In the latest expansion of the national security state, the Obama administration has brought to the Supreme Court the argument that anyone’s cell phone is subject to search and seizure without first obtaining search warrants. The Supreme Court case Riley V. California is being decided upon under the context of the increasing government surveillance culture and has added yet another nail in the coffin of individual privacy.
Justice Department lawyer Michael Dreeban has made the case that evidence found in suspect’s personal mobile devices have led to countless convictions. Dreeban asserts that without the mobile device’s information, the convictions would have seized to transpire, presumptuously claiming that this fact alone should bear right to law enforcement to conduct cell phone searches under any arrest related circumstance. Dreeban went on to say that if law enforcement had to go through the process of legally securing a warrant to scour through the contents of an arrested person’s phone, encryption could be enacted to thwart law enforcement’s ability to view the material.
Justice Kennedy echoed this sentiment, saying that criminals have utilized cell phones to facilitate crimes, making criminals “more dangerous, more sophisticated, more elusive with cellphones.”
The issue of cell phone privacy comes in an age where over 90% of Americans own at least one cellphone according to a Pew Research Center. Admittedly, millions of Americans store their sensitive and private information on their devices. Justice Elena Kagan said in the deliberations that “people carry their entire lives on their cellphones.”
The protection under the fourth amendment against unreasonable search and seizure by local and federal law enforcement seems to not be enough to slow down the Obama administration, which has expanded the notion of ‘reasonable’ search and seizure, adamantly defending the government’s right to do so.
Lawyer for David Riley, the plaintiff in this case, Jeffrey Fisher, said that the alteration in the notion of privacy first outlined in the constitution has “fundamentally… changed the nature of privacy that Americans fought for at the founding of the Republic.”
With billions of private e-mails, phone conversations and communications intercepted, cataloged and analyzed by the U.S. government on a daily basis, the transformation of local and federal law enforcement into impregnable ‘justice’ makers is the next step in the rapidly changing landscape of privacy.
Many would take this moment to quote Benjamin Franklin’s infamous “liberty over security” line to sum up this trade off for an omnipotent government in return for the promised, although simply perceived feeling of peace and security; but under the threat of being cliche, I’ll instead urge Americans to try absorbing the concept that limitless government oversight into the lives of each and every citizen is as much a threat to security as it is a bulwark- this idea should be apt enough to underpin the seriousness of this debate.
And while the Supreme Court, with a median age of 67 years, tries applying 40 year old legal procedures over the confiscation of personal effects from arrested individuals, the rest of us who depend on our cellphones and mobile devices to store our personal information are witnessing the decline of liberty for the American public and the rise of the omnipotent, security-obsessed nanny state, which offers nothing more than perceived threats of terror and destruction to extract our compliance and servility.
The decision is expected to be handed down by late June.