Law enforcement agencies from around the United States, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the US Marshals Service, are using radar device to look through walls and into the homes of unsuspecting Americans.
These tools have been in use since at least 2012 and have cost $180,000, according to federal contract records. The radars use radio waves to capture movements such as breathing from more than 50 feet away.
USA Today reported on the devices:
“The device the Marshals Service and others are using, known as the Range-R, looks like a sophisticated stud-finder. Its display shows whether it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and, if so, how far away it is — but it does not show a picture of what’s happening inside. The Range-R’s maker, L-3 Communications, estimates it has sold about 200 devices to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.”
Some of the more advanced radars are capable of displaying three-dimensional images of where people are located in a building. Others are made to be mounted on drones. The tools themselves use radio waves to zero in on movements. This includes something as taking a breath from more than 50 feet away.
Privacy and legal issues are now being raised in relation to the technology. Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist, told USA Today, “The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic. Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that officers cannot use technology to peek inside the house of an individual without first securing a search warrant. The high court specifically mentioned thermal cameras and radar-based systems. In December a federal appeals judge in Denver helped bring the issues to light by exposing the use of the radar. Officers used a radar to look into the home a of a man who was wanted for a parole violation. The judge stated that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”
Like many other tools being used by local police and a host of federal agencies, the radars originated in Iraq and Afghanistan. As part of the federal 1033 program they have seen action on the battlefield and now on the streets of America.
Americans are now faced with monitoring and surveillance from Stingray Cell Site Simulators, Automatic License Plate Readers (this and this), Fusion Centers, snooping on the internet, “Gun Shot Detector” recording devices, and much more. Is this what freedom looks like?