The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that the United States Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) did not always adhere to Federal statute and cell-site simulator (CSS) policies when using CSS during criminal investigations involving exigent circumstances. OIG also found that ICE HSI did not adhere to Department privacy policies and the applicable Federal privacy statute when using CSS.
CSS is used by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) law enforcement components to provide real-time cellular device locations for investigative purposes. They allow law enforcement to locate both subjects of an investigation and their victims.
For the cases OIG reviewed, the required search warrants were obtained for CSS uses. However, the watchdog said the Secret Service and ICE HSI did not always obtain court orders required by CSS policies and Federal statute when using CSS during investigations that included exigent circumstances.
This occurred for two reasons, OIG said. First, CSS policies do not include sufficiently detailed guidance on working with external law enforcement agencies. Second, the Secret Service and ICE HSI did not correctly interpret CSS policies reflecting the statutory requirement to obtain court orders before using CSS or, in emergency situations, apply for court orders within 48 hours of installing, or beginning to install CSS.
OIG has recommended that the Secret Service and ICE HSI take corrective actions to ensure they use CSS in accordance with Federal statutes and DHS policies. DHS concurred with all recommendations.