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Why does the IRS need cellphone snooping devices?

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Unread 10.30.15, 03:42 PM
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Why does the IRS need cellphone snooping devices?

10.30.15 11:09 AM

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to know what business the Internal Revenue Service has using snooping devices that can secretly trick cellphones into diverting data to the spying eyes of law enforcement — or, in this case, the tax man.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote Thursday to inquire from the Treasury Department whether — and why — the IRS had spent money to purchase the devices, which are commonly known as StingRays (a trade name).

Grassley and ranking committee member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew “to respond with information about whether the agency [the IRS] had used the technology and if it had policies in place governing the handling of data collected by the devices,” according to The Hill. “They also asked whether the devices were used without a warrant.”

If the IRS has been using the devices without a warrant, it wouldn’t be the first such use, or the second, or the third.

But why would a bureaucratic agency that collects taxes seek to acquire enforcement powers that coordinating federal agencies already have — and have already been using without obtaining search warrants?

“It remains unclear how the IRS used the Stingray devices,” reported The Guardian, which broke the story that first caught the Judiciary Committee’s attention. “A spokesman for the agency did not respond to a request for comment.”

No surprise there. Embattled IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted to lawmakers on Oct. 27 that the agency uses the devices, adding that they “can only be used with a court order” and “can only be used based on probable cause of criminal activity.” He also maintained that the IRS uses the devices in a way that “does follow Justice Department rules.”

The committee still doesn’t know “how many devices the agency has, how often it has deployed the devices, and what type of internal protocols are in place to restrict its use,” The Washington Times reports.

Koskinen pledged to provide that information to lawmakers within 30 days of his Oct. 27 testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.

The post Why does the IRS need cellphone snooping devices? appeared first on Personal Liberty®.

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