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Secret Service claims new policy allows them to use warrantless cellphone tracking

Published: October 22, 2015
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Source: AP

A new policy allows the Secret Service to use intrusive cellphone-tracking technology without a warrant if there’s believed to be a nonspecific threat to the president or another protected person.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Seth M. Stodder described to a House subcommittee Wednesday the department’s policy on the use of cell-site simulators.

Civil libertarians and privacy advocates have long expressed concern about the suitcase-size devices, known as Stingrays, which mimic cell-towers to scoop up electronic data that can be used to locate nearby phones and identify their owners. The devices don’t listen in to phone calls or capture text messages, Stodder said.

The policy the department unveiled this week is similar to the one announced in September by the Justice Department, which includes the FBI.

Federal law enforcement officers are required to get a warrant signed by a judge before using Stingrays, except under emergency “exigent circumstances” meeting the constitutional standard for probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, but when there is no time to get a warrant.

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