Can prosecutors attach a Global Positioning System device to a criminal suspect’s car without a warrant in order to track his movements for weeks or even months?
The D.C. Circuit answered this very 21st-century criminal procedure question last August with a resounding “no.” An ideologically diverse panel composed of Judges Douglas Ginsburg, David Tatel, and Thomas Griffith unanimously ruled that this kind of round-the-clock surveillance requires prosecutors first to go to a judge and get a warrant based on probable cause.
The court found that the act of attaching the GPS device to a suspect’s vehicle is a “search” that requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment because this type of surveillance is so pervasive and invasive that no one would have a reasonable expectation that it would occur.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
A federal magistrate judge in Virginia ruled Friday (pdf) that the government has the right to obtain the private records of a group of Twitter users in furtherance of its WikiLeaks investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation challenged the government's efforts to obtain the records, arguing violations of the users' First and Fourth Amendment rights.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan sided with the government, ruling that because no divulgement of content is being requested — only documents pertaining to the identification of Twitter users — that there is no Constitutional argument.
The ACLU and EFF plan to appeal the ruling.
To scan or not to scan? That is the question. On March 10, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., telling the three-judge panel that full-body scanners used by airport security violate the civil rights of passengers in what amounts to an “unreasonable search.”
EPIC’s intent is no less than transforming the utilization of full-body scanning by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) because it infringes upon both the rights granted by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and other laws protecting privacy and religious freedom. EPIC is asking the appellate court to require the TSA to create a new security policy that incorporates public input prior to implementation.
A lawsuit involving Dr. Dre and several Detroit, Mich. police officers was dismissed on Saturday.
During a 2000 concert, the officers went backstage and told organizers power would be shut off if they showed a sexually explicit video.
That confrontation was recorded and included in a popular DVD highlighting the 'Up in Smoke' national concert tour that also featured rappers Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube. The officers filed the lawsuit, citing a privacy violation.
The Michigan Supreme Court overturned an appeals court's decision claiming that there's no right to privacy when police are doing their job.
Two U.S. commercial airline pilots complained in a lawsuit on Friday that new screening procedures for flight crews -- scaled back after complaints by pilots -- were still too invasive and violated privacy rights.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration on October 19 started requiring air travellers and flight crews to go through full-body scanners or physical patdowns amid concerns that militants could hide a bomb underneath their clothing and detonate it aboard a plane.
Pilots and flight crews complained the new screening exposed them to excessive radiation because they fly so frequently and that extra scrutiny for them was unnecessary because they already control the planes.
A man who was arrested after stripping to his shorts at a Richmond International Airport checkpoint to protest security procedures filed a lawsuit Thursday against federal and airport authorities.
Aaron Tobey of Charlottesville filed the complaint in U.S. District Court, alleging agents of the Transportation Security Administration and the Richmond airport police violated his constitutional rights.
Tobey, a 21-year-old student at the University of Cincinnati, partially disrobed Dec. 30 to display a message scrawled on his chest about the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Tobey was detained and charged with disorderly conduct, but the charge was later dropped.The Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville-based civil liberties group, filed the lawsuit on Tobey's behalf.
From Health Aim:
These days, passengers are having to put up with many sorts of hassles from extra baggage fees to the new TSA full body scanners that have recently become a part of the security process at many airports all over the U.S. The new issue that has come up is that recent tests by experts at the Center for Radiological Research at the Columbia University Medical Center have shown that these scanners may have a possible cancer risk due to the fact they give out a form of ionized radiation.
The full body scanners give out what is called a backscatter of X-rays, which is made to show items that are possibly hidden inside clothing, like weapons or other problem devices. When it does this job quite well, the person being scanned is still exposed to a minute amount of radiation when they use it.
From The Blog of Legal Times:
Justice Department lawyers continue weighing whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to pick up a controversial decision involving law enforcement’s warrantless use of GPS devices to track criminal suspects.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in August vacated the life sentence of a man named Antoine Jones, saying investigators should have obtained a warrant to install a global positioning device on Jones’ vehicle to follow him during a drug trafficking investigation.
The appeals court said the warrantless use of the tracking device, which produced thousands of pages of data and allegedly linked Jones to a drug stash house in Maryland, violated his Fourth Amendment rights. In November, the D.C. Circuit voted 5-4 to refuse to allow the full court to rehear the dispute.
From the Statesman Journal:
The hue and cry generated by the Transportation Security Administration's directives on 'pat-downs' and scanning devices minimizes two salient problems: the erosion of civil liberties; the risks to health posed by scanners.
Arguably the issue of civil liberties is the more important.
The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees the citizen freedom from 'unreasonable searches and seizures.'
Saturday, March 12, 2011
From Texas GOP Vote:
A broad coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Texas, led by State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview), have introduced legislation to safeguard traveler dignity by restraining the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) use of abusive passenger screening procedures in Texas airports. House Bills 1937 and 1938 and Concurrent Resolution 80 are a response to new screening procedures that the TSA introduced last fall which subject citizens to unreasonable searches that restrict their right to travel freely and with dignity. The full text of the bills and commentary can be found at SupportDignity.com.
From the guardian.co.uk:
Behold history in the making: in AD 2011, a mere 796 years after England's Magna Carta established that even kings must follow the law, American state legislators are starting to think mandates like 'sexual assault is verboten' should apply to agents of the government, too.
Of course, that was always the case until the TSA (actual motivational motto: 'Dominate. Intimidate. Control.') decided 'ritualised humiliation of travelers' made an acceptable substitute for 'transportation security.' Last year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) started pushing nude scanners on the American flying public. These require travellers to adopt surrender-criminal body positions – feet apart, hands in the air, don't move – while potentially carcenogenic radiation generates nude images graphic enough to permit TSA agents to see travellers' genitalia (though not, apparently, clear enough to show guns smuggled in travellers' undies).
The Alaska House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday urging the Transportation Security Administration to reconsider its use of full-body pat-downs and calling on Congress to exercise greater oversight over the agency.
The resolution came after state Rep. Sharon Cissna was singled out for a pat-down in Seattle last month following a full-body scan. Cissna is a breast-cancer survivor who had a mastectomy.
The TSA has defended its procedures, saying it uses scanners to show anomalies on a person's body, with pat-downs a way of determining the nature of those anomalies.
The Alaska resolution passed 37-1, with at-times impassioned speeches from lawmakers arguing the agency had overstepped its bounds.
Radiation test results from airport screening equipment will start being made public by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in an effort to calm the lingering fears many passengers have about potential health risks.
The TSA said it also discovered anomalies in some reports, including missing data and calculation errors unrelated to safety. It said as an extra cautionary measure it has ordered retesting of all full-body scanners as well as other X-ray equipment airports use to screen luggage.
Concerns from both passengers and airline crews have surfaced due to repeated exposure to radiation from the body scanners.
From Wired.com's Threat Level blog:
The U.S. government is getting closer to getting data from Twitter about various associates of WikiLeaks.
The people whose Twitter records were being requested had moved to throw out the government’s request for data, but a judge denied that motion Friday, ruling that the associates don’t have standing to challenge it.
The judge also denied a request to unseal the government’s application for the Twitter order.
Judge Theresa Buchanan, in the Eastern District of Virginia, ruled that because the government was not seeking the content of the Twitter accounts in question (.pdf), the subjects did not have standing to challenge the government’s request for the records. Content, under the Stored Communications Act, is “any information concerning the substance, purport, or meaning of that communication.”
From the Washington Post':
A privacy rights advocacy group told appellate judges Thursday that the use of full-body scanners as a first line of defense at airport security checkpoints is an 'unreasonable search' in violation of passengers' civil rights.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center wants to stop the Transportation Security Administration from using the scan that shows a naked image of a passenger's body as a primary means of screening. EPIC says the policy is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and laws protecting privacy and religious freedom and is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to require the agency to make a new rule with input from the public before it goes into effect.
The government responds that it has privacy safeguards in place, such as measures to protect travelers' identity from agents viewing the images, which it says make the searches reasonable and 'minimally invasive.'
From the Daily Progress:
An Albemarle County man who stripped to his athletic shorts to reveal a portion of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest has filed a $250,000 suit against officials over how officers at a Richmond airport handled his protest of the Transportation Security Administration’s changes to its security screenings.
Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, a local civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Richmond’s federal court on behalf of Aaron B. Tobey. The suit claims Tobey was falsely imprisoned, maliciously prosecuted and deprived of his First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during the Dec. 30 incident.
The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. Indeed, even the highest readings listed on some of the records — the numbers that the TSA says were mistakes — appear to be many times less than what the agency says a person absorbs through one day of natural background radiation.Even so, the TSA has ordered the new tests out of "an abundance of caution to reassure the public," spokesman Nicholas Kimball says. The tests will be finished by the end of the month, and the results will be released "as they are completed," the agency said on its website.