Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Supreme Court Justice Breyer warns of ‘Orwellian’ government
And while such statements tend to sound a bit over the top, they take an entirely different meaning when you have a Supreme Court justice warning Americans that their own government is in danger of getting out of hand.
At issue is a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court with huge Fourth Amendment privacy implications. It seems the federal government is supportive of allowing law enforcement agencies to use GPS tracking of individuals without a warrant. Opponents believe that would amount to a blatant violation of the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
One such skeptic is none other than Justice Stephen Breyer, who noted during oral arguments before the high court this week that should justices rule in the government’s favor, it could lead to the type of round-the-clock surveillance reminiscent of the totalitarian world envisioned by author George Orwell in the 1940′s novel 1984.
“If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,” Breyer noted, openly questioning what a democratic society might look like if the government had that kind of power. “So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like1984from their brief.”
The case stems from D.C. police installing a GPS tracker on the vehicle of nightclub owner Antoine Jones because they suspected him of dealing cocaine. They used GPS to track him for a month, tracing his movements to a stash house in Maryland. Their warrant was expired when they installed the GPS device.
In an incredible attempt at trivializing one of the most sacred of personal protections enshrined in the Constitution, U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben posited that should most Americans view warrantless tracking as a Big Brother invasion of privacy, they would demand Congress intervene with legislation.
So in other words, the government should be permitted to do so unless, or until, Americans object. If they don’t, then it’s okay and not a violation of the Constitution.
Such twisted logic is probably why high-ranking U.S. officials can view 24-7-365 warrantless surveillance as permissible, and an increase in federal spending of 10 percent instead of the 12 percent called for by the president as “cutting the budget.”