Today’s post is on the growing concern with the government’s surveillance transgressions. First, the CIA has opened up an internal inquiry as to whether its cooperation with the NYPD since 9/11 violated the laws prohibiting the agency from gathering intelligence in the US. Critics have labeled the CIA’s counterterrorism projects with law enforcement services as “domestic spying”. Muslim advocacy groups have decried some of the more controversial counterterrorism projects undertaken by the police department in cooperation with the CIA, such as monitoring mosques and ethnic groups, but a spokeswoman for the Agency maintains that the CIA’s operational focus is still overseas and that the work the CIA has been doing with the NYPD is necessary in the post-9/11 world.
Meanwhile, judges all over the country have been filing rulings against the use of cellphones and satellites to pursue suspects, on the grounds that such practices are endangering the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee to the protection from government invasion of privacy. Now, the Supreme Court is set to hear an important Fourth Ammendment case and decide whether “changes in technology require changes to existing fourth amendment doctrine”. The issue at the center of the case is whether the police need a warrant to track a suspect’s car for weeks at a time using a GPS. The Supreme Court will have to interpret the application of the ban against “unreasonable searches” in a world where people are continuously being monitored. The Supreme Court will not just address whether GPS tracking requires a warrant, but whether the police are generally allowed to monitor a person’s every move outside their home through technology, or whether this goes “unreasonably” beyond conventional surveillance.
An appeals court in DC, found that the government and police are using surveillance equipment to obtain too much information, and that by tracking a person over a period of time, they are gaining too much information about his life. A court in San Fransisco, however, decided that the police use of GPS is the same at an officer’s tailing of a car, but more efficient.
Another question the Supreme Court will have to decide on is whether surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment only in cases of general public surveillance where there is no individual suspicion, or whether tracking a suspect over a period of time was also “unreasonable” in terms of the Fourth Amendment rights.