Former prosecutor: DOJ breaking rules for cell phone spying
David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Friday November 23, 2007
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'Unusual' cell phone tracking a 'slippery slope' to Fourth Amendment desecration

A newly revealed program that lets the government turn individuals' cell phones into pocket-sized tracking devices seems to violate Justice Department policies and is a "slippery slope" to further degrading Americans' Fourth Amendment privacy guarantees, a former government official said Friday.

"I think it's a slippery slope," former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, a CNN legal analyst, said on American Morning Friday. "You should be following policy and that policy protects US citizens by the Fourth Amendment and our persons, our places, our homes."

The Washington Post reported Friday that the Justice Department has relied on ambiguous policies to track an unknown number of suspected drug traffickers and other criminals using their cell phones without first obtaining a warrant. Cell phone locations can be tracked either through GPS chips installed in the devices or by triangulating the signals they transmit to cell towers throughout the country.

"It's very odd that that would happen and I have to tell you, I used to work for the Justice Department and the policy there is if you're going to get a wire tap, if you're going to get cell phone records you have to go to a judge to get permission to do that," Hostin said.

She noted that obtaining warrants to track suspected criminals in life-or-death situations -- such as a child abduction -- is not difficult and mechanisms exist to expedite warrant consideration.

"A law enforcement officer can call a magistrate judge at home, there are people on call so the law can still be followed," she said. "And perhaps congress should pass legislation so that when we're dealing with that sort of circumstance we can track these people because it is something that can be used and very important."

This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast on November 23.