Monday, November 02, 2015

Sens. Grassley, Leahy Demand Answers on IRS Secret Cellphone Tracking

Two top senators Thursday demanded that the Obama administration explain why the Internal Revenue Service is using technology to secretly track cellphones that is normally the domain of law-enforcement agencies. The move by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont followed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's admission to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the agency uses the technology. The technology is known as cell-site simulators, or StingRays, The Washington Times reports. The Guardian recently reported that the IRS had spent more than $71,000 on upgrading a version of the device and for training from a company that makes the devices. The technology can sweep up the cellphone signals of innocent Americans, the senators contended in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Leahy serves as the panel's ranking Democrat.  "We were surprised to learn that IRS investigators may be using these devices," the senators said in their letter. "Cell-site simulators mimic cell towers, forcing cell phones in the area to convey their approximate location and registration information. "While the devices can be useful tools for identifying the location of a suspect’s cell phone or identifying an unknown cell phone, we have previously expressed concerns about the privacy implications of these devices, as well as the inconsistent practices and policies across the federal, state and local agencies that employ them...more

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