Obama Admin: GPS Tracking Without Warrants ‘Necessary’

Insists Tracking Americans' Every Movement Has 'Minimal' Privacy Impact

by Jason Ditz, March 19, 2013

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot conduct open-ended surveillance of American citizens’ movements through covert GPS tracking without an actual warrant from a real judge. The ruling forced the FBI to shut down thousands of ongoing surveillance schemes.

The Obama Administration is set to try to reclaim that power in an appellate court, arguing that such surveillance is “necessary” for the ongoing war on terrorism, and that the previous Supreme Court ruling is no valid.

The administration has filed a brief (pdf) to that end, arguing that being subject to constant surveillance of their location has a “minimal” effect on Americans’ privacy, and that “probable cause” is an unreasonable standard to hold police to in attaching surveillance devices to cars.

The ACLU is arguing against warrantless tracking, warning that as GPS devices get cheaper and more convenient for police to use the devices are simply going to be deployed everywhere, on any pretext. Administration officials don’t seem to be arguing that point so much as insisting it is vital that they do so.

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