Scalia, the NSA and the Fourth Amendment

justice scalia and the NSA

The issue of computer data and the effect of the Fourth Amendment was somethat that was of high interest to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when questioned by a Brooklyn Law School group.

The Justice received some probing questions, which could wind up having significant repercussions for the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.

The question came during a spirited Q&A curated by Brooklyn Law School’s Judge Andrew Napolitano, who asked Scalia about the controversial subject of the NSA’s surveillance of Americans.

Business Insider reported Scalia making it clear that the issue would likely come before the high court and he also suggested that he would rule that “conversations” (i.e., the conversations the government might listen to) aren’t protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment, Scalia pointed out, prohibits the government from searching your “persons, houses, papers, and effects” without a warrant — not “conversations.”

However, one student asked the justice whether data in a computer might be considered “effects” under the Fourth Amendment, an interpretation that would prohibit the NSA’s capture of communications over the Internet.

Scalia, who’s remarkably avuncular in person, was visibly pleased by the question but said he “better not answer that.”

“That is something that may well come up [before the Supreme Court],” Scalia added.

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