Range R Lets Police See Into Your House

Range R is a device used by more than 50 law enforcement agencies that effectively lets police see inside of private homes, without a court order or notice given to the home owner.

(L3 Communications Range R video)

Current and former federal officials say the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages. But privacy advocates and judges have nonetheless expressed concern about the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies may be using the radars and the fact that they have so far done so without public scrutiny.

"The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what's inside is problematic," said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist. "Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have."

Agents' use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."

SF movie fans may recall the device from the 1997 film The Fifth Element; police used a hand-held device to see through doorways in to apartments.

Fans of sf literature have of course enjoyed various versions of this technology for many years. Consider the Subphoton Search Ray from The Shining One (1937, Nat Schachner), the Probability Time Wave Tube from Elimination (1936, John W. Campbell) and the X-Beam Projector from Diamond Planetoid (1937, Gordon A. Giles).

Via IndyStar.

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