Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 68 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/16/17

Microsoft Corp. v. United States: Jeff Sessions Wants Open Borders, But Only for Police

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Thomas Knapp

Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions
(Image by Gage Skidmore)
  Details   DMCA

On October 16, Morgan Chalfant of The Hill reports, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the Justice Department's appeal in Microsoft Corp. v. United States. The question before the court: Are search warrants issued by American courts valid abroad?

In 2013, Microsoft refused to turn information from a customer's email account over to law enforcement pursuant to a warrant in a narcotics investigation. The information, Microsoft noted, was stored on a server in Ireland. Ireland, as you may have learned in elementary school, is neither one of the fifty states nor a US territory. It's a sovereign state with its own laws. US search warrants carry no weight there.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Microsoft, and the full court denied the government's request for a rehearing. Apparently they learned geography as youngsters, too.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, maybe not so much. But he does seem to have a perpetual burr under his fur about "national sovereignty." Sessions is on record criticizing both "illegal immigration" (under the US Constitution there's no such thing) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement as attacks on US sovereignty. So why is the Justice Department he leads seeking a declaration from the US Supreme Court that US search warrants override the sovereignty of Ireland? American exceptionalism much?

Hopefully the court will uphold the Second Circuit's decision and make it clear to Sessions that the whole border/sovereignty thing goes in both directions.

But the tech sector and individuals who value their privacy shouldn't just sit still and hope for the best. What we need is a the continued erosion of "national" borders and the perfection of individual borders that are, as a practical workaday matter, mostly impenetrable to people like Jeff Sessions. While the former may take some time yet, the latter are already partially available and the unavailable part represents opportunity for reasonably entrepreneurial "sovereign states."

The available part, as you might guess, consists of strong encryption. The sooner Microsoft and other email and data storage providers implement well-crafted end-to-end encryption for their users -- encryption the providers do not hold the keys to -- the sooner the data in question will become useless to the Jeff Sessionses of the world. "Oh, you have a warrant? OK, fine, here's what you asked for. Good luck reading it."

The unavailable part consists of (hopefully more than one) "data haven" states: Countries whose governments are willing to write strong data privacy and freedom protections into their laws, believably commit to sticking with those protections, then stand back and watch as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, et al. build huge data centers and perhaps even decide to re-domicile themselves (presumably paying lots and lots of taxes in both cases).

Sometimes the Supreme Court gets things right, but it's definitely an imperfect and untrustworthy vessel to entrust with the protection of our privacy and our rights. Better to take those rights into our own hands with encryption, and decentralize their protection across friendly sovereignties.

Must Read 1   Well Said 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Thomas Knapp Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

2020: I'm So Sick of Superlatives

America Doesn't Have Presidential Debates, But It Should

Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago

Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace

Finally, Evidence of Russian Election Meddling ... Oh, Wait

The Nunes Memo Only Partially "Vindicates" Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend