The Internal Revenue Service used its cell-phone tracking device, known as a stingray, in four non-IRS investigations, Commissioner John Koskinen revealed in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The agency used its only cell-site simulator to aid in a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that tracked one mobile device, and it also used the simulator for three state cases that involved tracking six cell phones, according to the letter dated Nov. 25. The IRS, which said it followed guidance from federal and state prosecutors in those cases, also used the device in 11 federal investigations that involved tracking 37 mobile phones.
Koskinen said that by Nov. 30 the IRS would be following Justice Department guidelines that require a warrant for use of the devices, except in extreme circumstances.
The letter is in response to questions posed by Wyden during an Oct. 27 Senate Finance Committee hearing about on the agency’s use of cell-phone tracking devices.
“The IRS has an important role to play in combating money laundering, drug trafficking, and international tax dodging, but tax enforcement and protection of personal privacy must not be mutually exclusive,” Wyden said today in a statement. “The IRS is taking reasonable steps to protect due process, while using all the tools at its disposal to catch people who may be ripping off U.S. taxpayers.”