Failures

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
fbi, foia, imsi catcher, redactions, stingray



FBI Hands Over 5000 Pages Of Stingray Info To MuckRock, Redacts Nearly All Of It

from the [NOTHING-TO-SEE-HERE] dept

MuckRock has obtained a whole stack of Stingray-related documents from the FBI. As is to be expected, there's not much left unsaid by the agency, which is at least as protective of its own Stingray secrecy as it is with that of law enforcement agencies all over the US.

There's nearly 5,000 pages of "material" here, most of which contains only some intriguing words and phrases surrounded by page after page of redactions.

Want to know [REDACTED]'s thoughts on the possible legal implications of Triggerfish? Just close your eyes and allow your imagination to run free.


Here's a quick reference guide that allows FBI agents to quickly match up their chosen "technique" with the appropriate legal standard and process.


That's not to say there's nothing of interest left intact. A few pages explain the FBI's legal rationale for IMSI catcher deployment -- including the fact that the Patriot Act expanded the reach of pen register orders to include not just numbers dialed, but also the location of the phone itself. This allows the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to route around one of CALEA's (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) few limitations related to pen register orders: that service providers not be required to hand over subscriber location info.
In passing CALEA in 1994, Congress required providers to isolate and provide to the government certain information relating to telephone communications. At the same time that it created these obligations, it created an exception: carriers shall not provide law enforcement with "any information that may disclose the physical location of the subscriber" in response to a pen/trap order… By its very terms, this prohibition applies only to information collected by a provider and not to information collected directly by law enforcement authorities. Thus, CALEA does not bar the use of pen/trap orders to authorize the use of cell phone tracking devices used to locate targeted cell phones.
But, for the most part, it's 5000 pages of this:


And this (from a document titled "Stingray for Dummies"):


It's not a complete loss, although it's clear the documents suffer from over-redaction. The FBI clearly doesn't want to discuss methods or technical details, but nothing in the multiple FOIA exemptions deployed justifies covering up its minimization procedures or where the device sits in terms of the Fourth Amendment.
"It does not seem credible to me that they can't release more of those kinds of records," [ACLU attorney Nate] Wessler told me. "Information about ongoing investigations, highly technical details of the devices, how they're put together, those kinds of things, redact them, fair enough. Information about whether they have to get a warrant or not, how they purge or do not purge bystanders data. They're clearly talking about those things."

"There's no conceivable reason why they shouldn't tell the public what their Fourth Amendment rights are protecting when they use these," he added. "The documents are not without value, but what the FBI has released is not adequate."
If nothing else, the documents have given a small, narrow glimpse behind the FBI's veil of secrecy -- as well as some more insight into its Stingray-related legal maneuvering. The FBI has managed to turn a pen register order -- something previously used to collect dialed numbers -- into something that can be deployed to locate an individual, or at least their cellphone. Unsurprisingly, this legal theory traces back to the Patriot Act, one of the largest expansions of intelligence and law enforcement powers ever produced by the US government.


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  • icon
    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), 1 May 2015 @ 6:37pm

    STEP 2
    Turn StingRay system on.
    What is step 1, "Take it to the site"? "Plug it in"? And that's too sensitive to tell us?!?

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

  • identicon
    Hans, 1 May 2015 @ 7:41pm

    Privileged

    I see they used the "Attorney/Client privileged" dodge to exclude the Cell Phone Location Quick Reference Guide on pages 10-11, so we can't see what the criteria are for using this thing.

    Isn't great that a government employee, paid by us, can ask a government lawyer, also paid by us, under what conditions our Constitutional Rights can be violated, and we can't know what those rules are? Kafka would have been proud.

    It seems to me that if the government can claim to be a "client" for this purpose, and the government is also "the people", then we the people are also the client and we have every right to see it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2015 @ 8:08pm

    Repeal the PAT RIOT Act.

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 1 May 2015 @ 8:23pm

    well of course its mostly blanked out. Otherwise they would incriminate themselves and the police groups that have knowingly and willfully broken the laws they know will get them arrested and most likely sent to jail for breaking

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

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 1 May 2015 @ 8:32pm

    And so it goes on, and on, and on...

    The FBI could just have easily given them 10 reams of blank paper. It would have said just as much as this!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2015 @ 8:44pm

    National security.

    It's a good thing the electorate is exactly as stupid as the government needs it to be.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2015 @ 8:59pm

    It's going to be interesting if the Patriot Act is allowed to sunset. What justification would the FBI then use for it's continued use?

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

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 1 May 2015 @ 10:51pm

      Re:

      they just won't tell anyone they are doing illegal things.

      You might notice a theme with the government in that they do illegal actions all the time and only after they get caught do they try and make excuses or just say national security and cover it up

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

  • icon
    Mega1987 (profile), 2 May 2015 @ 1:41am

    can i even say it's a perfect waste of resources...
    to redacts most of that near 5k pages of info?

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

  • identicon
    avideogameplayer, 2 May 2015 @ 4:51am

    Maybe the FBI should just start handling out gift cards for Staples...

    At least that'll be useful for something...

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

  • icon
    cypherspace (profile), 2 May 2015 @ 6:21am

    Mike, I think you need to have some sensitivity towards readers with psychological trauma over cell tower spoofers. You should put a "TRIGGERFISH WARNING" in your title!

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

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 2 May 2015 @ 7:52am

    FBI = Rogue agency run by traitors

    The entire agency should be shut down and its employee's put in jail awaiting trial and execution. Not one of them worth saving. It was rogue right from the start and hasn't deviated from its planned course even once.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2015 @ 8:01am

    not that hard to figure out what stingrays are capable of.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HD1ngJ85vWM&index=38&list=PLwibn_3po6c8nIzgDyWdLpohPWeZ7dIz5

    I wish Tim and the other TD authors would spend a few hours with this playlist and take some serious notes- It would improve their reporting on these subjects by orders of magnitude. The info is out there, right in plain sight.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 May 2015 @ 10:30am

    Dear Muckrock: GFY. Thanks, FBI.

    That seems to be the whole point of this exercise.

    I'd love it to be used as a case example to argue against FOIA redactions, not that our DoJ GaFF.

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

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 2 May 2015 @ 11:11am

    I wonder...

    How would the FBI react to being treated the same way when they issue a subpoena?

    "We're sorry, but we don't have any documents responsive to the parameters of your subpoena, have a nice day."

    Somehow I suspect it would result in SWAT team deployments.

    The FBI typically insists on whole documents, unredacted even when parts of it are not part of the subpoena. I wonder how they'd react to getting a partially redacted document?

    Right. SWAT teams.

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

  • identicon
    Despiser, 3 May 2015 @ 11:16am

    Transparency in the age of 0bama:

    Documents created by public employees with public funds on public time are "secret." Documents created by private individuals and businesses using private funds are required to be publicly disclosed.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 May 2015 @ 12:28pm

    The age of Obama

    ...is very much a natural progression from the age of Bush + the Post 9/11 era.

    I'm pretty sure transparency in the age of Obama looks very much like transparency would in the age of Romney.

    Though Obama can be blamed for acknowledging that opacity and overclassificaiton are problems, and promising to do something about it and then not.

    I expect the next guy won't even acknowledge it, no matter whether it's Kang or Kodos.

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

  • icon
    TMLutas (profile), 3 May 2015 @ 1:08pm

    FOIA is the wrong tool

    The right tool is to catch them spoofing a cell phone tower, documenting it, and only then asking if law enforcement has done it. When they deny, file a criminal complaint and a national security complaint because if law enforcement didn't do it, it was either criminals or spies.

    Then when these complaints pile up without action, use them to defeat the DA that is ignoring them. It's only when people start losing their job that this sort of thing will be handled properly and the weakest point is in the parts of the criminal justice system directly subject to the voter.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2015 @ 3:04pm

    haha

    The USA is a fucking joke.

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

  • identicon
    Dayne, 3 May 2015 @ 3:19pm

    I was just thinking I would like to get a hold of a few of these, originals of course, and frame them. I have a feeling they would be great to have around when the great grandchildren start asking questions.

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

  • icon
    soillodge (profile), 4 May 2015 @ 2:39pm

    Worst Mad Lib.
    Ever.

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


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