Feds Tell Local Cops To Lie To Judges

Feds Tell Local Cops To Lie To Judges
Robert Gehl

The feds are asking local law enforcement to lie to judges, lawyers and defendants about the unconstitutional use of cellphone tapping and tracing equipment.

At the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, officers in Florida who use “stingray” devices are telling courts when they ask for a warrant that they received their information from a “confidential source” rather than from the devices.

The ACLU obtained a series of e-mails that show federal agents asking the North Point Police Department to seal accurate warrant applications and file false ones to hide their activities from the public.

“Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police,” the ACLU writes. “And local and federal law enforcement should certainly not be colluding to hide basic and accurate information about their practices from the public and the courts.”

The stingray devices simulate a cellular tower and can track mobile phones and all other mobile devices, whether they’re on or not. They’re portable, so they can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood, sucking up information about thousands of people.

In one case. it was discovered a warrant application was filed disclosing the use of the Stingray. The feds were none too pleased. In the e-mail, another police agency contacts the North Point Police about the Marshals’ request:

“In the past and at the request of the U.S. Marshalls (sic), the investigative means utilized to locate the suspect have not been revealed so that we may continue to utilize this technology without the knowledge of the criminal element. In reports or depositions we simply refer to the assistance as ‘received information from a confidential source regarding the location of the suspect.’ To date this has not been challenged, since it is not an integral part of the actual crime that occurred.”

The Sarasota officer then requests that “If this is in fact one of your cases, could you please entertain either having the Detective submit a new PCA and seal the old one, or at minimum instruct the detectives for future cases, regarding the fact that it is unnecessary to provide investigative means to anyone outside of law enforcement, especially in a public document.”

Capt. Robert Estrada, at the North Port Police Department, later confirmed in an email, “[W]e have changed the PCA within the agency after consulting with the [State Attorney’s Office]. The PCA that was already within the court system according to the SAO will have to remain since it has already been submitted. At some point and time the SAO will submit the changed document as an addendum. We have implemented within our detective bureau to not use this investigative tool on our documents in the future.”

It seems to me that at some point, the Obama Administration will decide that too much information is still getting out and try to clamp down on ALL releases of information in ALL jurisdictions. Will local agencies comply? What will we do then?

Robert Gehl

Robert Gehl is a professor at a local college in Phoenix, Arizona. He has over 15 years journalism experience, including two Associated Press awards. He lives in Glendale with his wife and two young children.

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