Tags: fcc | searches | privacy

Experts Sound Alarms Over FCC Searches

Thursday, 21 May 2009 04:37 PM

By David A. Patten

  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

Privacy experts are slamming FCC officials who claim they have broad powers to enter U.S. homes and to conduct searches without a warrant, if they suspect a personal electronic device is interrupting other signals.

"Anything using RF [radio frequency] energy, we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference," FCC spokesman David Fiske tells Wired.com.

That FCC policy dates back to the Communications Act of 1934, which grants the Commission broad powers to regulate the airwaves, assign frequencies in the public interest, and ensure broadcasters' transmissions do not interfere with other stations' signals.

That 1934 Act, however, did not envision a telecommunications environment where it is common for ordinary homeowners to use a variety of RF-generating devices – wireless routers, cell phones, wireless phones, even garage-door openers and baby monitors.

While the FCC continues to maintain it has the right to regulate in-home transmissions associated with RF-radiating devices, experts in Constitutional law express grave doubts that warrantless FCC searches – for example a rogue device causing interference with a local wi-fi operator – would be legal under the Constitution.

"The Supreme Court has said that the government can't make warrantless entries into homes for administrative inspections," Orin Kerr, a George Washington University expert on Constitutional law, tells Wired. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled for instance that housing inspectors could not forcibly enter residences without a warrant, for example.

The current debate over the 75-year-old communications law stems from an FCC run-in with a Boulder, Colo., radio station that operates without a license: Boulder Free Radio. The FCC has tried repeatedly to shut down the so-called "pirate station."

Boulder Free Radio owners have reportedly built a mobile transmitter. Whenever the FCC serves notice it must be shut down, its owners simply relocate.

Pirate signals can interfere with police, fire department, and other important transmissions. Once the FCC verifies a station is operating illegally, it will typically seek a court order shutting the station down, and fines can range up to $11,000 per day. But it is difficult to prove the law has been violated without actually inspecting the equipment.

Earlier this month, the FCC shut down a rogue station in Patterson, N.J. whose salsa-music programming was interfering with New York City radio station WFUV 90.7 FM.

NorthJersey.com reports that after repeated warnings, the FCC asked a federal District Court to authorize federal agents to enter the station's offices and seize equipment.

"The equipment used in this type of operation is highly portable," Jafer Aftab, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote to the court to justify the seizure request. "Any delay could result in the removal of the equipment to another location or concealment…"

The FCC did not respond immediately Thursday to a Newsmax request for more information on its perceived authority to enter private residences without a warrant.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Retype Email:
Zip Code:
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Immigrant Children Landing in Every State - Texas Has Most

Friday, 25 Jul 2014 20:45 PM

More than 30,000 children who've poured over the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an unprecedented flood of migrants have b . . .

Reps. Fleming, Sessions Spar Over House GOP Border Plan

Friday, 25 Jul 2014 20:27 PM

A proposal by House Republicans to slash President Barack Obama's emergency aid request to address the illegal immigrant . . .

Issa's House Oversight Panel Rebukes Obama WH for Ignoring Subpoena

Friday, 25 Jul 2014 20:25 PM

A top White House political adviser's refusal to testify twice before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committe . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved