Because local law enforcement now uses technology to perform what amounts to unconstitutional, wholly unreasonable, wide-ranging searches of the communications of innocent citizens, criminals are going free!
Just one day before a [St. Louis] city police officer was to face questions about a secret device used to locate suspects in a violent robbery spree, prosecutors dropped more than a dozen charges against the three defendants.
The move this month freed the officer from having to testify about a highly controversial surveillance tool — one that is subject to a confidentiality agreement between the St. Louis police and the FBI. …
[T]he case has cast attention on use of “cell site simulators,” which can mimic a cell system tower, or screen data flowing through it, allowing a cellphone to be tracked to even a particular room.
Local police using them have accepted FBI demands for secrecy, even though details about the devices are widely available on the Internet.
Officials across the U.S. have been willing to drop cases rather than subject the technology to scrutiny by judges and defense lawyers. Civil libertarians complain that the hardware amounts to a warrantless search of countless properties.
The FBI calls it a matter of national security.
What a boon to the perpetrators! They get out of jail free because prosecutors know in their guts that to subject this method of gathering evidence to court scrutiny might result in a judge ruling against its use as unconstitutional. Think about it: The authorities would rather let “violent” criminals go free than to stay within the bounds of the Constitution.
One has to wonder how it is possible for local law enforcement and the FBI to forge a “confidentiality agreement” that can withstand a subpoena or an order from a judge. That, in itself, sounds unconstitutional.
In the end, it’s up to lawyers and judges to decide the legality of their claimed Confidential Government Surveillance Information Privilege. Certainly this method of gathering evidence seems unconstitutional and illegal on its face, especially if their intent is to hide from the People and their representatives, as well as from the Judicial branch of government, techniques that are less “confidential” than they are probably “illegal”. Or, to put it another way, techniques that the FBI claims are confidential only to avoid a ruling that their methods are illegal as well as unconstitutional. But that seems to be how the Obama administration rolls.
Infringe first. Worry about legal “technicalities” later.
This invasive surveillance system is called a StingRay or International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catcher. The tracking device is currently used across the country, by any number of government agencies:
The ACLU has identified 50 agencies in 21 states and the District of Columbia that own stingrays, but because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy, this map dramatically underrepresents the actual use of stingrays by law enforcement agencies nationwide. [See the map at the link.]
The wide-ranging gathering of private information from innocent citizens is concerning enough. Additionally, by using these simulators, agents may actually interfere with cell phone service: Potentially, calls can be dropped. Important calls that must go through may be lost. Delays may happen.
Can law enforcement agencies take the risk that, for example, a 911 call goes missing and lives are lost? By their secrecy and lack of transparency, however, by evading subpoenas and stonewalling court orders, potential victims may never know how or why they became victims in the first place.
The authorities try to assure concerned citizens that agencies don’t store data and that only the equivalent of metadata (e.g., identity, location, phone numbers) but not the content of communications is intercepted. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah. From the NSA.
Who will ensure that their claims are true? How can we prove that a secret database does not exist? The NSA, DHS, FBI, and all of these other government agencies, are as hard to oversee as Iran’s nuclear program!
Who’s going to spy on the spies? Who will be our watchdog?