IRS Looking To Purchase Another Stingray; Promises To Start Obtaining Warrants

from the will-continue-to-investigate-murders-in-its-spare-time dept

Now that it's been a few weeks and we're used to the idea that the IRS has a Stingray device, more information has arrived to put us slightly more ill at ease. Sen. Ron Wyden asked IRS head John Koskinen some pointed questions about the IRS's cell tower spoofer ("WTF?" wasn't one of them) and has received some answers.

The IRS assures Wyden -- and by extension, the American public -- that it only uses them correctly and in a limited fashion through its criminal investigation division.

IRS use of cell-site simulation technology is limited to the federal law enforcement arm of the IRS, our Criminal Investigation division. Only trained law enforcement agents have used cell-site simulation technology, carrying out criminal investigations in accordance with all appropriate federal and state judicial procedures.
The IRS has only one* Stingray at this point, but is acquiring another, because you just can't have enough cell site simulators these days. It will also start obtaining warrants, in accordance with the DOJ's non-legally-binding suggestion that its agencies do so going forward.

*Possibly two -- see Marcy Wheeler's comments towards the end of this post.

But everything it said above about its Stingray use being limited to the IRS's Criminal Investigation division isn't exactly true. It may have sent its agents out to assist other law enforcement agencies with their work, but it did not limit its Stingray usage to its own investigations.
In addition, IRS-CI has used the cell-site simulator to assist in four non-lRS-CI investigations, one other federal and three state investigations. The federal case was a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) federal grand jury narcotics investigation, and tracked one cellular device. In this instance, IRS-CI operated the cell-site simulator, based upon the appropriate federal court order obtained by DEA, and followed all applicable laws under the guidance of an Assistant United States Attorney. The three state cases were non-grand jury investigations involving attempted murder, murder, and gun trafficking, and tracked six cellular devices.
So, the IRS sent its Stingray out to assist other agencies with their investigations. It's understandable that the DEA would be aware the IRS had a Stingray in its possession, but the three state investigations were performed by local agencies that somehow knew to ask the IRS if it had a cell site simulator they could borrow.

Even more absurd is the fact that the IRS is in the process of acquiring another cell site simulator. It's not as though it's worn the other one out, as Marcy Wheeler notes.
In other words, over the course of its almost 4 year life, the Stingray has tracked just 44 devices.

That seems to suggest this tracking isn’t just a quick one-off, otherwise they wouldn’t need another device, as they’re currently in the process of getting.

Perhaps however, this is a testament to the obsolescence of these devices. In his response to Wyden, Koskinen doesn’t mention the Stingray IRS bought in 2009, suggesting it may not be in use anymore.

The government is sure blowing through these expensive surveillance toys in quick succession.
If everything adds up (including Daniel Rigmaiden's exposure of the IRS's cell phone tracking efforts in his case), this would be the third device the IRS has purchased -- or at least the third it will have access to. Stingrays aren't cheap and at ~4 deployments a year, it would seemingly make more sense for the IRS to borrow one from another federal agency when it needs one, rather than acting as a small-time Stingray lending library for state agencies.

If Wheeler's other conjecture is accurate -- that these devices need periodic replacement -- then Harris is no different than a host of other tech manufacturers who make planned obsolescence an integral part of the business model.

Filed Under: 4th amendment, imsi catcher, irs, privacy, stingray, warrants


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    ibrahim uçak, 3 Dec 2015 @ 2:07pm

    uçak bileti hakkında

    YEs documan flower. ama en iyi uçak biletini almak için http://www.ucakucak.com/ adresini kontrol etmeniz gerekli

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2015 @ 2:39pm

    pssst ..

    small time police: yo IRS. Can we borrow your stingray?
    IRS: why for?

    small time police: For our investigation and for "testing".
    IRS: For "testing"? meh. okay. DONT BREAK IT.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2015 @ 2:42pm

    How about going after the company?

    There is a point where it doesn't serve any purpose to go after the users of a product anymore. Maybe it is time to start going after the manufacture in whatever way is the most safe/legal/effective/etc...

    Other companies get taken down by bad press and or lawsuits aimed directly at them, why couldn't Harris and the rest?

    Harris is the company that is dictating the rules that citizens now have to live by supposedly.

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

  • identicon
    pegr, 3 Dec 2015 @ 3:10pm

    If you can't beat them...

    If they have Stingrays, we get Stingrays! Anyone check Alibaba?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2015 @ 6:11pm

    If you want information you will need to try harder than this. This is how you shit on attorney client privilege, among other things. Bad cop, no doughnut.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 3 Dec 2015 @ 6:42pm

    IRS Promises To Start Obtaining Warrants

    "It's definitely in our next millennium plan. Unless there's a delay."

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

  • identicon
    David, 4 Dec 2015 @ 1:10am

    I wish

    i wish I could just walk up to the bank and say to the teller "hand me over a million dollar. I promise I intend to balance my account some day."

    Surprise, surprise: the way to get more credit without oversight is not to blow it again and again.

    They are playing "Biedermann und die Brandstifter" here.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2015 @ 2:57am

    yes give the taxman a stingray...
    WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2015 @ 3:00am

    a Stingray is a cell site simulator (by their own brochure)
    that means it is a MAN IN THE MIDDLE ATTACK
    that means they can PLANT FAKE EVIDENCE

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


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