Justice Breyer warns of Orwellian government

A Supreme Court justice on Tuesday expressed major concerns that the government would engage in round-the-clock surveillance reminiscent of the totalitarian world of the George Orwell novel 1984 if the court ruled in the government's favor.

The court heard oral arguments in the Jones case, in which the outcome will determine whether warrantless GPS tracking by law enforcement is an invasion of Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

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Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what a democratic society would look like if people believed the government was tracking them for days at a time.

"If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,” Breyer said. “So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like 1984 from their brief."

U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben contended that if all Americans viewed warrantless tracking as an Orwellian invasion of privacy, Congress would step in with a legislative solution.

Chief Justice John Roberts said that unlike earlier technology, GPS tracking gives law enforcement a “mosaic” that gives them the “whole picture” rather than just a slice of it.

Police suspected D.C. nightclub owner Antoine Jones of dealing cocaine and used a GPS tracker over the course of a month to trace his movements to a stash house in Maryland. Their warrant was expired when they installed the tracker.


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