Federal Cell Phone Tracking Challenged in Court by ACLU

By The Staff at AFP

Following a victory in the Supreme Court against the use of GPS tracking devices against Americans without a search warrant, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has brought suit against the government of the United States to stop the use of cellular telephones to monitor people’s movements.

The United States currently has technology that monitors cellular telephones on several levels. First, it has a computer system that picks up all cellular communications signals in real time as they are transmitted through the air, and cross-references them against all open FBI files. This technology was developed by the CIA but made news after it was acquired by Iran, which transferred it to Hezbollah, who then used it to break up the CIA spy station in Beirut.

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Second, the government uses the GPS device within all cellular phones—which phone companies use to determine where to send the cellular signal—to track the movements of all Americans who use the devices in real time.

The usual method by which these records are obtained is by grand jury subpoena after the fact. But the FBI uses this technology in real time without warrants to track subjects of interest as well. The FBI generally does not intercept cellular phone communications directly without  a warrant, though these calls, particularly internationally, are recorded en masse by the National Security Agency.

In response to ACLU vs. Department of Justice, the government has contended that most Americans are aware that they are being monitored in real time by the government on their cellular telephones, and thus there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. While this is patently false, the federal legal system is largely dependent on this type of fiction for its existence. Little that happens in federal courts has any truth content.

In the past, the government has frequently arrested people after using their cellular phone signals to determine that they were in the vicinity of a criminal event. When challenged, the government has backed off the cellular phone evidence or forced the arrested person to plea bargain in order to avoid the issue emerging in the appellate or supreme courts.

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The widespread use of GPS tracking software has become a concern to many Americans, but information on this technology has been kept out of the mainstream newspapers by so-called “civil rights” organizations that claim anyone who argues the government has used the technology against them—even when the government has admitted it—is insane or a believer in conspiracy theories (which is supposed to make you a nut). For instance, when individuals in the 1990s claimed they had been injected with GPS-tracking microchips, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center both issued press statements claiming this technology was impossible and part of a right-wing conspiracy theory. Today, however, these claims have been proven true thanks to reports that the military in the 1990s developed high-tech subcutaneous tracking microchips.

The ACLU is currently involved in more than 30 civil and criminal actions involving cell phone tracking, but the only effective way to minimize the tracking of your cell phone is to use a cheap disposable phone and to destroy it, replacing it regularly.