Seattle judge rules in favor of criminal, says FBI can’t even ‘look at locked screen’ on phone without warrant

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SEATTLE, WA – Judge John Coughenour, a District Court judge out of Seattle, ruled last week that the FBI violated a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights when they turned the suspect’s phone on to look at the lock screen without a warrant.

The judge said that police were allowed to conduct what constitutes a search by looking at the phone’s lock screen at the time of an arrest, but later during the course of an investigation a warrant would be needed.

The case came about when Joseph Sam was arrested in May of 2019 on charges related to robbery and assault. He had a Motorola smartphone on his person at the time of the arrest and police pushed the button to turn the lock screen on. 

This provided useful information for the police, which was the suspect’s nickname, as the judge said:

“What is known is that on February 13, 2020, the FBI removed Mr. Sam’s phone from inventory, powered the phone on, and took a photograph of the lock screen […] The photograph shows the name ‘STREEZY’ right underneath the time and date.”

Sam’s attorney argued that the act of the officers looking at the phone without a warrant violated Sam’s rights.

Judge Coughenour, however, disagreed.

He said in his ruling:

“The police’s examination took place either incident to a lawful arrest or as part of the police’s efforts to inventory the personal effects found during Mr. Sam’s arrest.

The FBI’s examination, by contrast, occurred long after the police had arrested Mr. Sam and inventoried his personal effects. Those examinations present significantly different legal issues […]

“The FBI physically intruded on Mr. Sam’s personal effect when the FBI powered on his phone to take a picture of the phone’s lock screen…The FBI therefore “searched” the phone within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

See Jardines, 569 U.S. at 5. And because the FBI conducted the search without a warrant, the search was unconstitutional.”

In January of 2019, a court in California ruled that police can’t force suspects to unlock their phones using a fingerprint, facial recognition, etc. It had already been established previously that police could not force suspects to give them their passcodes to open their phones.

This case takes that ruling even further saying that investigators can’t even look at the screen once the arrest is made.

Keep in mind that the ruling differentiates the actions of the police, as the arresting officers, and the FBI, as the investigators. The FBI search was seven months after the arrest. 

FBI lawyers argued that the suspect should not have an expectation of privacy on simply a lock screen, as that is what anyone can see when they turn on the phone. The judge did not agree.

Although the FBI is blocked from searching cell phones for potential criminals, China is using them to spy on US citizens.

Law Enforcement Today brought you the story last week:

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security have accused the Chinese government of “targeting organizations conducting coronavirus research with cyberattacks, and warned that such companies should take steps to protect their systems, even as they scramble to combat a virus that originated in China,” according to a report from Fox News. 

The FBI jointly released a public service announcement with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 

That announcement stated, in part: 

“The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by [the People’s Republic of China]-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors.

“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.

“The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.

“The FBI and CISA urge all organizations conducting research in these areas to maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices to prevent surreptitious review or theft of COVID-19-related material.

FBI is responsible for protecting the U.S. against foreign intelligence, espionage, and cyber operations, among other responsibilities.

“CISA is responsible for protecting the Nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. CISA is providing services and information to support the cybersecurity of federal and state/local/tribal/territorial entities, and private sector entities that play a critical role in COVID-19 research and response.”

These agencies point to increased media coverage of organizational efforts to combat the pandemic as creating a target rich environment for bad actors. 

According to Fox, there is intelligence from numerous countries that “reportedly share the U.S. view” that China actively sought to hide the outbreak from the onset, to the detriment of not only themselves, but the entire world. 

President Trump has been vocal about the origin of the virus and his belief that China attempted to hide it from the global community, often referring to the outbreak as the Chinese virus and Wuhan virus, identifying where it originated.

Colleges and universities have banned those phrases, saying that it is akin to hate speech. Cities have passed orders and ordinances against the use of those phrases. 

The mainstream media, of course, deems it racist to refer to the virus as outlined above. 

But the President was able to succinctly respond to his critics. 

He says that the virus started in a lab in Wuhan,China. The Chinese government apparently tried to cover it up as long they could, and now they are allegedly going after groups that are researching the pandemic’s origin and how to stop it. 

The questions the President poses are what does China have to hide, and is the World Health Organization helping them?

During a recent White House briefing in relation to COVID-19, President Donald Trump broke down the numbers as they relate to China’s and the U.S.’s contributions to the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).  

The United States funded the organization much more than China.

While addressing the press on April 8th, President Trump was critical of both China’s monetary contributions to the W.H.O. while also being critical of the organization’s response to the pandemic.

Trump started by detailing the 2019 numbers between the U.S. and China:

“Last year, it was $452 million, and China paid $42 million”

From there, the president dove into a few more examples of years prior, where China seemingly contributed roughly 10% of what the United States doled out to the organization. In certain years, he cited that the U.S. had allotted in excess of $500 million.

On top of noting China’s lackluster contributions, he was quick to point out how badly he thought that the W.H.O. dropped the ball:

“World Health got it wrong. I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly and not good.”

Not only did the organization appear to get some things wrong when handling the pandemic, but there’s a decent amount of people concerned that they were complicit in China’s cover-up attempts of the virus early on. The W.H.O. even endorsed China’s early-on claims that there was no proof of human-to-human transmission in January.

Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert specializing in China, even noted that the organization sullied matters relating to China and the pandemic:

“They could have been more forceful, especially in the initial stages in the crisis when there was a cover-up and there was inaction.”

There is a lot of blame to go around for the uncontrolled outbreak of the coronavirus. China has been widely criticized for covering up the virus even as it ran unabated across that country. Now another entity is coming under fire…the World Health Organization (WHO).

As information started coming out of China about the virus, the WHO was acting arguably dismissive of the virus, standing in lockstep with the Chinese Communist Party’s apparent suppressing of the potency of the disease.

“Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China,” WHO tweeted back in January.

So, after China appeared to either blow off the virus or purposely cover up its severity, especially in the crucial first few weeks of the outbreak where it may have been contained, the virus has now infected some 652,00 people worldwide, including over 116,000 in the United States.

Of that number, nearly 2,000 Americans have died with nearly a quarter of that number being in New York City as of the time of this writing. This is according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus in real time.

Fox News has been told that political correctness by the WHO in deliberately underestimating the extent of the virus’ threat led to the current pandemic.

“(WHO) has been trying to be politically correct by underestimating the extent of the threat. They lost some credibility when they stated in late January that the global risk assessment was moderate,” said Dr. Attila Hertelendy, a Florida-based expert in biomedicine.

“For an international body that people (and) governments and the business community looks to for advice, they are simply too slow, burdened by bureaucracy and political correctness.

“They have a great staff working for them, and many of my colleagues are advisors, they just need to listen to them and take action swiftly.”

Hertelendy is not the only one raising alarm bells about the WHO.

Dr. Stanley Weiss, a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Rutgers Medical School in New Jersey agreed, saying that the lack of early action has been especially frustrating for the medical community.

“I was personally frustrated at WHO’s apparent great fear in moving from classifying from epidemic to pandemic, all the more given all the evidence we had gathered from China’s experience,” he said.

“Historically, a great strength of the WHO was its expertise in consensus building. Here, we needed leadership, not merely consensus building. It is hard for some organizations to act.”

On December 31 of last year, Chinese authorities notified the WHO of the outbreak of a so-called novel strain of coronavirus which was causing severe illness.

For weeks, the WHO resisted declaring the virus a pandemic, waiting until March 11, a full 2-1/2 months after they were notified by China to declare it so. Weiss’s opinion is that often times, science is frequently ignored “in favor of the politics within WHO’s vast constituency.”

“The WHO waited much too long to declare a ‘Global Health Emergency,’ a designation that importantly would have alerted public health officials in countries neighboring China to start preparing.

“Similarly, the WHO initially refused to declare a global pandemic, bizarrely claiming that they no longer used this designation, but then ultimately did so,” said Dr. Dena Grayson, a Florida-based expert on infectious diseases.

“This also likely caused substantial delays in preparedness by other nations in advance of this deadly virus.”

There are also some critics who believe that WHO acted as an arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

According to Brett Schaefer, a Senior Research Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at the Heritage Foundation noted that China has “a well-established record of suppressing information that it considers harmful,” which is nothing new where it concerns the WHO.

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“Thus, it is hardly surprising that it failed to be transparent and truthful in reporting details on COVID-19 to WHO and the international community. In fact, this is not the first time this has happened,” he said.

“In 2003, China concealed and denied an infectious disease outbreak—later called SARS—for months.

“Given this history, the willingness of WHO to take China’s statements at face value is shocking.

“WHO leadership is too susceptible to political pressure in its decisions on declaring a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), and this needs to be addressed.”

The WHO works as a specialized agency under the auspices of the United Nations, falling under the UN’s Sustainable Development Group. The WHO was established in 1948, the same time the UN was created.

The organization was given the responsibility of being in charge of monitoring public health risks and overseeing responses to emergencies.

The organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland and has an annual operating budget of $2.1 billion, with 194 member states.

Of course, the United States is the biggest contributor to WHO, totaling $400 million in 2017 and is also the largest financier, contributing more money than even the United Nations, followed by South Korea, Australia, the Gates Foundation and finally Japan.

Despite evidence that China downplayed the outbreak late last year, WHO doesn’t appear to be overly concerned.

Some critics have accused the organization of covering up Chinese misconduct at the onset, and instead praising China for the country’s apparent authoritarian clampdown in making it look like they were trying to contain the disease.

It was apparently too little, too late as far as mitigating the spread outside of China.

Some have also criticized the role of WHO’s leader, Ethiopian national Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was given the position in 2017 by member states and who is in the middle of a five-year term.

People are questioning whether he “sucked up” to China in order to secure massive donations to the organization.

Ghebreyesus routinely lauds Chinese President Xi Jinping for his handling of the outbreak, while refusing to address alleged early cover-ups and the fact that China allegedly silenced several doctors who were attempting to speak out about the viral outbreak in Wuhan.

There is also the fact that Taiwanese officials claimed they alerted WHO back in December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the pathogen.

Leaders in Taipei said that the information was not passed on to other countries and basically went unheeded.

Currently, Taiwan is forbidden to be a member of the WHO because of the so-called “One China” policy pushed by the People’s Republic of China.

“Overall, the WHO is a useful organization and its scientific experts are absolutely world-class,” Grayson said.

“Unfortunately, like all too many organizations, politics sometimes get in the way of decisive action.”

Schaefer noted that the WHO may be facing some scrutiny after the pandemic starts to fade.

“If the organization performs well, member governments are more confident in having it assume an increased role. If they fail, the member states look to reform them or create alternative mechanisms,” he said.

“During the Ebola crisis in 2014, WHO was strongly criticized for its slow and ineffective response, and the member states pressed the leadership for reforms to address those failings.

“It is clear from the response to COVID-19 that more changes are necessary.”

Part of the issue as seen by some experts is the fact that as part of the UN, the WHO is also suffering the same problem.

Dr. Roger Bate is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a specialist in public health and infectious diseases.

He noted that bloated bureaucracies, such as those at the UN, need to be looked at going forward in order to stop a similar pandemic much earlier.

“WHO is part of the UN. UN is overly bureaucratic, but we need it because it is the global organization where member states can come to discuss issues like this,” he explained.

“WHO has become less relevant in the past few decades, COVID-19 remind us why it is important and why, when it fails, we all pay the price.”

Bate also said that the WHO has to be more aggressive in demanding local action from wherever a pandemic begins.

“I believe following COVID-19, U.S. and E.U. will back it because of the huge cost we are now paying. Basically, WHO should get the funds it requires and can embarrass nations like China that do not act properly,” he said.

“And this will happen again unless China shuts its wet markets with live animals. Contagions from zoonotic viruses are the problem, and China is ground zero for these.”

Hertelendy agreed with Bate that the so-called “playbook” needs to be changed.

“Following a politically correct agenda doesn’t work in the 21st century,” he added. “Simply, they need to focus on restoring credibility, admit mistakes and be transparent and ready to make decisions quickly and confidently.”

 


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