Americans are getting a warning that they are being watched digitally, whether they agree to the spying or not.
The warning is coming from the Rutherford Institute, which has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a dispute now pending before the Supreme Court, in Hammond v. U.S.
The warning is that “Americans are being swept up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals. ”
The Rutherford Institute said it is “challenging the government’s unconstitutional practice of warrantlessly tracking people’s location and movements through their personal cell phones in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Institute attorneys charge that technological advancements in cell phone providers’ ability to obtain data on their users’ whereabouts, especially as a result of cell site proliferation due to 5G networks, means that law enforcement can use “triangulation methods” to identify a person’s location, very specifically.
So the technology knows when you are at church, or at home, at a library, a theater or a political event.
The amicus brief, filed in cooperation with the Cato Institute, addresses the issue.
“Cell phones have become de facto snitches, offering up a steady stream of digital location data on users’ movements and travels,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People.
“Added to that, police are tracking people’s movements by way of license plate toll readers; scouring social media posts; triangulating data from cellphone towers and WiFi signals; layering facial recognition software on top of that; and then cross-referencing footage with public social media posts, all in an effort to identify, track and eventually round us up. This is what it means to live in a suspect society.”
The case at hand developed following a series of armed robberies in 2017 in Michigan and Indiana.
Federal investigations traced one of the weapons used to a former owner, who reported he sold it to a Rex Hammond. The former owner gave officers Hammond’s phone number
“Without obtaining a search warrant, a local police detective then requested cell site location information (‘CSLI’) from AT&T to geolocate Hammond’s cell phone using real-time pings to nearby cell towers about every fifteen minutes,” the institute reported.
They also traced his movements back in time.
Then they arrested him, and a grand jury indicted him on eight charges connected to the robberies. He was convicted and sentenced to 47 years in prison.
Appealing to the Supreme Court, Hammond’s lawyers warned “real-time cell phone pinging thus allows the state to surreptitiously track the movements of any individual with a cell phone (essentially all Americans) with a voyeuristic level of precision, and without ever leaving the precinct.”
They charge that violates the Constitution.
Other law enforcement spying has met with varying results at appeals courts. One previous ruling said officers were not allowed to attach a locator unit to a suspect’s vehicle and trace his movements, without a search warrant.
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