The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to allow the government to spy on Americans.
No one is saying that exactly, but what else can you call the practice of law enforcement agencies tracking suspects with GPS devices without a warrant?
In a case argued recently before the high court, police in Washington, D.C., had tracked a drug suspect with a global-positioning system monitor they’d secretly attached to his car. They tracked his movements for so long that, at one point, they had to sneak back and replace the tracking device’s battery.
His conviction was thrown out by an appeals court.
While you’d be hard-pressed to find a more law-and-order editorial page, we’re with the appeals court. You want to track the cars of criminal suspects? Get a judge’s OK first.
Anything less is spying.
If the Supreme Court justices weren’t with us initially, they may be now:
“The justices were taken aback,” one news report says, “when the lawyer representing the government said police officers could install GPS devices on the justices’ cars and track their movements without a warrant.”
That certainly brings it home. If the government lawyer was trying to win the court over to warrantless tracking, that probably wasn’t the thing to admit.
At least it’s honest.
The Founding Fathers
probably could not have anticipated cars, much less satellites tracking their every move. But they sure knew what a government with unlimited power was capable of. So they were quick to follow up their new Constitution with a series of amendments spelling out individual rights and government restraints – among them the Fourth Amendment, which
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It’s pretty specific and not at all ambiguous.
Still, the news report said, justices pressed an attorney for the convicted drug dealer “to offer a principled way to draw a line that would still allow police to do their jobs without compromising people’s rights.” Now we’re taken aback! With all due respect to the justices, that’s not his job, nor is it the question being posed to the court. When faced with an unconstitutional act, it is not incumbent upon the victim to prescribe a more constitutional one.
This case is an important test of our freedoms.
Let’s keep track of it.