TOP TEN REASONS THE LOCAL ELECTRONIC MEDIA WON’T REPORT ON THE FAIRFAX COUNTY COPS ILLEGAL SPYING ON CITIZENS
This story seems to require investigative techniques, research and confrontation. We don’t do that. That stuff is better left to the, wadda call those guys? The one’s write things down. Um…writer’s downers, no, no that’s not it, you know Journalistic –ism –tic people. Those guys.
This is complex and can’t be explained in 15 seconds so it’s not for us.
So, like, this wrong for the cops to do, like, right?
Reporting on this story might interfere with the ride-along stories we love so dearly.
This is real news. We don’t do real news. We’re television.
Covering this would eat up at least five minutes of air time. That’s a full four minutes longer than our usual hard hitting, in depth investigative news piece.
The story doesn’t have a hap, hap, happy ending! We’re television. We like to deal in warm, snuggly, happy news.
Like everybody in America, we’re afraid of the cops.
We’re communication majors. We don’t understand this.
This seems a little too controversial for us. We like to avoid that sort of thing. The sponsors don’t like it.
A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn recently when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them.
The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this year filed the public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool.
The ACLU had an appointment last Tuesday to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.
ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.
“This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for stingray information,” Wessler said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”
Stingrays, also known as IMSI catchers, simulate a cellphone tower and trick nearby mobile devices into connecting with them, thereby revealing their location. A stingray can see and record a device’s unique ID number and traffic data, as well as information that points to its location. By moving a stingray around, authorities can triangulate a device’s location with greater precision than is possible using data obtained from a carrier’s fixed tower location.
The records sought by the ACLU are important because the organization has learned that a Florida police detective obtained permission to use a stingray simply by filing an application with the court under Florida’s “trap and trace” statute instead of obtaining a probable-cause warrant. Trap and trace orders generally are used to collect information from phone companies about telephone numbers received and called by a specific account. A stingray, however, can track the location of cell phones, including inside private spaces.
The government has long asserted it doesn’t need a probable-cause warrant to use stingrays because the device doesn’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages, but instead operates like pen-registers and trap-and-traces, collecting the equivalent of header information. The ACLU and others argue that the devices are more invasive than a trap-and-trace.
It’s one of the most shocking and infamous cases to ever come out of New Mexico: A man, falsely suspected of carrying drugs, forced to undergo multiple anal cavity searches.
Now, a year and half after the incident and six months after a settlement of $1.6 million in local taxpayer money was announced, New Mexico Watchdog has learned at least three police officers involved in the case are still on the job, while the status of three others remains a secret.
Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante told New Mexico Watchdog all three officers in his department who were listed as defendants in a subsequent lawsuit are on active duty. Gigante wouldn’t say why or reveal if the officers were disciplined.
“That is a personnel matter,” Gigante said in a telephone interview.
Three members of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office were also listed in the lawsuit, but county officials refused to answer any questions about their status in the aftermath of the case involving Lordsburg, N.M., resident David Eckert.
A settlement was announced in January in which the 64-year-old Eckert will get $950,000 from the city of Deming and $650,000 from Hidalgo County — a total of $1.6 million for which taxpayers in the two communities are responsible.
According to the lawsuit, in early 2013 Eckert was pulled over by Deming police allegedly for not coming to a full stop at a stop sign in a Walmart parking lot in Deming. Hidalgo County sheriff’s officers also arrived on the scene.
Authorities suspected Eckert was carrying drugs inside his anal cavity and over a 14-hour period subjected Eckert to two rounds of X-rays and three enemas and took him to a hospital in another county where Eckert was forced to undergo a colonoscopy.
No drugs were found. Eckert also received a bill for $6,000 for the colonoscopy. The case made international headlines.
Two messages left with Hidalgo County Sheriff Saturnino Madero have gone unreturned.
Hidalgo County Commissioner Darr Shannon told New Mexico Watchdog, “I don’t know (about the status of the officers). I hate to admit it, but I don’t know anything … A county commissioner cannot have anything to do with personnel matters.”
Hidalgo County Commission Chairman Ed “Bim” Kerr referred questions to the county manager, Jose Salazar, who referred questions to the county’s attorney in the Eckert case, Damian Martinez.
“I can’t give any comment as to that,” Martinez said when contacted by New Mexico Watchdog.
“I know where you’re coming from, but I’m (part of a) private law firm and my law firm’s policy is we don’t discuss litigation,” Martinez said. “Sorry I couldn’t help you, but I like your website.”
If public money has been spent, don’t taxpayers have a right to know if the officers involved are still on the force?
“It’s (Madero’s) department,” Shannon said. “I would be like you, I would be wanting to find out for the public, but I’m here to tell you government works in a way that is extremely odd, especially county government.”
New Mexico Watchdog is in the process of filing an Inspection of Public Records Act request with Deming and Hidalgo County authorities, seeking information about the case.
When news of the Eckert case broke, Deming Police Chief Gigante told KOB-TV, “We follow the law in every aspect, and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place.”