In context: 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. — Fourth Amendment, US Constitution
A US senator is accusing the Department of Defense (DoD) of surveilling US citizens without a warrant. According to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a branch of the DoD, has allegedly been purchasing cellphone location data from apps installed on US phones to track “suspected terrorists, illegal immigrants,” and other threats to national security.
“In February 2020, media reports revealed that US government agencies are buying location data obtained from apps on Americans’ phones and are doing so without any kind of legal process, such as a court order,” Wyden wrote in a three-page letter to the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin obtained by Vice. “I have spent the last year investigating the shady, unregulated data brokers that are selling this data and the government agencies that are buying it.”
The DIA holds the position that the Fourth Amendment only applies to data that is seized by compulsion. Since the DIA is purchasing the data, it is not unreasonable search and seizure as defined in the Constitution or by the Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter v. United States.
The DoD is not the only agency using data brokers to track US citizens either. Wyden claims his investigation uncovered similar activities with the Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Wyden had previously written to the DIA asking eight questions regarding the data collection and the agency’s stance on it. The DIA only answered three on the record. The remaining questions were also answered, but were deemed either “Controlled Unclassified Information” or classified. Senator Wyden asks Secretary Austin to release the information provided by the DIA to him to the public.
“Information should only be classified if its unauthorized disclosure would cause damage to national security,” Wyden said. “The information provided by DoD in response to my questions does not meat that bar. The American people have a right to know the answers to these questions. Accordingly, I request that you clear this information for release to the public by June 15, 2021.”