The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says court warrants are not required when deploying cell-site simulators (nicknamed “stingrays”) in public places. Stingrays are decoy cell towers, often deployed on small aircraft that capture locations and identities of tens of thousands of mobile phone users in a single flight and can intercept calls and texts. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have expressed concern about privacy to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson.
The Obama Administration has maintained that the public has no privacy in public places. But the Supreme Court ruled that warrants are required.
In their letter, Leahy and Grassley complained that little is known about how stingrays are used by law enforcement agencies. And authorities are reluctant to disclose that. In one case, prosecutors dropped charges rather than disclose their techniques. In other cases authorities simply lie to judges about their use or use underhanded methods to prevent the public from knowing that the cell-site simulators are being used.
“The Judiciary Committee needs a broader understanding of the full range of law enforcement agencies that use this technology, the policies in place to protect the privacy interests of those whose information might be collected using these devices, and the legal process that DOJ and DHS entities seek prior to using them,” wrote Leahy and Grassley. Some U.S. states are fighting back. Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin passed laws requiring police to get a warrant to track a cell phone in real time. Some courts, such as in Florida and Massachusetts, also ruled that warrants are necessary for real-time tracking.
Surveillance is a key element of totalitarian regimes. Expect increasingly intrusive and even deceptive practices to track thousands of citizens in their every day life. Surveillance is intimidating, and will be used to support globalization and its eventually enforcement of a world-wide religion and worship.