Michigan appears well on its way to full-blown tyranny, and this time it’s not Gov. Rick Snyder pulling the strings. It’s his state police, who are charging the ACLU over $500,000 for information on how the force utilize their “universal forensic extraction device.”
The device, developed by an Israeli company called Cellbrite, allows law enforcement to immediately download all content—pictures, contacts, even deleted texts—from an individual’s cell phone.
Considering many of us keep private information on our handhelds, the “universal forensic extraction device” poses a great threat to the 4th Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable search and seizure.
Though not yet widely available in all of America, state police in Michigan, where Gov. Snyder’s “emergency financial managers” are seizing control of city politics, have had a few since 2008, and the ACLU wants to know how police intend to use them.
“We’re not accusing the state police of using them improperly,” said Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project staff attorney. “It’s not illegal or improper for them to have them. Our concern is, what are they doing to insure they are complying with constitutional requirements?”
Unfortunately for Fancher and his team of civil liberties crusaders, the state police are charging $544,680, with a $272,340 down payment, for information pertaining to the devices, a fee that effectively blocks the ACLU’s request. The group, however, refuses to back down.
“Transparency and government accountability are the bedrocks of our democracy,” Fancher wrote in a letter this week. “Through these many requests for information we have tried to establish whether these devices are being used legally. It’s telling that Michigan State Police would rather play this stalling game than respect the public’s right to know.”
“We should not have to go on expensive fishing expeditions in order to discover whether police are violating the rights of residents they have resolved to protect and serve,” he insisted.
Sadly, Michigan’s rapidly becoming a hotbed of democratic obstruction, and the ACLU may be fighting an uphill battle.
That’s why Gov. Snyder, who recently named Lt. Col. Kriste Etue director of the Michigan State Police, must take the lead and ask his flatfooted allies to hand over the requested information. At least that way he can pay some lip service to freedom, even if his latest actions suggest otherwise.