Images of Orwell’s 1984 Raised As Justices Debate GPS Warrants


As the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue of whether federal agents need a warrant to place a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car, Justice Stephen Breyer told the U.S. Justice Department’s representative, “If you win this case, there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day every citizen of the United States,” says the Christian Science Monitor. “If you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like ‘1984.’,” a reference to the famous George Orwell book about a surveillance-based society.

Responded Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben: “This case does not involve 24-hour surveillance of every citizen of the United States. It involves following one suspected drug dealer as to whom there was very strong suspicion.” Government lawyers argued that there was no difference between use of the GPS device and the use of earlier beeper technology that allowed agents to track a suspect shipment via a concealed radio transmitter. Convict Antoine Jones’s attorney, Stephen Leckar of Washington, said, “Society does not view as reasonable the concept that the United States government has the right to take a device that enables them in pervasive, limitless, cost-free surveillance, to completely replace the human equation.”

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