Senator Seeks More Info On DOJ Location Tracking Practices

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is demanding answers to questions about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) practice of gathering data from wireless providers in order to monitor individuals’ movements using mobile phone location data.

Cell phone trackingSenator Al Franken (D-MN) is demanding answers to questions about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) practice of gathering data from wireless providers in order to monitor individuals’ movements using mobile phone location data.

Franken released a copy of a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday (PDF). In it, he outlined his concern that local law enforcement is circumventing a recent Supreme Court ruling that found certain types of monitoring a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. Franken worries that law enforcement’s reliance on data provided directly by wireless providers, without a warrant, violates both the spirit and letter of the recent ruling.

The January Supreme Court ruling in the case of United States vs. Jones stemmed from a case in which the FBI attached a GPS device to the car of a suspect, Antoine Jones, in a drug trafficking case. In their ruling, the Justices determined that attaching a GPS to a vehicle and then using it to monitor that vehicles movement constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. Jones’s conviction was reversed.

In his letter, Franken said he wants to know how frequently the DoJ makes such requests to wireless carriers, and what legal standard it must meet to obtain such information. Specifically, Franken asks how many such requests have been made in the last five years, and how many individuals were affected by them. Franken also asked for information on the information that is being asked for and whether the DoJ’s practices changed at all since the Jones decision. 

You can read Franken’s letter, which is hosted on the American Civil Liberties Website, here.

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Discussion

  • fillst on

    I'm wondering just what is Franken's motivation, or concern? Mightier minds than his are aware of the decision and I'm sure there will be other decisions made that will allow or stop the practise, if it is actually a common request.

    There have been many things trotted out in the name of "information" that are simply a means of showing the folks that certain politicians have a liberal bent... believe me, anyone who doesn't know Al Franken's "bent" ought not to be allowed to vote.

    Could this be an election year?

  • fillave on

    Fillst, why should Americans be as trusting as you advocate? And why is it a bad thing for a US Senator to inquire about whether the government is following Supreme Court rulings that protect our rights as citizens?

    I don't care if it's an election year. I'm glad someone is on the job.

  • miketlibertarian on

    fillst, im not sure i follow your reasoning.. a senator.. whos duties include oversight... should leave it up to.. who exactly.. to make those decisions..?! do _those_ people really know whats going on? 

    these kinds of things only get fixed when someone starts asking questions, and i'm not sure i see whats wrong with someone saying ... "hey! that doesnt look right.. show me how this works and what the checks and balances are.".

    i know your trying to make a political point here im just not sure what it is.. since when is constitutional consistency a liberal thing?!

     

     

  • Anonymous on

    Fillst's point is that he votes for the person running against Franken.

     

  • Anonymous on

    Senator Franken is a smart person and he is not running for re-election (remember that senators have 5 year terms).

    The senators and congressmen/women are suppposed to represent the people (not the corporations) and I am concerned about any attempt to have us living in a environment as described in the book "1984".

     

     

  • Anonymous on

    "Senator Franken is a smart person and he is not running for re-election (remember that senators have 5 year terms)."

    --

    No, they have 6 year terms, he's not up for election till 2014. 

    Also unless it was in recent days, I've not seen anything to indicate that Franken is not planning to run again in 2014, in fact his website ( h t t p: // w w w. alfranken .c o m  )is paid for by "Al Franken for Senate 2014" and is taking donations, so that sounds like he's planning on running again if you ask me.

     

    There is nothing wrong with asking questions of the bureaucrats at DoJ, and trying to make sure things are operating as they should be, which so often is not the case.

    I don't don't care for Franken or 95% of his politics but when it comes to oversight on privacy issues both online and offline he's actually been one of only a handful in the senate who's actually been paying attention, it may be just " even a stopped clock is right twice a day " syndrom but even so I give him credit where it's due. 

     

     

     

  • Jim A on

    My limited understanding is that a big part of the Jones case revolved around the fact that agents had to go onto his property to place the device.  Location tracing a cell phone requires no such tresspass. 

     

  • Tinman57 on

      People like fillst needs to get their heads out of party lines and see people for their actions, not affiliation.  Yes, Franklin is a flaming liberal, but at least he's trying to fight for some justice, which is more than I see from a lot of politicians.

      I'm an independent and vote for the person running, not their affiliation.  I think the best politician is a moderate liberal republican democrat, which usually runs as an indepedent, and are few and far in-between....

  • Mary Wilbur on

    Al Franken may be a flaming liberal Dem. and I may be a retro Rep. but I don't give a damn. Franken is doing the right thing. The Feds steady increase in monitoring (spying) on U.S. citizens is extremely alarming. This country is on its way to becoming a police state. People of every political persuasion should be very concerned and act accordingly. 

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