State AG: We Have A Warrant Requirement For Stingrays; State Police: FILE(S) NOT FOUND

from the the-latest-in-LEO-tech:-the-warrantless-warrant dept

In a comprehensive look at Delaware State Police usage of Stingray devices at DelawareOnline, there’s this very darkly amusing factoid. (h/t Nathan Burney via Brad Heath)

The state Attorney General’s Office says police must obtain a warrant to deploy the Stingray, but when The News Journal requested those court orders through a FOIA, state police said none existed.

This is a problem. It’s not that the state police chose to withhold the information, as it has with several other Stingray-related documents requested by the News Journal and the local ACLU. It’s that it says no records exist. This means the warrants the Attorney General says police must use are not being used.

What do appear to be used by Delaware State Police are vague pen register orders that hide from judges and defendants the technology actually being used to obtain this phone data. Public defender John Daniello had one such document turned over to him by the police — one that apparently was used to deploy Harris Technology’s cellphone-tracking technology.


It’s a pen register order, with a handwritten “negative on TriggerFish location” scrawled across the top. Daniello’s now looking to force the state police to hand over the paperwork it’s actually using to deploy cell tower simulators — which isn’t the same paperwork the AG’s office has stated must be used.

“I was going to make a stink about it and demand all the information,” Daniello said. “They’re going out and pinging everybody.”

Daniello said that police are “pulling one over on the courts” by not indicating in the full text of a warrant that cell-site simulators are being used.

Daniello’s inquisitiveness has already helped one defendant out. Rather than turn cell tracking documents over to Daniello, prosecutors offered his client a “far better” plea deal than they had initially offered.

The Delaware State Police are following the pattern set by many other law enforcement agencies: claiming their agreement with Harris (and the FBI) forbids any mention of cellphone tracking technology and using pen register orders (which have a lower evidentiary standard than warrants — information sought must only possibly be “relevant” to an ongoing investigation). The State Police may disingenuously assert the two are roughly equivalent, but the Attorney General’s office has explicitly stated Stingray devices can only be deployed with warrants.

This suggests the Attorney General really isn’t paying too much attention to what the police are doing with their cell tower spoofers. The following suggests the AG isn’t the only person not in the know. The obfuscation of Stingray/TriggerFish deployments is apparently so multi-layered that even the state police find it impossible to locate relevant documents.

The News Journal sent a FOIA request to the Delaware State Police asking for copies of all warrants from adjudicated cases that contained the term “pen register,” the technical term for a call search history. Despite existence of the warrant* issued for Daniello’s client, the agency responded that no records existed.

*It’s not a warrant.

Police departments sold state legislators on Stingrays by citing terrorism and drug warring. No one asked too many questions because these are Serious Things few legislators could possibly oppose. They allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to be spent on technology that’s being deployed with little to no oversight. Also discovered during the FOIA requests is that the State Police have no written policies or guidelines covering these deployments. The Attorney General may claim a warrant requirement is in place, but — considering the lack of responsive documents — it’s entirely unclear what he’s basing this assertion on.

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Comments on “State AG: We Have A Warrant Requirement For Stingrays; State Police: FILE(S) NOT FOUND”

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11 Comments
David says:

Will U.S. citizens be able to use the Nuremberg defense?

“I was just following orders when paying my taxes.”

It’s pretty clear by now that the current U.S. government is an organized crime syndicate financed by taxpayers, and that the taxpayers have been repeatedly made aware of that.

Not least of all because of the syndicates’ ways of dealing with snitches.

Anonymous Coward says:

In other words

Every single use of these in the state of Delaware has been illegal and everyone associated with their use is guilty of violating the law, our trust and due process. Strip them of their jobs and return the stingrays since they have proven that they can’t be trusted to use them legally or correctly.

David says:

Re: In other words

return the stingrays since they have proven that they can’t be trusted to use them legally or correctly.

Uh, you are doing them an injustice. The instructions and contracts coming with a Stingray make very explicit that they must not be used legally. What all government customers should have done in the first place is reading through those contracts before no rather instead of signing them, laughing and giving it all back.

It’s like buying a set of pipes for police use and contractually guaranteeing that only crack may be smoked in them.

There is no legal use for those devices according to the contracts coming with them, so no department should be allowed to buy them. Not even out of the semi-private coffers they fill with street robbery (aka civil asset forfeiture).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Now for the real question...

Will any of the judges signing these orders do anything now that it’s been shown that the police have been lying left and right to them?

If past actions in cases like this are any indication I’m guessing that they’ll continue signing away, not a shred of self-respect or professional pride in sight because slapping down the police for lying to a judge would be just wrong. /s

David says:

Re: Re:

open contempt for the law from those people trust to enforce the laws.

You don’t expect your butcher to consider cows sacred either. Ok, that would be the equivalent of Congress.

Uhm, the police is like PETA for laws? Rather than upholding them under strained conditions, put them to death humanely? Because laws have rights, too?

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