Warrantless Radar Searches

January 20, 2015

All Posts, Features, News

Both USA Today and the Daily Mail reported yesterday that at least 50 American police forces, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service, have been using a device called Range-R (pronounced ranger) Radar to conduct warrantless searches of homes for at least two years.

The Range-R is manufactured by L-3 Communications Holdings, a Torrance, California company that manufactures command and control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance software and products and avionics for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, various intelligence agencies and NASA. The Range-R was developed as a military product. According to USA Today, L-3 didn’t begin marketing the device to police forces until 2012. According to promotional materials distributed by L-3, the company has been marketing the device to police forces for at least five years.


According to an L-3 brochure published in 2010:

“L-3’s Range-R is a lightweight handheld radar system designed to detect people through walls. Within seconds, Range-R informs the user of the presence of moving or near-stationary personnel and the distance, or range, to the person. Range-R provides vital intelligence necessary to safely undertake a wide variety of law enforcement and search and rescue operations.

“Range-R detects even the slightest movements, including those of normal human breathing, with a probability of detection greater than 95 percent, while maintaining a false alarm rate (FAR) of less than 5 percent. With an effective range of up to 50 feet, the system can ‘see’ through walls, floors and ceilings constructed of reinforced concrete, cement block, wood, brick, adobe, glass and other common non-metallic construction materials.”

The device costs $6,000. The Marshalls have admitted to buying 30 of them.

According to the brochure, five years ago L-3 was selling the device to:

“First Responders: Hostage situations, stand-offs, natural disasters and burning buildings are a few examples of scenarios where Range-R’s see-through-the-wall technology can be utilized to locate persons hidden from view – without putting the lives of first responders in unnecessary danger. Range-R enables police, SWAT, emergency medical teams, firefighters and other special operations teams to efficiently and effectively allocate their precious time and resources when split second decisions must be made.

“For example: police and/or SWAT units can determine the presence and location of assailants or hostages in a building. Search and rescue teams can locate injured people inside buildings. Firefighters can quickly determine whether people are trapped in a building. With near immediate analysis and results, Range-R provides first responders with critical information that may make the difference between life and death.”


Police use of the device came to light in a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a case titled United States v. Steven J. Denson. The ruling was filed on December 30, 2014. In that case, the government appealed the suppression of evidence obtained during a warrantless search in Wichita, Kansas. The Tenth Circuit explains:

“Steven Denson was on the lam. After his conviction for armed robbery and a spell in prison he quit reporting to his probation officer as his sentence required. For a time, Mr. Denson appeared gone for good. But authorities weren’t quick to give up their search and eventually they found his name on a residential Wichita utility account. With an arrest warrant in hand they showed up at the listed address. When a handheld Doppler radar device and other evidence suggested Mr. Denson might be present inside the house, the officers entered. Quickly they found Mr. Denson along with a stash of guns, guns he lacked the right to possess by virtue of his felony conviction. This led Mr. Denson to plead guilty to a federal firearm charge. At the same time, he preserved the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his Fourth Amendment motion to suppress. Exercising that right now, he seeks reversal….”

The appeal was brought by an Assistant Federal Public Defender named Timothy J. Henry on Denson’s behalf. A three judge panel ruled that the search did violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires all search warrants to be approved by a judge. The original intent of the Amendment was the historic notion that “a man’s home is his castle.”


Although L-3 has been selling the device to “first responders” and Swat for five years, no court seems to have heard of it until recently. In the decision, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch wrote:

“The government brought with it a Doppler radar device capable of detecting from outside the home the presence of ‘human breathing and movement within.’ All this packed into a hand-held unit ‘about 10 inches by four inches wide, 10 inches long.’ The government admits that it used the radar before entering – and that the device registered someone’s presence inside. It’s obvious to us and everyone else in this case that the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions. New technologies bring with them not only new opportunities for law enforcement to catch criminals but also new risks for abuse and new ways to invade constitutional rights.”

Gorsuch also cited a 2001 ruling by the Supreme Court in a case titled Kyllo v. United States. In that case, the government used a thermal imaging device outside the Florence, Oregon home of a man named Lee Kyllo. The government suspected Kyllo was growing marijuana inside and the device indicated an unusual amount of heat, presumably from broad spectrum light sources, was leaking out his house. In that case a majority of the court, with Justice John Paul Stevens dissenting, ruled the use of the device to spy on Kyllo was illegal. In the Court’s ruling, Judge Antonin Scalia wrote, “Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment ‘search,’ and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.”

Militarized Police

Although the Tenth Circuit did not address the issue, the widespread deployment of military devices like the Range-R to increasingly militarized police departments raises a basic question: Where exactly is the line between martial law and “civilian” militarized police forces? Since the War on Global Terror began a dozen years ago. militarized police have routinely short circuited the concept of due process to conduct warrantless searches and punitive raids on people the police distrust or of whom they disapprove.

In a landmark Supreme Court decision from 1866 titled Ex parte Milligan, the Court ruled:

“The nation began its life in 1776, with a protest against military usurpation. It was one of the grievances set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that the king of Great Britain had ‘affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.’ The attempts of General Gage, in Boston, and of Lord Dunmore, in Virginia, to enforce martial rule, excited the greatest indignation. Our fathers never forgot their principles; and though the war by which they maintained their independence was a revolutionary one, though their lives depended on their success in arms, they always asserted and enforced the subordination of the military to the civil arm.”

“Martial law … destroys every guarantee of the Constitution.”

“Civil liberty and this kind of martial law cannot endure together; the antagonism is irreconcilable; and, in the conflict, one or the other must perish.”

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19 Responses to “Warrantless Radar Searches”

  1. popeye Says:

    I can see cops getting off on using this to watch teen girls get dressed and shower. Or peep in on couples having sex. This is way too much of an intrusive tool to put in the hands of idiots.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I’m more worried about the Argus cameras being mounted on unmanned drones.

    What is Argus? It’s a 1.8 billion giga pixel camera that has a viewing range large enough to see everything in a medium sized city all at once. With the included software the camera can track and record moving objects based on size, direction, and speed.

    With a fleet of these drones you could watch and catalogue the movements of an entire city non-stop.

    Combine these with wire taps, internet, and other modes of government surveillance and you pretty much get “Omnipotence”. And I mean that in the sense of being able to see and hear everything, everywhere. It’s mind blowing to me that technology has or is about to make Omnipotency possible.

    Source: http://youtu.be/QGxNyaXfJsA

  3. Sieg Says:

    What’s really sad isn’t so much the fact that the Constitution is a dead relic of a better time, it’s that Citizens in 1866 were so much more in-touch with their rights and obligations as Citizens of a Constitutional Republic that they were outraged by the possibilities of a standing army and its’ use as an enforcement tool by the ruling elites.

    (believe me yet?)

  4. Viking trotter Says:

    Back in 1998. LA Times I believe ran an article about how the FBI, Border Patrol and DEA were conducting radar overlooks into people’s homes using a progenitor of this tech in helicopters in the SoCal area. Under the precursor to fight terrorism. I guess this is the little brother of that tech. The common defeat of this tech is metal. In this case, aluminum foil. If you have insulation with thick foil. You may be able to defeat this.

  5. Tooj Says:

    Well, if they come watch the old lady and I get it on, they may learn something about fucking the right way instead of this kind.

  6. Paladin Says:

    I guess my tinfoil hat will come in handy, as I sit and contemplate the hysterical notion that “a man’s home is his castle.”

    Long may You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  7. Road Whore Says:

    I’m worried about all of it, and it grows exponentially.

    I have watched several documentaries about the technology and surveillance states, and the capabilities of these technologies are beyond belief. If anyone chooses to continue to delude themselves by thinking that such things aren’t possible then they are wrapped in a thought style that belongs to the horse and buggy era.

    Most disturbing to me is that if, in these documentaries, they are willing to reveal to us and let us see mind-blowing, unbelievable technology then that means that what they are not choosing to show us is light years ahead of what has been revealed. I.E. we are fucked beyond that which we think we know.

    Ride Free

  8. Big Jim, Whittier Says:

    Shit, You mean I have to put the foil back up, I had hoped those days were over. On the bright side great turn out the COC Meeting/Party Fear No One and Fuck the Iron Order by the way a no show at COC

  9. los Says:

    They were just showing this technology on the Today show this morning. I didn’t catch the whole thing, but the device does not “see” as a camera. SInce it is radar is shows digital signatures..like a graph kinda that shows breathing motions, etc. So, they can tell that someone is there and possibly pinpoint the location, but not see that it is the person they are looking for..just that it is a person. Still wrong, but not something that allows “peeping tom” perversion.
    And, like a poster above states..if they are showing us this, what do they have that they are not showing us? The military is light years more advanced than what is on the market..always have been. How much of that is bleeding down to federal law enforcement? That is the scary part.

  10. The Great One Says:

    “Freedom” is a fallacy… The very concept of a free society has slipped from the grasp of the citizenry. The erosion of our rights has been taking place since the inception of the original Bill. The population is indoctrinated to believe that these once great United States are a free society. The very concept has been so perverted that even the North Koreans mock and make jokes of our hypocritical notions of Free Men of a Free Society. The yoke of tyranny has been placed and slowly tightened for so long that we as Americans have come to accept it as inevitable.

  11. Big C Says:


    Here’s a freebie…..and me saying this is why I am NEVER going to reveal my real life handle.

    A lot more than you think is. I have good reason to believe that under Obama, DHS’s main focus has shifted towards targeting and controlling potential domestic dissent rather than OCONUS threats.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Road whore and someone else mentioned that the tech the government is not showing us should be light years ahead of the public domain.

    That reminded me that microprocessors in computers are fast approaching the theoretical limit on size and speed. To get around this limit we would have to use something that moves faster than electricity to carry signals inside processors (I’ve heard light mentioned before), or stack processors so that they can share workload.

    About a year ago I noticed that intel was making a new type of processor called a co-processor. It’s called the Intel Xeon Phi 7120p, and the special thing about this piece of tech is that it has 61 (yes sixty one) cpu processors printed on a single piece of silicone. I immediately suspected that this is a trickling down of some classified or secret chip. I’m suggesting that silicon cpu’s have already hit their speed limit somewhere not known to the public and the xeon phi chip is evidence of a workaround to get more speed. I totally pulled this theory out of my ass and I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

  13. Phoneboothe Says:

    Thanks for this update. Great article about a device I knew nothing about.

    Again, not a biker, but I read your blog almost daily because you cover something very important to us all: the militarization of police.


  14. Chuck Says:

    According to organizations like the CFR and MIT, exoskeletons, robots, and patrol car mounted drones, are less then a decade away. Noware to run, noware to hide, just pure unadulterated oppression…….

  15. Base Says:

    Suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg?

  16. Steel Says:

    I have read, and I am sorry I can’t recall where, that even a government that starts out as benevolent becomes oppressive and malevolent as more rules and regs are passed to “help” the people. The government must become oppressive to enforce all these rules and regs and the reason for the oppressiveness is that these things are “good” for you. Think about the direction the US is going. It’s slow but a sure march toward this. It’s small steps but in time those small steps add up.

  17. FF Says:

    The start of the pre-crime police division. You will be arrested, convicted and sent to prison because they think you were going to do something illegal.


    The investigative arm of the Department of Justice is attempting to short-circuit the legal checks of the Fourth Amendment by requesting a change in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These procedural rules dictate how law enforcement agencies must conduct criminal prosecutions, from investigation to trial. Any deviations from the rules can have serious consequences, including dismissal of a case. The specific rule the FBI is targeting outlines the terms for obtaining a search warrant. It’s called Federal Rule 41(b), and the requested change would allow law enforcement to obtain a warrant to search electronic data without providing any specific details as long as the target computer location has been hidden through a technical tool like Tor or a virtual private network. It would also allow nonspecific search warrants where computers have been intentionally damaged (such as through botnets, but also through common malware and viruses) and are in five or more separate federal judicial districts. Furthermore, the provision would allow investigators to seize electronically stored information regardless of whether that information is stored inside or outside the court’s jurisdiction.


  18. willienelso3 Says:

    well I’ll be damned. came back to leave this link about the fbi attempt to get rules of procedure changed. FF already gave us the heads-up. here’s the piece I read anyway.


    respects (to those who’ve earned it),


  19. SkinHead Says:

    Every now and then I have enough spare time to check this blog or whatever yall call it , out. And I’m always entertained. Few things are better than wind in your face , sex with a fine biker babe, good bourbon whiskey and a Black Dragon cigar and listening to a crew of grizzlies chewing the fat. Just remember , 5 outa 5 gonna die. Death is certain , life is not. Live free and rage against the machine , always.

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