Des Moines Register editors still proud of a reprehensible call

Scrutinizing the work of government at all levels is one of the media’s most important functions. Access to public records is essential for journalists to do that job. The Des Moines Register was right to pursue and review e-mails from former Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Sebring’s school district account.

What’s not right: the Register’s editors acting like their most reprehensible call in recent memory was some kind of muckraking triumph.  

Continue Reading...

Police need a warrant to search your cell phone

In what may become one of this year’s most far-reaching court rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that a right to privacy applies to cell phones, and that law enforcement cannot inspect the contents of cell phones without a search warrant. Chief Justice John Roberts, one of the high court’s five conservatives, wrote the opinion, which you can read in full here. Good summaries include David Savage’s report for the Los Angeles Times, Adam Liptak’s report for the New York Times, and this SCOTUSblog analysis by Lyle Denniston:

The Court rejected every argument made to it by prosecutors and police that officers should be free to inspect the contents of any cellphone taken from an arrestee.  It left open just one option for such searches without a court order:  if police are facing a dire emergency, such as trying to locate a missing child or heading off a terrorist plot.  But even then, it ruled, those “exigent” exceptions to the requirement for a search warrant would have to satisfy a judge after the fact.

The ruling was such a sweeping embrace of digital privacy that it even reached remotely stored private information that can be reached by a hand-held device – as in the modern-day data storage “cloud.”  And it implied that the tracking data that a cellphone may contain about the places that an individual visited also is entitled to the same shield of privacy.

I’m not surprised by the decision, but I’m surprised it was unanimous. It’s a very strong statement that police need to change their standard practices after arresting suspects will have to change.

Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread: Odds and ends

Time with extended family means less time for blogging, so I’m posting the weekend open thread early. Here are some links to get the conversation going.

Rural voters were a crucial factor helping Republicans retake the U.S. House. Of the 125 most rural Congressional districts, Republicans held all 64 seats they had going into the election and flipped 39 Democratic districts (that alone would have been enough to give them a majority). Going into the election, Democrats held 61 of the 125 most rural Congressional districts. Now they hold only 22 of those districts, including IA-01 (Bruce Braley) and IA-02 (Dave Loebsack).

Smart Politics looked at what it calls “Iowa’s Schizophrenic 2010 Electorate” and observed, “Never before in the history of Iowa elections have Republicans won a majority of seats in the Iowa House while Democrats won a majority of the Hawkeye State’s U.S. House seats.”

I listed the Iowa House and Senate Democrats before and after the election, grouped by Congressional district. Bleeding Heartland user American007 created red and blue Iowa maps showing which parties held state House and Senate districts before the election and after.

Fred Karger, a Republican political strategist and gay activist who’s exploring a presidential bid, has been running this commercial on the Fox network this week in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Mason City, Ames, Burlington and Fort Dodge. Have you seen it? Hard to imagine a strong base of support for Karger in Iowa, but I’m glad a moderate may be running for president on the Republican side.

If Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels runs for president in 2012, some Iowa Republicans will not forgive him for supporting merit-based judicial selection in his state.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said all the “right” things about Iowa judges during his recent Des Moines visit. But this week Huckabee described the controversial searches of airline passengers as a “humiliating and degrading, totally unconstitutional, intrusion of their privacy.” Uh oh! Social conservatives don’t typically acknowledge that there is a constitutional right to privacy. That dreaded “penumbra” underlies U.S. Supreme Court rulings affirming reproductive rights.

I learned this week that New Hampshire has some elected Republican officias who support marriage equality. It’s not clear whether there are enough of them to stop large GOP majorities from repealing same-sex marriage rights in that state. I wonder when (if ever) a current Republican office-holder in Iowa will defend equality.

Iowa First Lady Mari Culver says she accomplished what she set out to do during her husband’s term as governor, and her kids are excited to be moving back to their West Des Moines home full-time.

What’s on your mind this holiday weekend?  

Continue Reading...

What's a little domestic surveillance between friends?

I know it isn’t polite to say I told you so, but last year many of us warned that the Bush administration’s proposed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would increase domestic surveillance of American citizens. Congressional Republicans and a minority of Democrats didn’t heed those warnings, though, and in some cases ridiculed the critics of the FISA amendments.

Look what the New York Times reported on Wednesday:

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.

Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.

I agree with Charles Lemos:

I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you. Massive domestic spying without meaningful oversight in the United States. No limits on surveillance power, what a grand idea.

Barack Obama voted for the bad FISA compromise, even though many of his supporters warned that the oversight provisions were inadequate. I expect his administration to do something to correct the abuses.

Josh Orton noted today that the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, David Kris, promised during his confirmation hearings “to get to the bottom of the FISA amendments act” and “to see how best to make any necessary improvements.” Sounds like he has his work cut out for him.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, says her committee will investigate the alleged violations by the National Security Agency.

UPDATE: Read this post by mcjoan for more good links and analysis.

Also, the New York Times reported that a member of Congress was wiretapped. Spencer Ackerman narrows the list of possible targets down to 27 members of Congress.

Continue Reading...
View More...