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Tue Jan 10 20:58:34 PST 2023
Privacy Watchdog: ATF Uses Stingrays To Track Americans
Authored by Ken Silva via Headline USA
The Project for Privacy & Surveillance Accountability announced this
week that it has obtained records about the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ use of stingrays to track Americans.
An ATF agent lifts crime scene tape. / PHOTO: AP
Stingrays are a relatively new technology that simulate cell towers
and collect signals from devices nearby.
PPSA filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the ATF in
February 2021, and announced on Wednesday that it had received a batch
of documents. According to PPSA, those documents show that the agency
“The information released by the ATF confirms the agency is indeed
utilizing stingray technology,” PPSA said. “Although the agency
attempted to minimize the usage of stingrays, it is clear they are
being widely used against Americans.”
PPSA has not published the documents it received, but described some
of their contents.
“The ATF stressed that stingrays are not precise location trackers
like GPS, despite the plethora of information stingrays can still
provide,” the organization said. “Answers to questions from the Senate
Appropriations Committee about the ATF’s usage of stingrays and
license plate reader technology are entirely blacked out in the ATF
documents we received.”
PPSA added that ATF policy conceals the use of these devices from
their targets, even when relevant to their legal defense.
PPSA said there’s an example of this in the documents it received.
“When an ATF agent interviewed by a defense attorney revealed the use
of the equipment, a large group email was sent out saying: ‘This was
obviously a mistake and is being handled,’” the privacy watchdog said.
PPSA said it will continue to track stingray usage and report the
responses it receives to its FOIA requests with various federal
Civil liberties activists have noted that the use of stingrays by law
enforcement dramatically increased after the U.S. Supreme Court’s
ruling in Carpenter v. U.S., which found that law enforcement’s
warrantless collection of cell phone geolocation data violated the
Fourth Amendment. Instead of obtaining warrants, police agencies have
used stingrays as a workaround.
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at
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