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House Committee Report: DOJ, DHS Spent $95M on Cell-Site Simulators Over 4 Years

A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report says the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security spent approximately $95 million combined on 434 cell-site simulation tools that turn cellphones into tracking devices from fiscal year 2010 through FY 2014.

In a report published Monday, the House panel also found that law enforcement component agencies of DOJ and DHS had different policies and methods for the deployment and use of cell-site simulators and depended on a “lower-than-probable cause standard” for the use of such tools in most cases prior to the start of the committee’s bipartisan investigation in April 2015.

DOJ spent at least $71 million over four years on 310 cell-site simulators, while DHS allocated over $24 million to the procurement of 124 devices, according to the document.

The committee released the report “Law Enforcement Use of Cell-Site Simulation Technologies: Privacy Concerns and Recommendations” in response to media releases about the widespread use of such devices.

The document showed that DHS requires state and local law enforcement agencies to use grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Preparedness Grant Program to buy cell-site simulators and that state laws continue to differ on the type of court authorization that agencies should obtain in order to field such devices.

The committee also found that a month prior to the October 2015 public hearing, DOJ and DHS released new policies that require component agencies to secure a warrant based on probable cause and implement a “measure of uniformity” with regard to the use of cell-site simulators by various agencies.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House committee, prepared the report with Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), a ranking member of the House panel.

 

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