(NaturalNews) As I have often written, the Digital Age is replete with technology that can, and has, been used as a double-edged sword, on one hand providing humanity with immeasurable benefits but on the other robbing it of dignity, liberty and basic protection from those who seek to rule.
The latest example of the harm being done to civil liberties in the Digital Age comes in the form of surveillance technology now being employed by dozens of federal agencies and police departments that enables agents and officers to actually see inside homes. No possibility of abuse here, right?
As reported by USA Today, some 50 law enforcement agencies have secretly (of course) outfitted officers with new radar devices that effectively allow them to peak through walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside. Naturally, this new law enforcement “technique” is raising even more concerns about illicit, unconstitutional surveillance in a time when technology has made such surveillance all too possible (and all too abused).
The paper further reported in its online edition:
Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.
Fourth Amendment concerns
That federal agencies and other law enforcement entities began using these devices without telling anyone says, right off the bat, that they know such technology would likely not pass legal muster.
USA Today said the radar devices work like “finely tuned motion detectors,” employing radio waves to home in on movements as miniscule as someone breathing, and from a distance of more than 50 feet. They are able to detect both persons inside homes and also if and when persons inside the structure are moving.
Naturally, users of the technology, as well as former federal officials, are supportive of it. They argue that the devices are crucial to ensuring the safety of officers if, say, they need to storm a building or rescue hostages (how often is law enforcement called on to do this latter task?).
But privacy advocates and some judges have voiced concern over the technology, saying they suspect law enforcement agencies and departments may be using the radar devices in inappropriate circumstances and, frankly, without the constitutionally required court-issued search warrant. Also, many of these same people were especially critical of the fact that these radar devices have been introduced without any public scrutiny.
Radars discovered by accident by a federal court
“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist, told USA Today. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”
The ACLU was aware that the technology was coming down the pipe. In a December 2011 paper titled Protecting Privacy from Aerial Surveillance, the legal assistance civil rights organization noted that the U.S. military was currently developing it.
The use of the radars by federal agents was largely hidden from the public until December 2014, when a federal appears court in Denver said officers had employed one in a case before they entered a home to arrest a man for parole violation.
The 10th Circuit Court judges voiced alarm that agents had used the new device without first obtaining a search warrant. They warned that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”
However, by then the technology was anything but new. According to federal contract records, the Marshal’s Service began buying the revealing radars in 2012, and thus far has spent $180,000 in taxpayer money on them, USA Today reported.
Written by J. D. Heyes