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House committee letter demands: 'Who's using Stingrays?'

Rep Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, wants to know which federal agencies own cell-phone tracking devices, known as Stingrays and what they are doing with them.

Chafftez, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the heads of 24 federal agencies on Nov. 9, inquiring whether they owned the cell-signal simulators and what their policies were for the devices' use.

The letter; also signed by Rep. Will Hurd, R.-Texas, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D.-Md., and Rep. Robin Kelly, D.-Ill., requests information on the number of devices the agencies may have, memorandum on their use and information retention.

The letter comes after it was revealed that the IRS also has Stingrays, which mimic the signals of a cell phone tower to acquire phone signals to track the devices.

"Recent press reports indicate that federal law enforcement agencies other than DOJ and DHS may be using cell-site simulation devices, including the Internal Revenue Service," the letter said. "In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union identified 12 other federal agencies with cell-site simulation devices.

"As it was with DOJ and DHS before those agencies issued department-wide policies governing use of the devices, the Committee is concerned that other federal agencies may be governed by a patchwork of policies. Those policies may permit the use of cell-site simulator devices through a lower standard than a search warrant obtained after a showing of probable cause."

Chaffetz recently debuted a bill to outline the use of Stingrays and placed restrictions on law enforcement to deploy them, such as requiring a warrant.

The bill essentially codifies Department of Justice guidance, released on Sept. 3.

The letter was addressed to agency heads, and requests the agencies set up briefings with the committee by Nov. 20.

Related:Read the letter.

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