As discussed in a prior column, many civil libertarians view President Barack Obama as betraying core civil liberties in expanding on Bush-era surveillance programs, secrecy orders, and other measures. Now, even conservative justices are questioning the Administration’s demand to be able to engage in round-the-clock surveillance of citizens without a warrant using GPS technology. The sweeping new claim would gut the protections of the Fourth Amendment in the latest attack on civil liberties by Barack Obama.
In the United States v. Jones (10-1259) case oral argument, Justice Stephen Breyer correctly noted “If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States. So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like 1984 from their brief.” Even Chief Justice John Roberts who is often criticized for turning a blind eye to government intrusions raised concerns that the GPS surveillance would fundamentally alter the balance between citizens and police.
U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben response was classic: don’t worry about the Constitution just rely on Congress to pass a law if we go to far. Congress, of course, has historically cared little about civil liberties and the Administration’s position would leave core liberties as simple matters for political voting.
Despite the growing opposition from civil libertarians who have vowed not to support his reelection, Obama appears to be doubling down on increasing police powers and limiting civil liberties. The Jones case represents an utter disregard for privacy and constitutional protections in favor of further increasing the already disturbing level of police powers in our society.
The case is particularly interesting because of the use of the Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967). The government argues that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy because of the availability of GPS technology. For years, I have argued that our privacy rests on an increasingly uncertain foundation. When it was first handed down, Katz was a magnificent affirmation of privacy — declaring the Fourth Amendment “protects people not places.” However, the Court tied the protection to the “reasonable expectations” of citizens. As those expectations fall, the ability of the government to act without a warrant increases . . . which results in expectations again falling. The result is a downward spiral. The Administration is now playing on that weakness to argue for a broad new power of surveillance.
Source: The Hill