Friday, May 15, 2009

Wisconsin Court Allows GPS Tracking Without Warrant; Only Possible in a Post-9/11 World?

GPS tracking has allowed police to track a number of suspects and solve crimes. The surveillance involves technology and is similar to phone tapping and Internet monitoring. Sectors of the American public initially reacted with outrage when it discovered President Bush's administration authorized warrantless technological surveillance of terrorist suspects. Much to the chagrin of civil libertarians there is less outrage over warrantless technological surveillance of terrorists.

Today there seems to be little to no outrage over a Wisconsin's court decision that allows GPS tracking of any suspect in any case without a warrant. With this GPS tracking leaves other warrant-required surveillances and joins plain view searches.

Without getting into the politics of right and wrong, this court decision seems only possible in a post-9/11 world. The public and courts realize questionable measures within a grey zone have stopped attacks and kept people safe. Because of this the public is more likely to be willing to sacrifice some liberties in exchange for safety. Without 9/11 and its fallout I would expect there to be alot more outrage. It will be interesting to see if there is an effort later on to pass laws to prevent this as well as other grey matters the more the domestic front of the War on Terror fads in the public's mind.


n[ate]vw said...

I am having trouble finding the link, but I just read an interesting article/post the other day about how different courts have ruled differently on this topic, and why.

I think your point about this decision is wrong. It seems that the judicial branch of our government is the last to go along with convenient executive branch privileges like this. And in this case, the ruling was made because (in theory, though not as convenient in practice) the GPS evidence presented in this case did not go beyond what extensive plain view surveillance could have found.

This article is a bit less hysterical about it all than the Chicago Tribune, and I think provides a bit more insight into the thoughts behind ruling. Note that the judges recommended that although this practice is legal now, they do not believe it should be.

Adrian said...

As someone in law enforcement, GPS tracking seems very different to me from tapping phones. GPS tracking is like following a vehicle, but without having to detail a car 24/7. With phone conversations, it's impossible to gain that information without tapping and thus getting a warrant. But with GPS tracking, you can get the information on where a vehicle is going by just following the vehicle which obviously doesn't require a warrant. So why would you need a warrant to slap a GPS tracker on a vehicle to get the same information using less manpower?