Today, we’re interviewing one of the nation’s foremost Fourth Amendment scholars, Professor Orin Kerr of George Washington University. Professor Kerr has written extensively on the law of national surveillance, and how the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirements apply under current law and practice to national security investigations. Since the surveillance revelations of last year, his research has become a touchstone for people on both sides of the surveillance debate.
Professor Kerr: what got you interested in Fourth Amendment law in the first place?
A variety of excellent commentary over the weekend reflected on the civil liberties implications of the Boston Marathon attacks.
Over at Salon, Falguni Sheth and Robert Prasch used a thought experiment (What would have been different if the bombing had happened in 1977, before mass electronic surveillance?) to argue that the vast expenditure on the surveillance state has not had the net effect of either preventing terrorism or making apprehending terrorists more efficient; so why are we doing it, again?
At Popehat, Clark dissects the unprecedented, expensive and ineffectual lockdown of Boston and the western suburbs, and observes that it is only after the lockdown ended and citizens were back outside their doors that the suspect was located.
Last, there’s an excellent analysis and discussion of the Fourth Amendment issues raised by house-to-house searches for a fugitive by (once again) Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy. Enjoy!
It’s not usually our dealio here at Digital Fourth to weigh in on federal digital rights, because terrific organizations like EFF, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and the ACLU generally do that heavy lifting for us. But so much has happened regarding prosecutions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that it’s worth focusing on what this law is, why it’s in such a mess, and what can usefully be done about it.
When originally passed way back in 1986, the intent of the CFAA was to ban hacking. This kind of hacking:
In other words, what they were concerned about was access to “Federal interest computers”, namely computers belonging to the government, or at certain designated utilities like nuclear power stations or financial institutions. Now, however, the law covers pretty much any computer held by anyone.