running this country again. That is why this country became as great as quickly as it did, at that time everyone HAD to support themselves otherwise they died, and with a society built on the backs of that caliber of citizen can't help but be strong. In contrast a society which has the majority of its citizens putting forth the least amount of effort possible will be a very frail society.
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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