The Supreme Court Is an Ass

The government attacking press freedom.From Free Press’s helpful explainer of the AP phone records scandal, noting the legal background:

Smith v. Maryland — In this 1979 decision, the Supreme Court found that people have no expectation of privacy when it comes to the numbers they call because they understand it has to be transmitted through a third party (telephone company). Thus, the [Digital Media Law Project] notes,  “the government can obtain that information simply by issuing a subpoena to a telephone company or other third party.”

As Mr. Bumble says, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass–a idiot.” Everyone who wouldn’t be surprised–and displeased–to find out that your phone company was going around telling whomever was interested the details of whom you call when and how much, please raise your hand.

The inestimable Justice Thurgood Marshall said it well in his dissent to Smith v. Maryland: “But even assuming, as I do not, that individuals ‘typically know’ that a phone company monitors calls for internal reasons…it does not follow that they expect this information to be made available to the public in general or the government in particular.”

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.