Florida PD's Stingray Documents Oddly Don't Mention Stingrays Once

from the pen-registers-all-the-way-down dept

Curtis Waltman, filing his public records request through MuckRock, has obtained several hundred pages of documents related to IMSI catchers/Stingray devices from the Sarasota (FL) Police Department. There are a handful of interesting aspects about this haul, not the least of which is the fact that US Marshals basically raided the Sarasota PD's office in 2014 to remove Stingray-related documents ahead of the ACLU's scheduled examination of the files.

What's been obtained by Waltman is presumably part of the stash the Marshals didn't take. The other interesting fact is that there is no reference whatsoever to Stingray devices or IMSI catchers in the documents, despite that being specifically what was requested.

Here's Waltman's request:

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to Florida's Sunshine Law (Fla. Stat. secs. 119.01 to 119.15 (1995)), I hereby request the following records:

Documents concerning IMSI catchers or any of the following words: "Stingray", "cell site simulator", or "dirtbox". including:

-Contracts with the Harris Corporation regarding the acquisition of their Stingray or KingFish IMSI catchers

-Department policies and procedure regarding the use of IMSI catcher technology

-policies and procedures on the keeping of statistics about the Department's use and acquisition of IMSI catchers

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

Whatever search the Sarasota PD performed was in response to these search terms. But as Waltman points out in his post about the document haul, none of those terms are found in the hundreds of pages returned.

These documents are the result of Joint Law Enforcement Operations Task Forces (JLEOs) that the SPD participated in from the years 2008 to 2014 with various local departments in their area, and also the DEA and the Marshals. Considering that South Florida has been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA, it’s not surprising that they are engaged in high level operations with federal law enforcement agencies.

What is surprising is how often they resorted to pen register and trap and trace court orders to be officially permitted to use their Stingray. Referring to cell site simulators as “trap and trace devices” is common, even by the DOJ.

Obviously, the Sarasota PD engaged in the same obfuscatory tactics other law enforcement agencies have, urged on by the FBI's omnipresent demands for secrecy. The PD was either using its own devices or those belonging to the US Marshals service, but the outcome was the same: court orders and subpoenas for dialing data covering up the use of cell tower spoofers to obtain this information in real time.

What is left in documents left behind by the Marshals seems to indicate the Sarasota PD has at least one device of its own. A DEA communication with the agency says a task force would be using "SPD's equipment" and a "Pen Order" to cover up this deployment.

Also of note is the fact that the US Marshals service seems to enjoy using the Sarasota PD's personnel and equipment, but is a bit more reluctant to pay its tab.

This is part of an ongoing response to Waltman, so there will be more documents on the way. What's arrived so far shows the PD is actively engaged in hiding its Stingray usage from courts by generating a misleading paper trail filled with redundant pen register orders. What may never arrive, however, is the documents the Marshals removed from the PD's office shortly before ACLU reps were supposed to meet with the PD to discuss the release of this information.

In any event, there's still plenty of secrecy enshrouding law enforcement's use of "secret" technology that honestly isn't that much of a secret anymore.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2017 @ 3:37am


    A Raspberry Pi and an SDR can do quite a lot to monitor RF usage. What say we do a turnabout on LEO and start invading their privacy where legal? We get to use the same definition of "legal" they do.

    Oh, wait, we don't know what the definition of "legal" is in this context, do we? I guess that means we just do what ever?

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

  • icon
    TRX (profile), 12 Jan 2017 @ 6:00am

    LAPD did a complete freak-out when they found a bunch of bugs in some of their conference rooms a few decades ago. The interesting things were that some of the bugs had evidently been there a very long time, and that they figured they had been installed by more than one group. (none of the articles said how they had determined this, which would have been interesting...)

    At the time LAPD was blaming "organized crime", but I always figured the perps were factions of LAPD itself, the police union, and perhaps the mayor's and prosecutors' offices.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2017 @ 8:20am

    Well if they can't even spell...


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

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