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Judge Samuel Alito's police-friendly views of electronic surveillance
Nominee's past rulings give hint of tech views
November 1, 2005, 4:58 PM PST
In a case decided last year, Alito ruled that the FBI did not need a
warrant to outfit the hotel suite of a boxing official with a hidden
audio recorder and remotely controlled video camera that could swivel
360 degrees. The devices were activated when a police informant was also
present in the room of the official, who was suspected of taking bribes.
Alito's fellow judge Theodore McKee, a Clinton appointee, dissented on
the grounds that advances in surveillance technology would eviscerate
the privacy principles found in the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of
"Given the evolving sophistication of technology, it is increasingly
imperative that the fundamental liberties guaranteed under the Fourth
Amendment not be eroded by the warrantless use of devices that allow the
government to see through curtains, walls and doors," McKee wrote. "To
the extent the Fourth Amendment has any vitality in an era of
increasingly sophisticated electronic eavesdropping, it surely protects
the privacy of someone in the intimacy of a hotel suite from the
potential of warrantless 24-hour video surveillance."
In another case decided in 2002 by the 3rd Circuit Court, police in
Pennsylvania acted on a six-month-old tip that a high school teacher was
viewing illegal adult pornography on the Internet. They obtained a
search warrant for the teacher's home and found child pornography on his
computer's hard drive.
In an opinion written by Judge Maryanne Barry, another Clinton
appointee, the 2-1 majority said the search warrant was invalid because
the tip was "stale" and based on a dubious source. Also, they said,
police had no probable cause to look for any kind of pornography, and
investigators should not go on a fishing expedition through a suspect's
hard drive just to find some sort of incriminating files.
Alito dissented. "The previously-noted incidents alleged in the
affidavit showed that the defendant had a sexual interest in minors and
that he had used sexual materials on several occasions as part of his
course of conduct," he wrote. "All of this information tends to support
a finding of probable cause."
Posted by Declan McCullagh on Nov 01, 2005
in category privacy
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