[Rushtalk] Slipper slope justice
notmyname at thatswaytoomuch.info
Fri Apr 5 09:34:50 MDT 2013
Can you hear me now? Feds admit FBI warrantless
cellphone tracking very common
FBI investigators for at least five years have
routinely used a sophisticated cellphone tracking
tool that can pinpoint callers locations and
listen to their conversations all without
getting a warrant for it, a federal court was told this week.
The use of the Stingray, as the tool is called,
is a very common practice by federal
investigators, Justice Department attorneys told
the U.S. District Court for Arizona Thursday,
according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Installed in an unmarked van, Stingray mimics a
cellphone tower, so it can pinpoint the precise
location of any mobile device in range and
intercept conversations and data, said Linda Lye,
staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California
in a blog post about the case.
In a rare public discussion of federal electronic
surveillance capabilities and authorities,
Justice Department lawyers told the court hearing
that, instead of a warrant, the FBI operates
Stingray and other cellphone-mimicking technology
under the authority of pen register orders.
These court orders, also known as tap and trace
orders, are generally issued to allow
investigators to collect only so-called
metadata like all phone numbers calling to or
called from a particular number.
But Stingray collects much more than just phone
numbers and also sweep[s] up the data of
innocent people who happen to be nearby, according to the ACLU filing.
Given the broad nature of the information
Stingray collects and its ability to eavesdrop on
conversations, many federal judges insisted that
they should be told when its use was envisaged
under a tap and trace order, the ACLU filing says.
Tap and trace orders are generally more easily
granted than a warrant, which requires probable
cause under the Fourth Amendment.
But Justice Department emails that the group
obtained under the federal Freedom of Information
Act and filed with their brief show that
government lawyers were concerned some FBI agents
were not properly disclosing their use of Stingray.
It has recently come to my attention that many
agents are still using [Stingray] technology in
the field although the pen register application
does not make that explicit, reads one May 2011
email from a Justice Department attorney.
It is important that we are consistent and
forthright in our pen register requests to the
magistrates, the attorney concludes.
The ACLU has filed an amicus brief in the case
U.S. vs. Rigmaiden. An amicus brief is filed not
by the defendant or anyone on his behalf, but by another interested party.
In the case, first brought in 2008, Mr.
Rigmaiden, charged with identity theft, is
seeking to suppress evidence obtained by Stingray
on the basis that using it constitutes a search
and requires a probable cause warrant.
The Department of Justice declined a request for
comment, as neither they nor the FBI generally speak about ongoing litigation.
<http://thatswaytoomuch.info/>notmyname at thatswaytoomuch.info
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