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Now we all already know that "we're the Government-you can trust us " is  already one of  the Three Great Lies (the other two being "the Check is in your Mouth " and "I promise not to cum  in the mail"-{ or something like that}).

But it's worth noting that the FBI has recently been making routine use of another scary  intelligence gathering capability they Double-secret promised to NEVER use without a warrant;   the ability to Track you through your cellphone:


But the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have seized on the ability to locate a cellular customer and are using it to track Americans' whereabouts surreptitiously--even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing. { And therefore no warrant either-ed}
A pair of court decisions in the last few weeks shows that judges are split on whether this is legal. One federal magistrate judge in Wisconsin on Jan. 17 ruled it was unlawful, but another nine days later in Louisiana decided that it was perfectly OK.

Which is a bit of a reversal from the  solemn promise they made to Congress in 1992:


Several privacy-based spokespersons have criticized the wording
Of the definition regarding this long-standing requirement, alleging
That the government is seeking a new, pervasive, automated "tracking"
Capability. Such allegations are completely wrong.
...

information obtained from "true" tracking devices, which can
Require a warrant or court order when used to track within a private
Location not open to public view. .. Even when such generalized location information, or Any other type of "transactional" information, is obtained from communications service providers, court orders or subpoenas are required and are obtained....

we are prepared to add a concluding phrase to this definition to explicitly clarify the point: except that such
Information (call setup information) shall not include any information that may disclose the physical location of a mobile facility or service beyond that associated with the number's area code or exchange."

Now you may be unaware of this, but if your cell phone was made after about 2000, it broadcasts a signal that uniquely identifies you and identifies your location to within a few feet; or even inches. The FCC has required every phone sold  since 2002 be able to do this.  

 Now to be fair, the primary reason for this requirement was altruistic.  The FCC wanted police and firefighters to be able locate cellular 911 callers who were unable to give their location, just as they can with landlines.  As a result, The FCC made it mandatory for all cell phones to have either GPS or E911 technology that allows them to be precisely located and tracked.  (Oh and by the way you cannot turn this feature off and it may work even when your phone is off )

Well, back in the simplier more civil liberty-friendly 90's, even the ability to "triangulate" a cell phone's location to within a block or two by comparing signal bounce rates off local cell towers so alarmed privacy advocates that, there was ferocious opposition to letting law enforcement access this information.  In fact; the `94 law probably wouldn't have passed without Director Freeh's emphatic promises about judicial safeguards and compromises as the wording.

Well,  as they say around Washington, "that statement is no Longer operable" or in the vernacular of the Playground:  "psyche!"

Our new Privacy hatin' FBI has thought nothing of making routine use of these signals, with nothing more than a subpoena
( According to the   EFF's Amicus Brief in one such case:


Last month, the court denied a Justice Department request to monitor a cell phone's location. The ruling revealed that the DOJ has routinely been securing court orders for real-time cell phone tracking without probable cause and without any law authorizing the surveillance.

I suppose we should be grateful that they are even seeking subpoenas anymore.   The Question is, for how long?  Until now, the case law has been crystal clear on this In U.S. v. Karo 468 US 705 (1984-appropriately enough)  The court emphatically ruled that:


The monitoring of a beeper in a private residence, a location not opened to visual surveillance, violates the Fourth Amendment rights of those who have a justifiable interest in the privacy of the residence. ....The result is the same where, without a warrant, the Government surreptitiously uses a beeper to obtain information that it could not have obtained from outside the curtilage of the house.

Unfortunately this administration has a strange case of amnesia when it comes to legal precedents they don't like

Despite this case, the Government has asserted in recent cases that warrants are never required since we voluntarily tell the government where we are when we use these phones. as recently Argued in this case:


A cell phone user voluntarily transmits a signal to the cell phone company and thereby assumes the risk that the cell phone provider will reveal to law enforcement the cell site information."

This is an EXTREMELY scary position to stake out because he is in effect trying to undermine the fact that a cell phone user has "a reasonable expectation of privacy" about their location. The government is essentially trying to claim the unlimited right to track ANY person for ANY Reason at all, ANY Where.   If you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy, then thee is no limit to the search the government can conduct at its whim.

So far, fortunately only one Court, in Louisiana, has agreed with them on this issue and two-one in New York and the Other in Wisconsin have shot the government down.  That means it's still early in this fight, and since the battle is being fought openly in the courts rather than in secret we have a better chance of fighting back.

But fight back we need to.   Everyday I feel like we're sliding further from a citizens of free country with civil liberties, and closer to  becoming residents of Bentham's Panopticon.   Worse yet, as the last five years have made clear,  those who should be the inmates are currently running the  asylum

(kudos to Declan McCullagh for staying on top of this story)

Originally posted to Magorn on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 02:18 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Where is this country going???? (none)
    George Orwell would be flattered that all his predictions are coming true. I'm not so sure I'm going to want to stay in this country for much longer if this kind of shit persists. When is enough enough?! Where is the outrage?????

    I HATE REPUBLICANS, HATE HATE HATE THEM!!!!!!!!! UGHHHHH [-5.50, -4.69]

    by michael1104 on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 02:25:51 PM PST

  •  So what could this mean to you? (4.00)
    Let's take one small example:

    As I read the cases to prepare this diary, I remember several Kos Commentaries recently that form organizers of anti-war or Anti-Bush protests last year or during 04, ran into situations where they were surrounded by police and  were forced to disperse before they even got their  rallies started.  

    Most had made some efforts to keep to location secure by only announcing it on E-mail and/or by word of mouth to trusted people.  

    The fact that the cops were obviously waiting for them, caused many to later conclude that they too had had  their e-mail had been intercepted by the NSA or that their groups had been somehow infiltrated.   But with these most recent revelations, another possibility rears its ugly head.  The FBI and other could be easily tracking organizers movements through their cell phones, making it impossible to assemble anywhere without being disrupted.

    Or even more sinister it would allow police to compile lists of demonstration attendee, or even track associations of suspect people (in the WI cited above, the  FBI wanted to track a drug dealer in the hopes that during his day he's stop at his dealer's house and they could figure out where it was)

    Knowledge is power Power Corrupts Study Hard Be Evil

    by Magorn on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 02:33:54 PM PST

    •  Troubling applications of this technology (none)
      "Or even more sinister it would allow police to compile lists of demonstration attendee, or even track associations of suspect people..."

      Hadn't thought of this one.  Eek.  It's like handin' 'em a sign-in sheet with names and addresses/phone nos of all participants.  HUH??!!  Just all a neat lil' tidy package.  No need for the agents/provocateurs of the 60'-70's with their surreptitious cameras photographing everyone.  Not.  Just a lil' GPS cellphone tracking.  Ah, there you are, today!

      Thanks for this hedz up.  We all may need to remember to NOT use our cell phones to communicate any, ah, messages of dissent, or to take them to any demonstrations of the constitutional right to assembly and free speech.

      Good job, Paul Revere Magorn

  •  Yet another reason NOT to have a cell phone (none)
    And I don't plan on getting one.  Just another monthly bill to pay.

    But I'm just an old fart who doesn't like talking on the phone and sits by the computer all day with my land line telephone within easy reach (and it doesn't ring much thank goodness)--so They'd be able to know where I am anyway.  My daughter, on the other hand, doesn't have a land line.  But then in the past couple of years she's moved a number of times and it's been a convenience for her to have been able to keep the same number all the time.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Emerson on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 03:13:51 PM PST

  •  Anyone else? (none)
    I have a relic of a cell-phone which doesn't have gps.  A few weeks ago I got a letter from my phone company indicating that I should update my phone since in an emergency I could be located with one of the newer ones, but not with my old one.

    Anyone else gotten a letter like this recently?

    I suppose it's not as sinister as it felt upon first reading, but I'm going to stick with my old phone as long as it'll still work.

  •  What this means is Abu Gharib can happen to You (none)

    You can disappear one day and be tortured in a neo nazi , neocon prison .

    It's true -

    Mark Warner / Wesley Clark 2008 **

    by Susan Easley on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 03:18:48 PM PST

  •  Shielded bags? (none)
    I've often wondered if you could purchase a lead bag or some type of shielded bag.  Originally I considered it for EasyPass devices, after I heard that people got speeding tickets when their EasyPass device gave evidence that they made it from Point A to Point B on a highway, in too short a time, or whatever.  Now I wonder if such a bag could be used for a cell phone.  It's not that I really have anything to hide - my life is pretty darn boring.  But it just pisses me off that someone could track me.

    On Bush: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." --(borrowed from) Churchill

    by joanneleon on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 03:22:10 PM PST

  •  Security tracking busters....biz of the future (none)
    If there are any enterprising techies out there, here is the biz of the future....

    Open a store where I can bring my car, my phone, my clothes and god knows what else, and I will pay you to take the tracking devices OUT.

    And maybe you can add some scrambling chip to my phone and computer to make them tap and hack proof.

    And then DARE them to say this business is illegal because the government has resinced the 4th ammendment.

  •  One more idea (none)
    Suppose someone could invent a see-through film of some kind that you could coat your car windows and license plate with, that would prevent cameras from getting an image?
  •  Some other recent diaries touched ... (none)
     ... on this.

    Soj 1

    Soj 2

    " W " is the New Swastika

    by Yellow Canary on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 04:31:47 PM PST

  •  Tag cleanup needed: (none)
    From the TAG list:

    cell phone (1)

    cell phones (3)

    cell processor (1)

    CellPhone (1)

    celltolls.com (1)

    cellular (2)

    " W " is the New Swastika

    by Yellow Canary on Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 04:34:40 PM PST

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