At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies are using a technology that allows the agents to see through walls of buildings to spy on people inside the apartments, once against raising privacy questions.
According to a report from USA Today, several dozen law enforcement agencies, including Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Marshals, have secretly been using the new radars during the last years. The uncomfortable truth was revealed last month during a court hearing in Denver.
The equipment used by law enforcement is the Range-R, a device that uses radio waves to detect the slightest movements, including breathing, from as much as 50 feet away.
“RANGE-R is a highly sensitive handheld radar system designed to detect and measure the distance to moving and near-stationary personnel through walls constructed of common building materials.” reports the official website of the company that commercialize it.
The news was confirmed by a police officer during the court hearing, the officials described the Range-R as a “hand-held Doppler radar device. It picks up breathing, human breathing and movement within a house.”
“Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.” states the post published by the USA Today.
The US Marshals Service began using the Range-R radars in 2012, and official documents confirm that it has so far spent at least $180,000 to buy this equipment.
“The Range-R’s maker, L-3 Communications, estimates it has sold about 200 devices to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.” reports the USA Today.
The Range-R is easy to sue, agents just have to hold the device against the outside a building to scan every object inside it. The Range-R can detect bouncing off a moving object and classify it as either a “mover” (more active) or a “breather” (less active).
The official website of L-3 CyTerra reports the following description for the Range-R:
I’m not surprised that law enforcement needs to use advanced technology in order to fight the crime and the terrorism. This kind of technology is crucial operations run by authorities, let’s think anti-terrorism and many other.
I understand the fear of many citizens to be unfairly spied on, which is why it is right that the authorization with a search warrant by a Court, but we have also to understand that in certain situations the time is a crucial factor … nobody will use Range-X to look in your home.
(Security Affairs – Range-X, law enforcement)