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Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy

DOJ Often Used Cell Tower Impersonating Devices Without Explicit Warrants 146

Via the EFF comes news that, during a case involving the use of a Stingray device, the DOJ revealed that it was standard practice to use the devices without explicitly requesting permission in warrants. "When Rigmaiden filed a motion to suppress the Stingray evidence as a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the government responded that this order was a search warrant that authorized the government to use the Stingray. Together with the ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU, we filed an amicus brief in support of Rigmaiden, noting that this 'order' wasn't a search warrant because it was directed towards Verizon, made no mention of an IMSI catcher or Stingray and didn't authorize the government — rather than Verizon — to do anything. Plus to the extent it captured loads of information from other people not suspected of criminal activity it was a 'general warrant,' the precise evil the Fourth Amendment was designed to prevent. ... The emails make clear that U.S. Attorneys in the Northern California were using Stingrays but not informing magistrates of what exactly they were doing. And once the judges got wind of what was actually going on, they were none too pleased:"
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DOJ Often Used Cell Tower Impersonating Devices Without Explicit Warrants

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  • by tqk ( 413719 ) <> on Thursday March 28, 2013 @05:50PM (#43307123)

    Wouldn't it be nice if the user had some visibility and control over what tower their own phone connects to.

    Wouldn't it be nice if the system had some security built into it to exert control over what tower their subscribers' phone connects to.

    It's not like this is a brand new problem that's just popped up in the age of cell-phone connectivity. Those who refuse to learn from history ...

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @06:21PM (#43307361)

    This expansion of federal authority started under the Bush administration and has continued under the Obama administration. Like all Federal power expansions no future administration will argue they don't need the power as this is an issue that is without party bounds. Both parties seek expansion of federal powers and any argument that one party doesn't is window dressing to convince rubes.

    Democrat or Republican, it matters not as both parties want more power and more control over the populace. Too many people spend far too much time in either parties echo chamber to understand that.

  • by morcego ( 260031 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @06:23PM (#43307365)

    The devices are supposedly only sold to law-enforcement agencies and government agencies.

    Gosh, I feel so much safer now :(

    Can't these guys get that this kind of stuff, in the hands of the government, is EXACTLY the problem?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 28, 2013 @06:31PM (#43307415)

    Now if we could only get people to understand that the same is even more true of firearms, there would be a lot less stupidity in the world.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 28, 2013 @06:42PM (#43307501)

    nor did the Democrats; they just stayed quiet and let the Republicans make everyone assume that whatever replaced Bush would be an assload of unicorns by comparison.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @07:11PM (#43307707) Journal

    Search warrants stipulate what the authorities are looking for and where they can look;

    In this case the "what they are looking for" is information about the suspect's phone and the "where" is in Verizon's records. They instead peeked at other people's communications, by eavesdropping in the neighborhood. So they didn't stick to either the WHAT or the WHERE.

    Additionally, they didn't get a search warrant as they should have, but rather a lower order telling Verizon to be cooperative insofar as technical assistance. They didn't even get an supeona for Verizon to turn over records, only an order to provide tech support.

    It may be that they a request for a search warrant would have been granted, but that's for the judge to decide. The Texas judge mentioned clearly would not have signed a warrant without first adding specific limitations to reduce or eliminate having other people's phones intercepted. That seems to be the case fairly often - a judge will restrict a warrant to a very specific place, time etc., or ask for further evidence, rather than completely denying or approving the request as first presented.

  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Friday March 29, 2013 @01:14AM (#43309547) Journal

    Yeah, and it feels like crime is worse now more than ever, because somebody, somewhere around the world is doing some atrocity to somebody else. And that's what leads. The news you get on TV has slowly expanded from local to international 'news'. So the frequency of these reported 'incidents' have slowly gone up, but it doesn't really register that primary reason for the increase is that the area being covered has increased even faster.

    That's why I've stopped watching the 'news'. It's too much of "here's the worst 5 thing's that happened to somebody around the world".

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"