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Administration defends warrantless tracking of cell phone users

Posted by Richard on February 12, 2010

This story cries out for one Instapundit's trademark "They warned me that if I voted Republican…" posts, but I haven't seen one yet — aha, there it is! CNET reported:

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their–or at least their cell phones'–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

I thought it might be fun to see what the lefties (who for the entire eight Bush years cried "police state!" at the drop of a hat) were saying about this. At Daily Kos, nextstep fretted about what some administration other than this one might do (emphasis added): 

This may be more incideous that one would first imagine.  How do you feel about attending a protest against a Republican administration, where the government can record that you attended the protest, when you arrived, when you left and where did you go after the event.

But nextstep was quick to give Obama the benefit of the doubt regarding such an "incideous" policy (emphasis in original): 

While the article refers to the government as the Obama adinistration, to my knowledge President Obama has not spoken on this issue.  The press needs to follow up with the Justice Deprtment and the White House to get them on the record as supporting or opposing this policy.

And nextstep closed with this quintessential example of moral relativism (emphasis added): 

Remember even if one believes the Obama administration would not use these powers against people like us – and may even use this power against the worst of the Tea Party activists, it is just a matter of time for the administration to change to a party that we don't trust.

See, even though it would be a good thing to use warrantless tracking to go after our enemies, we have to consider how wrong it would be if our enemies did the same thing to "people like us." 

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