Internal Emails Show Harris Corp. Misled The FCC On Stingray Device Usage In Order To Receive Approval

from the support-group-for-Stingray-lies-now-includes-roughly-everybody dept

Harris Corporation's Stingray cell tower spoofers are swiftly becoming synonymous with government lying. The FBI has specifically instructed law enforcement agencies to lie about the use of these products, which basically puts the agencies in the position of lying to courts when producing evidence or securing warrants.

Law enforcement agencies would probably lie anyway, even without the federal government's nudge. Many chose to read the restrictive non-disclosure agreements Harris includes as meaning they should withhold this information from local courts -- rather than simply seal the documents or redact them.

So, it comes as no surprise that the web of lies also includes lying to other federal agencies. The lies originate from Harris itself.

New documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California appear to show the Florida-based Harris Corporation misleading the Federal Communications Commission while seeking authorization to sell its line of Stingray cell phone surveillance gear to state and local police. The documents raise the possibility that federal regulatory approval of the technology was based on bad information.
Harris says its devices are FCC-approved, but what it doesn't specify is the very limited approval it has actually received. An email from a Harris representative to FCC employees [pdf link] contains the following paragraph.
Just want to make you aware of the question below we received regarding the application for the Sting Fish. I know many of these questions are generated automatically but it sounds as if there is some confusion about the purpose of the equipment authorization application. As you may recall, the purpose is only to provide state/local law enforcement officials with authority to utilize this equipment in emergency situations.
As the ACLU points out, Stingray (or "Sting Fish") usage had long since surpassed the "emergency use only" restriction -- if that ever existed at all. Routine investigations utilize these devices all the time. Just one of several examples: when the Tallahassee police department's use of Stingrays came to light, the court noted that it had deployed the technology (without a warrant) more than 200 times, with less than 30% of the deployments being for department-labelled "emergencies."

Law enforcement agencies are secretly acquiring and deploying these devices in violation of the limited FCC approval, and have been doing so for years -- well ahead of this 2010 statement. And Harris is telling them that it's OK. The ACLU has written a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler [pdf link] asking him open an investigation into the use of Stingray devices. If Wheeler obliges, the FCC is going to face a united front of zipped lips. The FBI already locks the Dept. of Justice out of its investigations. There's no chance it's going to be more obliging of a tangentially-related federal agency.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:05am


    So long as a stingray has a a real tower in sight, it offers 2Gg service, which enables text messages and phone conversation to be captured, along with phone IDs.

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