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stinky shit in fedland - lawful^H^H^Hless mobile fuckery cover-ups in progress...



U.S. Marshals Seize Local Copsâ?? Cell Phone Tracking Files in
Extraordinary Attempt to Keep Information From Public

Government Secrecy
By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy &
Technology Project at 12:13pm

A run-of-the-mill public records request about cell phone surveillance
submitted to a local police department in Florida has unearthed
blatant violations of open government laws, including an incredible
seizure of state records by the U.S. Marshals Service, which is part
of the Justice Department. Today the ACLU and the ACLU of Florida
filed an emergency motion in state court to preserve the publicâ??s
right of access to government records.

Over the past several months, the ACLU has filed dozens of public
records requests with Florida law enforcement agencies seeking
information about their use of controversial cell phone tracking
devices known as â??stingrays.â?? (The devices are also known as â??cell
site simulatorsâ?? or â??IMSI catchers.â??) Stingrays track phones by
mimicking service providersâ?? cell towers and sending out powerful
signals that trick nearby phones â?? including phones of countless
bystanders â?? into sending their locations and identifying information.

The Florida agenciesâ?? responses to our requests have varied widely,
with some stonewalling and others releasing records. The most recent
request went to the Sarasota Police Department, and the fallout from
that request has raised red flag after red flag.

RED FLAG #1: The Sarasota Police initially told us that they had
responsive records, including applications filed by and orders issued
to a local detective under the state â??trap and traceâ?? statute that he
had relied on for authorization to conduct stingray surveillance. That
raised the first red flag, since trap and trace orders are typically
used to gather limited information about the phone numbers of incoming
calls, not to track cell phones inside private spaces or conduct
dragnet surveillance. And, such orders require a very low legal
standard. As one federal magistrate judge has held, police should be
permitted to use stingrays only after obtaining a probable cause
warrant, if at all.

RED FLAG #2: The Sarasota Police set up an appointment for us to
inspect the applications and orders, as required by Florida law. But a
few hours before that appointment, an assistant city attorney sent an
email cancelling the meeting on the basis that the U.S. Marshals
Service was claiming the records as their own and instructing the
local cops not to release them. Their explanation: the Marshals
Service had deputized the local officer, and therefore the records
were actually the property of the federal government.

We emphatically disagree, since the Sarasota detective created the
applications, brought them to court, and retained the applications and
orders in his files. Merely giving him a second title (â??Special Deputy
U.S. Marshalâ??) does not change these facts. But regardless, once the
Sarasota Police Department received our records request, state law
required them to hold onto the records for at least 30 days, to give
us an opportunity to go to court and seek an order for release of the

Instead of complying with that clear legal obligation, the local
police allowed the records to disappear by letting the U.S. Marshals
drive down from their office in Tampa, seize the physical files, and
move them to an unknown location. Weâ??ve seen our fair share of federal
government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but weâ??ve
never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to
conceal them from public view.

RED FLAG #3: Realizing we werenâ??t going to get hold of the Sarasota
Police Departmentâ??s copies of the applications and orders anytime
soon, we asked the county court if we could obtain copies from its
files. Incredibly, the court said it had no copies. The court doesnâ??t
even have docket entries indicating that applications were filed or
orders issued. Apparently, the local detective came to court with a
single paper copy of the application and proposed order, and then
walked out with the same papers once signed by a judge.

Court rules â?? and the First Amendment â?? require judges to retain
copies of judicial records and to make them available to the public,
but the court (and the detective) completely flouted those
requirements here.

The ACLUâ??s emergency motion seeks a temporary injunction preventing
the Sarasota Police Department from transferring any more files to the
U.S. Marshals, as well as a determination that the police violated
state law by sending the stingray applications and orders to the
Marshals Service in the first place and an order requiring the police
to produce the records.

When the government obtains court authorization to use invasive
surveillance equipment, the public should not be kept in the dark. We
have open records laws for a reason, but they mean nothing if the
government can violate their clear commands at its whim.