House Committee Recommends New Rules on Stingray Usage

The cell site simulator device known as a Stingray was originally designed for use by the military in order to create a small, local cell site bubble around our troops, but has been modified by its creator to be able to intercept cell communications in the United States.

While law enforcement – and Harris Corporation who manufactures them – have attempted to keep the usage of Stingrays under the radar, that attempt seems to have failed.

Both Harris and the Department of Justice required local police departments to drop charges in any case where the police might be required to explain their use of Stingrays.

Some people have claimed that law enforcement agencies have bent the truth in their request for warrants to use Stingrays.

Until recently, federal agencies said that they did not need a warrant to use Stingrays, but the DoJ, DHS and IRS recently created rules that say that a warrant is required – at the “suggestion” of the House Oversight Committee.

Now the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has spent a year looking at the issue and has released a report that says that the government needs to establish a clear nationwide framework to ensure that Americans are adequately protected.

The report says that many times state law enforcement agencies don’t even need probable cause to justify the use of a Stingray.

Since many local law enforcement agencies use federal government funds to buy Stingrays, the feds can make rules for their use and, of course, Congress can pass whatever laws it wants to.

The House Committee is also recommending that the non disclosure agreements in place that have, at least in some cases, obscured the truth to courts and judges be replaced by agreements that require clarity and candor to the court.

Of course, no matter what laws Congress passes, there is nothing to stop a renegade person from using Stingray-like devices in an inappropriate manner, but that seems like a less likely situation.

The issue with Stingrays is that they indiscriminately vacuum up all cell calls in the range of the Stingray.  The interception and possible blocking of cell calls for everyone in the vicinity of a Stingray is the issue here.  That vicinity could be a mile or two radius and represent hundreds of calls at once.  In theory, a Stingray will drop the call quickly if it doesn’t meet the appropriate warrant parameters, but it doesn’t always do that.

Stay tuned for what Congress decides to do next year, if anything.

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