Court Approves Warrantless Use Of Police Anti-Terror Phone-Tracking Tech

A state supreme court has just approved the use of a special police counterterrorism phone tracking device without a warrant.

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin on Thursday released a decision retroactively approving Milwaukee police’ warrantless use of “stingray” tech – which allows police to intercept names, phone numbers, locations, call records, text messages and other private cellphone data – to locate a murder suspect.

According to an Ars Technica report, the court justified its approval based on a “related judicial order that essentially served the same purpose,” despite the lack of a specific warrant authorizing the device’s use. That order approved “the installation and use of a trap and trace device or process,” “the installation and use of a pen register device/process,” and “the release of subscriber information, incoming and outgoing call detail… and authorizing the identification of the physical location of a target cellular phone.”

Justice Patience Roggensack wrote the 5-2 majority decision for the case, and said the given order could be suitably viewed as a search warrant based on probable cause.

The suspect in question was apprehended in June 2009 after officers investigated a shooting that left one man dead and another wounded. Witnesses’ description of the shooter matched surveillance camera footage of a man who, on the same day of the shooting, bought a prepaid mobile phone for a store called Mother’s.

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