Federal agents this week disclosed that they used a controversial cellphone snooping device to hunt for a low-level accused drug dealer, in a case that illustrates the creeping use of a terror-fighting tool to solve everyday crimes, reports the Detroit News. The device was used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to find and arrest Daiven Hollinshed late last month. The secret device, known as a Hailstorm or Stingray, masquerades as a cell tower and tricks nearby phones into providing location data and helped track Hollinshed to a home on Sept. 20.
There is no indication agents told Hollinshed about the Stingray. Officials avoided mentioning the technology during a court hearing while chronicling a month-long manhunt. The search warrant filing appears to be the first time federal investigators and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit have publicly acknowledged using the device since the Justice Department instituted sweeping new guidelines last year. Hollinshed’s attorney, Cyril Hall was unaware ATF agents used the device until being told by The News. “I’m shocked,” Hall said. “This is a guy accused of selling $5, $10 and $20 bags. This is low-level — as low-as-you-can-get — drug trafficking.” While the Justice Department’s policy, implemented a year ago, requires warrants to use the devices, there is no similar policy for local law-enforcement agencies.