UPDATE: U.S. Marshals spent more than $10M on stingray equipment

An ACLU FOIA request revealed U.S. Marshals spent more than $10 million on stingray equipment.
An ACLU FOIA request revealed U.S. Marshals spent more than $10 million on stingray equipment.

Federal Marshals spent more than $10 million on stingray equipment, according to documents obtained in an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to several federal law enforcement agencies seeking information on their use of cell site simulators.

The documents revealed the U.S. Marshal Service made the purchases from Harris Corporation between 2009 and 2014 but did not mention purchases from Digital Receiver Technology (DRT), another major stingray manufacturer.

ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Wessler said this suggests that the department could be withholding information, citing a Wall Street Journal report that said the Marshals used DRT's technology for airborne operations.

Wessler told SCMagazine.com that the ACLU specifically requested information from the Marshal Services pertaining to DRT devices and doesn't know why the department would have withheld the information.   

He said that it's conceivable that the Marshals could have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with DRT but said the contract wouldn't be legal grounds to withhold the information.

The U.S. Marshals Service has used the surveillance devices in nearly 6,000 cases over an unspecified amount of time, according to a surveillance log obtained in a USA Today FOIA request.

The U.S. Marshals office told SCMagazine in an emailed statement the department uses “various investigative techniques to pursue and arrest violent felony fugitives based on pre-established probable cause in arrest warrants.”

“These techniques are carried out consistent with federal law, DOJ policies and are subject to court approval,” they said.

The ACLU's FOIA request documents also revealed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) El Paso Division spent more than $400,000 on stingray equipment in 2013.

It is unclear how many times these agencies obtained warrants to use the devices but the Department of Justice (DoJ) only started requiring federal law enforcement to obtain warrants to use the devices in September 2015.

Earlier this month, the DoJ agreed to show two members of Congress its secret memos on its geolocation tracking data policy, including the use of stingrays and other real-time GPS tracking technology. 

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Wessler  and the U.S. Marshals Services.

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