by Tim Cushing

Filed Under:
fbi, fcc, nda, stingray

harris corp.

FCC Denies It Requires Law Enforcement To Sign A Non-Disclosure Agreement With The FBI Before Deploying Stingray Devices

from the another-'agency-said/agency-said'-story dept

We know the FBI doesn't want anyone talking about Stingray cellphone snooping systems. Local law enforcement officials aren't exactly forthcoming about this information either, citing either non-disclosure agreements or the US government itself as justifications for extensive cover-ups. Now, the FCC -- which has been sort of on the sideline during these non-discussions -- has waded into it, releasing a statement that directly contradicts a document released by the Tacoma Police regarding its use of Stingray devices.

Last month, Muckrock posted a heavily-redacted (everything but the two opening paragraphs) document it obtained from the Tacoma Police Department. In it, FBI Special Agent Laura Laughlin justified all the black ink that followed by name-dropping the FCC (the same agency Harris misled in order to have its devices approved). [pdf link]
We have been advised by Harris Corporation of the Tacoma Police Department's request for acquisition of certain wireless collection equipment/technology manufactured by Harris Corporation. Consistent with the conditions on the equipment authorization granted to Harris Corporation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state and local law enforcement agencies must coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete this non-disclosure agreement prior to the acquisition and use of the equipment/technology authorized by the FCC authorization.
The FCC is now saying that this is the first it's heard of being part of the Stingray secrecy process.
We do not require that state and local law enforcement agencies have to complete one or more non-disclosure agreements with the Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to acquisition and/or use of the authorized equipment. We have no documents responsive to your request.
But that's not entirely true. There is a requirement that almost exactly matches up with Agent Laughlin's claims -- one that Harris specifically requested and that the FCC granted.
As early as May 2010, Harris Corporation asked that the FCC put restrictions on law enforcement acquisition of its StingRay trackers, documents released to MuckRock by the FCC in response to another FOIA request show. Emails obtained by the ACLU of Northern California indicate that Harris made its request for licensing restrictions based on concerns from the FBI “over the proliferation of surreptitious law enforcement surveillance equipment.”
Here's the request:
To further support its request for confidentiality, Harris underscores the need for confidentiality by requesting that the Commission condition the Harris license applications as outlined below to prevent and address concerns regarding the proliferation of surreptitious law enforcement surveillance equipment:

(1) The marketing and sale of these devices shall be limited to federal/state/local public safety and law enforcement officials only; and,
(2) State and local law enforcement agencies must advance coordinate with the FBI the acquisition and use of the equipment authorized under this authorization.
This request was granted by the FCC in 2012.

There are only slight differences in what's being said by Laughlin and what was actually granted. The FCC requires (at Harris' request) that local law enforcement coordinate with the FBI before purchase and use of Stingray devices. Laughlin's statement appears to indicate that the FCC requires the signing of an NDA, but that appears to be the FBI's own inserted stipulation. Nothing explicitly states that the lack of an NDA means no Stingray purchase, at least not as far as the FCC is concerned. But it may keep law enforcement agencies from getting the FBI's go-ahead.

So, is the FCC the "good guy" in this Stingray mess? Probably not, or at least not as blameless as it would first appear. Chris Soghoian, the ACLU's principal technologist, points out that the FCC has actively pushed surveillance policies. Even if it hasn't in this case, it's quite obviously deferring to the FBI in this matter, basically stating (when you add the denial and subtract the granted stipulation), "Go ask your father the FBI." The FCC can't necessarily demand an NDA be signed before obtaining a cell tower spoofer, but it can make law enforcement route their requests through another government agency.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 2:11pm

    I can't tell you what I told you

    because that would be telling!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 2:57pm

    FCC says police agencies must go through the FBI to purchase Stingrays. FBI requires all police agencies to sign a NDA, or FBI will deny Stingray purchases.

    The question is why does the FBI require a NDA to be signed, forbidding all police agencies from submitting Stingray evidence in court.

    The answer is simple. Bulk collecting everyone's location, call, text, and internet data in a 30 mile radius is unconstitutional under the 4th Amendments warrant requirements.

    Submitting such unconstitutional means of evidence gathering in a court of law, would allow bulk collection of evidence though Stingray devices to be challenged, and open up Harris Corp. to constitutional lawsuits.

    This is why parallel construction exists. Police agencies can gather evidence through unconstitutional means and methods. Then they can falsify whatever parts of their investigation they want to the court. Walk into the court and provide false testimony under oath and never get caught for perjury.

    Basically law enforcement is breaking the law so that they can enforce the law. It's a perversion of justice.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Oct 2014 @ 12:06am

    So anyone got any ideas about a free country to move to?

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

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 13 Oct 2014 @ 8:50am


      So anyone got any ideas about a free country to move to?

      Well, there's supposed to be a ship to Mars in a few years...

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Oct 2014 @ 12:39pm


      None that will take Americans unless you are wealthy or have an essential skill that they lack.

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

      • identicon
        Mark Noo, 14 Oct 2014 @ 3:18am

        Re: Re:

        Not many places want us unless we are self sustaining. I wonder if the emotions we feel about our government now are the same ones the rest of the world has felt about us for years.
        This government does not seem to care what we think about their activities, particularly law enforcement and intelligence agency activities, at all.

        These guys don't even listen to the US Congress. Think what they will do when the veneer of a representative democracy are gone.

        All we can hope for is that the military will protect us from law enforcement. I think the military still takes an oath to defend the constitution. I hope they do or we don't got a chance

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

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.