Earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union revealed a trove of documents it had obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to more than 200 police departments around the country. They show a pattern of police tracking cell phone locations and gathering other data like call logs without warrants, using devices that impersonate cell towers to intercept cellular signals, and encouraging officers to refrain from speaking about cell-tracking technology to the public, all detailed in a New York Times story.
But at least one document also details the day-to-day business of telecoms’ handing over of data to law enforcement, including a breakdown of every major carrier’s fees for every sort of data request from targeted wiretaps to so-called “tower dumps” that provide information on every user of certain cell tower. The guide, as provided by the Tucson, Arizona police department to the ACLU, is dated July 2009, and the fees it lists may be somewhat outdated. Representatives from Verizon and AT&T declined to detail any changes to the numbers.
Fifth Circuit considers constitutionality of cell site location data.
Department of Justice litigators just filed a reply brief in an exciting but complex case in the Fifth Circuit that concerns law enforcement access to cell site location data.
The litigation began when Magistrate Judge Smith rejected three government applications for cell site location data that did not purport to satisfy probable cause. I highly recommend Judge Smith’s thoughtful opinion that holds that agents must obtain a warrant to compel service providers to disclose a target subscriber’s stored records of cell phone location data. Justice Department lawyers appealed Judge Smith’s denial, as well as the District Court’s order that agreed with Judge Smith, because they claim the right to compel disclosure whenever they satisfy the “relevance standard” under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d) (“D order”).
The amicus brief argues that the Fourth Amendment requires a probable cause warrant for all location data, which is similar to the argument in EPIC’s amicus brief. EFF and ACLU made that argument as well, and they also suggested that the Fifth Circuit could find that the Stored Communications Act gives magistrate judges the discretion to require either a warrant or a D order. EFF and ACLU previously advocated the discretionary approach in the Third Circuit, and the Third Circuit recently adopted it in the only federal appellate decision on the matter. Orin Kerr’s amicus brief argued that magistrate judges lack the authority to deny government applications on the grounds of unconstitutionality.
GSM cell phone surveillance spy software reviews.
ACLU asks Supreme Court to reject government's effort to block judicial review of surveillance law.
In 2008, Congress enacted a statute that authorized the National Security Agency to carry out dragnet surveillance of Americans' international communications. Almost four years later, the statute — called the FISA Amendments Act — has yet to be reviewed by the courts, and, if the Obama administration has its way, the courts are unlikely ever to review it. In February, the administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn a court of appeals decision that would allow an ACLU challenge to the statute to go forward. Today we filed our brief in opposition, which asks the Supreme Court to let the appeals court's decision stand.
Excerpt from the ACLU's brief:
"The FISA Amendments Act allows the government to collect Americans' international communications en masse without specifying the individuals or facilities to be monitored; without observing meaningful limitations on the retention, analysis, and dissemination of acquired information; without individualized warrants based on criminal or foreign intelligence probable cause; and without prior judicial or even administrative determinations that the targets of surveillance are foreign agents or connected in any way, however remotely, to terrorism.
In the end, what the government disguises as a narrow, technical argument about justiciability reveals itself to be this sweeping proposition: The courts have no meaningful role to play in protecting Americans' international communications from wholesale government surveillance, or even in determining whether that surveillance is consistent with the Constitution. For sound strategic reasons, the government avoids stating the proposition forthrightly, but it is the inescapable consequence of the argument it advances. Nothing in this Court's precedents countenances such a result."