My First, My Last, My Privacy!

What was Samuel Alito Thinking?I hate to write about two judicial case in the same day, but what am I going to do? The Supreme Court did something really good. I have to say, a lot of the time, I figure Samuel Alito listens to a case. Then he meets with his team and says, “How can we view this case so that it hurts the maximum number of people?” But today, David Savage at The Los Angeles Times reported, Supreme Court Rules Police Cannot Search Smartphones Without Warrant. It was a unanimous decision. As Louise might say on Bob’s Burgers, “What is this feeling I’m having? It’s like I’m feeling the most conservative members of the Supreme court actually take their jobs seriously. Is that a thing? Am I going crazy?”

Not really. I know that a great deal of affirmative action has gone on at the Supreme Court where mediocre conservatives are appointed because there are so few capable judges who can deal with the cant that is now required by the Republican Party. But nonetheless, they aren’t complete idiots and bind ideologues. Sometimes even they understand that our police state has gotten out of hand. The truth is that it hasn’t been legal for an officer to pull you over and then demand to look at your cell phone. But that doesn’t mean that officers don’t do it all the time. The biggest career criminals are police officers. But this case is even better!

The Court found that even when an officer arrests someone, it isn’t okay to search his cell phone de rigueur. They must have a search warrant, just as they would if they wanted to search the home of someone they arrested. This is exciting news! I don’t mean this in a personal way because everything I do that is even a little questionable, I do in public (ie, this blog). But this is a great increase in freedom. There has been a very long trend in the United States toward destroying the Fourth Amendment. It really is very simple:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

What’s particularly exciting about this decision is that the Supreme Court has updated this to the modern era. They have equated our cell phones with our computers and our computers with our homes. As the editorial board wrote in The Los Angeles Times wrote, “This is a historic decision because allowing police to sift through the contents of a modern smartphone gives them access to a wealth of information about a person’s most private and personal affairs, from email messages to family photos to bank statements.”

I still have to admit that I’m surprised with the unanimous decision. As regular readers know, I usually find a great deal of common ground with conservatives (as long as we aren’t talking about something that Fox News is actively propagandizing). But on this issue, conservatives (young and old) have this idea that they have nothing to worry about. Let the NSA record their telephone calls; let the local police bug their kitchens; they have nothing to hide! Except that they do. It’s really as simple as this: what I do in my private life is really no one else’s business. Now, I would define this broadly. I would say that if I want to smoke crack alone in my bedroom, that’s my choice. But even if you want to counter that idea in the various ways that the government has since the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, it certainly should be no one’s business if I dance around in my room to the cool sounds of Barry White.

Put together with the No Fly List decision, this is a great day for liberty. And I mean real liberty, not the pretend kind that the right has defined as the liberty of the super rich to pay no taxes. These decisions make every person in the United States freer!

Update (25 June 2014 8:40 pm)

Reading a bit more, I see that Alito actually only concurred. He thought the majority opinion was too broad. So I was right about Alito. What was he thinking? Nothing much. He’s basically a fascist. And what does that say of the political party that appointed him? A lot.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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