department Policy change to require ‘approval’ for use of controversial surveillance device
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department will be the first in the nation to require a judge’s approval before using the controversial Stingray surveillance device. The department has used the device hundreds of times in the past without a judge’s approval. Announcement of the policy change came after complaints from the Sacramento County Public Defender’s office and a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Critics charged that the department’s use of the Stingray had been “secret, intrusive and warrantless.”
But notice how the new policy only requires a ‘judge’s approval‘ to use the device, not a probable cause warrant. From the Sac Bee:
Linda Lye, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California who focuses on privacy issues and technology, says the policy is a “step in the right direction” but says the sheriff’s policy appears to stop short of requiring a probable cause warrant to use the Stingray. Lesser statutory orders from a judge rather than warrants may be enough to permit use of the Stingray devices and could sidestep Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.
“I’m troubled that (the policy) says ‘judicial authorization’ and not a warrant,” Lye said. “(Investigators) can use the facts of a Stingray search to develop independent probable cause and paper over the fact that they used a Stingray.”
While this may be a ‘step in the right direction“, albeit a short one, it remains to be seen if Sheriff Jones is sincere about protecting our Fourth Amendment rights. Or is he just blowing smoke to silence his many critics?