A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on the federal government to release details related to covert cell phone surveillance taking place in the Washington D.C. area.
In early April the U.S. government acknowledged the existence of “rogue” cell phone surveillance devices in the Washington D.C. area which are potentially being operated by foreign spies or common criminals. A group of lawmakers is now demanding the federal government release more details on the devices and whoever may be using them. The Associated Press first reported on the discovery of the devices in D.C. after obtaining a copy of a letter sent by the Department of Homeland Security to Senator Ron Wyden. The AP reported:
"In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation’s capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where."
AP goes on to note that the Federal Communications Commission initially formed a task force on the topic, but failed to produce a report and no longer meets.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes these cell site simulators, sometimes known as stingrays, as “a brand name of an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) Catcher targeted and sold to law enforcement. A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone 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.” This allows the officer who is in possession of the Stingray to know when, and to whom you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with the latest models, capture the content of your conversations. Despite the growing use of Stingrays over the last decade, the public has largely remained in the dark as investigative journalists work to expose the technology.
In response to the lack of investigation and lack of publicly available information, the bipartisan group of lawmakers are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to release unclassified records which provide further detail on who may be using the cell site simulators. The group includes Senators Wyden, Cory Gardner, Edward Markey, and Rand Paul. The Senators are asking the DHS to release a PowerPoint presentation which was shown to lawmakers and is marked “For Official Use Only (FOUO),” a classification lower than classified, but generally not meant for public release. In a letter to the DHS, the four senators wrote, “The American people have a legitimate interest in understanding the extent to which U.S. telephone networks are vulnerable to surveillance and are being actively exploited by hostile actors.”
The use of Stingrays has become extremely commonplace among local and state law enforcement agencies, as well as a number of federal government agencies. These agencies include the U.S. Marshals, the DHS, Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the IRS, Drug Enforcement Administration, and on and on.
Would it be any surprise to find out that the people responsible for the spying devices in the D.C. area are not foreign agents or common criminals, but rather one of the dozens of agencies of the federal government? These agencies are known for being competitive and failing to share information among agencies. Hopefully the DHS will release the PowerPoint to the public and we will learn who is behind the spying.
This article originally appeared on Activist Post
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