Search and Seizure

  • January 29, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Jim Dempsey, Executive Director, Berkeley Center for Law and Technology

    The recent reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was never in doubt. However, civil liberties advocates were disappointed when Congress failed to adopt an amendment requiring the government to obtain warrants before seeking information about US citizens in the repository of data collected under statue. More broadly, the debate failed to grapple with the risks of electronic surveillance in the era of globalization, expanding storage capacities, and big data analytics. Nevertheless, looking forward, the reauthorization set up the potential for fresh judicial consideration of a key constitutional question and yielded some opportunities for enhanced oversight of the 702 program.

    It was widely accepted that activities conducted under Section 702 were effective in producing useful intelligence on foreign terrorism and other national security concerns. Chances for reauthorization were further boosted by the fact that the broad outlines of 702 implementation were, once you got past the incredible complexity of the statute, well within a reasonable interpretation of Congress’ words. The trust generated by express Congressional authorization was augmented, after the Snowden leaks, by substantial and ongoing public disclosures by the Executive Branch about the law’s implementation – more transparency than any government in the world has ever provided about a similar national security program.

  • January 23, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Camille Fischer, Frank Stanton Fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

    Over 300 U.S. and European lawmakers, civil liberties organizations, media organizations, computer science professors, U.S. and international legal academics, and companies urged the Supreme Court last week to protect privacy rights in the countless emails, chats, and other online communications that cross international boundaries.

    In all, 23 amicus briefs were submitted in support of Microsoft’s challenge to a U.S. warrant requesting the company to turn over emails stored in Dublin, Ireland. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) signed onto a brief with the American Civil Liberties Union, Brennan Center, Restore the Fourth, and R Street Institute.

  • October 16, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

    *This piece originally appeared on Microsoft on the Issues on October 16, 2017.

    In July 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with Microsoft that U.S. federal or state law enforcement cannot use traditional search warrants to seize emails of citizens of foreign countries that are located in data centers outside the United States.  Today, the Supreme Court granted the Department of Justice’s petition to review Microsoft’s victory.  This is an important case that people around the world will watch.  We will continue to press our case in court that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – a law enacted decades before there was such a thing as cloud computing – was never intended to reach within other countries’ borders.

  • October 12, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Matthew Stanford,  Senior Law Student at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Articles & Essays Editor of the California Law Review and President of the ACS Student Chapter at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law

    To the surprise of no one, the first presidential debate was short on substance, long on bluster. But one real issue that emerged from the spin-induced haze was the constitutionality of “stop-and-frisk.”

    During the debate, moderator Lester Holt suggested that the controversial and long used police practice of stopping people on the street and patting them down for weapons had been deemed “unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.”

    An onslaught of Trump and Clinton surrogates followed with their respective positions on the constitutional upshot of U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s 2013 decision.

    Prognostications about the narrow ruling’s certain demise on appeal––that is, if the appeal had continued to fruition––inevitably led to accusations of moderator bias. Most notably, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani penned an op-ed suggesting that the Second Circuit’s removal of Judge Scheindlin from the case amounted to a reversal of her underlying ruling. To be sure, that logic is flawed: removing a judge is an administrative decision, not a ruling on the merits.

    But a more disturbing trend has emerged from the week’s stop-and-frisk chatter. Far from discussing the merits of the decades-old doctrine that allows police discretion to stop people on the street, the campaigns prefer instead to carry on with the punch and parry about moderator bias and candidate performance––sacrificing yet another critical discussion on the altar of media ratings that has come to define contemporary electoral culture.

  • October 3, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Shira Scheindlin, former Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, of Counsel, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP

    The issue of policing arose during the recent presidential debate. This issue is one of great importance throughout the country – particularly in light of a number of recent and documented shootings by police of unarmed African American and Hispanic victims. As the former federal judge who ruled on the constitutionality of stop and frisk as used in New York City, I write to clarify a number of the misstatements or misconceptions that have tainted this debate.

    Based on the evidence of racial bias presented during the 2013 trial in Floyd v. New York City, over which I presided, I found that stop and frisk – as practiced in New York – was unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, I directed a series of remedies to address the problem. It ordered very specific reforms that would result in the constitutional use of stop and frisk.

    There is no question that the use of stop and frisk is permitted by the Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Terry v.Ohio. The Court held that a stop can be made when an officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. The Court later held that in order to conduct a frisk, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that a person is armed and dangerous. If a stop and frisk is done in accordance with these principles then it will pass constitutional muster.

    But this is not what happened in New York, when the numbers of stops and frisks began to climb dramatically from approximately 2004 to 2012. In those years more than 4.4 million stops were made and it appears that most were not based on the required reasonable suspicion. This conclusion was reached by an examination of (1) the uncontested statistical evidence; (2) the testimony of experts who analyzed more than 4.4 million stops to determine whether there was racial bias; (3) institutional evidence of deliberate indifference (including the unconscious racial biases or indirect racial profiling exhibited by police officers) and (4) the examples of individual stops by selected plaintiffs who were members of the Floyd class.