(Host) Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell says he’s not aware of any non-emergency situations where cell phone records were requested by state authorities without first getting court approval.
The federal Department of Justice has argued that a warrant is not required and in some states authorities request information from phone companies without first asking a court. The records can be used to trace the movements of the person using the phone.
Sorrell says phone records are not routinely requested by Vermont authorities. He says when they are requested in non-emergency situations, a court’s approval is always obtained.
(Sorrell) "We would be foolish to not get a warrant or get other court permission knowing that we’re going to be in some constitutional fight down the road."
(Host) Sorrell is fighting a request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont to reveal information about the cell phone records authorities have obtained. He says if made public the information could violate privacy laws and compromise criminal investigations.
Alan Gilbert is Executive Director of the Vermont ACLU. Gilbert says the Attorney General’s reassurance that authorities are acting judiciously is not enough.
(Gilber) "What we want to be able to do and people have not only a right but a responsibility is to know whether or not that indeed is the case. It’s not an assertion that holds government accountable. Its actually seeing the information, it’s actually seeing the information the evidence that says, ‘yep, things are operating just the way they’re supposed to."
(Host) Gilbert says names and other information could be redacted from any records made public in order to protect the privacy of individuals.
The ACLU has taken the attorney general to court to force the state to release the cell phone information.