WASHINGTON -- At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.
Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.
The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.
Current and former federal officials say the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages. But privacy advocates and judges have nonetheless expressed concerned about the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies may be using the radars — and the fact that they have so far done so without public scrutiny.
"The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what's inside is problematic," said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist. "Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have."
Agents' use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."
By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said officials are reviewing the court's decision. He said the Marshals Service "routinely pursues and arrests violent offenders based on pre-established probable cause in arrest warrants" for serious crimes.
The device the Marshals Service and others are using, known as the Range-R, looks like a sophisticated stud-finder. Its display shows whether it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and, if so, how far away it is — but it does not show a picture of what's happening inside. The Range-R's maker, L-3 Communications, estimates it has sold about 200 devices to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.
Other radar devices have far more advanced capabilities, including three-dimensional displays of where people are located inside a building, according to marketing materials from their manufacturers. One is capable of being mounted on a drone. And the Justice Department has funded research to develop systems that can map the interiors of buildings and locate the people within them.
The radars were first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it.
Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what's happening inside someone's home. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the Constitution generally bars police from scanning the outside of a house with a thermal camera unless they have a warrant, and specifically noted that the rule would apply to radar-based systems that were then being developed.
In 2013, the court limited police's ability to have a drug dog sniff the outside of homes. The core of the Fourth Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, is "the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion."
Still, the radars appear to have drawn little scrutiny from state or federal courts. The federal appeals court's decision published last month was apparently the first by an appellate court to reference the technology or its implications.
That case began when a fugitive-hunting task force headed by the U.S. Marshals Service tracked a man named Steven Denson, wanted for violating his parole, to a house in Wichita. Before they forced the door open, Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Moff testified, he used a Range-R to detect that someone was inside.
Moff's report made no mention of the radar; it said only that officers "developed reasonable suspicion that Denson was in the residence."
Agents arrested Denson for the parole violation and charged him with illegally possessing two firearms they found inside. The agents had a warrant for Denson's arrest but did not have a search warrant. Denson's lawyer sought to have the guns thrown out, in part because the search began with the warrantless use of the radar device.
Three judges on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the search, and Denson's conviction, on other grounds. Still, the judges wrote, they had "little doubt that the radar device deployed here will soon generate many questions for this court."
But privacy advocates said they see more immediate questions, including how judges could be surprised by technology that has been in agents' hands for at least two years. "The problem isn't that the police have this. The issue isn't the technology; the issue is always about how you use it and what the safeguards are," said Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Marshals Service has faced criticism for concealing other surveillance tools. Last year, the ACLU obtained an e-mail from a Sarasota, Fla., police sergeant asking officers from another department not to reveal that they had received information from a cellphone-monitoring tool known as a stingray. "In the past, and at the request of the U.S. Marshals, the investigative means utilized to locate the suspect have not been revealed," he wrote, suggesting that officers instead say they had received help from "a confidential source."
William Sorukas, a former supervisor of the Marshals Service's domestic investigations arm, said deputies are not instructed to conceal the agency's high-tech tools, but they also know not to advertise them. "If you disclose a technology or a method or a source, you're telling the bad guys along with everyone else," he said
.New police radars can 'see' inside homes http://on.wkyc.com/1Bw6yeg via @WKYC…
d anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told the AP.
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LCrownE 6 minutes ago0
Here is a partial list of all the loose canons in the U.S.: United States Department of State (DOS) Bureau of Diplomatic Security Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) United States Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division (IRS-CID) Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) United States Mint Police (USMP) United States Treasury Police – merged into the US Secret Service Uniformed Division in 1986. United States Department of Defense (DOD) Defense Criminal Investigative Service(DCIS) Pentagon Force Protection Agency Department of the Army United States Army Criminal Investigation Division (Army CID) United States Army Military Police Corps Department of the Air Force Air Force Office of Special Investigations (Airforce OSI) Air Force Security Forces Department of the Air Force Police Department of the Navy Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Office of Naval Intelligence Police (ONI Police) Marine Corps Provost Marshal's Office United States Marine Corps Criminal Investigation Division (USMC CID) National Security Agency National Security Agency Police (NSA Police) United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Drug Enforcement Administration (since 1973) Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (1968–73) Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1930–68) Bureau of Prohibition (1927–33) Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (1966–68) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) United States Marshals Service (USMS) United States Department of the Interior (USDI) Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Bureau of Land Management Office of Law Enforcement & Security National Park Service National Park Rangers United States Park Police U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations Office of Inspector General United States Department of Commerce (DOC) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations United States Department of Education (ED) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) United States Coast Guard (USCG) Coast Guard Police (CGPD) Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) United States Border Patrol (USBP) Federal Protective Service (FPS) United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) United States Secret Service (USSS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) Other Major Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Security Protective Service (SPS) Federal Reserve Police Library of Congress Police Smithsonian National Zoological Park Police United States Capitol Police (USCP) United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) United States Probation Service (USPO) United States Supreme Court Police
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historian Francis Oliver. "[Sanford] never paid restitution to the people who lost their jobs and asked for money because they...no longer [had] jobs," she said. "The mayor didn't have a job, City Council people didn't have a job, the postmistress didn't have a job, the jailers didn't have a job, the marshal didn't have a job."
"The trust that may have existed is gone," said Sanford's African American city manager.
It may come as no surprise, then, that law and order in Sanford in recent years has been plagued by allegations of racial injustice, and a series of public missteps involving its police department. In 2006 two private security guards—one the son of a Sanford police officer, the other a volunteer for the department—killed a black teen with a gunshot in his back. Even though they admitted to never identifying themselves, the guards were released without charges. Then, in 2010, Justin Collison, the son of a Sanford PD lieutenant, sucker-punched a homeless black man outside a bar, and officers on the scene released Collison without charges. He eventually surrendered after video of the incident materialized online; the police chief at the time was ultimately forced into retirement. "Bottom line, we didn't do our job that night," a police department representative told local news station WFTV of the incident.
"There is no trust, there is no confidence," between African Americans and Sanford authorities, said local NAACP leader Turner Clayton. "It's at an all-time low." Even embattled city manager Norton Bonaparte—who oversees Sanford's police department and is African American—acknowledges this truth. "The trust that may have existed is gone," he said, "so we have to start from ground zero."
ze dollars out of Americans, a top prosecutor said Tuesday as he announced the arrests of seven people who worked for an Atlanta-area company.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the abusive practices have become so widespread that even a top FBI official in New York City got a call.
"This has become something of an epidemic," Bharara told a news conference.
He described the workers at the defunct Williams, Scott & Associates LLC in Norcross, Georgia, as "ruthlessly persistent" as they badgered people in all 50 states from 2009 through April, collecting more than $4 million from over 6,000 victims.
He said the workers threatened people with imminent arrest unless they paid debts they sometimes didn't even owe.
The company was shut down after the Federal Trade Commission brought a civil action against it earlier this year.
But Richard Frankel, a top FBI official in New York, said the workers quickly opened another company under a different name and were operating at the time of their arrests.
Frankel, who recently received a call at his FBI office from an abusive debt collection agency claiming it was the "IRS," said the defendants in the scam unveiled Tuesday were "bullies with badges. The only problem was the badges were bogus."
According to a criminal complaint, the employees falsely claimed they worked for, or were in contact with, the Justice Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and sheriffs' departments. It said victims were sometimes falsely told they would be arrested and be forced to surrender their drivers' licenses if they did not call back or pay specified amounts immediately.
Bharara said the company's employees tried to create an appearance of legitimacy by routinely using bogus legal terminology, including what he described as his personal favorite: "The statute of limitations on your civil legal rights has expired."
The employees also sent documents meant to look like they were sanctioned by the government, according to court papers.
In one instance, a victim received a document containing the seal of the U.S. Department of State with language underneath saying: "Warrant Services Association, A Division of the Federal Government Task Force," which Bharara called "a government task force that didn't actually exist."
He added: "Now, after years of threatening false arrest, these defendants are the ones who now find themselves in handcuffs, facing the loss of their own liberty. We are far from finished looking at the seedy side of debt collection. It affects too many people."…