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Warrantless Spying Is Becoming The Status Quo At Local Police Department

March 11, 2014
William Patrick
3/7/2014
Source …..

Businessman-phoneThe National Security Agency apparently isn’t the only government agency engaged in domestic spying.

Local law enforcement is playing the role of Big Brother, too, but to what extent is still unknown.

Recent court documents reveal a troubling cell phone surveillance program conducted by a Florida police department against unsuspecting cell phone users.

Attempts to keep the practice secret, even from judges, is raising questions as to just how prevalent police spying is within the Sunshine State.

The controversy stems from the arrest of James L. Thomas, a criminal suspect believed to be in possession of a stolen phone. Tallahassee police located and arrested Thomas by tracking a cell phone signal, then promptly searched his home.

It later became known that police didn’t seek a warrant or admit to using a little-known surveillance device called a “Stingray.”

Stingrays are small mobile devices that trick cell phones into connecting to them as if they were cell phone towers. The technology gives police the ability to track phone movements and intercept both phone calls and text messages of any cell phone within range.

In the court case, Thomas’ attorney asked police how they determined the defendant had the cell phone in question. The police declined to answer. A judge ordered a response, but only after clearing the courtroom and sealing the official record.

Now on appeal, courtroom deliberations revealed last week that the Tallahassee Police Department used a Stingray 200 times since 2010 without seeking a warrant.

“This record makes it very clear that (Tallahassee Police Department) were not going to get a search warrant because they had never gotten a search warrant for this technology,” an appeals court judge said.

Beyond the prospect of unconstitutional warrantless police searches, government watchdogs have long warned against surveillance tactics that broadly expose the personal information of countless innocent people in attempts by law enforcement to identify individuals suspected of crimes.

“When police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential,” states the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU is now leading the effort to determine just how widespread cell phone tracking is in Florida. The group announced a public records submission Monday to nearly 30 police and sheriffs’ departments across the state.

Court documents show the Tallahassee Police Department didn’t seek a search warrant in the Thomas case because it “did not want to reveal information about the technology they used to track the cell phone signal.”

TPD also said the Stingray was loaned to the department from a private manufacturer who in turn required a nondisclosure agreement.

“A nondisclosure agreement is typically a civil agreement between two or more parties over a commercial contract,” Christopher Torres, a Tallahassee defense lawyer, told Watchdog.org.

“They’re saying because it’s a cell phone they don’t have to get a warrant, but it’s basically a wiretap,” Torres said. “You cannot say something is protected by a trade agreement and that somehow trumps the U.S. Constitution.”

According to ARS Technica, Stingrays are exclusively manufactured by the Harris Corp., a Melbourne-based telecommunications company. Earning $5 billion in annual revenue, Harris Corp. supplies electronic equipment to government, defense and commercial sectors.

“Since 2004, Harris has earned more than $40 million from spy technology contracts with city, state, and federal authorities in the US, according to procurement records,” reports ARS Technica, an online information technology periodical.

Businessman image from Shutterstock.com

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 12, 2014 1:20 am

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Lets get rid of them as opportunity arises. Give them sufficient rope and they will hang themselves. NOW if we can get Ron and Rand Paul to move a bit from the abstract principles of he Constitution and move right to the real affront to the constitution where rules exist but are not enforced. Right now take the CIA and Congress issue. Well, they are both right and wrong on their caim but for us they have opened a real big opportunity. Yes, there are separate branches of government, absolutely “Sen. Feinstain”, no space here for details argument if the CIA broke the rule, actually as an overview, while I would love to see THIS CIA create right at end of WWII when the USA embraced people claiming to have the right connection globally we did not have, but we did not question their integrity and made the military very unhappy to have THEIR Intalligence taken over….More another time, for us NOW, separation of power is the issue. Yes Ms. Feinstein, and the executive office hase specific power given to them in foreing affairs and wars. The President makes the policies. Congress approves Treaties and going to war. The President is the Commander in Chief, not Congress. And the Constitution has specific rules for loyalty to the Nation, the citizen pledge is clear one can only serve one master, So, why be surprised if the CIA check what some member of Congress did with secret documents and we have members of Congress like McCain and Graham and etc. going around the world pushing their own foreing policy aligned with foreign nations and supporting the opposition…The Founders called that TREASON. So, it is about time the FBI or CIA keep a close look on Congress members and Lobbies ROOMING the Hall of Congress, telling our Congress how to vote on matters that are contrary to the policy of the Nation.

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