Arizona Committee Passes Bill To Prohibit Warrantless Stingray Spying

Tenth Amendment Center – by Mike Maharrey

PHOENIX, Ariz, (Feb. 10, 2017) – An Arizona bill that would ban the use of “stingrays” to track the location of phones and sweep up electronic communications without a warrant in most situations unanimously passed an important Senate committee yesterday. The proposed law would not only protect privacy in Arizona, but would also hinder one aspect of the federal surveillance state.  

Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa) introduced Senate bill 1342 (SB1342) on Jan. 31. The legislation would help block the use of cell site simulators, known as “stingrays.” These devices essentially spoof cell phone towers, tricking any device within range into connecting to the stingray instead of the tower, allowing law enforcement to sweep up communications content, as well as locate and track the person in possession of a specific phone or other electronic device.

SB1342 would require police to get a search warrant based on probable cause before deploying a stingray to locate or track an electronic device. It would also require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant under existing wiretapping statutes before using a stingray to intercept, obtain or access the content of any stored oral, wire or electronic communication.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB1342 7-0.


The federal government funds the vast majority of state and local stingray programs, attaching one important condition. The feds require agencies acquiring the technology to sign non-disclosure agreements. This throws a giant shroud over the program, even preventing judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys from getting information about the use of stingrays in court. The feds actually instruct prosecutors to withdraw evidence if judges or legislators press for information. As the Baltimore Sun reported in April 2015, a Baltimore detective refused to answer questions on the stand during a trial, citing a federal non-disclosure agreement.

Defense attorney Joshua Insley asked Cabreja about the agreement.

“Does this document instruct you to withhold evidence from the state’s attorney and Circuit Court, even upon court order to produce?” he asked.

“Yes,” Cabreja said.

As put it, “The FBI would rather police officers and prosecutors let ‘criminals’ go than face a possible scenario where a defendant brings a Fourth Amendment challenge to warrantless stingray spying.”

The feds sell the technology in the name of “anti-terrorism” efforts. With non-disclosure agreements in place, most police departments refuse to release any information on the use of stingrays. But information obtained from the Tacoma Police Department revealed that it uses the technology primarily for routine criminal investigations.

Some privacy advocates argue that stingray use can never happen within the parameters of the Fourth Amendment because the technology necessarily connects to every electronic device within range, not just the one held by the target. And the information collected by these devices undoubtedly ends up in federal data bases.

The feds can share and tap into vast amounts of information gathered at the state and local level through a system known as the “information sharing environment” or ISE. In other words, stingrays create the potential for the federal government to track the movement of millions of Americans with no warrant, no probable cause, and without the people even knowing it.

According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.

The federal government encourages and funds stingrays at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby undoubtedly gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on stingray use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. Passage of SB1342 would represent a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.


SB1342 no moves to the Senate Rules Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full Senate for further consideration.

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center.He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky.See his blog archive here and his article archive here.He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

4 thoughts on “Arizona Committee Passes Bill To Prohibit Warrantless Stingray Spying

  1. The pigs are already breaking the law (i.e., the Fourth Amendment) by using these devices. I don’t see what’s going to stop them from breaking this law, too.

    Although it’s never a bad thing when laws are passed to protect privacy and other rights, people should never DEPEND on these laws. Instead, depend on the laws of physics. Those can’t be broken.

    In the case of cell phone tracking, there are commercially-available pouches and bags that you can put your electronics in to prevent them from sending or receiving any signals. They work perfectly (testing them is easy enough), aren’t very expensive, and are available in a variety of sizes. It’s best to switch your phone to airplane mode before putting it in the bag, just to avoid draining the battery too much. And while you won’t be able to receive calls or texts while the phone is in the bag, most of those can wait. At least you’ll always have your phone with you if you need to call someone else.

  2. Yeah, we’re supposed to believe they’re going to box this equipment up and store it in the backroom? They don’t have to declare evidence gathered was acquired with use of the devices, they just use it to their advantage. I’m not a mushroom, so don’t feed me sh*t and keep me in the dark.

  3. “This throws a giant shroud over the program, even preventing judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys from getting information about the use of stingrays in court.”

    More of Obummer’s ‘transparency’.

    Smoke & mirrors… NOTHING will change.

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