If you were paranoid before, you’ll be even more paranoid now. The Patriot Act has reared its head again. This time, the Justice Department asked for permission to track the location of a cellphone user without having to provide evidence of criminal activity. Judge Gabriel Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York granted the request. The ruling was a surprise since it differed from three previous rulings by different judges.
Critics of the ruling will cite the fourth amendment, which limits unreasonable search and monitoring. Judge Gorenstein dismissed those concerns. Because tracking can only be done by police when the phone is in use and because the estimate of location of the caller is only approximate, the amendment is not challenged.
Prior to this ruling, the Justice Department was burdened with the requirement of showing probable cause. Not any more. Now they only need to claim that the information attained may be relevant.