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Motion to suppress evidence targets government's "stingray" device

The federal indictment of a man who the United States government says is "The Hacker," an infamous criminal, is notably lengthy, alleging more than 70 counts of white collar crime charges that include conspiracy, Internet crimes, identity theft, bank fraud, money laundering and additional matters.

Defense attorneys counter that, notwithstanding prosecutors' portrayal of the suspect, the manner in which the government pursued and apprehended him, and collected evidence, was blatantly intrusive and overreaching. They have filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained through federal agents' use of cutting-edge technology termed the "stingray" that was not disclosed to a magistrate when investigators sought a search warrant to track down the suspect.

What agents in California reportedly did do was merely tell that magistrate that they were seeking to obtain information from Verizon to help find the whereabouts of the suspect. The motion states that they made no mention whatever of the stingray device or their intent to independently employ it, thus circumventing judicial discretion in determining the merit and scope of the warrant request.

The stingray essentially allows agents to simulate a cell tower down to the size of a small box, which investigators can use out of a truck or van. Federal agents were reportedly using the device routinely in the field in many cases without disclosing its existence in warrant requests. A centrally notable problem with it, say defense attorneys, is that it can send signals to and collect information from suspects "and third parties alike," which it did in the Hacker's case.

The suspect was arrested after the stingray pinpointed his location, and agents used information from his home computer to indict him.

The ACLU has also filed a brief in the matter, and a federal judge ruled recently that the FBI must immediately release stingray-related information requested under the Freedom of Information Act by an advocacy group promoting privacy rights.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "ID theft case uncovers new snooping gizmo," Jamie Ross, April 1, 2013

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