A secret catalog of cellphone spying gear has been leaked to The Intercept, reportedly by a person inside the intelligence community who is concerned about the growing militarisation of domestic law enforcement.
Among the 53 items are the now-familiar Stingray I/II surveillance boxes. They’re billed as the “dragnet surveillance workhorse [that] has been deployed for years by numerous local law enforcement agencies across the United States.” It has a range of 200 meters and sells for $134,000 (£90,000). A chief selling point is the “ready-made non-disclosure agreements from the FBI and Harris Corp. [that] will provide a pretext for concealing these features from the public.” The listing also touts Harris’ “next-generation Hailstorm, a must-have for cracking the 4G LTE network.”
Besides manufacturing the Stingray brand of surveillance gear, Harris once employed a spokesman name Marc Raimondi. According to an Intercept article accompanying the leaked catalog, Raimondi is now a Department of Justice spokesman who says the agency’s use of stingray equipment is legal.
The REBUS Ground Based Geo-Location, meanwhile, has a model small enough to fit in a backpack and “provides limited capability to isolate targets utilizing Firewall option.” Almost a third of the entries advertise equipment that the Intercept said has never been publicly described before. The National Security Agency is listed as the vendor of one device, while another was designed for use by the Central Intelligence Agency, and a third was developed for a special forces requirement.
The Intercept reports:
A few of the devices can house a “target list” of as many as 10,000 unique phone identifiers. Most can be used to geolocate people, but the documents indicate that some have more advanced capabilities, like eavesdropping on calls and spying on SMS messages. Two systems, apparently designed for use on captured phones, are touted as having the ability to extract media files, address books, and notes, and one can retrieve deleted text messages.
Above all, the catalogue represents a trove of details on surveillance devices developed for military and intelligence purposes but increasingly used by law enforcement agencies to spy on people and convict them of crimes. The mass shooting earlier this month in San Bernardino, California, which President Barack Obama has called “an act of terrorism,” prompted calls for state and local police forces to beef up their counterterrorism capabilities, a process that has historically involved adapting military technologies to civilian use. Meanwhile, civil liberties advocates and others are increasingly alarmed about how cellphone surveillance devices are used domestically and have called for a more open and informed debate about the trade-off between security and privacy—despite a virtual blackout by the federal government on any information about the specific capabilities of the gear.
“We’ve seen a trend in the years since 9/11 to bring sophisticated surveillance technologies that were originally designed for military use—like Stingrays or drones or biometrics—back home to the United States,” said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has waged a legal battle challenging the use of cellphone surveillance devices domestically. “But using these technologies for domestic law enforcement purposes raises a host of issues that are different from a military context.”
Federal authorities have worked hard to prevent the public from knowing much about the cell-site simulators used by law enforcement. Today’s leak is a stark counterpoint to that secrecy.
SOURCE: Dan Goodin | Ars Technica