Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
Secret Warrants Granted Without Probable Cause

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2007; A01

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order
cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data
so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug
traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects,
according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without
requiring the government to demonstrate that there is
probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place
or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime.
Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose
average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny
of their daily lives.

Such requests run counter to the Justice Department’s
internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek
warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise
location data in private areas. The requests and orders
are sealed at the government’s request, so it is
difficult to know how often the orders are issued or

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