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. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 2:21am

    Ultimatum time

    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.

    It would take some pretty hefty guts(so the chance of the FCC doing it is sadly almost zill), but if the deployment/use of the stingray towers requires FCC authorization to be legal, if the FBI refuses to cooperate(assuming Wheeler even bothers to investigate), the FCC should pull out the trump card: Cooperate, give us everything we're asking for, or we'll revoke the authorization, and hence legality, of the devices entirely.

    If the FCC had the guts for something like that, were willing to stand their ground, and were willing to follow through with the threat, I get the feeling those involved might suddenly decide to start talking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:17am

    I wonder which logic is used to twist EVERY SINGLE USE as an emergency...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:22am

    I have a non-disclosure agreement too

    I signed a non-disclosure agreement that says I can't talke about where I dumped the body. Or the fact that there is a body. Sorry courts, you will just have to let me go, my non-disclosure trumps your justice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:26am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 23rd, 2014 @ 4:17am

    Terrorism, For the Children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:30am

    Re: Ultimatum time

    i might feel the same way, if i thought we lived in an Empire which was actually ruled by law, not (secret) men...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:00am

    anything that can be done, will be done if it gives information on the people to law enforcement. obviously, these towers need taking down because there's no way to trust the police and others when they say that 'from now on, we'll only use them as meant'! there isn't a single agency or operative in any of the security/law enforcement services that can be trusted any more. that is so worrying!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:01am

    Harris Corp. is operating in violation of the US Constitution. There's no way intercepting everyone's phone calls and text messages in a 20 mile square radius is in compliance with a limited search and seizure under the 4th Amendment.

    Just another rogue manufacturer selling to rogue agencies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:10am

    Re:

    You stupid man, can't you see that DOLLARS are at stake here?

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    John Cressman, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:22am

    I think...

    I think 300+ years in prison for all executives of Harris seems appropriate for conspiracy to violate citizen rights. They knowingly and willingly sell and then cover up the sale and usage of these devices which only have one REAL purpose - to violate the Constitution and relieve citizens of their rights. Nevermind what they CLAIM the purpose is... it's quite obvious that it's NOT being used to that purpose.

    It's basically like supplying material support to terrorists... but in this case, the people inspiring terror are our own government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:33am

    Re: Ultimatum time

    "Cooperate, give us everything we're asking for, or we'll revoke the authorization, and hence legality, of the devices entirely."

    FBI: Ummm, so? We'll do what we want anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:45am

    do these tower spoofers just grab data, or do they actually provide cell service? Could you theoretically drop a stingray tower in the middle of Montana and suddenly get service? If so, I'm pretty sure there's some shady anti-govn't activity happening about 35 miles SE of Missoula.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    "Stingrays spoof a legitimate cell phone tower in order to trick nearby cellphones and other wireless devices into connecting to the fake tower instead of a nearby real one. When devices connect, stingrays can harvest MAC addresses and other unique identifiers and data, as well as location information. To prevent detection, the stingray relays the call itself to a real tower so the pickup is transparent to the caller."

    http://wemeantwell.com/blog/tag/stingray/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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

    Re:

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Richard (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:39am

    Hmm

    One wonders if any (sorry - how many) of these devices have "leaked" into the underworld...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:57am

    Re: Hmm

    Nah, we all know how careful the police are with their fancy equipment...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:10am

    Lets see what road Wheeler decides to take now. My question is If stingray can intercept , can It also be used (with other tools) to send you to a spoofed bank website ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    ysth (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 9:24am

    Re: Ultimatum time

    I'm confused by this. Isn't the FBI part of the Department of Justice?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Ultimatum time

    "I'm confused by this. Isn't the FBI part of the Department of Justice?"

    Yes. The part that has the guns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    David, 23 Sep 2014 @ 11:49am

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 23rd, 2014 @ 4:17am

    Yeah, the administration just loves to wank off to that childish terror porn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    Probably.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 2:00pm

    So what we need is a super police force to police those charged with upholding the law and then it'll be fine.

    Or we could, I dunno, bring the weight of the law down upon those who violate it from their office and remind them they HAVE to answer for what they do and breaking the law is a crime with punishment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Agreed. Spoofing WiFi lets you do things like that (and worse!), I imagine it's no different with cell phone traffic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 3:31pm

    Lying to a federal government official? Isn't that illegal?

    Tim or Mike, I'm not a 'Mercan so I'm not sure about the law, but couldn't/shouldn't they be charged?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Lying to a federal government official? Isn't that illegal?

    My understanding is that if you aren't under oath or otherwise making a sworn statement then it's not illegal to lie even if you're talking to a government official. However, defrauding people is illegal -- and it seems to me that misrepresenting the legal status of the device in order to sell it would constitute fraud. (This might sound like splitting hairs, and it is to some degree, but it's possible to engage in fraud without speaking a lie.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Lying to a federal government official? Isn't that illegal?

    From all the research I've done (y'know, watching 'Bones' and NCIS), that would include lying to a officer, despite not under oath.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 8:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Lying to a federal government official? Isn't that illegal?

    The question of lying to the police is an interesting one. IANAL, but from what I've read it works something like this: if you aren't under oath, it's not illegal to lie. However, if the police are conducting an investigation and you lie in an attempt to interfere with the investigation, you can be charged with obstruction.

    Of course, it's never a good idea to lie to the cops, even when it's legal. Much better to just shut up and let your lawyer talk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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