Michigan Cops Snoop On Cellphones

Michigan, the Police State:

As usual, the cover-up is even more egregious than the original offense:

Why do I think the rationale is going to be “the data is out in public, not on private property, so we can do whatever we want”?

There is no persona l information. Whatever you do is the property of the government. We need to be watched very carefully.

If these claims are true, it’s absolutely outrageous and a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

But I’m a bit confused:

This claims that the Michigan police are actually doing this.

But this letter (PDF) from the ACLU paints a slightly different picture.

The letter goes on to complain that the MSP is stonewalling by asserting a large cost for retrieving the specific data the ACLU seeks.

But the letter doesn’t say that Michigan has actually used the devices inappropriately at all.

In fact, I can’t find any specific claim that the devices have been used inappropriately at all.

The ACLU’s letter says, in effect: We know you bought these devices, and we have good reason to be suspicious of their use, so tell us exactly how you’re using them.

Where do we learn that there’s a “policy” that lets the MSP extract and search cell phone data without a warrant or consent? The ACLU isn’t saying that. Who is?

If the police are telling ACLU that they need a few hundred thou to get the information, why is that? Like the police always claim, if you have nothing to hide, why don’t you cooperate with us. Now it is turned around and they act like they are hiding something. They are acting guilty according to police standards.

The ACLU’s letter, like many inquiries, seems worded to avoid saying that they have information that they don’t. Certainly one suspects that they have some cause for concern, even if they can’t back it up with proof (which is clearly what they’re after). One would think that the Michigan police aren’t charging them a half a million dollar processing fee and would then give them a blank file.
But you knew those arguments already. This is just fencing.

It smells like to me that:
Someone in the SP bought these devices (number and price unknown).
Cooler heads doubted any evidence collected would be admissable in court unless Michigan has their own version of the Patriot Act.
SP is trying to hide the original boondogle.

Seems asking a simple, “Have you used these devices, Yes of No?”, would be an inexpensive start - I’ll mail the Michigan SP a BIC pen if needed.

Any evidence of use in a trial?

There is one specific claim that should be verifiable - that the MSP is operating under a policy that allows all these actions. Aside from any instances when they’ve implemented it, is the text of the policy itself available? I’ve followed a few of the links from the OP link and not found it.

The Vast Machine grows:


They might. As I understand it, the MSP is saying, “It’ll cost us this money just to check our records. You’ve ask about a six month period; that’s 180 days of logs that need to be checked.” At the end, they can certainly say, “We checked 180 days of officer logs and found zero instances of these devices being used.”

Nor have I.

I suspect this is a claim, leaked by the ACLU, in an effort to force the MSP’s hand. With these accusations floating around, the MSP presumably now has to say definitively how they were using the devices.

I can’t find any mention of seized cell phone data at the appellate level by Michigan’s state police.

Getting detailed records, the MSP claimed, would cost $544,680 to pay for the time and effort of retrieving the data and assembling the documentation describing what the State Police were doing with the cell phone data extractors.

Wow. Is THAT a lot of horseshit.

It makes me wonder if someone is claiming that the lack of policy about under what conditions this technology can be used is the same as having a policy that it can be used whenever MSP wants. And the the stories we’re seeing are failing to distinguish between the two.

I’m gonna do some looking around.

The Michigan ACLU’s website says nothing about there being a policy, constitutional or not, that I can see. Here is the page stating their concernshere is the page (pdf) with the letter they sent to the MSP. Neither mentions a policy about how the technology is supposed to be used.

I can understand the request for the data so they can determine whether, in their opinion, the equipment is being misused. But I see nothing to support these stories that the MSP is operating under an unconstitutional policy.

Hell, tell them they can sit me at a computer with the proper access and I’ll do it for $500,000. No matter how long it takes.
There, I just saved the MSP $44,680.

I’ll note that this seems the Michigan ACLU is following the federal ACLU’s lead, at least in the general sense, in regards to the federal warrantless searches of cellphones and computers, which is outlined by the ACLU

The Feds say they do this only to phones and computers crossing the national borders. I would leave it to the lawyers as to whether this distinction is relevant, but it seems really unlikely that Michigan would have the same intent.

I think there are two equally likely scenarios as to how these things are being used.

  1. Somebody had to spend a bunch of Federal grant money by the end of a fiscal year, and bought these things along with a whole bunch of other stuff that they had no specific need for, and they’ve sat on a storeroom shelf ever since.

  2. The state cops and maybe Detroit and a couple of other bigger cities have some “elite” intelligence units that use them related to investigating gangs/organized crime/drug smuggling. They may not want to even acknowledge the existence of such units, let alone who they are investigating. Of course, that’s not to say they’re not violating suspects’ rights when they do use them.

In any case, it’s impossible to believe they’re being used on a widespread or even random basis. There simply aren’t enough of them.

I am curious, is this like when I plug my phone into my computer to load in ebooks and music, just portable and faster?

Has anybody actually had their phone sucked of data or is this just because they have a machine that can do this?

I’ll do it for $400,00.

Free market in action!