October 27, 2005 | By Kevin Bankston

"Oh, we secretly track cell phones without probable cause all the time! What's the big deal?"

As we've reported recently, two bold new legal decisions have exposed how the Justice Department has been getting secret court orders to track people's locations using their cell phones—without probable cause and based on interpretations of the law that the newly vigilant courts are now calling "misleading," "contrived," "unsupported," a "Hail Mary" play, and even "perverse."

Of course, this led us to wonder: how many times has the DOJ tricked judges into signing secret surveillance orders based on a completely bogus legal argument? The DOJ confirmed our worst fears in today's Washington Post, saying that "courts around the country have granted many such orders in the past without requiring probable cause."

Now that all of those judges know just how misled they were, we'll hopefully be seeing a lot more published decisions that expose the Justice Department's overreaching surveillance practices. We've already learned from these latest decisions that they've been tracking cell phones and "wiretapping" credit card accounts using so-called "hotwatch" orders without any legal basis; maybe now we'll find out what else the government has been getting away with.

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