Police Regularly Use Stingrays Without A Warrant To Find Petty Criminals, Then Try To Hide That Fact

from the more-of-the-same dept

Over the last few years, we've published a ton of stories about the growing police reliance on Stingray cell site simulator devices (also known as IMSI catchers), that mimic a real cell phone tower and help provide the location of a certain mobile phone. As we've written, these devices have been super popular with police departments, who often receive them from the federal government with strict non-disclosure agreements, which means law enforcement has been known to lie to courts or simply drop cases where the usage is at risk of coming out in court.

It seems that this story is getting more and more national attention. Brad Heath, over at USA Today, has a fairly deep dive into the fact that police are using these devices to solve petty crimes all the time, without a warrant, and then refusing to tell defendants how they were caught (which is a bit of a constitutional no-no). Heath specifically was able to get a police surveillance log in Baltimore, which detailed how the devices were used there.
The records show that the city's police used stingrays to catch everyone from killers to petty thieves, that the authorities regularly hid or obscured that surveillance once suspects got to court and that many of those they arrested were never prosecuted.

Defense attorneys assigned to many of those cases said they did not know a stingray had been used until USA TODAY contacted them, even though state law requires that they be told about electronic surveillance.

“I am astounded at the extent to which police have been so aggressively using this technology, how long they’ve been using it and the extent to which they have gone to create ruses to shield that use,” Stephen Mercer, the chief of forensics for Maryland’s public defenders, said.
Some of the cases are absolutely ridiculous -- such as the one where an angry husband grabbed his wife's phone and left the house. Police declared it a theft and used an IMSI catcher to track it down... but by that point, the husband had already given it back to his wife, so the police just showed up at her home where she already had the phone. Also, because it's so easy to use these devices to just go and locate anyone, Baltimore police sometimes used it just to find the location of witnesses (i.e., people who haven't committed any crimes). That's going way over the line of what's appropriate.

These things are being used so often in so many cases with so little transparency, one hopes that the growing press attention will finally lead to much more accountability on how these devices are used and a requirement for a warrant.
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Filed Under: baltimore, cell site simulators, imsi catchers, law enforcement, police, privacy, stingrays


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  1. identicon
    GEMont, 26 Aug 2015 @ 1:59am

    A Government Under Siege - by its own civilian population.

    The short answer, to the final question directed towards judges, from your linked article:

    "Are you happy now? Are you going to do anything about it?"

    .... is,

    Its not very likely that the judges can actually do anything, since all the US laws pertaining to such things, were (secretly) changed after 9/11.

    The long answer....

    You see, according to the War Time Measures Laws enacted right after they pulled 9/11 out of their hat, (and also according to the newly interpreted reduced-to-one-page US constitution), the police are not just allowed to both secretly use the stingray devices, (and any other technology that gets the job done), and to lie to the judges about the stingray devices, (and any other technology that is being secretly used), legally, they have been DIRECTED TO DO SO, by the federal government, who also secretly supplies them with the devices, the training and the legal immunity ....

    because terrorists .....
    because druggies .....

    ...are Civilian Enemies from among the general public, and could be anyone - even your mom!!

    You see, there's a war afoot, and We The People are the enemy, so we cannot be allowed to realize that the US government has declared war (secretly) upon We The People.

    Letting the enemy know that they're under attack, is absolutely not going to happen if the USG has anything to say about it - thus the legal secrecy and the legal use of secret devices and the legal perjury - because if the Enemy was aware that it is being attacked as the enemy of the state, We The People might fight back.

    And if there is one thing cowards really hate, its when someone they're attacking, fights back.

    So, judges will continue to pretend to not know this is happening for another decade or more - as long as the public allows them to do so actually - the USG will do nothing to change this for certain - because to do otherwise, is to hamper the war effort, and to aid and abet the enemy; the US public, known to the Feds as The Adversary.

    And any judge who fore-warned the Enemy, would be seen by the Feds as a war criminal and at the very least, unemployed.

    ---

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