Probable Cause Is Not Really a Huge Barrier For Police

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You know what really gets me about the recent Supreme Court case over police access to cell phone location records? It’s not as if anyone was trying to take away their ability to get them. All anyone wanted was for police to get a warrant showing probable cause. That’s it.

Why is that treated as such a big deal? Police show probable cause all the time even in fairly flimsy cases, and judges routinely grant them search warrants. I don’t understand why anyone thinks this minimal protection is too much to ask in return for access to complete and total movement data on an American citizen. The alternative, “reasonable grounds” as determined by the police themselves, is essentially nothing. In the opinion of a detective, after all, there are always reasonable grounds.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal adds this:

Several states, including California, Massachusetts and Utah, as well as a number of local governments, have adopted measures requiring police to obtain warrants for such searches with little apparent impact on crime rates.

That certainly would have been my guess.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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