The neocon centric American Enterprise Institute and the somewhat less, but still troubling, neocon-sphere Heritage Foundation quickly fall off the radar if you are a non-intervention, small-government-focused individual. Which leads me to the Cato Institute, co-founded by my friend and former CEO of the Cato Institute, Ed Crane. I subscribe to The Crane Report, and see Ed at Cato conclaves. The Cato Institute is where it is today in no small part due to the decades of tireless groundwork by Ed Crane.
Debbie and I are Cato Club 200 members. Among the many outstanding Cato scholars we benefit from speaking with at Cato Benefactor events is Cato senior fellow Julian Sanchez. If you are as concerned as Debbie and I are about digital security and your privacy, Julian Sanchez is a guy, as Wired magazine has found out, you want to keep up with. Here in “The Supreme Court Tells Cops to Back Off Your Cell Phone,” Julian, perhaps shockingly to you, writes, “Compounding the risk of such pretextual searches, there was the growing popularity of powerful forensic devices, like those manufactured by the company Cellbrite, capable of quickly copying a Smartphone’s entire contents. That meant that even if a suspect were held only briefly, their files could be retained and scrutinized at leisure, with the owner potentially none the wiser.” Sounds chilling, does it not? Now as Julian summarizes the view of Jay-Z “you gon’ need a warrant for that.”
Well my iPhone is locked, so is the tablet in my pack, and I know my rights, so you gon’ need a warrant for that. That, with apologies to Jay-Z, is the upshot of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling today in Riley v. California (PDF), which holds that police must get a judge’s approval before rummaging through the cell phones of people they arrest — closing a potentially massive loophole in the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Court’s 9-0 decision limits the scope of a longstanding exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that law enforcement officers obtain a warrant based on “probable cause” to conduct intrusive searches. Under the so-called “search incident to arrest exception,” when police place someone under arrest, they can conduct a warrantless search of the person and their immediate surroundings to look for weapons that might pose a threat to the arresting officer, as well as evidence the suspect might attempt to hastily destroy.
In the era of the smartphone, however, legal scholars have long worried that exception could metastasize, with lethal consequences for privacy. As Justice John Roberts wrote for the court, pocket-sized computers holding gigabytes of profoundly intimate data have become “such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.” With increasingly powerful mobile devices routinely holding entire photo albums, personal videos, records of Web-browsing history, and vast archives of private correspondence, Roberts noted, giving police free reign to look through a modern phone “would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house.”
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