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Please begin with an informative title:

How nifty?

The device is called a Stingray.

So super duper nifty.

What does a Stingray do?, you might ask.

Apparently it is a device that can be taken to a location it then pings all the cell phones in range and gathers their location data. For every phone.

The police were using this device and then not informing anyone they were doing so because the maker of the device asked them not to.

So, potentially exculpatory evidence was not delivered to defense attorneys because the company wanted their device to remain secret.

Some reason Mussolini quotes are popping into my head.

Intro

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

The power of stingrays, and the lengths to which police will go to conceal their use, are demonstrated by an ongoing case in Florida, State v. Thomas. As revealed in a recent opinion of a Florida appeals court, Tallahassee police used an unnamed device — almost certainly a stingray — to track a stolen cell phone to a suspect’s apartment. (The case’s association with stingrays was first pointed out by CNET’s Declan McCullagh in January). They then knocked on the door, asked permission to enter and, when the suspect’s girlfriend refused, forced their way inside, conducted a search, and arrested the suspect in his home. Police opted not to get warrants authorizing either their use of the stingray or the apartment search. Incredibly, this was apparently because they had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the company that gave them the device. The police seem to have interpreted the agreement to bar them even from revealing their use of stingrays to judges, who we usually rely on to provide oversight of police investigations.

When the suspect’s lawyer tried to ask police how they tracked the phone to his client’s house, the government refused to answer. A judge eventually forced the government to explain its conduct to the lawyer, but only after closing the courtroom to the public and sealing the transcript of the proceedings so the public and the press could never read it. Only later, when the case was heard on appeal, did the most jaw-dropping fact leak out. As two judges noted during theoral argument, as of 2010 the Tallahassee Police Department had used stingrays a staggering 200 times without ever disclosing their use to a judge to get a warrant.

Potentially unconstitutional government surveillance on this scale should not remain hidden from the public just because a private corporation desires secrecy. And it certainly should not be concealed from judges ACLU Link. That’s why we have asked the Florida court that original
ly sealed the transcript to now make it available to the public. And that’s also why we have asked police departments throughout Florida to tell us whether they use stingrays, what rules they have in place to protect innocent third parties from unjustified invasions of privacy, and whether they obtain warrants from judges before deploying the devices.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Police Accountability Group on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 06:06 AM PST.

Also republished by The First and The Fourth and DKos Florida.

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