Stand your ground’ law wins Missouri Senate approval

MAY 13, 2016 02:59 PM

UPDATED MAY 13, 2016 03:08 PM


Does cellphone-sweeping “StingRay” technology go too far?

NEW YORK — New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas are among scores of police departments across the country quietly using a highly secretive technology developed for the military that can track the whereabouts of suspects by using the signals constantly emitted by their cellphones.

Civil liberties and privacy groups are increasingly raising objections to the suitcase-sized devices known as StingRays or cell site simulators that can sweep up cellphone data from an entire neighborhood by mimicking cell towers. Police can determine the location of a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. Some versions of the technology can even intercept texts and calls, or pull information stored on the phones.

Part of the problem, privacy experts say, is the devices can also collect data from anyone within a small radius of the person being tracked. And law enforcement goes to great lengths to conceal usage, in some cases, offering plea deals rather than divulging details on the StingRay.

“We can’t even tell how frequently they’re being used,” said attorney Jerome Greco, of the Legal Aid Society, which recently succeeded in blocking evidence collected with the device in a New York City murder case. “It makes it very difficult.”

At least 72 state and local law enforcement departments in 24 states plus 13 federal agencies use the devices, but further details are hard to come by because the departments that use them must take the unusual step of signing nondisclosure agreements overseen by the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agreements, which often involve the Harris Corporation, a defense contractor that makes the devices, are intended to prevent the release of sensitive law enforcement information to the general public.

The need to keep law enforcement practices secret was cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a February 2016 letter to CBS News, denying a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to StingRay devices.

“We will neither confirm nor deny the service use of (StingRay) technology,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in letter, citing a Freedom of Information Act exemption that “protects law enforcement records if their release would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigation and prosecutions.”

In New York, use of the technology was virtually unknown to the public until last year when the New York Civil Liberties Union forced the disclosure of records showing the NYPD used the devices more than 1,000 times since 2008. That included cases in which the technology helped catch suspects in kidnappings, rapes, robberies, assaults and murders. It has even helped find missing people.

But privacy experts say such gains come at too high a cost.

“We have a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, referring to the protection against unreasonable search and seizure. “Our Founding Fathers decided when they wrote the Bill of Rights there had to be limits placed on government.”

Lawmakers in several states have introduced proposals ranging from warrant requirements to an outright ban on the technology; about a dozen states already have laws requiring warrants. Federal law enforcement said last year that it would be routinely required to get a search warrant before using the technology – a first effort to create a uniform legal standard for federal authorities.

And case law is slowly building. Two months ago, a Washington, D.C., appeals court overturned a conviction on a sex assault after judges ruled a violation of the Fourth Amendment because of evidence improperly collected from the simulator without a proper warrant.

In the New York murder case argued by the Legal Aid Society, a judge in Brooklyn last month ruled that the NYPD must have an eavesdropping warrant signed by a judge to use the device, a much higher bar than the “reasonable suspicion” standard that had previously been required.

“By its very nature, then, the use of a cell site simulator intrudes upon an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, acting as an instrument of eavesdropping and requires a separate warrant supported by probable cause,” wrote state Supreme Court Judge Martin Murphy.

New York City police officials disagreed with Murphy’s ruling and disputed that a StingRay was even used in the case, even though there had been a court order to do so. Police officials also said they have since started requiring a higher stander of probable cause when applying for the devices.

Before the ruling, New York officers had not typically been required to get a warrant, which requires probably cause, in order to use StingRay devices, instead they have only needed a pen register order, demonstrating that the information that might get may be relevant to their case.

Legal Aid Society’s Greco said he hoped the ruling will push the nation’s largest department into meeting the higher standard, and help judges better understand the intricacies of more cutting-edge surveillance.

“We’re hoping we can use this decision among other decisions being made across the country to show that this logic is right,” Greco said. “Part of an issue we’re facing with technology, the judges don’t understand it. It makes it easier if another judge has sat down and really thought about it.”


Kids, Divorce, And Manipulation: Parents Who Use Kids As Weapons

high conflict divorce and kids

In divorce, narcissistic parents often buffer the pain of a failed marriage by trying to destroy their ex’s relationship with the children. Unlike healthy parents, who aim to work themselves out of a job by preparing children to live independently, a narcissist sees their kids as extensions of themselves. They cannot tolerate the thought that their children might grow up to chart their own course.

Sharing child custody loosens narcissists’ sense of control. They become terrified that their children might love the other parent more, or be more like that parent. How do they try to regain control? Often, it’s to embark on a mission to get the children back on their “side.”

Some narcissistic parents may actually believe the other parent is evil, and may view themselves as their child’s rescuer. Some may simply have more Machiavellian intentions. Either way, a narcissistic parent won’t hesitate to use children as weapons in the battle against their ex as a way to amp up an already high conflict divorce. Does this describe your ex? Here’s how to tell.

Signs Of A Manipulative Parent

Inappropriate communication Narcissists in their words and actions, often send their children the message that it’s not okay to enjoy time with the other parent. A narcissistic parent will get angry or distraught when kids return from time spent with the other parent – especially if they’ve have had a good time.

Interferes with visitation. A narcissistic parent will give the children choices about visitation or manipulate them into refusing visitation: “Would you rather go to Disneyland or spend a boring weekend stuck at your mom’s?”

Makes up or distorts information. A narcissistic parent will put her own “spin” on details to brainwash the child into thinking the other parent is dangerous or incompetent.

Shares adult-only information about the marriage and divorce. The manipulative parent may even alter the truth in order to get the kids to blame the other parent: “Dad says you wanted the divorce.”

Poor boundaries. A manipulative parent aligns with the child against the other parent. She will not let her kids have their own feelings and experiences. If she hates the ex, the kids must too.

Uses the child as a messenger. “Mom says I don’t have to like your girlfriend/visit your mother/make my own lunch.”

Monitors the kids’ phone conversations with the other parent. A manipulative parent will listen and/or tell the child what to say. If the child is at the other parent’s house, the manipulative parent might try to monopolize his child’s visit with that parent by frequent or lengthy phone conversations at, say, dinnertime.

Threats of self-harm. In extreme situations, manipulative parents will threaten suicide if they don’t get what they want, i.e. sole custody.

Children of divorce who are manipulated by parents suffer long-term psychological consequences. They may have trouble recognizing or feeling entitled to their own feelings. As adults, they may feel smothered in romantic relationships because of growing up with an enmeshed parent. They learn how to create drama, not resolve conflict, so they often duplicate the same tumultuous interpersonal style.

Yet children of manipulative parents can be helped with appropriate interventions, including parents agreeing to a model know as parallel parenting. In an upcoming post, we will discuss strategies for protecting kids whose parents use them as weapons.

high conflict divorce and kids


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