Today is April Fool’s Day.
It seems fitting then, to begin this story today. No, the story is not a joke. Not the funny kind, anyway.
It is a subject that makes fools of many of us.
In the days, weeks, months and years after September 11 2001, our law enforcement leaders, both prosecutors and politicians, explained that they needed more powers in order to fight the scourged of terrorism.
Folks like me, the stick-in-the-mud liberal “zealots” in favor of actually respecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution had a problem with giving all those powers carte blanche.
“Trust us”, we were all told by those gunning for new legislation which would broaden the abilities of law enforcement to invade what otherwise would be private. “We would never use these powers against our citizens. We are just trying to use these against our country’s enemies who want to wipe us off the face of the map. You know…terrorists!”
Most people went along with it. After all, who wanted another 9-11?
Down we went along the road of sacrificing freedoms in the name of safety. When law enforcement seemed to be contradicting its word…we asked a couple of questions. “Relax”, the reply kept coming. “It may look like we are using these extra powers on run-of-the-mill criminal cases…but we really aren’t. Just looks that way. It is really just another aspect of national security. We’re keeping the terrorists at bay. But, by the way, even if we are lying…you don’t want criminals to get away with crime, do you? After all, isn’t that against national security too?”
Well, most of us still bought it. On the criminal defense side, motions to suppress evidence kept being brought arguing that the police overstepped and so violated a defendant’s Constitutional rights because the case was not one for which the extra-ordinary powers allowed were granted.
Well, now the situation has escalated to a new level. After all, I am sure many of you are thinking, “Well, this really applies to criminals. Who cares? I’m no criminal!”
Well, do you talk on the phone? Do you use a cell phone?
Enter The Stingray!
Stingrays, also known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information to the user. When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.
Law enforcement agencies all over the country, including the Commonwealth, possess Stingrays, though their use is often shrouded in secrecy.
“Secrecy” as in “What you do not know can secretly spy on you and produce evidence that, because it is unknown, will not be challenged in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) has apparently uncovered evidence that federal and local law enforcement agencies are actively using the technology and trying to conceal their use of it from public scrutiny.
After all, it is a great way to gather private information “by accident” simply by illegally trespassing intoyour cell phone privacy.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Privacy Rights And New Methods In Making Them Magically Disappear
Before you begin to argue, “Well, if you have nothing to hide, then who cares who finds out the conversations and data from your cell phone?”, consider if you are as much an opponent of privacy rights as you think you are.
You are still friendly with that old girlfriend of yours, Wendy Wanthchaback. Your wife hates Wendy for obvious reasons and has forbidden you to be in contact with her. Attempting to restore peace in your home, you agree to stop all contact with Wendy.
But you secretly take her calls on your cell phone.
Privacy matter in that instance?
“No. I would be doing something wrong. It may not be illegal, but I would be deceiving my wife.”
How about anything else that is on your cell phone? You know, like bank information, contacts and passwords? Feel pretty good sharing all that and more with strangers, do you?
How about information that could be given the pretzel treatment so that it looks like you did something wrong? I believe we have discussed how that happens with statements and documents quite often by those in a position of power.
“Ok, you got my attention”.
Good. Bring your attention back to me next week as we look further into this subject matter. Also might want to peruse a little book called
over the weekend.
In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!