4

Magistrate Stephen Smith: The Feds Do A Lot Of Secret Spying On Citizens

^
Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

A Houston federal magistrate testified to Congress today about just how much secret surveillance the government is doing on your cell phone and other such devices.

Stephen Smith's prepared testimony says that Houston federal judges from 1995 to 2007 issued 325 "electronic surveillance orders" a year, in hearings where only the law-enforcement side is present.

"The public rarely learns about these orders, even long after issuance, because they are routinely placed under indefinite (ie., permanent) seal," he writes.

Out of 3,886 orders initially sealed "until further order of the court" between 1997 and 2005, he says, 99.8 percent remain under seal.

He says "the brunt of such secrecy is not necessarily borne" only by targets of investigations.

"Any target is likely to call or be called by family, friends, associates, or even total strangers who have no connection to a criminal enterprise," he says. "Yet by the fortuity of a single call, thse by-standers may be swept up in a criminal investigation, their cell phone use monitored and their location tracked in real time."

He calls for reforms such as time limits on orders and standards on sealing and "post-acquisition notice of tracking orders to cell phone users."

It's interesting stuff, well worth a read.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.