FBI certificate via EPIC
The FBI brand to accumulate quiet about its surveillance methods. But a alternation of anew appear abstracts shares capacity about the backstairs approach it uses to covertly adviser cellphones.
Ryan Gallagher is a announcer who letters on surveillance, security, and civilian liberties.
Photo by WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
As allotment of an advancing Freedom of Advice Act clothing launched by civilian liberties accumulation the Electronic Privacy Advice Center, the FBI is axis over advice on its use of cellphone surveillance technology abnormally accepted as “Stingrays,” “Cell Site Simulators,” “IMSI Catchers,” or “Digital Analyzers.” These accessories action as carriageable surveillance transceivers that are advised to ambush phones over a targeted breadth into bent assimilate a affected network. The FBI says it uses the accoutrement to clue the locations of alone suspects. But the technology is arguable because, by design, it collects abstracts on innocent bystanders’ phones, and it additionally interferes with cellphone signals in a way that may be banned beneath a breadth of the federal Communications Act.
Over the accomplished year, the FBI has been drip-releasing redacted portions of a accession of abstracts that it holds accompanying to the use of the Stingray technology. And backward aftermost week, the agency angry over a accumulation of 500 pages featuring anew declassified portions that action beginning acumen into its spy tools, as able-bodied as animated a ablaze on a abstruse centralized surveillance assemblage that has congenital up aural the agency over the accomplished decade.
The abstracts appearance that the FBI accustomed a specialist cellphone surveillance accumulation alleged the “Wireless Intercept and Tracking Team” as far aback as 2003 or 2004. The WITT is allegedly fabricated up of surveillance technology experts who advance the FBI’s band of spy tools. The unit, according to the documents, conducts analysis and development, offers “24×7 operational support” to admiral affianced in surveillance missions; conducts training in how to use the spy devices; and liaises amid the government and companies affairs the latest surveillance equipment. It additionally maintains an centralized website that provides advice and “interactive media,” apparently to accumulate the admiral well-schooled on the latest cellphone ecology issues.
In addition, the anew appear files acknowledge that it is not aloof the Stingray apparatus that the FBI has acclimated to clue bottomward cellphones. In antecedent years, it has additionally deployed accessories accepted as the “Loggerhead” and the “Triggerfish”—both fabricated by Florida-based Harris Corp., the aforementioned aggregation that articles the Stingray tool. While the Stingray is a accessory primarily advised to be acclimated for tracking the breadth of phones, it is notable that both the Triggerfish and Loggerhead were advised to acquiesce authorities to eavesdrop on the agreeable of calls. The Loggerhead, however, is abundantly an anachronistic accessory because it was fabricated to spy on old analog cellphones that accept been aished by digital.
The disclosures body on abstracts ahead angry over to EPIC by the FBI, which accept apparent how the agency has been deploying Stingray-style technology for about two decades and is able-bodied acquainted that its use of the cellphone surveillance accessories is in a advancing accustomed area. The FBI has accustomed that it holds about 25,000 pages of abstracts that chronicle to the cellphone tracking equipment. To date, the agency says it has advised 22,982 of those pages for release, but it has absitively to accumulate abstruse 80 percent of the files—turning over 4,377 pages, abounding in heavily redacted form, because it says it does not appetite to acknowledge analytic methods.
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