Government Concealing Electronic Surveillance In Criminal Trials
The big news this morning is that Donald Trump is the winner in the Nevada caucuses. That story matters, but believe it or not, there’s another piece of news even more deserving of your attention.
It has to do with government spies and one of the most fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights – the right to a fair trial.
USA Today is reporting that federal marshals have inadvertently revealed a massive program using a technology known as Stingray to gather massive amounts of information from cell phone transmissions, without discrimination between criminal suspects and ordinary citizens, in secret, and in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of protection from sweeping searches for information and evidence of criminal activity.
What’s more, the newspaper indicates that the existence of this electronic surveillance is being withheld from criminal suspects and their lawyers, even when information gained through the use of Stingray spying on smartphone data is introduced in court. The U.S. Marshals Service appears to be coordinating a program of deception in the courtroom, according to emails from law enforcement officers about their interaction with networks of Stingray surveillance that branch out from federal agencies into state and local police. The Marshals Service advises law enforcement at all levels to lie to courts, telling them that evidence came from anonymous sources rather than through electronic spying programs.
The rationale for this secrecy is that the Stingray spying technology deployed across America is “classified”. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States promises, however, that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him…” No criminal trial can be fair when the source of evidence used against the defendant is categorized as a government secret.
This matters only if you care about maintaining the United States of America as a nation of laws in which respect for fundamental civil liberties is given a higher priority than the interest of powerful leaders in maintaining authority. If these things don’t matter so much to you, well, there’s always the Donald Trump for President campaign to keep you entertained.