Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has introduced a bill aimed at controlling the use of the Stingray surveillance tool following an investigation by The Guardian that revealed the IRS to be among 13 federal agencies known to possess the device.

Chaffetz’s bill, known as the Stingray Privacy Act or Cell-Site Stimulator Privacy Act, would make the use of the device without a warrant punishable by a fine or up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The Guardian reports:

Stingrays are one of a class of suitcase-size devices known as “cell-site simulators”, which work by pretending to be a cellphone tower in order to strip data and metadata from any phones which connect to them.

They are used by at least 13 federal agencies, and at least 50 local and state police departments, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. A Guardian investigation in April uncovered the non-disclosure agreement that local police departments were forced to sign with the FBI before using Stingrays, which mandated local prosecutors to throw [out] cases in some instances rather than reveal that they used the devices. In October, the Guardian reported that the IRS acquired Stingray technology for undisclosed reasons. …

On 29 October, three days after the investigation was published, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House oversight committee, along with the rest of the committee, sent a bipartisan letter to IRS commissioner John Koskinen demanding documents detailing the agency’s guidelines, policies and use of the devices. …

On Monday, Chaffetz introduced a bill to the House floor which would make it illegal for Stingray technology to be deployed without a warrant by either local, state or federal agencies – a much higher judicial bar for their use than the Pen register, or trap-and-trace, court order which they previously required.

“When you find out the IRS, and potentially others are using this tech – whoa! That’s a bridge too far,” Chaffetz told the Guardian on Wednesday. “If they have [probable] cause, go get a warrant. But if you’re just on a surfing expedition, back off.”

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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