Jordan calls stingray surveillance technology use troubling during Oversight hearing

Staff report

Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) today questioned witnesses from the American Civil Liberties Union, The Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Department of Justice about geolocation technology and privacy issues. In a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Jordan asked Neema Singh Guliana, legislative council for the ACLU; Justice Department acting deputy assistant attorney general Richard Downing; and Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, about stingray geolocation technology.

Stingray technology tricks cell phones into pinging off of a device other than a cell phone tower, revealing the phone’s location. This technology can also record numbers for a phone’s incoming and outgoing calls. Among the federal agencies using this technology is the Internal Revenue Service, which targeted conservative organizations for trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.

While questioning the witnesses, Rep. Jordan raised concerns about how this technology could be used by the IRS. He expressed frustration at the Justice Department’s failure to advise the IRS on how to use this technology.

During his questioning period, Rep. Jordan made the following comments to Downing:

“Think about this … [the IRS] has the technology that they can go into an area where, let’s say there’s a political rally going on, they go into an area and say, ‘We’re going to trick every cell phone to come into this device so we can get people’s phone numbers, know who they are, who they’ve been talking to, who they associate with.’ In this context (of the IRS targeting conservative groups). And you didn’t even know about it and you haven’t even advised them how to use it?”

Staff report