The accessory is frequently referred to as a “Stingray,” although several companies accomplish models beneath assorted cast names, including “Kingfish” and “Hailstorm.”
“Local law administration can do things now that we acclimated to accredit to the branch of spies and espionage,” ABC7 intelligence able Hal Kempfer tells Eyewitness News.
Stingray-type accessories ambush a target’s corpuscle buzz into aing to it by masquerading as the arch corpuscle buzz belfry in the breadth — one phones anticipate belongs to a buzz carrier like Verizon or AT&T.
The tracking accessory pinpoints a corpuscle phone’s breadth bottomward to about three yards and extracts the numbers of all admission and approachable calls.
Kempfer, CEO of the Homeland Security close KIPP Intelligence, says the apparatus can be a admired apparatus in tracking bottomward anyone from terrorists to biologic kingpins.
“Just as we visually browse the area, we electronically browse the area,” says Kempfer. “If there’s a buzz cardinal that’s associated with a terrorist, we would actually like to apperceive if that agitator is assuming up in the around of a above airport or achieve breadth there’s a above antic event.”
But critics see the accretion use of Stingrays as a anatomy of “dragnet surveillance” that raises catchy questions about the 4th Amendment’s prohibition adjoin ever ample or “general searches.”
That’s because Stingrays ambit up claimed corpuscle buzz and breadth advice from added than aloof the target’s corpuscle phone. Stingrays aggregate abstracts from hundreds, bags or alike tens of bags of innocent bystanders, all at the aforementioned time.
“It’s not aloof one buzz that responds, it’s any buzz aural the area. So badge are actually accession breadth advice on innocent Americans,” says ACLU advocate and aloofness able Peter Bibring.
Stingrays are suitcase-sized and portable. They can be apprenticed into a ambition breadth in chase of a doubtable or aureate over a added breadth on lath a alike or alike a drone.
The U.S. Marshals Account flies alleged “stingrays on a plane” out of bristles key airports above the nation, including Whiteman Airport in Pacoima. That device, acclimated by the Marshals to clue bottomward fugitives and added suspects, is accepted as a “dirtbox” because of the brand of Boeing accessory that articles it – Agenda Receiver Technology.
The signals beatific by Stingray-type accessories access the walls of peoples’ homes, banishment a buzz to affix to it, in a array of agenda “search and seizure.”
“When interpreting the 4th Amendment, the courts accept consistently fatigued a ablaze band at the access to the home,” says the ACLU’s Bibring. “The affair about Stingrays is that they finer acquiesce badge to conduct searches central your home.”
If badge access a chase accreditation from a judge, again that’s legal. But critics say that’s not consistently the case and admiration if board actually apperceive what they’re signing off on.
“If an bureau doesn’t explain the technology that’s used, the affectionate of advice it collects, a judge’s adjustment is about meaningless,” Bibring says.
The LAPD’s Above Crimes Unit has been appliance this blazon of technology aback about 2006. In 2005, the Los Angeles City Council accustomed a appeal by the LAPD to accelerate the “sole source” acquirement of a “Cell Buzz Tracking System” from Agenda Receiver Technology with $260,000 in allotment from a Homeland Security Admission Program.
In 2010, the Los Angeles Badge Foundation appear a admission of $347,550 to the LAPD’s Above Crimes Unit for an advancement to its tracking equipment. The Los Angeles Badge Foundation’s 990 tax anatomy credits the technology with allowance to break “priority homicides, high-profile cases involving armed suspects, kidnapping, agitator threats and added abhorrent crimes.”
In 2012, the Los Angeles Badge Foundation appear a admission of $23,925 to advancement the software for the Above Crimes Technical Support Unit that “provides corpuscle buzz tracking to all administration entities.”
Eyewitness News acquired advice beneath the California Accessible Annal Act that shows the LAPD acclimated this blazon of technology 28 times amid Jan. 1, 2014 and Aug. 1, 2014.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Records acquired by Eyewitness News from the Los Angeles Canton Sheriff’s Administration appearance the technology was deployed 66 times amid Jan. 1, 2014 and Aug. 1, 2014.
Purchase orders and invoices amid the LASD and Florida-based Harris Corporation date aback to 2003. Added contempo annal appearance purchases alignment from $191,513 in 2009 to $301,705 in 2012.
The ACLU of Southern California acquired abstracts assuming the LASD is allotment at atomic some of these purchases with “asset damage funds,” acceptation money that is confiscated in affiliation with a crime, rather than aborigine dollars.
“The abhorrence would be that they would use the technology for article above what it’s advised to do,” says Kempfer. “For example, aloof accept to any blazon of buzz conversation.”
Both the LASD and the LAPD accent that the technology is not acclimated for eavesdropping on buzz conversations or account emails or argument messages.
The LASD tells Eyewitness News, “the arrangement activated by the Sheriff’s Administration is not able of accession or intercepting communications content, including articulation and data.”
The LAPD tells Eyewitness News, “… there are no uses of an IMSI accessory that complex the eavesdropping of conversations.”
IMSI refers to the blazon of technology as a whole, because it captures the “International Mobile Subscriber Identity” – a array of consecutive cardinal absorbed to anniversary cellular device.
“Technology is technology, there’s consistently the befalling for abuse,” says Kempfer.
Some models of IMSI/Stingray-type accessories are able of eavesdropping – capturing the agreeable of buzz calls and argument messages.
“Some of these types of accessories accept technology that allows badge to accept in to buzz conversations,” Bibring says.
“But because the behavior for the use of these accessories aren’t public, we can’t be assured actually what badge are accomplishing or what protections are in abode to ensure that built-in rights are respected.”
QUESTIONS ABOUT JUDICIAL AUTHORIZATION
The LASD and LAPD both appear templates of the Chase Accreditation applications acclimated to access administrative allotment to arrange the device.
The LASD’s Chase Accreditation appliance refers to it as a “tracking device.”
The LAPD’s Chase Accreditation appliance contains one band that refers to “cell armpit simulators.”
Critics argue that because the absolute applications and orders for such chase warrants are commonly sealed, there’s no way to apperceive if board apprehend the chase they’re acceding scoops up claimed corpuscle buzz and breadth advice from added than aloof the target.
“In these aboriginal canicule of the technology, board aren’t accustomed with what it is, nor are aegis attorneys,” says Bibring. “So, they may not be acquainted into the abeyant aloofness implications.”
WHY SO MUCH SECRECY?
Documents advance that the FBI requires Harris Corporation, which articles the Stingray, to assassinate non-disclosure agreements with law administration agencies that acquirement its corpuscle buzz tracking devices.
An affirmation filed by the FBI’s Chief of its Tracking Technology Unit says that acknowledgment of such “homeland security” advice “may aggregate a abuse of the Arms Control Export Act,” a abomination amiss by up to 20 years in bastille and a accomplished up to $1 actor per occurrence.
“These are acutely close-hold items. We do not appetite the bad guys to apperceive what we can do,” says Kempfer.
Local law administration agencies banned all requests by Eyewitness News for on-camera interviews, but are appropriate beneath the California Accessible Annal Act to aftermath assertive abstracts if they are not absolved from disclosure.
“This technology is actuality adopted about in secret, with about no accuracy about how it’s actuality used,” says Bibring.
SAN BERNARDINO SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Records acquired by Eyewitness News appearance the San Bernardino Canton Sheriff’s Administration aboriginal purchased this blazon of technology aback in 2006. A address to the Lath of Supervisors accustomed a $220,094 acquittal to Agenda Receiver Technology for a “wireless accepting system.” The certificate indicates the accessory would be “temporarily army to any agent or aircraft,” although an advocate for San Bernardino Canton tells Eyewitness News the accessories accept not been deployed on any blazon of aerial vehicles.
In 2012, the San Bernardino Canton Sheriff’s Administration upgraded its equipment, advantageous $429,613 to the Harris Corporation.
Eyewitness News additionally asked the SBSD for a arrangement of the anatomy acclimated to access administrative allotment to arrange the device. The canton says it obtains a cloister order, rather than a chase warrant, which requires a college accepted of proof. The canton says a chase accreditation is alone “required aback gluttonous advice from a ‘tracking device’… and a ‘Stingray’ accessory does not clue movement.”
But experts assert that Stingrays actually do clue movement and say the county’s position is adverse accustomed that a contempo U.S. Supreme Cloister accommodation captivated that the cyberbanking tracking of a suspect’s breadth appliance GPS advice requires a warrant.
“There’s actual little aberration amid tracking somebody through a GPS accessory placed on a car and tracking somebody through a corpuscle phone,” Bibring says.
The arrangement cloister adjustment provided by San Bernardino never mentions any of the agreement about acclimated to call this blazon of technology; Stingray, IMSI-catcher or corpuscle armpit simulator. Instead, it refers to a PEN Register/Trap-and-Trace device, a beneath advancing technology that captures the buzz numbers of the target’s admission and approachable calls.
The SBSD’s arrangement cloister adjustment goes alike further, acute account providers to about-face over data, including GPS breadth information, from “any and all telephones alleged or actuality alleged by anniversary target, any numbers apparent thru (sic) the investigation.”
The SBSD does not accumulate clue of how abounding times it has deployed its cell-site simulator, but says it’s “used in appropriate cases to locate abomination suspects and/or missing or kidnapped persons.”
Officials accent there is no “eavesdropping,” and say they do not absorb abstracts captured from anyone added than the target.
ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
The Orange Canton Sheriff’s Administration tells Eyewitness News it is in the action of purchasing Stingray-type technology from Harris Corporation. A purchasing application has been submitted, but “will accept to go afore the Lath of Supervisors afore a arrangement can be issued.”
Despite the clandestineness surrounding this technology, added is actuality abstruse about aback and how it’s actuality acclimated by law administration agencies nationwide. Some board and aegis attorneys are blame aback adjoin the non-disclosure agreements and analytic the use of PEN Register/Trap-and-Trace cloister orders instead of chase warrants that spell out the use of Stingray-type technology.
Prosecutors in Baltimore withdrew affirmation in a robbery case aftermost ages afterwards a adjudicator threatened a detective with antipathy for not absolute capacity of the corpuscle buzz tracking technology acclimated to accumulate the evidence.
Judges in Pierce County, Washington are now acute badge to ask for specific permission to use a Stingray-type device. That change came afterwards the Tacoma News Tribune appear that board had accidentally active off on 170 cloister orders that badge say accustomed them to use the device. However, the plan to use that technology was not appear by badge to the judges.
Experts say college courts will eventually accept to footfall in and acquisition the appropriate antithesis amid aloofness rights and able policing.
“We’re belief – should we use this technology? How should we use this technology? Are we anarchic on built-in rights, civilian rights, aloofness rights? If we use this technology in assertive ways, it’s a connected acclimation act,” Kempfer says.
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