Police radar can see inside your home

  • 28 January 2015
  • NormanL
Police radar can see inside your home

For at least two years, federal and local law enforcement agencies have used a new type of radar device that allows them to peer inside homes and conduct searches -- all without a warrant:

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

The courts didn't know about these devices until cases started appearing on their dockets in which the technology had been used. One appeals court "expressed alarm" at the Fourth Amendment implications.

We're alarmed, too. We have written before that we support our law enforcement officers.  But we are much bigger supporters of our constitutional rights. It's reasonable for law enforcement to use technology if it helps keep officers safe. But if, as in this instance, that technology is used for searches...get a warrant. It's the law.