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US Marshals Seize Police Stingray Records To Keep Them From the ACLU 272

An anonymous reader writes 'A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn recently when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them. "This is consistent with what we've seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for stingray information," Wessler said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. "The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public." ... "We've seen our fair share of federal government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but we've never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to conceal them from public view," the ACLU wrote in a blog post today.'
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US Marshals Seize Police Stingray Records To Keep Them From the ACLU

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  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @05:57PM (#47175353)

    Orwell was just 30 years late on his predictions...

    What I wonder every time I see this: do the law enforcement officers involved ever think something like, "wow, by doing this I become one of the jack-booted thugs working hard to bring tyranny and corruption to this nation!" Are they complete myrmidons? Are they "true believers" who really managed to convince themselves this is all for some kind of nebulous greater good? Are they simply sociopaths with no conscience? Are they somehow brave enough to take on an armed criminal yet too cowardly to refuse bullshit orders?

    What exactly goes through their minds? That's what I wonder.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @06:06PM (#47175423) Journal

    I'm waiting for the police to begin wearing actual jackboots again!

    In a sense they are though. In the 40s, the boots cavalry officers wore were seen as how elite troops dressed, so police who would never ride a horse wore jackboots and black uniforms and the rest of it to look as intimidating as possible. Now we have militarized police in the US with armored cars, assault rifles, body armor, and sure enough black uniforms on raids. Sigh.

  • by NynexNinja ( 379583 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @06:22PM (#47175549)
    So, I've been thinking of how could we prevent such a rogue device from operating on the cellular network? The way it is done is pretty easy actually:
    * First you have to create a database of longitude / latitude coordinates of where we find cell tower sites at 100% signal strength.
    * Next we allow Android's baseband processor to issue handoffs to cell towers that are within range of the GeoIP coordinate database
    * So when a Stingray device pretends to be a cell tower, and it is not within range of the geoIP coordinates database, it will be rejected

    This could be easily implemented in Android... and you could also add notifications when a cell tower was rejected due to being too far away from the known cell tower real location.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2014 @06:35PM (#47175611)

    You ask a complex question. Much too complex for much of what passes for insight on /. these days, but I'll try to chime in.

    I worked in law enforcement for several years. I was not with the federal government, but my state agency did quite a few joint operations with various federal agencies including FBI, DHS, ICE, EPA, and others. I've sat through the briefings and been part of the planning as well as the execution of many warrants. Here's my take on it -

    Federal agents are a different breed. They are largely self-selected into the ranks and definitely fall into the category of "true believer". Their personal mandate varies, though it sometimes falls in line with the agency mandate (i.e., EPA is definitely about the environment and collects staff with a very dogmatic mindset). One thing holds true - by and large, federal agents have a personality of a soldier in the field. They follow orders without question and largely without independent thought. If it's not in the procedure manual or passed on a memo, it does not exist. These are the people that will, without fail, always walk only on the sidewalk in designated spots. The exceptions to this rule generally do not make a career in federal law enforcement service. You will see them get in and get out as soon as the resume is adequately seasoned.

    So, if you want to know how this stuff happens, here's the break down. From on-high, some agency director or even the President sets out a mandate. Nothing too specific, but just a pet project or vision. It then filters down to the chiefs and assistant chiefs who begin to craft policy. Eventually, it winds its way through the machinations of the organization until it hits some SAC or ASAC's desk and then they issue a memo to their staff about the marching orders. From there, you get special agents who execute the orders. This can often be initiated because of a lead or other process, but it often happens with a phone call from some other agency that could use the assistance of a friendly. From there, the forms get filed, cases opened, and things escalate. Before you know it, it's on slashdot and people are asking WTF?

    In the end, the lower ranks execute the orders to try and be good soldiers and get the next promotion, raise, and favorable posting. The middle managers take a bow, but remain safe behind their desk. The senior managers build plausible deniability. No one ever really gets in trouble, because after all is said and done, what US Attorney or AUSA is going to go balls to the wall probing one of their own agencies?


  • Re:Hard copy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lloyd_Bryant ( 73136 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @07:02PM (#47175787)

    I wonder if the Feds went all out like they do to us civilians when they performed the raid. Did they perform a typical 'no knock' raid, at like 3AM, and knock the doors in and smash the windows, and toss 'Flash Bangs' in the room and enter the premises with a small military unit in order to perform the records seizure?

    There was no "raid" - what they did was deputize the detective in charge of the records as a U.S. Marshal, and then instruct him to transfer the records in question to other U.S. Marshals.

    Pretty questionable, legally (basically, they completely sidestepped state public records laws using this trick), but I'm not sure that "raid" is the correct word to describe the processes.

  • by amxcoder ( 1466081 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @07:25PM (#47175955)
    There is a difference between a normal union, and public employee union. Police are members of "Public employee Unions", which do not have anyone at the public's side of the table negotiating for the public. It's basically other government workers approving the government workers pay increases when the public employee union demands more pay. It is a 1 sided bargaining agreement, where no one that represents the taxpayers are there to negotiate on our behalf.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2014 @07:30PM (#47175975)

    And this will end up in front of a judge, I'd be really, really, pissed.

    I'd be throwing the book at everybody, the officers doing the seizing, their superiors for ordering it, everyone up the chain who even saw this happening. Anything and everything I think that applied I'd throw at them. Those documents were already subject to legal proceedings, I'd start with Obstruction and move up from there, finishing off with determining that their removal of these documents and irrational unwillingness to have them see the light of day in a court house demonstrates they prove criminal activity. After all, if you are the Department of Justice, but scared of your actions being examined in court something has gone very wrong.

    If there really was a good reason to withhold them you file it with the Court and the Court orders them sealed, Law enforcement over stepping their authority and messing with Legal proceedings is something that would royally piss me off as a judge.

    The NSA might get to hide behind National Security and their Classified Courts, but the DoJ just plain inst in that line of work, and that kind of 11th hour bullshit just doesn't fly.

    A Mississippi Judge just did that. The local paper tried to get some records from a state agency and they first denied them, then after an order to produce was issued they had a federal prosecutor take them under cover of darkness to a different part of the state. Eventually a federal judge ordered their return to the state court, where the state judge fined several people for contempt of court and open records law violations. The state attorney general was in on it along with several federal officers and prosecutors, the attorney general even went so far as to say "think of how this will look on your permanent record after you are reversed." I say through the bums in JAIL for 30 days at the time for each individual charge of contempt of court, especially when under color of law.

  • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @08:52PM (#47176337) Journal

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    There have been more than a few stories that go this route. Some character starts with with the best intentions. They want to make things better. They finally win some small amount of power and try to change things for the better. But there's another obstacle blocking the way. Now there are two paths to take. One will get them to their goal quicker but requires some sort of morally gray compromise (maybe not much of one, but it's there). The other is a long arduous process which may end up in failure since their enemies aren't exactly moral. The character chooses the more expedient path and things seem to go well until they hit another obstacle where another choice is made. The process repeats again and again, with their choices going from morally gray to black. By the end of the story, the enemies are defeated but now the hero has become the very thing it was fighting against.

    In their mind, we simply don't understand that they are doing this "for our protection". It's a sacrifice for the greater good. Anyone who opposes that is obviously an enemy, and since they have the power they can go ahead and do whatever they deem "necessary" whether we "understand" or not.

  • by localroger ( 258128 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @09:28PM (#47176455) Homepage
    He himself retired from the redacted state police after 12 years, some spent undercover. He said that for the most part the idealists who want to save the world get washed out by the corruption by 5 years and anyone who's stayed longer than that is getting more out of it than their salary.
  • Re:Ha! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @09:49PM (#47176547)

    People have been demanding open government so politicians now need to promise openness and transparency to get voted in. Once voted in they realize they really don't want to be open after all and lately seem to go in the opposite direction totally, namely it's the people who are expected and forced to be open and transparent while we get record secretive governments.
    Both my Provincial and Federal governments, right wingers both, have done the same and I expect it'll continue no matter who is in power.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @10:11PM (#47176649)

    I want a revolution.

    I love what used to be my country, the old USA. I want the freedoms and privacy we once had, back.

    I'm not a christian, I'm a total non-believer in any religion.

    I'm not a gun nut, don't own guns, don't want to.

    but I still see the need for a reboot of our government. it would be nice if it could be non-violent. however, my xtal ball says that won't happen since the bad guys in power are not going to give back power willingly.

  • Militarization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:02PM (#47176829)

    Really I view this sort of thing as just another aspect of militarization of law enforcement. This sort of thing is wartime SIGINT gear. It should require judicial oversight and warrants for use in civilian populations. The fact that it's use is treated like a state secret is a big fat warning that the law enforcement agencies are trying to protect something that they realize would create a serious public outcry if people realized it's capabilities.

  • Re:Fucking Bush! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @12:00AM (#47177021)

    power corrupts.

    extreme power corrupts extremely.

    obama was probably an OK guy, once. he seems like an OK bloke. but power of that level, and the office, it changes you and you are not the same person you once were. it was not an all-of-a-sudden thing, either; as you move up, you lose your soul bit by bit. it can't be helped and its been that way since man has walked the earth. its how we are, as a species.

    we are seeing what humans are really like, when they get so much power and want to hoard it and control everyone around them. they convince themselves they are good guys and that they are fighting the good fight, but that much power is just NOT controllable by humans. we can't do it. we always fail. always. eventually, we always show that we can't handle that much power over our fellow people.

    this is really an argument for smaller city-states. smaller companies. smaller groups of things. once things get big, they get too powerful and we fuck it up. by staying small, the power does not concentrate and so its more fair and we self-balance.

    I wish we'd learn this and change our society style.... but I'm not expecting this to happen ;(

  • Re:Ha! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @02:14AM (#47177429)

    I was going to mod you up, but I can see others have taken care of that for me.

    I say more or less what you have just written to people all the time and I would encourage others to do the same. Just look at all the nonsense which is posted on FB for example. I try to explain to these people that it makes no difference at all who is elected. They are all the same person. It is only a question of which industry group is pulling the strings.
    The USA and NOT a democracy. It has be proven scientifically. Look to the recent paper published by Princeton. []

    Look to history people. It is a very rare thing indeed for an entrenched ruling class to be tossed out without blood in the street. The worst part is, the ones fighting you back are your brothers and neighbors who the ruling class have tricked into dieing to keep them in power, even though it is clearly not in their long term interest.

    I have no idea what the real solution is, but I hope someone smarter than me can come up with something.

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer