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Community / Public space

Police officers can now see through walls

The ability to see through solid hunks of concrete and brick sounds like a futuristic fantasy, straight out of the comic books – but, as it turns out, at least 50 US law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been quietly using radar technology to see inside peoples’ homes for at least two years.  

The radar devices are used by police to figure out if there’s anyone is inside a house. From up to 50 feet away, the “Range-R” can measure radio waves to sense movements as small as breathing; they can also determine where the person is. 

This is problematic, not least because the US Supreme Court has previously ruled that officers can’t use heat sensors to examine the inside of someone’s house unless they’ve issued a search warrant first. Police officials, however, claim that officers need the information collected by the Range-R if they’re planning to storm a building or rescue hostages.

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The use of the radars actually came to light last December, when officers used it to scan the house of a man who’d violated his parole (hardly a hostage situation).  In response to that case, judges said the police may have violated the US Constitution’s 4th Amendment, the right to privacy. 

The manufacturers, L3 Communications, told USA Today they had so far sold about 200 to US law enforcement agencies.

The company describes the Range-R as:

a highly sensitive handheld radar system designed to detect and measure the distance to moving and near-stationary personnel through walls.

It all sounds less like Superman than it does like 1984.
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