Snoopers’ flights: Air raid! |

Snoopers’ flights: Air raid!

If the Founders and Framers knew about U.S. marshals’ reported airborne collection of cellphone data from thousands of innocent Americans while pursuing criminals, they surely would shout, “Get a warrant!”

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, this program began outrageously violating Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure around 2007. Cessna aircraft, covering most of the U.S. population from five unidentified metro-area airports, carry devices that mimic cell towers, fooling cellphones into reporting their general locations and unique registration information.

These devices supposedly distinguish between innocents’ cellphones and those of fugitives, drug dealers and others under criminal investigation. But they can gather data from tens of thousands of phones, encrypted or not, in a single flight. And while court orders supposedly are obtained for these flights, those orders are sealed.

Given how wide a net is cast, it’s hard to see how those court orders could be as specific — about what’s to be searched, for what purpose — as search warrants must be under the Fourth Amendment.

The ACLU’s chief technologist says judges approving this “dragnet surveillance program” likely don’t realize its scale. Such widespread snooping on innocents is the result of overreaching law enforcers and compliant judges disregarding constitutional wisdom.

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