California governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that required the police to get a warrant before searching a telephone. Without this law, California's police will continue their practice of searching the cellphones of people they arrest, "which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the phone has traveled."
Brown blamed the Supreme Court, which found that current US laws don't protect against this sort of snooping, saying that the court's finding should stand. But all courts can do is tell you whether or not something is legal in the current system -- it's not their job to say what the law should be.
That's the legislature's job, and they did it: California's lawmakers passed this bill because deep, intrusive snooping without a warrant is an affront to human rights, privacy and dignity. In Brown's view, it seems that no laws should be passed -- rather, we should just freeze the current legislation and let courts refine it for the rest of time.
Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.
Instead, he says the state Supreme Court’s decision is good enough, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court let stand last week.
“The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections,” the governor wrote.
Because of that January ruling from the state’s high court, the California Legislature passed legislation to undo it — meaning Brown is taking the side of the Supreme Court’s seven justices instead of the state Legislature. The Assembly approved the bill 70-0 and the state Senate, 32-4.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.