Fourth Amendment

US Marshals Seize FL Cops' Surveillance Records to Deny Them to ACLU



Hours before a scheduled meeting to surrender records to the American Civil Liberties Union about the use of controversial "stingray" cellphone tracking devices, Sarasota, Florida, police canceled the meeting, saying the U.S. Marshals had seized the records and they were no longer in police possession. Calling the move "blatant violations of open government laws," in the words of staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, the ACLU promptly sued, protesting the handoff of sensitive documents to the feds and seeking their return.

Also known as "IMSIcatchers," stingray devices simulate cellphone towers and trick cellphones into connecting, revealing their location. They are frequently used by federal and local officials under old-fashioned "trap and trace" warrants which conceal the intrusive nature of the modern technology.

Law enforcement officials are often cagey about the technology, both in terms of its capabilities, and also the loose legal standards under which it is used. Old-fashioned warrant applications appropriate to the physical wiretapping era often conceals the actual nature of the surveillance even from judges. In 2011, FBI agents were ordered to be more forthcoming in warrant applications when using stingray devices.

So, how could a federal agency seize surveillance records local officials are required to maintain? According to the ACLU "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."

The feds then physically removed the records to an unknown location.

ACLU officials soon found that the records were also no longer in the possession of the county court which had authorized use of the technology, nor are there any docket entries acknowledging their existence, even though the law requires that such information be kept.

The feds apparently made a clean sweep of the information sought by the civil liberties group.

The ACLU lawsuit, if successful, would prevent the Sarasota Police Department from turning over any more records to the U.S. Marshals, and force it to recover the original records for public disclosure.

Separately, a Florida judge agreed with the ACLU that Tallahassee police should surrender information regarding the use of stingray devices. In that case, the technology was allegedly used to track a phone to a suspect's apartment in the absence of a warrant.

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  1. Hey, land of the free!

    1. “I don’t know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”

      1. But, Doctor Whom, you’re saying the most awful things.

      2. Without freedom to have the most wonderful time, what’s left?

  2. If you have nothing to hide…

    1. ^This!

  3. Here we were bashing the Community Party of China for blocking information about the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

    At least there’s one country where citizens are brave enough to stand up to the tanks.

    1. citizen – he was one in a billion.

      1. Google Image search pictures of student protestors crushed by the tanks.

        Or don’t. It’s pretty horrific.

        1. Yech, the guy with his brains popped out on the road…

          1. He didn’t mind.

            1. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

              1. “Nothing to lose ones head over…”

                “Ok, Austin, that’s enough”

    2. And don’t think the Chinese government doesn’t harp on this (or things like it) to justify what they’re doing.

      1. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

        Don’t hear that so much about the U.S., anymore.

        1. We’re more down in the dumps now…

          1. It’s sad. Not only is the U.S. not an example of freedom and prosperity, no one else is taking our place.

    3. At lease the Communist tell you they’re going to fuck you good and hard instead of slipping you a roofie and then telling you that you agreed to the fucking per “the social contract”.

  4. The Great Experiment has gone tits up.

  5. I’m guessing Sarasota called the feds to bail them out of the disclosure.

  6. “Government is just a word for things that you can never prove happened, now stop asking.”

  7. Ok, can someone tell me what these things can do that is worth such secrecy? Because if they simply track a cell phone’s location that doesn’t seem worth all this effort.

    1. The records could also contain information on how the tech was being used in violation of court orders or the law.

    2. If the phone is being routed through this thing, then its also capturing the contents of the call. This is called “wiretapping”, and in the days of yore no one’s calls could be wiretapped without a court order.

      1. Terrorists…

        *drops microphone*

      2. And if the Queen had balls she’s be King. Stingrays don’t capture content or route calls.

        1. And after years of NSA lies what makes you think that will be believed?

          1. Because unfounded speculation is still unfounded speculation.

  8. I usually applaud the informal glasnost when the mask slips, but this time they tore the thing off.

  9. I with this kind of thing still surprised me.

    Though I guess I am a little surprised about how blatant this is.

    1. Wish, not with. I need coffee.

      1. Oh, I just thought your lithp was getting more pronounced.

        1. *pronounthed

  10. If the government does not respect the law, why should I?

    1. One law for the King, another for the peasants.

      1. Hans-Hermann Hoppe might point out that, whereas noblesse oblige, bureaucrats and enforcers are under no such compunction.

    2. If the government does not respect the law, why should I?

      Because the government doesn’t have magazine limits.

      1. Neither do we. And they can have all the MRAPs, tanks, APCs, helicopters and fighter jets they want. They still have to come out to eat, shit and sleep.

  11. This isn’t just run-of-the-mill bureaucratic tomfoolery. This is high crimes and misdemeanors territory.

  12. Do they not realize that if you’re trying to hide it, it looks like you’ve done something wrong?

    1. They don’t fucking care. The media will never really call them out on it, and no one will be held accountable.

      1. It’s a fake scandal drummed up by… glenn beck or whoever shrike spends all day watching.

    2. Exactly! Irony alert! We should tell the cops/feds: “If you’ve done nothing wrong, what are you worried about?”

  13. The deputizing of the ADA/whatever he is was a brilliant play.

    Now, if we could just convince the dude to start playing U.S. Marshal and let him get his ass shot off trying to pick up criminals.

    1. The deputizing of the ADA/whatever he is was a brilliant play.

      Didn’t happen. They’re lying.

      And I bet it can be proven, too. Because I seriously doubt that local LEO can be deputized by the feds without some kind of paper trail.

  14. Well, if the stingray was used after the application for a warrant, and the warrant said the guy was a Sarasota deputy and not an FBI agent, then whoever filed the warrant application committed a fraud on the court and should immediately be arrested.

    If evidence gathered by use of the stingray was introduced in court as the work product of the Sarasota PD and not of the FBI, then whoever introduced that evidence is a perjurer and should immediately be arrested.

    1. Sorry, US Marshal.

      I got momentarily confused about which federal agency was engaging in tyranny this morning.

  15. BTW, the “parallel construction” perjury and fraud conspirators across various federal agencies still have not been brought to justice.

    Just so everybody knows, as far as I am concerned that means that literally every federal criminal case brought in the US should be jury nullified, and every citizen is morally entitled to lie their way on to the jury to do it.

    1. Yeah, I used to wonder whether or not I should lie about my beliefs to get on a jury in order to nullify the verdict. Now I have no doubts about it whatsoever.

    2. Yes. To me, the biggest scandal of the last for years or really since about any time is the revelation of the DEA training manual that told DEA agents how to reconstruct cases to hide the use of NSA obtained evidence from the courts.

      If the NSA can listen to anyone and then turn the info over the law enforcement who then reconstructs it to obtain a warrant such that neither the subject nor the Courts even know they did it, we no longer have a 4th Amendment. And they have and apparently are doing just that. Every single federal conviction obtained since that practice started is in my mind invalid.

      It saddens and amazes me how the entire country didn’t go ape shit when that same out. Part of it is that a good portion of the country just doesn’t give a shit as long as their team is doing it or it is done to get evil drug dealers. I think the other part though is that the media is so fucking stupid that they really didn’t understand the implications of what they were seeing and just dropped the case as another “Republican plot to embarrass Big Daddy in the White House”.

      Every DEA agent who followed that manual needs to be indicted for perjury and the higher ups that approved it need to be indicted for conspiracy.

      1. Don’t worry, as soon as President (insert some republican’s name here) is sworn in, the media will suddenly be alerted to all of these civil liberties violations.

        1. Things have gotten so bad, I actually hope you are right. People should worry about their civil liberties no matter who is in office. But worrying about them when their is a Republican in office is better than not at all. That is pretty sad but it is probably where we are at.

        2. And also isn’t that an argument for never putting another Democrat in as President? For all of their faults, Democrats have often been strong supporters of civil liberties and sadly a fairly vital ally in that regard. If they can’t be trusted to still be so when one of theirs is in office, then I would say maybe we should never put one of theirs in office.

          Now, you could say the same about Republicans. But the Democrats have a lot more power over the media and the culture. Having the Democrats and their various media enablers decide that anything the President does must be legal is a hell of a lot more dangerous than having Republicans decide that.

          1. It does seem they are much more concerned when they are the minority party.

          2. Obama is exhibit A on why we should never have a “minority” president. When one can’t criticize a policy of a president without being called a homophobic, racist, women hater – we aren’t ready. When the media fails to do their job because it might embarrass a “choosen one”, we might as just have a state media – because that is what they have become.

            1. I think we could have a black conservative or libertarian President because the liberals would hate him or her and attack just like they always do and the Right I think would not feel the guilty need to defend the black guy at all costs. But we can never another black liberal President. Liberals just are not and probably never will be ready for such.

        3. this is true and that should be enough of a reason for anyone to vote a republican into office just so we can get people to start focusing on the over reach of our government.

          1. I agree Ron. And even if you won’t go so far as saying no Democrat, you at least have to say “not another liberal black Democrat”. If there is one lesson of the Obama years it is that liberals were not ready for a black liberal President. They are just not mature enough or gotten over their fixation on race enough to treat Obama as they would any other President and thus feel compelled to defend him no matter how appalling his actions or abuses.

          2. Go back to National Review.

            1. Go back to somewhere where ad homonym counts as argument because it doesn’t here. Up your game and make a salient point or stop wasting our time.

  16. There is only one positive about this story; the Feds still at least feel that them doing this would embarrass them and hurt their standing with the public. It could be worse. They could be proudly doing this and not give a shit if anyone finds out because they know most people would support it. At least for the moment, we don’t seem to be that far gone and that is something.

    1. Yeah, but the same could be said about the Chinese government–they hate being embarrassed in public.

      But do they ever get so embarrassed that they stop doing this kind of shit?

      1. Of course not. But at least the public is not so far gone that they wouldn’t be embarrassed by the public knowing.

    2. the Feds still at least feel that them doing this would embarrass them and hurt their standing with the public.

      No. This should would implicate them and expose them for possible indictment/conviction and, potentially remove a cool gadget from their colective utility belt.

      They are not embarrassed or ashamed any more than the kooks at the NSA are.

      1. Maybe but that still makes my point. They are worried that people finding out about this would not be good. It could therefore be worse. It could be so bad that they are proud of this and not worried about its becoming known causing any bad consequences.

  17. Separately, a Florida judge agreed with the ACLU that…… THEY SHOULD TAKE IT OUTSIDE.

  18. “ACLU officials soon found that the records were also no longer in the possession of the county court which had authorized use of the technology, nor are there any docket entries acknowledging their existence, even though the law requires that such information be kept.”

    Life imitates The X-Files.

  19. Every DEA agent who followed that manual needs to be indicted for perjury and the higher ups that approved it need to be indicted for conspiracy.

    But, DRUGZ! As a society, we’ve decided that some dangers trump our rights. Half of our most popular television shows have the brave men and women of law enforcement doing ‘whatever it takes,’ to save us from the bugga boo of the hour.

    1. And drug gangs work with terrorists and terrorists often sell drugs to fund their terrorism. If we don’t use the NSA to hunt down that guy who is cheating on his taxes or looking at pictures of naked kids, the terrorists have won.

  20. Our federal government officially puts the Stasi to shame. I remember seeing a museum exhibit showing rows upon rows of bell jars containing cotton. Each jar represents one citizen that East German secret police had secretly rubbed on their clothing when they weren’t home. That way, they could set the dogs to track them down later.

    The only real difference is the technology, which gives our overlords powers the Stasi could only dream of. And I now HATE my fellow citizens who are are too stupid to be outraged about what’s going on.

    1. And I now HATE my fellow citizens who are are too stupid to be outraged about what’s going on.

      But … but … Jonah Hill! The Secret app!

    2. I don’t hate all of my fellow citizens. I think a good number of them are outraged by this but they just feel powerless to stop it. The ones I hate are the ones in the media and politics who could do something to stop this or at least show others that they can do something but don’t because they are such power loving assholes.

      1. Yes. It is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is just fantastic. Everyone in America should watch that movie.

      2. Yes, I’ve been to East Germany as well (pre-wall coming down)

  21. Why does the government feel it needs to hide everything from everybody. It is these types of actions that bring about miss trust in the government by the people. This is neither a democrat or republican issue this is a concern for all peoples when the government so blattently and openly lies to the people about it’s actions at all levels of the government.

    1. The government is a terrible combination of corrupt and incompetent, and the people are right to mistrust the government. The government knows this, so they hide everything they can to prevent disclosure of said corruption and incompetence.

  22. I suppose it could be argued that this is part of being the most transparent administration in as much as this is an amazingly transparent abuse of power.

  23. But what’s on GMA?

  24. The time a nation moves from a surveillance state to a police state can now be measured in nano seconds.

  25. All of the above comments are true, wonderful, etc. But there is more to this story. Someone is (GASP) lying. I do not believe for one minute that are not backups of this (digital) information. Any government organization in the year 2014 has a tech department, even if it is just one guy or out-sourced; and part of his job is to back everything up on a regular basis. So, there are backups of the hard drive these records were kept on, there are backups of the court records, and I would bet that a lot of this info was sent via email, which means that there is at east two other copies of the records that way (one in a server somewhere, and one in the server’s backup).
    Lies, damn lies, and Government BULLSHIT)

  26. *least not east, damn “l” button on my laptop needs to be fixed

  27. Has the US Marshall’s office admitted they seized the records? It seems to me just as likely that the Sarasota Police Department lied about the seizure.

    Just a reminder that their are plenty of villains involved here.

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