ACLU documents reveal police use of secret cell phone tracking program

This secrecy is allegedly justified in the name of “national security” although, as the ACLU notes in the records it released yesterday, a detailed list of over 250 investigations from just one city’s police department showed not a single case related to national security…

In other words, police keep information about this program secret not only from the public they presumably serve, but from the judges who presumably are supposed to oversee those police to ensure their behavior stays within legal and constitutional guidelines. Indeed, authorities would sooner let an armed robber avoid jail than reveal any details of how they use Stingray…

“[Tadrae McKenzie] and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison. But before trial, his defense team detected investigators’ use of a secret surveillance tool. … In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device — a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys. Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain.”

The ACLU’s records show that one Stingray customer, the city of Tallahasee, went on to use its Stingrays in 250 investigations over the six years spanning mid-2007 to early in 2014. As the Post noted, “That’s 40 or so instances a year in a city of 186,000, a surprisingly high rate given that the StingRay’s manufacturer, Harris Corp., has told the Federal Communications Commission that the device is used only in emergencies.”

The ACLU’s records also show that police have not been obtaining warrants before using these cell phone trackers to determine peoples’ locations…

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