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.These requests go against internal Justice Department recommendations that warrants be sought by federal prosecutors, based on probable cause. Because the orders are sealed at the request of the government, it is difficult, if not impossible to determine how often the orders are okayed or declined.
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.
This month, a federal judge in Texas denied a request by a DEA agent for data that would identify the location of a suspected drug trafficker by the GPS chip in his cell phone. Magistrate Judge Brian L. Owsley did not just deny the request, he was scathing in his opinion, stating that the agent's affidavit failed to make the case and offer the "specifics necessary to establish probable cause, such as relevant dates, names and places."
Then the judge opted to publish his opinion and make it a part of the public record.
In his opinion, he offered the details of the case, explaining in detail the shortcomings of the agents argument, in which the agent failed to provide "sufficient specific information to support the assertion" that the phone was being used to facilitate criminal activity.
The agent offered no substantiation of the allegation, instead merely arrogantly asserting that the suspect trafficked in narcotics and used the phone to do so. Owlesly wrote in his opinion that the agent simply stated that the agency had " 'determined' or 'identified' certain matters," but "these identifications, determinations or revelations are not facts, but simply conclusions by the agency."
Federal agencies are routinely applying for orders based on an absurdly low standard, when they should be seeking warrants based on probable cause.
And we warned you.
We told you that if you gave them special powers under the guise of "tracking terrorists" that in a New York minute they would be abusing their new, extra-Constitutional powers and going after Americans with them. We told you that if they were given a taste of that sort of power they would use it instead of shoeleather to prosecute criminal cases.
This sort of thing might be right up some quivering, pissing coward's alley, but not mine. I actually give a rat's ass about the Constitution and liberty and freedom. I fear my government a hell of a lot more than I fear a few foam-flecked fundamentalists and their reich-wing enablers.
Extra-Constitutional powers granted to combat terrorism were quickly abused and misused by law enforcement to make criminal cases.
Next stop? Spying on political opponents.
Who is to say that isn't already happening?
It sure would explain the cowardice and spinelessness of a whole bunch of Democrats in congress.
I don't know about you, but the very first day that Congress is back in session, I will be calling all of my elected representatives and demanding a repeal of that un-American apostasy known as the Patriot Act.