A. Barton Hinkle on Cellphone Tracking



Back in December, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced a boatload of grants to local law-enforcement agencies, made possible by a multimillion-dollar Medicaid fraud settlement with Abbott Labs. Chesterfield received more than $550,000 "to fund training for four officers for the Hailstorm Training in Florida, to purchase the StingRay I to Hailstorm Upgrade which will allow officers to transmit and receive communication signals from targeted cell devices, the Harpoon PA kit…an AmberJack, which is an antenna upgrade," and more.

Coming from now former Attorney General Cuccinelli, this was a bit surprising. Only a few months before, he had issued an opinion warning local police departments about license-plate readers. It was fine to use them to confront an immediate threat. But routinely using the readers—which can take up to 1,800 pictures a minute—to vacuum up large amounts of data regarding the whereabouts of ordinary citizens unconnected to an investigation is unconstitutional, he said. And that's exactly what the Stingray and Hailstorm systems do, points out A. Barton Hinkle, only with cellphones.