U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif, is speaking out against a controversial surveillance program that uses a device called the "Stingray."
The Stingray tool mimics cellphone towers, tricking phones essentially to connect and feed data/information back to police about the target’s location.
Opponents of the device says it gives law enforcement too much power to also collect information from surrounding people not suspected of any illegal activity. They say there’s not enough transparency and accountability.
Issa recently won House approval of a measure to bar funding for the use of the device if law enforcement does not get a warrant.
“I think he's on the right track. We need to be protecting our rights and constitution - our rights to privacy,” said staff attorney Kellen Russoniello at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.
"This is a device that not only can track where you're moving who you’re talking to, but if we allow [law enforcement] on this, are we going to eventually let them intercept the content of what we're sending to each other?" questioned Russoniello.
Through an open records request to San Diego Police focused on Stingrays, NBC 7 Investigates discovered a city purchase for $33,000 worth of the tools. When asked for more information on how the department is using them, our team received a statement reading in part, "The information you seek would reveal security or intelligence information, and is exempt from disclosure."
Former U.S. Attorney Peter Nunez says getting rid of the surveillance program would be a bad idea. He believes legislation will eventually force law enforcement to get a warrant before using the device.
“There’s no reason we could not apply the same restrictions, regulations or limitations so the police can use it in appropriate cases and the public is not going to be damaged,” Nunez said.
Currently the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet is looking into the use of Stingrays.