(Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images)

Should police be able to search mobile phones of people they arrest without a warrant? We’ll talk about the cell phone privacy case being heard today at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Guests:
Rory Little, law professor, UC Hastings College of Law

  • Guest

    The irony of Apartheid in Israel is that Eastern European Jews are genetically closer to people who today live in what was once the kingdom of Khazaria, which famously converted to Judaism in the 8th century. The conversion was apparently not just elites but also its armies, since for example when a break off group of Khazars emigrated into Hungary the records show they were Jews. Similarly when Khazars fled up into Poland due to the conflict with the Rus and later the Mongol invasion they were identified as Jews. The upshot is that from a genetic standpoint modern Palestinians are probably closer to the original Jews and may even be people who converted from Judaism to Islam. But regardless of genetics, Israel is a mess that cannot be solved with Apartheid tactics nor by putting Palestinians onto reservations.

    Schlomo Sand explains it:

    • thucy

      “The irony of Apartheid in Israel is that Eastern European Jews are genetically closer to people who today live in what was once the kingdom of Khazaria, which famously converted to Judaism in the 8th century.”

      The irony of Americans, whose government might easily have eased immigration of Jewish people into these United States, both pre- and post-Holocaust, putting forward more irrelevant nonsense about Jewish “genetics”, as they denounce Israel for policies against Palestinians that are far more mild than what the US has enacted against non-whites in this country (and abroad) for hundreds of years!

  • thucy

    “Is Israel at risk of becoming an Apartheid state?”

    Before we try to answer that, I wish we could all take a short tour of, say, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where one third of the homes lack electricity and running water, and our U.S. legacy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid has left the majority of the tribal population alcoholic, drug-addicted, unemployed and cycling in and out of our fabulous prison system. Compared to what we continue to do to “our” natives, the Israelis treat the Palestinians with kid gloves.

    But really, why does Israel, our client state, believe they can treat the Palestinians as viciously as they do? Let’s face it, it’s very likely because WE told them they could. For all we know, their foreign aid from our government is dependent on their treating Palestinians almost as badly as we continue to treat the native people of these United States.

    • Guest

      It’s not just what “we” have done to natives, but also European diseases did to them. Because their blood type was largely B, they were unable to fend off diseases that blood type A Europeans repelled easily. (The reverse was true when we encountered Cholera.) So when Europeans arrived the natives died off in droves, with the diseases traveling faster into their lands than we did. A similar die off is thought to have occurred 1000 years earlier when contact occurred with Asians; note that Chinese pottery found in Native American graves.

      • thucy

        “It’s not just what “we” have done to natives, but also European diseases did to them. Because their blood type was largely B, they were unable to fend off diseases that blood type A Europeans repelled easily. (The reverse was true when we encountered Cholera.)”
        Your facts are wrong, native tribes had no protection against cholera.
        And if your facts about “Chinese” pottery are straight, then the native tribes survived the disease brought by the Chinese, but not by European settlers.
        Perhaps that’s because in North America, the devastation wrought by Europeans wasn’t limited to disease, as might ease your conscience, but involved a far-reaching policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
        And if disease was such a culprit, perhaps in 2014 we might be able to provide running water to all the homes on the reservations. In fact, perhaps we are now in a position to restore to the native tribes better lands than that which we relegated them to.

  • Annie Smart

    This is like asking, is the sky at risk of becoming blue? Israel has been an apartheid state for decades. Ask a better question. How can Israel, who chooses to define its nationhood through a specific race and religion, NOT be an apartheid state? That is where the root problem lies. How many ethnic Palestinians, practicing as Muslims or Christians, have power positions in the Israeli government? Who can own property in Israel? Who can travel freely? The state is an anathema.

    • thucy

      “How many ethnic Palestinians, practicing as Muslims or Christians, have power positions in the Israeli government? Who can own property in Israel? Who can travel freely? The state is an anathema.”

      I agree that Israel has created an Apartheid system. But perhaps we as Americans should ask ourselves if we have not stood by, for several hundred years, as apartheid policies against non-whites in this country were enacted with ruthless terror, from the genocide of native tribes to the economic gains wrought from slavery, to the apartheid manner in which the “war on drugs” was fought largely against African Americans resulting in mass incarceration of black males, while white America dozed quietly.

      If you are right that Israel is an anethema, then perhaps we should consider what to call a country that in the last decade sent thousands of soldiers to their deaths, and created mass civilian casualties in Iraq. Pot, meet Kettle.

      • phil small

        You are wrong. Israel has public land and private land. Both Israelis and Palestinians can own the private land. Neither can own the public land. Any piece of private land that can be purchased by an Israeli can also be purchased by a Palestinian.
        In the West Bank if you sell to a Jew ,you die.

        • Noel247

          Phil, After the ethnic cleansing of 1947-48, the land taken from the Palestinians was transferred to the JNF. Only Jews can buy land from the JNF which holds a significant portion of Israeli land. Ironically, the Holocaust museum is built on land taken from a local Palestinian village, transferred to the JNF and then sold by the JNF to the museum. The museum raised large sums of money, primarily from American Jews, to buy the land that had been stolen from the Palestinians. To this day, most of those who contributed this money have no idea that the land was stolen or that they paid their money for something the JNF had gotten for free. You should also be aware that many Palestinian Israeli’s also lost their homes and land during the Zionist takeover in 1947-48 and that these Israelis cannot reclaim their own homes. In sharp contrast, there was an entire system of courts set up after WWII to return property taken by the Nazis. The last case I am aware of was settled in about 2007 concerning a department store deemed to have been sold under duress by a Jewish family in 1938 and the heirs were payed more than $100 million.

      • Annie Smart

        Who says we (in this discussion) are not constantly and actively considering such things?

  • Bill_Woods

    The Palestinians aren’t Israelis, have never been Israelis, don’t want to be Israelis. So, no, the analogy is inapt. To put it mildly.

    The only thing stopping the Palestinians from having a recognized state of their own is the Palestinians’ unwillingness to live in peace alongside Israel.

    • colinvgallagher

      PA President Abbas has recognized that 6 million Jews had been killed in the Holocaust. That doesn’t sound like someone who is unwilling to live in peace alongside Israel.

      • Peter

        colinvgallagher, I think you need to explain how your conclusion follows from your premise, because it’s certainly possible for a Palestinian to recognize that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust (in Europe) but still be unwilling to live in peace alongside Israel.

    • Peter

      “The Palestinians aren’t Israelis, have never been Israelis, don’t want to be Israelis. So, no, the analogy is inapt. To put it mildly.”
      To continue a theme expressed here earlier, that’s like a 19th-century American saying “The Indians (Native Americans) aren’t Americans, have never been Americans, don’t want to be Americans” and concluding that an analogy to apartheid was “inapt.”

      • Bill_Woods

        You actually could draw an analogy between Indian reservations in the 19th century and South African bantustans. Not with reservations today, though.

        • Peter

          “You actually could draw an analogy between Indian reservations in the 19th century and South African bantustans.”
          That was my point. Just because in the 19th century the Indians weren’t Americans, had never been Americans, didn’t want to be Americans, that does NOT mean that the apartheid analogy for their situation at the time is inapt.

    • Noel247

      Actually Palestinians are far more peaceful with regards to Israelis than Israelis are with regards to Palestinians. The Israeli military has killed, I think 67 Palestinians during the peace talks while I am not aware of any Israeli’s killed by Palestinians during that time. Those killed by the IDF include young children. Almost everyone killed was unarmed at the time. Over the past 15 years, the figures are far more stark, with well over a thousand Palestinian children killed during that time plus thousands of adults. In addition to the killing, Israel is stealing Palestinian land. Stealing. Out right theft. This has gone on since 1947. Israel has also destroyed the Palestinian economy in both the West Bank and Gaza and deliberately targeted key infrastructure in Gaza such as sewage treatment, electricity generation and food production. The cummulative and often gratuitous violence against Palestinian citizens is stunning and is criminal under international law.

  • colinvgallagher

    The Palestinian residents of the West Bank are already living in an apartheid state. Jewish settlers vote for Israeli governments who then seize more land in the West Bank and push the Palestinians into smaller “Bantustans.” The fair solution to this problem would be to give all of the Residents in the West Bank the right to vote in Israeli elections rather than selectively enfranchising the settlers only.

  • Peter

    “Is Israel at risk of becoming an apartheid state?” is a loaded question that contains questionable assumptions. The real question is: In what ways is the state of Israel characterized by apartheid? Anyone who answers “not in any way”, like Ambassador Ron Dermer in the previous hour, is not being serious.

  • Noel247

    The maps of “Israel” used by the Israeli government and schools and in the vast majority of American synagogues show all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as a part of the nation Israel. The people residing within these borders are divided into at least 3 groups with vastly differing legal rights and access to government funds and services. The top group comprised of “Jewish” Israelis has full rights. The second group comprised of non-Jewish Arabs with Israeli citizenship has most rights including rights to vote but cannot claim land taken from them illegally by the government and are discriminated against with regards to government funding and services as well as by landlords, businesses and much of Israeli society. The third group of non-citizen Arabs lives under martial law, is subject to constant checkpoints, harassment, arbitrary arrest, theft of land, disruption of farming and commerce, attacks from KKK equivalent Zionist-supremacist groups and even arbitrary killing by the IDF, almost always without recourse. Can someone please explain to me how this system is not Apartheid?

    • Peter

      “Can someone please explain to me how this system is not Apartheid?”
      Commenter Bill Woods tried, below, but his explanation is somehow unsatisfying.

  • Eartha McClelland

    What about after traffic accidents, even minor ones? Can police check your phone for evidence of texting while driving to help determine fault?

  • James Ivey

    As long ago as the late 1980s, a warrant could be obtained by fax in the squad car within minutes 24/7. I image a warrant could be obtained even quicker now. What’s wrong with requiring a warrant?

  • Lance

    Can the guest clarify when the police are allowed to bypass a locked/encrypted phone?

  • Vince Alcouloumre

    What if your cel phone is locked, can they require you to divulge your password in order to get access to the device ?

  • No_Slack_Jack

    Thanks for the show, I love these pithy philosophical topics!

    It seems pretty self-evident that current cell phones have evolved to a point where they amount to being our “external brains;” they retain and help us manage a vast amount of information and therefore knowledge and experience even to the point that many very basic activities would become impossible to complete, at least for a period of time, if they were suddenly taken away. Their level of integration into our personal lives is so complete that they might be rightly considered a neural prosthetic device, which brings up the nut of the issue: The authorities recognize that these devices so effectively speak for us in the most personal intimate and private of ways that the authorities no longer need to directly question witnesses or accuseds. I worry that this amounts to an end-run RE the 5th Amend, and once they have any data, they can and will retain it for later, much later, use.

    • This is a great point. I’m already very concerned about what private corporations are doing with the accumulation of “Big Data”; what implications might exist when a private concern attempts to monetize and extract profit from personal data.

      But law enforcement’s use of personal data is exponentially more worrisome, and potentially dangerous. Law enforcement agencies have the power to control individual freedom and mete out punishment. Giving them too much power–and in modern times, data and information IS power–will almost always result in abuses, and I do not think I’m being paranoid in fearing the “long arm of the law” when it comes to me, my cell phone, and everything that can be gleaned from that device.

  • Peter

    Question to guests: Aren’t there parties in Israel’s current governing coalition that have platforms refusing to recognize a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean?

  • Peter

    Abraham Sofaer misrepresents what Jimmy Carter said about “apartheid”: Carter made it very clear in every interview that he was applying the label to the situation imposed by Israel in the West Bank.

  • I’m commenting on the police and privacy laws–not the Israel/Palestine conflict. Is not there a separate page for that particular subject? I guess the whole Israel/Palestine thing will worm its unhappy way into just about ANY political discussion.

    I support privacy. I especially support privacy when it comes to what the police can and cannot do with your own personal possessions, intellectual data included. I’m a very curious person, and I often wonder, with not a small amount of worry, what the “powers that be” in law enforcement might think of, say, my Google search log. (Though I don’t kid myself that I’m of much interest to them–I’m just not that big of a deal in the big picture.)

    In the test case before the Supreme Court, the person whose privacy was most definitely violated was suspected to be involved in the drug trade. Her ringing phone was used after she had been arrested and jailed and it was out of her possession, and the number that showed up was traced to an address. The police pounced on it, and made a number of additional arrests. They should not have had permission to use her phone, and all evidence they gained from it should be considered tainted; fruit from the proverbial poisoned tree.

    That the War On Drugs is at the center of this brouhaha is not surprising. Law enforcement has a long history of overstepping their bounds to make drug-related arrests, and then rake in the confiscated cash, cars and properties that so often accompany drug-related arrests. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I am in favor of total legalization of all drugs, with well-thought out regulation and taxation. People should be free to do whatever they darned well want with their own heads; this, like the info in one’s phone, is none of law enforcement’s business. At the very least, the unbalanced and overly punitive prison sentences for drug “crimes” need to be radically rethought. Enforcing privacy is a big step in the right direction.

    I do worry about how “on the ball” the Supremes are in regards to the technology learning curve. After all, this is the same body that contains one Justice Scalia, who, in 2014, did not know that “the rest of us” pay for HBO services; he assumed they were free, like broadcast network TV. Again, to underscore my point, this occurred in 2014! It may be too much to assume that they understand how much cell phones have changed in the last 10 years.

    Rather than just being simple phones–communication devices, they have become much more small computers, of which telephony is only one of many applications. Data storage of emails and search engine activity is now very much a part of most people’s phones, and the info available to law enforcement has grown exponentially, with the corresponding Moore’s Law increases of memory. I hope this is something the justices are able to understand; it’s VERY important to our concept of freedom, both with and without modern technology.

    • Peter

      “I’m commenting on the police and privacy laws–not the Israel/Palestine conflict. Is not there a separate page for that particular subject?”
      This WAS the page for that particular subject. That’s why most of the comments here are on that subject. Since then, a new page has been set up for it, and I would suggest that Forum staff move the comments there if they belong there:
      http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201404290930

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