TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Call tower simulators: Liberty vs. security

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

The Founders and Framers prized liberty over security. But that balance is tougher to maintain when technology outpaces the law. And that's the case with the FBI's use of “cell tower simulators” that can intercept all cellphone traffic in a neighborhood.

A Trib investigation found such devices have intercepted untold numbers of innocent Pittsburghers' calls, along with those of criminal suspects. An FBI spokesman defends this technology's use as “a vital component of law enforcement investigations” that could be harmed by public discussion of details.

The feds extensively redacted nearly 5,000 related documents obtained by the Trib and will say little else. Their stance is essentially “trust us.” Yet the FBI's legal basis for charging ahead with this technology is rooted in land-line wiretaps.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on a cell tower simulator case. Congress hasn't passed rules for these devices. And FBI secrecy — from what's done with gathered data, to coaching agents on testifying about this technology without divulging details, to no-bid contracts and other methods that obscure how it's acquired and what it costs — invites scrutiny and frustrates debate.

For the law to catch up with this technology, as it must, informed debate must occur among Congress, courts and the public. And, yes, new rules must be set that adequately protect security. But like the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches — which hasn't changed — those rules must place paramount importance on liberty.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Editorials

  1. EPA diktats: Pushing back
  2. The Box
  3. Sunday pops
  4. Regional growth
  5. Kittanning Laurels & Lances