California Sheriff Admits Using Equipment that Spies on Cell Phones (Video)
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones was asked back in June whether or not his staff was using an electronic device called a StingRay to spy on people's cell phones.
The StingRay tricks cell phones into thinking it is a cell phone tower, and then tracks people's phone calls, texts, locations and data from third parties.
When News10 asked Sheriff Jones about his office using the StingRay in June, he replied, "Then this interview can be over" (video below).
News10 noted that Sheriff Jones has refused to give any information about possible use of the StingRay since Oct. 2013. However, local prosecutors said they had not heard of it.
"We request a search warrant in all of those cases," said Sacramento County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi, who has never seen a Stingray warrant.
"There's no California law governing how StingRays are to be used," Linda Lye, of the ACLU of Northern California, told News10. "It means law enforcement is using them under rules that they have unilaterally written."
"Government agencies cannot enter into private contracts in order to evade their statutory obligations," Lye added.
However, this week, Sheriff Jones suddenly admitted that his deputies use surveillance technology that (secretly) collects location data from the cell phones.
Since Sacramento prosecutors say they have not issued any search warrants for this invasive technology, it's likely Sheriff Jones and his staff are spying on residents without a search warrant.
Sheriff Jones told the Sacramento Bee that an agreement with the U.S. government prevented him from admitting that his department used or owned spying devices, even though he claims to have “demonstrated commitment to transparency."
Sheriff Jones produced no proof of any agreement, but added that he was recently authorized to admit his department had cell phone spying devices.
“This technology, like many of our investigative techniques and capabilities, could be rendered ineffective if criminals and adversaries used such details to diminish or defeat the department’s lawful responsibilities,” claimed Sheriff Jones.
The Bush administration and the Obama administration have made the same claim to justify spying on Americans without search warrants.
“The capability of this technology does NOT collect content such as voice, text or data, and does not retain ANY data or other information from other than the target device,” Jones added. “It is used infrequently in special cases, following department policies and procedures, to locate felony suspects and/or missing or kidnapped persons.”
If true, then Sheriff Jones himself just informed "criminals" and "adversaries" how he was locating suspects.