The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the latest federal group to spy on citizens of the United States. Reports indicate that America’s tax-collecting organization is making use of “Stingray” phone surveillance technology in order to monitor people to ensure that taxes are being paid.
Stingray is the brand name of a surveillance device that is commonly used by law enforcement. Using Stingrays allows the government to determine who is making a call, where they are located, when the call is taking place, and sometimes even what the call is about. They are known to have been used controversially by the Justice Department.
According to one deputy assistant attorney from the Department of Justice, Elana Tyrangiel, said that the Stingrays being used by the DOJ do not obtain the content of the calls. That being said, they do obtain information such as the number that is being dialed and the location of both parties. It is likely that the IRS is using a similar spying method.
The Department of Homeland Security is also making use of Stingrays. Often, the agencies use this technology without first obtaining a warrant. The rule is that in “time-sensitive, emergency situations”, the agencies can act without first receiving permission.
Some politicians disagree with this principle, saying that every use of Stingrays should require a warrant. Otherwise, it is a violation of privacy rights.
Officials from the Secret Service have stated that Stingrays will not be used in routine criminal investigations. They also said that top-level executives would have to approve of the use of Stingrays before they can be utilized without a warrant.
More news shows that the IRS is also using these devices. According to invoices obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the federal tax agency made purchases from companies that manufacture Stingrays in 2009 and in 2012.
One report shows that the IRS spent more than $65,000 on upgrading one of their Stingray devices to a “Hailstorm”, which is said to be a more powerful surveillance system. The Hailstorm is able to record actual conversations, while also obtaining images.
Clearly, the IRS, which isn’t even a security agency, really shouldn’t be making use of this technology. This is just a blatant violation of privacy by the American government.
The American Civil Liberties Union says that the FBI has been using Stingray devices since 1995.