Jimmy and Freamon Never Had It This Good

Back then they needed a search warrant. Not now:

Shemar Taylor was charged with robbing a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint. The police got a warrant to search his home and arrested him after learning that the cell phone used to order the pizza was located in his house. How the police tracked down the location of that cell phone is what Taylor’s attorney wanted to know.

The Baltimore police detective called to the stand in Taylor’s trial was evasive. “There’s equipment we would use that I’m not going to discuss,” he said. When Judge Barry Williams ordered him to discuss it, he still refused, insisting that his department had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI.

“You don’t have a nondisclosure agreement with the court,” replied the judge, threatening to hold the detective in contempt if he did not answer. And yet he refused again. In the end, rather than reveal the technology that had located Taylor’s cell phone to the court, prosecutors decided to withdraw the evidence, jeopardizing their case.

And don’t imagine that this courtroom scene was unique or even out of the ordinary these days. In fact, it was just one sign of a striking nationwide attempt to keep an invasive, constitutionally questionable technology from being scrutinized, whether by courts or communities.

The technology at issue is known as a “Stingray,” a brand name for what’s generically called a cell site simulator or IMSI catcher. By mimicking a cell phone tower, this device, developed for overseas battlefields, gets nearby cell phones to connect to it. It operates a bit like the children’s game Marco Polo. “Marco,” the cell-site simulator shouts out and every cell phone on that network in the vicinity replies, “Polo, and here’s my ID!”

Thanks to this call-and-response process, the Stingray knows both what cell phones are in the area and where they are. In other words, it gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well.

And they wouldn’t even need Pryzbylewski to break the code.

No peace, no justice.

4 thoughts on “Jimmy and Freamon Never Had It This Good

  1. Right-wing moderates are gonna act like this is invasion of privacy. Prolly the same people who sign up for Facebook then cry about Facebook invading their privacy by giving away their information to others.

    Also the police have more technology and more crime dramas to watch and learn stuff from now than anybody before them, but they are more incompetent and kill more people than anyone before them.

    However, the most ridiculous thing is that this Stingray device is illegal. What they really mean is only the government can use it. Like most illegal things, they’re only illegal for the unwashed masses. Because if the masses had access to it, then cellphone companies might actually have an incentive to find a way to get around it. But then the police wouldn’t be able to find you as easily and discharge their firearm.


  2. Who is Hooker? That is scary technology in the hands of those who easily overstep the boundaries of their authority. It is wise to stay as far removed as possible from the criminal justice system in America. Is it possible for it to be reformed?

    John Y: Who doesn’t need some impossible in their lives? I need some impossible to get out of my situation and I am sure a lot of other people do too- from the Rolling Stone article about Dylan at Fifty:

    “He watched his cigarette burn for a moment and then offered a smile. “See,” he said, “I’ve always been just about being an individual, with an individual point of view. If I’ve been about anything, it’s probably that, and to let some people know that it’s possible to do the impossible.

    “And that’s really all,” Dylan added. “If I’ve ever had anything to tell anybody, it’s that you can do the impossible. Anything is possible. And that’s it no more.”

    John Y: I’m not sure I have much to do with it.


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