The Internal Revenue Service is using controversial cell phone spying equipment, enabling its agents to eavesdrop on cell phones and track the physical movements of people without ever going to a judge, according to a new report. Why is the IRS in the phone spying business? If you’re a regular reader of this website you probably won’t be shocked to learn that it’s a result of drug war related mission creep.
Mark Matthews, a former deputy commissioner for services and enforcement at the agency who now works for the law firm Caplin and Drysdale, said that while he attends many conferences on IRS and tax law enforcement, he had not heard any “scuttlebutt” about the agency’s use of Stingray.
Matthews said there are currently between 2,000 and 3,000 “special agents” in the IRS who form the criminal investigation division (CID). They have the ability to get PEN register orders – the only authority needed to use Stingray devices.
He said the IRS on its own usually uses gentler investigation tactics. But increasingly, investigating agents from the agency are brought on board for joint operations with the FBI and other agencies when the latter need financial expertise to look at, for example, money laundering from drug organisations.
From these joint operations, he said, “the IRS had moved to drug work and had learned a lot of aggressive techniques in the money laundering and drug world, and these bad habits were leaking over into the tax world, which was supposed to be their real mission”.
The drug war permeates nearly every aspect of US law enforcement, even including driving secretive surveillance at the IRS. Let’s end it.