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Emails Show Feds Asking Florida Cops To Deceive Judges About Surveillance Tech 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
Advocatus Diaboli sends this excerpt from Wired: Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails (PDF). At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect's location from a 'confidential source' rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.
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Emails Show Feds Asking Florida Cops To Deceive Judges About Surveillance Tech

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  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:12PM (#47291291)

    It won't stop until the DoJ actually starts handing out serious penalties instead of a slap on the wrist for this sort of behavior. I'm talking jail time.

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msauve (701917) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:25PM (#47291357)
      Since you're referencing the DoJ, I'd assume you mean jail time for those releasing evidence of illegal surveillance and deceiving the courts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BitterOak (537666)

      It won't stop until the DoJ actually starts handing out serious penalties instead of a slap on the wrist for this sort of behavior. I'm talking jail time.

      It's only illegal if they counseled the cops to do this in a specific case. If they just told the cops that's what they should do in general, then it isn't a crime.

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

        by tysonedwards (969693) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:58PM (#47291467)
        Instructions were given to commit perjury, under oath, to a judge in any situation in which they were asked about the surveillance tech that they have at their disposal.

        Perjury is a crime whenever it takes place.
        Conspiracy to commit perjury or enticement to commit perjury both are also crimes, and this email chain shows that that took place.

        The real question is whether the DoJ cares about going after cops as opposed to just going after the low hanging fruit like people who beat their wives, sell drugs, or annoy the wrong person in a position of power.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dcmcilrath (2859893)
          When is it ever advantageous to hit someone who can fight back?
          • When you are trying to prove that you're tougher than him.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            When is it ever advantageous to hit someone who can fight back?

            It's one of the best ways to deal with a bully.

            Bullies look for soft targets, and push as far as they can go without retaliation. If you make it clear there is a line in the sand that will cause you to fight back, they rarely cross that particular demarcation. Only if they themselves have something to lose in the fight (say, it costs them so much face that they cannot continue their habit of bullying) or if they are psychopathic will they procee

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:48AM (#47291629) Homepage Journal

          Instructions were given to commit perjury

          I think they'll argue that it wasn't perjury. They weren't told to claim the information was from a "confidential informant" -- a snitch -- but a "confidential source", which isn't well-defined. I think the wording was chosen to mislead the judge into thinking they meant a CI, but without actually lying. Of course, intending to deceive may be perjury, even if what you say is the literal truth, but it's much harder to pin down.

          • I think that they may find that Judges do not care for being "mislead"
            this would also be a fine time for them to dust off their judicial contempt sticks.

            • by swillden (191260)
              I agree. I doubt perjury charges will be brought, and doubt even more that they would be successful. But I do expect judges to take a much harder line going forward.
          • by Carewolf (581105)

            In a court they don't have rules against lying, that is too ill defined; they have rules against intentionally misleading the court. Which is what happened here. Which is pergury.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        It still could be a crime for the cops and prosecutors under state laws.

        Not that it would matter much though. Most cops and law enforcement enjoy wildly lower criminal penalties for the same violations of law that would land us in some serious trouble. They call it color of law sometimes. FWIW, here is the federal law on color of law.. I looked for my state and it simply adds it to laws already in place.

        http://www.law.cornell.edu/usc... [cornell.edu]

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:24AM (#47291561) Homepage

        It's only illegal if they counseled the cops to do this in a specific case. If they just told the cops that's what they should do in general, then it isn't a crime.

        If you don't think subverting some of the basic principles of the justice system, as well as the checks and balances in the system to prevent abuses isn't a crime, you're sadly mistaken.

        This gets rid of your right to a fair trial. To not be subject to unreasonable search. To face the evidence against you. To trust that the cops aren't framing you.

        If the feds and the police forces have decided they should be able to do this, then they have effectively become the worst sort of thugs and miscreants out there -- because they're legitimate thugs and miscreants who are allowed to do anything they see fit, all in the name of claiming to be the good guys.

        No society where the police have unlimited power to cover up their own abuses and make any charge they want stick can last.

        When federal law enforcement is telling local police how to subvert the justice system in order to conceal illegal, secret methods which wouldn't hold up in court ... the whole legal system is fucked.

        When I was a kid, this kind of shit is what was attributed to the Soviets. And now, people seem to somehow accept this as normal.

        You may think fascism is an OK idea, but the rest of us don't want that.

        I think if a federal agent is telling law enforcement how to do an end-run around the Constitution, they should be hung for treason.

        • In Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979), the Supreme Court held individuals have no "legitimate expectation of privacy" regarding the telephone numbers they dial because they knowingly give that information to telephone companies when they dial a number.[16] Therefore there is no search where officers monitor what phone numbers an individual dials,[17] although the Congress has enacted laws that restrict such monitoring.

          wiki [wikipedia.org]

          This case makes it clear that reasonable expectation of privacy regarding location is invalidated by carrying a cell phone because location information is given to a third party, the phone company. Thus there can be no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding location.

          A strong case is already made in case law (more or less) that if an individual carries a cell phone they have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding their location because they give their location information to a third par

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

        by fuzznutz (789413) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @01:02AM (#47291657)
        This is called suborning perjury and is a crime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:32PM (#47291389)

      Why would the federal government penalize itself? The DoJ presumably wants this to happen, as does the president; if he didn't, he could stop tomorrow.

      • Because there are three branches. And judges really hate it when, as a whole, law enforcement lies to a judge repeatedly.

        I'm sure there are exceptions, like small town law. And maybe federal district court in federal cases.

        But any judge, for the most part, who finds that they ruled on unconstitutional information, is very likely to hold law enforcement to a way higher standard than "anonymous source".

        There are exceptions. But don't let your cynicism abscond with the ability to read and think. You can do

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Darinbob (1142669) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @03:20AM (#47291969)

          However judges can not prosecute in the US. Thus if the US Marshalls and local police are doing this, and the local prosecutors are happy that criminals are being caught so that they can be re-elected, then who's left to actually charge someone with a crime?

          • by Archtech (159117)

            You just nailed one of the primary mechanisms by which the executive branch controls the judicial branch. If a prosecutor doesn't bring charges, the whole judicial system is rendered irrelevant.

        • by Archtech (159117)

          "Because there are three branches".

          All of which take their orders from the President. Not necessarily in a blatant, direct, overt way - usually just by doing what they know the President would like. That's how real power works and, trust me, there is only ONE branch that has any of that.

          Incidentally, the same applies to the mainstream media.

      • by ganjadude (952775)
        the DOJ hasnt even investigated numerous issues that it should be investigating. Fast and furious for one, oh thats right, holder got to investigate himself, therefore no wrong doing was ever done....

        this administration really makes the previous one look like saints
      • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rahvin112 (446269) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:26AM (#47292717)

        The president is not omnipotent.

        There is a reason that pre-9/11 there were laws on the books that limited the powers of the FBI and other federal police service's. We relaxed a LOT of those restrictions after 9/11 and a we're reaping the corruption those laws used to prevent.

        There is not much that's scarier than a someone who thinks they are doing the right thing by violating someone else's rights. It's a quick jump right into real fascism (not the word bandied about around the internet that most people don't know what it means and are misusing it). What makes real fascism so scary is that the people behind it are true believers that they are doing the right thing.

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bartles (1198017) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:34PM (#47291395)
      Slap on the wrist? As far as I can tell, they are just ignoring it, which makes me think they are complicit.
      • Who is they? And just what have you looked at to conclude they are ignoring it?

        I'm assuming that, since Marshals are law enforcement, you mean that the judicial branch is ignoring law enforcement lying, admitting lying, and going on record as doing so.

        I don't think many people are aware of this. If you are not surprised, you should have let us know, as well as the ACLU, EFF, and other related organizations. Because this is really big news.

        Would you be so kind as to list any, and if you really could be ar

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:48PM (#47291435) Journal
      Federal Marshals ARE the DoJ [wikipedia.org]. It's the DoJ itself asking local police to lie. Why would they hand out penalties to themselves? That's like asking Holder to arrest himself for being in contempt of Congress [politico.com]. Not gonna happen.
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Which is why states need to prosecute the cops and district attorneys who are lieing and let them make the claims in court that the DOJ or Marshals are telling them to do it.

        Interestingly, a federal prosecutor can take a case to a grand jury independent of DOJ permission and are protected from backlash by the civil service laws and civil employees union. Once it is at a grand jury, it is out of the DOJ's control. This is how prosecutors went after medical pot in California after Obama direct them to leave i

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Congress is allowed to appoint special prosecutors. Would be nice if judges could do this also, but they most they can due is jail someone for contempt of court.

    • Or, just every defendant that this applies to having everything thrown out because of "fruit of the poisoned tree." If it stops getting convictions it will stop being used.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      " At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect's location from a 'confidential source' rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray. "

      I would not have thought that the police needed to be told. Isn't eavesdropping on a telephone call without a warrant illegal? If the cops tell the judge that's what they've been doing the evidence becomes in

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:12PM (#47291293)

    String them up in front of the courthouse.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:17PM (#47291311)

    odd that an actual paper trail was allowed to be released...wonder who forgot the degausser this time?

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      odd that an actual paper trail was allowed to be released...wonder who forgot the degausser this time?

      Degausser? How old fashioned can you be? These days you just claim the hard disk crashed, delete everything and decide to re-purpose said flaky unstable drive on another machine.

      • Sounds like you are referencing a single recent case instead of an actual tendency. The case being IRS persecution of right-leaning tax-exempt applicants.

        Or is there more to this trend that we should know about?

        "Every one" won't cut it, because I'd really like specifics.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          I was being facetious. But thanks for pointing out the details to all the others who take everything way too seriously.

    • odd that an actual paper trail was allowed to be released...wonder who forgot the degausser this time?

      You'd have to have a seriously powered degausser to destroy an actual paper trail.

  • Perjury? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hairy1 (180056) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:23PM (#47291345) Homepage

    Isn't this kinda like....um.... perjury? I'm pretty sure that kind of thing isn't taken lightly by the judiciary. Furthermore, isn't it law enforcement meant to be role models for following the law?

    • by JonWan (456212)

      "Isn't this kinda like....um.... perjury? I'm pretty sure that kind of thing isn't taken lightly by the judiciary. Furthermore, isn't it law enforcement meant to be role models for following the law?"

      You know it's sad when this statement is modded funny instead of insightful.

      I guess about all we can really do is laugh, at least until the general public wakes up.

    • People with brains, pleas meta moderate. This is at the same plus five as "ha, the whole federal gvmt is in on it and everyone with a government paycheck thinks exactly the same thing" above.

      Only one can even remotely be correct. So either very stupid people have mod points, or there are a lot of moderators who don't bother to share their inside information with us.

  • pejury (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:31PM (#47291383)

    Can somebody explain to me how this could possibly fall outside the definition of "perjury"? This seems like exactly the situation for which "contempt of court" was created.

  • by ShaunC (203807) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:45PM (#47291421)

    When (e.g.) a forensic examiner is discovered to have manipulated or faked various test results that were introduced by the prosecution, this often results in hundreds of prior cases being reviewed. Every case that person touched as an expert or as a witness is called into question. Verdicts are vacated, people get released from prison.

    Shouldn't that scenario be playing out here? Any case in which a supposed "confidential informant" was used in these Florida jurisdictions is now potentially in question. Defense attorneys should be lining up over this.

  • by EuclideanSilence (1968630) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:46PM (#47291425)

    Let's see if you are allowed to own and use a stingray (which is basically a cell phone tower mimic). I wonder how innocuous the police will think they are then.

    • It's insightful because you equivocate individual citizens to law enforcement, because clearly their super powers are exactly the same.

      Are you, as an individual with a stingray device, allowed to request judicial approval to investigate and/or detain a potentially lawbreaking citizen?

      I'm very fucking well not talking about unconstitutional horseshit, where you ask rhetorically whether some agency should be able to ask permission from some secret bunch of righteous dudes.

      I'm talking about you, as a non-law-e

      • Side question here. The FCC regs say any transmitter under a certain power level does not need a license. So, can a theatre owner operate a low power stingray or other cell site simulator to attract all of the cell phones in the theatre and never pass ring signals to them?
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          So, can a theatre owner operate a low power stingray or other cell site simulator to attract all of the cell phones in the theatre and never pass ring signals to them?

          No, because it's both a denial of service attack and interference with the normal operation of a licensed device. And you shouldn't have to ask.

          • No, because it's both a denial of service attack and interference with the normal operation of a licensed device.

            I'm not familiar with the intricate details of the regulations in the so-called "Land of the Free", but wouldn't those objections also apply to the operators of the Stingray as well?

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              I'm not familiar with the intricate details of the regulations in the so-called "Land of the Free", but wouldn't those objections also apply to the operators of the Stingray as well?

              Yes, but national security bullshit bullshit national security terrists bullshit.

  • by vandelais (164490) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:55PM (#47291459)

    Have the manufacturer of the "so-called Stingray", whatever that means, change the branding or release a version called "confidential source".
    After all, one of those "so-called Stingrays" killed Steve Irwin.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:15AM (#47291519)

    We don't need warrants. We don't need to disclose our methods. We don't need to tell the truth.

    We're the fucking cops, and anything we do is OK because it's done in the name of justice.

    Wake up, America. Your police state is happening all around you.

  • Signal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:25AM (#47291563)

    I seem to remember an old jailbreak app for iPhones, called Signal I think, that triangulated positions of the cell towers you were connected to and plotted them on a map. I wonder if something like this could be used in an app, to warn people when a stingray was capturing their signal. If your app "remembers" the positions of towers, and it suddenly sees a new one, or it sees one that is not stationary, seems to me that'd be a good sign that something wasn't right. Is this possible, or am I misremembering?

    Even better would be if the app connected with others to create a crowd-sourced database of where and when they are used.

    • MIT is already working on something similar [mit.edu].
    • Re:Signal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by turp182 (1020263) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:34AM (#47292535) Journal

      Here's more info regarding the link that NormalVisual provided.

      Spidey is an Android app that tracks the cell towers available at a location and can supposedly notify you when new towers show up (or at least identify them by comparing against prior scans).

      I've been trying to use it, but I can't get it to pick up more than one tower at a time, in downtown St. Louis (I would expect several towers to be visible).

      Here's a presentation about the application:
      https://docs.google.com/presen... [google.com]

      Here's the download link for the app:
      https://rink.hockeyapp.net/app... [hockeyapp.net]

    • by matbury (3458347)

      The simplest solution is to leave your phone at home if you go anywhere near a protest, demonstration, rally, or any kind of democratic participation. If you really need to communicate with people, get a burner and dump it after the event.

      I think that's what activitists and anyone with mischievous intent would do. So they won't get caught/identified so easily but anyone else who doesn't come prepared in this way will.

      Of course, if the suspect was a CEO, politician, banker, etc. they'd have nothing to worry

  • Perjury anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @01:06AM (#47291671)
    Perjury anyone? Shouldn't there be a whole bus load of policemen going to jail? I am fairly certain that any of us would be going to jail if we deliberately falsified documents going to a judge for something as serious as a search warrant.

    This would be an excellent exercise in eliminating a whole swath of police who don't respect our rights. I would also hope that they put them in general population so that they can encounter first hand the monsters that their injustices have created.
    • Re:Perjury anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @02:27AM (#47291829) Journal
      The problem isn't just the police officers; the ones who instructed the police to lie should also be getting jail time. Sadly, as others have pointed out, the only ones with the authority to bring them to justice is they themselves.
      • by countach (534280)

        This is outrageous, and what's worse, once the public believes the police will lie to secure the verdict they want, the confidence in the entire justice system is undermined.

  • The feds are scared (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonwil (467024) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @01:07AM (#47291673)

    The feds are probably scared that if state cops release all this info (or allow it to be brought up in a court where defense lawyers could get the info in questioning), it could A.Allow the bad guys to figure out how to detect these devices (and therefore not do anything incriminating over their phones when they detect one or possibly even find ways to avoid the monitoring all together by e.g. switching carriers for their throwaway phones) or B.Give the bad guys information they could use to get a judge to say "you need a warrant to do what you did, you didn't get one therefore your evidence is inadmissible"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @02:12AM (#47291805)

    What they don't tell you about the Stingray is the all sorts of illegal things it has been developed to do as a "fake" cell tower. This thing is capable of far more than triangulating a cell phone's location, all of which is a huge invasion of privacy. Because of the Stingray tech, there is only one real way to protect yourself from surveillance while carrying a cell phone: removal of the battery.

    The cops are being encouraged by the government and Harris Corporation to keep from revealing these devices as a source because they want to avoid a situation where they have to reveal everything the Stingray is capable of doing.

    For those who can make the connection, let's just say that I've lived in Melbourne for years.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aoMONETl.com minus painter> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:11AM (#47292365) Journal

    A stingray is basically just a base station emulator, right? It should be theoretically easy to detect whether or not your phone is connected to one based on the output power setting on your phone's radio, and knowing the distance to the legitimate towers around you.

    Since all phone adjust their power output to the minimum necessary to maintain a link to the base station, If the power setting on your phone is too low for the distance, there is a good chance you are connected to something much closer to you.

    All we need is an app that knows where all of the towers are located (freely available information on the web) and that can make a reasonable calculation as to how much power should be required to maintain a link for a given phone position.

    Any thoughts?

  • A very apt question in this case.

    And the next question, Who Prosecutes the Watchers?

  • Art Mullen would never stand for this. See what happens when you send a shoot from the hip deputy back to Florida. Wait, what? Actual US Marshals did this? Nice way to jeopardize current and past cases, guys.

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