The Obama Administration is appealing a ruling in favor of privacy before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit — seeking to allow it to track people by their cellphones and arguing that there is no privacy expectations to prevent tracking without probable cause. It is another example of Obama’s continued assault on civil liberties — and the failure of liberals to call him to account for such policies.
Cellphones are now the most popular form of telephonic communication. Many homes no longer use “land lines” in favor of cellphones. That makes the forthcoming ruling of the Third Circuit all the more important for civil liberties to protect the privacy of such users.
U.S. Circuit Judge Dolores Sloviter expressed the obvious dangers of the Obama effort to track such phones in oral argument: “You know there are governments in the world that would like to know where some of their people are or have been. . . Can the government assure us that it will never try to find out these things? . . . Don’t we have to be concerned about this? Not this government right now, but a government?”
The Obama Administration took an extreme position that such concerns have little relevance because there is no privacy protection from such tracking of citizens — even without a showing of probable cause.
Privacy groups are fighting the Obama Administration, including the ACLU and EFF.
The Administration is relying on the 1986 Electronics Communications Privacy Act allows police to obtain “non-content” data without a warrant. It was a poorly written law with insufficient concern for civil liberties. The chief author of the law, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., seems to want to see a compromise affording the Administration the ability to track while protecting civil liberties. There is such a balance. It is called the probable cause provision of the United States Constitution. The government needs to show a judge that it has a basis for such surveillance.
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