Boston PD Finally Confirms It Has A Stingray Device In Its Possession
from the so-many-months,-so-few-disclosures dept
The Boston Police Department has been fighting two FOIA requests — one from Mike Katz-Lacabe and one from Shawn Musgrave — for months. We covered Katz-Lacabe’s battle back in June. In that one, the BPD denied the release of documents related to Stingray devices on the questionable grounds that they were covered under the “investigative materials” exemption.
The information you have requested is exempt from disclosure by MGL c. 4s. 7(26)(f) and (n). Disclosure of the information contained in these documents would not be in the public interest and would prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement. More specifically, the protection of such investigatory materials and reports is essential to ensure that the Department can continue to effectively monitor and control criminal activity and thus protect the safety of private citizens.
Whatever the BPD might have imagined about the documents’ release “prejudicing the possibility of effective law enforcement,” it certainly had no basis to claim the public had no interest in the contents of the withheld documents.
To date, it is still withholding the fiscal and policy documents Katz-Lacabe requested. It has, however, as Shawn Musgrave reports for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, finally handed over its non-disclosure agreement with the FBI.
Boston police have confirmed that they deploy devices capable of secretly locating cell phones in real time, a controversial practice that critics say impinges on the public’s privacy and constitutional rights.
Former Boston police commissioner Edward Davis signed an agreement with the FBI in 2013 to obtain the cell phone tracking systems, documents released to a privacy activist yesterday in response to a public records request reveal.
This is the first official confirmation that BPD is one of dozens of law enforcement agencies nationwide that deploy the controversial technology.
The agreement is one we’ve seen before in the hands of other law enforcement agencies, containing the FBI’s instructions that all public records requests must be submitted to it first (“to prevent disclosure”) and that cases should be dropped if the exposure of Stingray technology/capabilities seems inevitable. The document is signed by the police commissioner, a handful of detectives and a member of the Massachusetts State Police, who apparently also has access to the device.
That last signature seemingly makes this statement made last year by the state police technically correct.
In June 2014, the Massachusetts State Police told the ACLU of Massachusetts that it does not own any cell site simulators.
“Own?” No. But it still has one it can use.
Katz-Lacabe received the long-disputed document November 6th. Musgrave has yet to receive a response to his similar request, which dates back to April of this year. And neither requester has received the fiscal and policy documents they’ve asked for, so unanswered questions remain about the process used to procure the cell tower spoofer as well as the BPD’s rules governing its use.