Thursday, February 18, 2010

Obama Justice Department: No Warrants Needed For Cell-Phone Tracking

So let's review the bidding. The many critics of the Bush administration regularly accused the president and his team of violating civil liberties and shredding the constitution. Now comes the Obama administration telling the 3rd Circuit federal appeals court that is okay to track cell phones without a court order. Has there been any significant outcry from privacy advocates or civil libertarians?
The FBI and other police agencies don't need to obtain a search warrant to learn the locations of Americans' cell phones, the U.S. Department of Justice told a federal appeals court in Philadelphia on [February 12].
A Justice Department attorney told the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that there is no constitutional problem with obtaining records from cellular providers that can reveal the approximate locations of handheld and mobile devices.
There "is no constitutional bar" to acquiring "routine business records held by a communications service provider," said Mark Eckenwiler, a senior attorney in the criminal division of the Justice Department. He added, "The government is not required to use a warrant when it uses a tracking device."
This is the first federal appeals court to address warrantless location tracking, which raises novel issues of government surveillance and whether Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts.

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