Most coppers track cellphones’ locations without getting a warrant

Don’t want the police or your local government to know where you are? Then put your cell phone in airplane mode or turn it off.

Location tracking is inherent in how cell networks function; otherwise nobody’s cell phone would ring. But new evidence from the American Civil Liberties Union shows that phone location tracking has also become a surprisingly common tool of law-enforcement investigations — with, but often without, a warrant.

The ACLU recently obtained records from over 200 police departments and other law enforcement agencies around the U.S. They found that “virtually all” of these agencies track the location of cell phones with data supplied by wireless carriers. (For information on police in your state, check the ACLU’s interactive map, which shows details from responding agencies. Not all states or agencies responded to ACLU’s public-records requests.)

But don’t the police need a warrant for that? It varies by state, but carriers generally say they require a court order to release this data. Regardless of these requirements, however, “Only a tiny minority reported consistently obtaining a warrant and demonstrating probable cause to do so,” said the ACLU.

Not surprisingly, the ACLU disapproves of this practice.

“The government should have to obtain a warrant based upon probable cause before tracking cell phones. That is what is necessary to protect Americans’ privacy, and it is also what is required under the Constitution,” states the ACLU on its site…

If the police decide they want to know where you’ve been, it’s likely that your carrier will tell them, for the right price. And right now, there’s no way to prevent that.

Keep on rocking in the Free World!

One of the ways you might have prevented Telcos from collaboration was by suing them. Which is why our benevolent government has made that illegal. I’ve mentioned a class action suit folks won against the FBI – back in the day – for illegal wiretapping. That started with suing the regional telephone company and winning that case first. They assisted the Feds without warrants or court orders.

When it came settlement time in court they asked how much money we wanted – and the answer was “you’re going to pick up the tab for suing the FBI. Whatever it is. You pay for it.”

They did and we won.

Civil Rights photographer unmasked as informer

That photo of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. riding one of the first desegregated buses in Montgomery, Ala.? He took it. The well-known image of black sanitation workers carrying “I Am a Man” signs in Memphis? His. He was the only photojournalist to document the entire trial in the murder of Emmett Till, and he was there in Room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel, Dr. King’s room, on the night he was assassinated.

But now an unsettling asterisk must be added to the legacy of Ernest C. Withers, one of the most celebrated photographers of the civil rights era: He was a paid F.B.I. informer.

On Sunday, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis published the results of a two-year investigation that showed Mr. Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, had collaborated closely with two F.B.I. agents in the 1960s to keep tabs on the civil rights movement. It was an astonishing revelation about a former police officer nicknamed the Original Civil Rights Photographer, whose previous claim to fame had been the trust he engendered among high-ranking civil rights leaders, including Dr. King.

“It is an amazing betrayal,” said Athan Theoharis, a historian at Marquette University who has written books about the F.B.I. “It really speaks to the degree that the F.B.I. was able to engage individuals within the civil rights movement. This man was so well trusted.”

From at least 1968 to 1970, Mr. Withers, who was black, provided photographs, biographical information and scheduling details to two F.B.I. agents in the bureau’s Memphis domestic surveillance program, Howell Lowe and William H. Lawrence, according to numerous reports summarizing their meetings. The reports were obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on its Web site.

A clerical error appears to have allowed for Mr. Withers’s identity to be divulged: In most cases in the reports, references to Mr. Withers and his informer number, ME 338-R, have been blacked out. But in several locations, the F.B.I. appears to have forgotten to hide them. The F.B.I. said Monday that it was not clear what had caused the lapse in privacy and was looking into the incident.

I’m never surprised to learn about a trusted figure in American insurgent politics who may have been an agent, informer, even an agent provocateur. All part of S.O.P. for American governments, federal, state and local. Even small town Red Squads have been around for decades to keep an eye on everyone from trade union organizers to peace activists.

Check back on some of your favorite ivory tower intellectuals – whether it be Somerset Maugham or Arthur Schlesinger the Little. They finked for the Man.

Like Andy Young said in the article, “We knew that everything we did was bugged.”

I hope none of you are gullible enough to think it ever stopped.