Ron Wyden Suggests Secret PATRIOT GPS Tracking May Be Illegal Under Jones

As I’ve suggested in my posts on US v Jones, the Justices seemed opposed to the kind of tracking we believe the government is doing under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Yet of the three opinions ruling the warrantless use of GPS tracking in the case improper, only Sonia Sotomayor spoke broadly enough to make it clear that the Secret PATRIOT application is unconstitutional.

Ron Wyden (who, remember, wrote a column on Jones’ application to Secret PATRIOT) used yesterday’s Threat Assessment hearing to try to get James Clapper to commit to whether US v Jones makes Secret PATRIOT illegal. (2:25)

Wyden: Director Clapper, as you know the Supreme Court ruled last week that it was unconstitutional for federal agents to attach a GPS tracking device to an individual’s car and monitor their movements 24/7 without a warrant. Because the Chair was being very gracious, I want to do this briefly. Can you tell me as of now what you believe this means for the intelligence community, number 1, and 2, would you be willing to commit this morning to giving me an unclassified response with respect to what you believe the law authorizes. This goes to the point that you and I have talked, Sir, about in the past, the question of secret law, I strongly feel that the laws and their interpretations must be public. And then of course the important work that all of you’re doing we very often have to keep that classified in order to protect secrets and the well-being of your capable staff. So just two parts, 1, what you think the law means as of now, and will you commit to giving me an unclassified answer on the point of what you believe the law actually authorizes.

Clapper: Sir, the judgment rendered was, as you stated, was in a law enforcement context. We are now examining, and the lawyers are, what are the potential implications for intelligence, you know, foreign or domestic. So, that reading is of great interest to us. And I’m sure we can share it with you. [looks around for confirmation] One more point I need to make, though. In all of this, we will–we have and will continue to abide by the Fourth Amendment.

Given Clapper’s quick invocation of the law enforcement context, I suspect the Intelligence Community’s lawyers are planning to use the language in Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion addressing “extraordinary offenses”…

We also need not consider whether prolonged GPS monitoring in the context of investigations involving extraordinary offenses would similarly intrude on a constitutionally protected sphere of privacy. In such cases, long-term tracking might have been mounted using previously available techniques.

…To claim that their intelligence application–“foreign or domestic”–would still permit the tracking of innocent citizens using their cell phones.

In any case, if Clapper is good on his word (though note, he said he’d give this interpretation to Wyden, not release it publicly), the government may finally tip its hand regarding its cell phone tracking of Americans.

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3 Responses to Ron Wyden Suggests Secret PATRIOT GPS Tracking May Be Illegal Under Jones

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz The night the NCAA became indistinguishable from, if it wasn't already, craven self serving malignancy of NFL. Congrats NCAA you've arrived!
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bmaz RT @John_de_Vashon: As always the core @NCAA narative must prevail. #TheFixIsIn #NCAA MT @bmaz: Bullshit play by KY and crapass call by the…
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bmaz I HATE Notre Dame, and, yet, they got completely ripped off by the refereeing. What a #joke
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bmaz @Gaius_Publius @MasaccioEW @ChrisInParis ND got fucking ripped off on contact. What a crock of shit. You KNOW I do not say that lightly.
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bmaz What a crock of dung. If the roles had been reversed had been reversed, ND would have never gotten the cheesy calls KY did. #FOUL
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bmaz Bullshit play by KY and crapass call by the refs
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emptywheel @jhamby Also think Amber Alert site went down sometime today after alert per @RayneToday @eric_analytics @chockenberry @SwiftOnSecurity
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bmaz Just saying, some men I know may have more than the luck of the Irish. Craft beers for all!
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emptywheel @jhamby But it included license plate, was for 15 year old teal F250. Even in MI can't be many of those left @chockenberry @SwiftOnSecurity
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emptywheel @jhamby This MI one this morning was statewide too (or at least lower peninsula), I think, from MSP. @chockenberry @SwiftOnSecurity
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bmaz @Gaius_Publius @MasaccioEW @ChrisInParis Wisconsin is also a classy and easy team to root for.
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bmaz @Gaius_Publius @MasaccioEW @ChrisInParis Hey AZ was more than capable of winning that game. The did NOT. Hat's off to Badgers; they're good.
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