State Senator Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) defended a cell phone spying program in Hennepin County this afternoon in a post on Facebook. As reported by KARE-11, KingFish is a cellular exploitation device purchased by Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek. Ortman is one of numerous Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and previously, she worked for Stanek as a member of his “command staff” from 2007-2013.
According to press reports, funding for KingFish was approved while Ortman was working for Stanek.
Here’s the background from KARE-11:
It’s not just the NSA spying on your cell phone. KARE 11 has learned that two Minnesota law enforcement agencies have the ability to do the same.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have both purchased cellular exploitation devices that go by the names of KingFish or StingRay. The devices mimic a cell phone tower and allow the agencies to extract data from nearby cell phones.
Ortman’s support of KingFish puts her at odd with Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who is one of the numerous Republicans running for governor. Johnson wrote in a Facebook post last evening that he ”would not support the Kingfish purchase today.” Johnson cited “NSA surveillance tactics” and local “unauthorized and unwarranted access of individual data” as reasons for now opposing KingFish:
Nationally, we have NSA surveillance tactics that, under the guise of security, infringe on privacy rights and civil liberties. Locally, we have widespread unauthorized and unwarranted access of individual data in state databases. These abuses can’t be ignored. Given that experience, I would not support the Kingfish purchase today.
Ortman repeatedly has made the NSA’s spying program a centerpiece of her U.S. Senate campaign, but now she is defending a similar program that was set-up in the office where she worked.
Ortman, who claims issues “of government power and personal privacy have been of interest since her law school days”, wrote about the NSA spying scandal and demanded answers:
The American people had a right to know about this long ago, and we should have had the opportunity to object through legal and/or political challenges to this systematic abuse. Now that the cloak of secrecy has been removed, our elected officials in Washington owe us an explanation and a remedy. It is long past time that we discuss publicly this threat to our cherished freedoms and liberties.
I wrote yesterday that news of a cell phone spying program in Hennepin County, aside from raising privacy concerns, would have an impact on the Republican nomination for governor and U.S. Senate in Minnesota.
Please check back to politics.mn for more information on this story.