Glad we fought a revolution to be rid of this kind of thing.
We have met the enemy, and it is us.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) got a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant in 2006 to buy a stingray. The original grant request said it would be used for “regional terrorism investigations.” Instead they’ve been using them for just about any investigation imaginable.
In just a four month period in 2012, according to documents obtained by the First Amendment Coalition, the LAPD has used the device at least 21 times in “far more routine” criminal investigations. The LA Weekly reported Stingrays “were tapped for more than 13 percent of the 155 ‘cellular phone investigation cases’ that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year.” These included burglary, drug and murder cases.
Of course, we’ve seen this pattern over and over and over. The government uses “terrorism” as a catalyst to gain some powerful new surveillance tool or ability, and then turns around and uses it on ordinary citizens, severely infringing on their civil liberties in the process.
Stingrays are particularly odious given they give police dangerous “general warrant” powers, which the founding fathers specifically drafted the Fourth Amendment to prevent. In pre-revolutionary America, British soldiers used “general warrants” as authority to go house-to-house in a particular neighborhood, looking for whatever they please, without specifying an individual or place to be searched.
The Stingray is the digital equivalent of the pre-revolutionary British soldier. It allows police to point a cell phone signal into all the houses in a particular neighborhood, searching for one target while sucking up everyone else?s location along with it. With one search the police could potentially invade countless private residences at once.