Judge Allows FBI To Use Evidence Collected Via Stingray Fake Cell Towers
from the that-4th-amendment-thing... dept
For the past few years, we’ve been covering a key DOJ case against Daniel Rigmaiden. Rigmaiden appears to have been involved in some likely fraud, but after asking how the feds tracked him down, it was revealed that they used a fake mobile tower, often referred to as a “stingray” (though the actual product goes by a few different names), to create an effective man in the middle attack. This allowed the FBI to keep tabs on Rigmaiden’s location and some of what he was doing, as the aircard he used to get online was suddenly running through their own special fake Verizon tower. In fact, it later came out that the DOJ has been misleading judges for years about its use of the technology.
However, a judge has now ruled that none of that really matters, and that the evidence collected by the stingray (or as a result of its use) can be used in the case against Rigmaiden. The reasoning is fairly odd, however. The judge basically said that there’s no 4th Amendment issue because Rigmaiden had no reasonable expectation of privacy in either the use of the aircard or in his apartment “because he had obtained the air card and rented the apartment and storage space through fraudulent means — that is, using identifications that he had stolen from other people.” That seems like a highly questionable standard on which to base that decision. As the ACLU points out, while Rigmaiden may have been committing fraud elsewhere, and may have used different names in getting the aircard and the space, there is no indication that any fraud was involved in getting those particular things. Under this ruling, you could see that doing something or buying something under an alias could be viewed as giving up one’s 4th Amendment protections — and that seems crazy.
The court also didn’t seem to much care about the DOJ hiding its use of the stingray from judges:
The judge also ruled that the government was not in the wrong for failing to disclose to a magistrate judge that it planned to use a stingray to track the defendant, or to explain to the judge how the tracking device it intended to use worked. He characterized this information as a “detail of execution which need not be specified.”
That seems fairly troubling, as it would allow the DOJ to hide other surveillance efforts that might be judged to be 4th Amendment violations… As the ACLU notes in response to this ruling:
“When the government is seeking a warrant to use new technology, it has the duty to explain to the court what that technology is and how it works,” she said. “Stingrays are a very potent example of why that is so, because it scoops up innocent information of third parties who are not under probable cause surveillance.”