STATE – While he served as U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christopher Christie authorized the tracking of individuals through their cell phones without first obtaining a warrant, the American Civil Liberties Union said last week.
“Big Brother is tucked away in our cell phones, and the man behind the curtain is Chris Christie,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey.
The ACLU released documents provided by the Justice Department show that the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in New Jersey and Florida had been granted permission by court order “obtain mobile phone location information without making a judicial finding of probable cause.”
Christie, now running for New Jersey’s governor’s office, stressed that the practice is not illegal. The liberal Republican said his office did “everything within the law” and got court permission to track “fugitives or violent felons”—two groups of people who he said were primary targets.
The government is infringing on individuals’ privacy rights, according to the ACLU. “The government is violating the Constitution when it fails to get a search warrant before tracking people this way,” Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said on the ACLU-NJ website.
Christie dismissed the allegations as a “bunch of political hyperbole.” “The ACLU might not like the law, and if they don’t like the law they should get the law changed,” he said.
Christie’s principal primary opponent, conservative Republican Steve Lonegan, said “(Christie)’s vulnerable on an issue that’s extremely important to conservative voters—and that’s limited government and the right to privacy,” Lonegan said. “This is the kind of scary abuse that every American should be scared about.”
Lonegan would not make a judgement on the merit of the ACLU allegations or how Christie handled specific investigations. He did express his belief that constitutional rights should not be surrendered in the name of security.
“The point is we have a U.S. Constitution to protect us from overzealous prosecution and big government,” Lonegan said. “While we all want to preserve security, we don’t want it at the expense of living in a police state.”