It is no coincidence that following President Obama's address today about the National Security Agency's (NSA) collection of phone call data, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases concerning the police's warrantless collection of data from the seized cell phones of arrestees. The Court will decide whether the police violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against warrantless search and seizure.
Both the NSA controversy and the two cell phone cases (U.S. v. Wurie and Riley v. California) involve the same basic issue: where to draw the boundary between Americans' privacy and the protection of their security - whether from terrorists or common criminals - in light of evolving technology. The Justices undoubtedly have been following the national debate over the NSA's phone data collection program and it likely informed their decision that Wurie and Riley are cases worth deciding.
The Justices know that they will eventually have to address the legal issues in the NSA controversy, including technology-driven changes to the Fourth Amendment boundary between privacy and security. Their decision to review Wurie and Riley demonstrate their commitment to addressing those issues head on. We applaud that commitment.