Attorney Jason Downs Thinks We Should All be Offended by the Stingray Spying Disclosures
According to recent media reports, the Baltimore Police Department has used a controversial cell phone tracking technology known as "stingray" thousands of times in recent years while withholding this information from prosecutors and judges. Below, Murphy, Falcon & Murphy attorney and criminal defense expert Jason Downs shares his thoughts on this disclosure.
This is not about justice. This is about the government gaining a strategic advantage over citizens of the United States. You should be offended.
It is offensive for the U.S. government to instruct a local prosecutor to drop a case if pressed on stingray technology. However, that's exactly what has been happening in Baltimore City since 2007 according to a Baltimore City detective. Why should you be offended? The answer is simple: by instructing Baltimore City prosecutors to drop charges instead of revealing the details of stingray technology, the United States government shows it would rather allow a bona fide criminal to escape prosecution than to disclose the truth to the public.
More importantly, it's not in line with justice. The public is blind. The court system is deprived of the truth. And judges and juries are robbed of the opportunity to effectively administer justice.
Justice, according to the Constitution, requires a process. This process includes the requirement that a law enforcement officer apply for a warrant in order to install a GPS device on someone's car, then to use that GPS device to monitor the car's movement. Doesn't it logically follow that a law enforcement officer would need to apply for a warrant to monitor someone's movement in car by using metadata collected by stingray technology? The answer is a resounding, "yes."
Stingray technology, and the metadata it collects, should be subjected to the same 4th Amendment scrutiny as GPS technology. However, until a few days ago, stingray technology was akin to folklore. It was a mystery. It was largely unknown. That's exactly how the government wanted it. Why? Because, this is not about justice. It's about the government gaining a strategic advantage over its citizens.