OCTOBER 27, 2015
By Derrick Broze
Following the first ever congressional hearing on “Stingray” cellphone surveillance, new details reveal the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service are also using the controversial spying devices.
At a congressional hearing last Wednesday, officials with the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security released new details about the federal government’s use of “Stingray” cellphone surveillance. Stingrays, also known as cell site simulators, constitute another example of military tools finding their way into the hands of federal agencies and local police departments across the United States.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The Stingray is a brand name of an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) Catcher targeted and sold to law enforcement. A Stingray works by masquerading as a cellphone tower – to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not – and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, the government can figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.
Elana Tyrangiel, a deputy assistant attorney at the Justice Department, told lawmakers the particular cell site simulators employed by the DOJ do not collect the content of calls. The devices do, however, collect location and the number being dialed.
Much of the discussion at the hearing centered around the use of warrants. In early September, the Justice Department announced rules about how the department will handle the use of Stingrays, including new warrant requirements. After the rules were announced, Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking member on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, challenged the warrant exemptions and the overall effectiveness of the rules. According to the District Sentinel, Leahy stated, “I will press the Department to justify them.”
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