Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday his agency's use of Stingray devices is restricted to the agency's criminal investigations unit.
“It's only used in criminal investigations. It can only be used with a court order. It can only be used based on probable cause of criminal activity,” Koskinen told the committee.
Koskinen said the devices are primarily used in cases of money laundering, terrorism and organized crime and are not used in civil investigations. He said the device only allowed the agency to see “point to point where communications are taking place,” adding the technique doesn't allow them to overhear voice conversations although it may pick up texting. The commissioner also said the device was used in compliance with all of the justice department's rules concerning the technology.
When asked about the number of times the device had been used Koskinen was unable to provide an answer but promised that he would do so, in writing, within 30 days.
Earlier this week documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed the IRS spent more than $70,000 in 2012 to upgrade a Stingray device and train employees. The documents did not detail the purpose of the device.