At least 50 US law enforcement agencies have secretly acquired a controversial, little-known technology that allows the agencies and their officers to effectively see into any person’s home at any time. Indy Star reports that some officers are now equipped with the cutting-edge radar technology that’s raising questions about privacy rights.
The agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, began distributing the radars roughly two years ago without disclosing information to the public or courts on how the technology would be used.
The Indy Star reports:
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.
The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.
Federal officials have said the radar is crucial in protecting the safety of officers preparing to storm a building or rescue hostages. Privacy advocates are nonetheless worried about how government agencies and police may use the technology with no oversight or public scrutiny.
Use of these tools was little-known before December, when a federal appeals court in Denver revealed that police had used the radar before entering a man’s home to arrest him for parole violation. Alarmed, the judges warned that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”