U.S. Secret Service May Now Track Cell Phones without a Warrant
The device in question is the Stingray, a suitcase-size device that mimics cell phone towers and allows users of the technology to locate a mobile phone.
The FBI has used Stingrays without a court order over the objection of civil libertarians who say it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against illegal searches by the government. Now, the Secret Service has been given similar authority when there is a “nonspecific threat to the president or another protected person,” the Associated Press reported.
Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Seth M. Stodder told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that a new policy permits the Secret Service to utilize Stingrays in “exceptional circumstances” without meeting the legal threshold for probable cause. Such cases would require approve by “executive-level personnel” from the Secret Service and the appropriate U.S. attorney, the AP’s Michael Biesecker reported.
According to Stodder: “The key exception that we envision is the Secret Service’s protective mission.
“In certain circumstances where you could have an immediate threat to the president and you have cryptic information, our conclusion in drawing the line between security and privacy here is to err on the side of protection,” Stodder said.
Federal law enforcement officers are also allowed to bypass court approval for Stingray use under emergency “exigent circumstances” meeting the constitutional standard for probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, but when there is no time to get a warrant, Biesecker wrote.
To Learn More:
Secret Service Allowed to Use Warrantless Cellphone Tracking (by Michael Biesecker, Associated Press)
FBI Uses Portable Device to Track Cell Phone Users (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
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