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17 March 2009

Obama Administration: Constitution Does Not Protect Cell-Site Records

from Wired by David Kravets

The Obama administration says the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures does not apply to cell-site information mobile phone carriers retain on their customers.

The position is being staked out in a little-noticed surveillance case pending before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The case has wide-ranging implications for Americans, as most citizens have or will carry a mobile phone in their lifespan.

At issue is whether the government can require federal judges to order mobile phone companies to release historical cell-tower information of a phone number without probable cause — the standard required for a search warrant. While judges have varied on the issue, the resulting evidence can be used in a criminal prosecution.

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