New police radars can 'see' inside homes
Radar devices that can "see? through walls have been deployed to 50 law enforcement agencies in a move that is raising a red flag among privacy advocates battling government surveillance overreach.
Two years ago, police departments, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service began equipping their officers with the radar systems that reveal whether there are people inside homes, according to USA Today.
However, the agencies have not been giving notice to courts about when or where the devices are being used, which may contravene a Supreme Court ruling that officers cannot employ high-tech sensors to find information about a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.
The radars use radio waves to detect movements, such as a person breathing from more than 50 feet away, and can calculate whether a person is in a building or house, as well as their exact position and whether they are moving, according to the newspaper.
Although the radars could help officials if they need to storm buildings or homes in hostage situations, privacy activists are outraged that law enforcement agencies may be using the radars without receiving approval from courts beforehand.
"The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what's inside is problematic," said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist. "Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have."
The Range-R radars, costing around $6,000 each, were first designed to help keep troops safe as they cleared out buildings and homes of enemy fighters during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said.
The battlefield technology is now being used by authorities in the U.S., setting off a firestorm of criticism in the wake of the furor surrounding the mass collection of phone and Internet data of Americans by the National Security Agency.
"The problem isn't that the police have this. The issue isn't the technology; the issue is always about how you use it and what the safeguards are," Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told USA Today.
The fact that 200 radars are being used by at least 50 law enforcement agencies came to light last month when a federal appeals court in Denver revealed that officers had used one before entering a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole.
The court's judges condemned authorities for using a radar device without a search warrant, saying that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions," USA Today reported.