The Federal Bureau of Investigation claims it doesn't need warrants to place cell towers in public areas so it can capture mobile phone user identities, intercept calls and log locations, reports said.
The FBI said it can use cell-tower lookalikes, called "stingrays" to gather information from mobile phone users without the need of a search warrant, Ars Technica reported Tuesday. The fake cell towers look much like regular cell towers with the public none the wiser -- the bad part is that the FBI is now logging all your call information without your knowledge if you happen to be by one of these "stingrays."
The FBI took the position of warrants being unnecessary during meetings with the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. The two seemed to immediately contact Attorney General Erick Holder and Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson about concerns over the FBI's stance and the loss of privacy for Americans. From the letter:
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For example, we understand that the FBI’s new policy requires FBI agents to obtain a search warrant whenever a cell-site simulator is used as part of a FBI investigation or operation, unless one of several exceptions apply, including (among others): (1) cases that pose an imminent danger to public safety, (2) cases that involve a fugitive, or (3) cases in which the technology is used in public places or other locations at which the FBI deems there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
The letter also touched on the use of "dirtboxes" or airborne cell-site simulators, which the Wall Street Journal reported, and can gathers data from "tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight."
In the letter, both Leahy and Grassley expressed concern "about whether the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have adequately considered the privacy interests of other individuals who are not the targets of the interception, but whose information is nevertheless being collected when these devices are being used."
One attorney from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that judges are becoming wise to law enforcement trying to overstep their bounds and not allowing broad usage. Some are now requiring police and others to not store information from those not targeted for investigation, while others require warrants to track real-time mobile phone usage.
While the Obama Administration has said that "public has no privacy in public places," as Ars Technica reported, listening in on phone calls and intercepting electronic information is surely stretching the definition of public space.This is not merely overhearing conversations but hacking into mobile phones on nothing more than fishing expeditions. Let's see if the American people are up to fighting for their deteriorating rights to privacy.