Police Can Basically ‘See’ Inside Your Home With Radar

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Law enforcement is getting new surveillance tools. But they don’t always want to talk about them..

Using a radar device known as a Range-R, police can broadcast radio waves into a house and detect motion as subtle as human breathing from up to 50 feet away.

Dozens of US law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have used radar devices that allow them to “see” through walls of buildings to monitor human activity, a new report states.Use of the devices has raised privacy concerns — especially involving police being able to see inside a structure without first obtaining a search warrant. The radar guns are just the latest in a long line of tech tools being quietly deployed across the country with little public scrutiny, raising questions about how the Fourth Amendment applies in the digital era.

In December, a federal appeals court in Denver seemed alarmed that officers had used the Range-R device to peer inside a home before arresting a man for violating parole, the paper reported. The policing agencies began using the radar device more than two years ago without public disclosure and little notice from courts until a recent case in Colorado revealed its use to catch a parole violator, according to USA Today.

Radar devices were first designed for wartime use in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their deployment in civilian life brings complicated legal issues still being argued in the judicial system. Marshals Service, which alone spent some $180,000 on Range-Rs since 2012. “The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” American Civil Liberties Union principal technologist Christopher Soghoian told USA Today. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.” The paper first uncovered the tech in a December U.S.

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, in which police used a Range-R to locate and arrest a convicted felon for failing to report to his parole officer. The Range-R, made by arms company L-3 Communications, displays three-dimensional movement detection from the other side of a wall, indicating how far away any motion is, though it does not offer a picture of the action inside. According to a court document, Kansas police used the device to confirm the suspect’s presence inside a house with a utility paid for under his name.

However, USA Today notes that more sophisticated models are on the market, including devices that can be mounted on drones and those that can reveal three-dimensional displays of where people are inside buildings. Upon entering the house, police discovered the suspect along with multiple firearms the suspect was legally barred from possessing due to a previous conviction. Marshals Are Surveilling Thousands Of Americans’ Phones With Plane-Mounted Stingrays) Originally developed for anti-terror operations, stingrays have been deployed by police, the FBI and the U.S. The panel judges warned, “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.” US Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said officials are reviewing the court’s decision, adding that the Marshals Service “routinely pursues and arrests violent offenders based on pre-established probable cause in arrest warrants” for major crimes.

The devices masquerade as cellphone towers and connect to every cellphone in a given area, giving police access to a wealth of information including location, calls, texts and more. Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a “search” and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant. While it is unknown whether law enforcement uses the more high-tech radar, many technologies currently sit in law enforcement’s surveillance arsenal, which have also been introduced without public debate and used secretly.

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