Chicago Lawyer Sues City, Police Department Over Stingray Cellphone Surviellance

from the messed-with-the-wrong-guy's-phone dept

Chicago attorney Jerry Boyle -- notably not representing himself -- is suing the city of Chicago and a number of police officials for constitutional violations stemming from the PD's Stingray use. It's a potential class action suit, but Boyle -- at least in his own case -- claims to have pinpointed exactly when his phone signal was intercepted by the police. Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica points out this detail in the lawsuit's claims:

The 32-page lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago on Thursday, specifically notes where and when the stingray was used, on January 15, 2015, “at approximately 8:00pm at the protest, near the 2200 block of West Ogden Avenue.”

However, the civil complaint does not explain exactly how the plaintiff knows this information.

“The evidence regarding CPD's use at that event is something that will be disclosed during the litigation,” Matt Topic, one of Boyle’s lawyers, e-mailed Ars.

The allegations [PDF] don't contain any clue as to what exactly Boyle used to determine his phone signal was being intercepted, but there are more than few choices available to the privacy-conscious who may want to know if and when their signal is being rerouted. Hackers have put together their own tools to detect fake cell towers and SRLabs has produced an app called SnoopSnitch that puts that power right in your cellphone.

What's undisputed is that the Chicago PD is in possession of regular IMSI catchers, as well as souped-up versions known as DRTboxes. Thanks to crowd-sourced FOIA activity, it's also known this equipment has been purchased with asset forfeiture funds in an effort to keep the PD's surveillance purchases from leaving as wide of a paper trail.

What can also be inferred from the allegations is that the Chicago PD deployed its surveillance equipment on participants in First Amendment-protected activity, which may only add to the Constitutional fallout of this lawsuit. This surveillance also occurred more than a year before state legislation was passed requiring court orders for Stingray deployments.

It will also be interesting to see what Boyle delivers as evidence his phone signal was grabbed by a Chicago PD Stingray. This will be essential to prove standing. Unfortunately, it will also have to be matched up with Stingray records held by the PD, which won't have much interest in turning those over to the court and possibly having them be made public.

There's also a chance the PD won't have any records of this deployment. If the Stingray was searching for a specific number or numbers, it could have been in "catch and release" mode where every nearby number was grabbed by the cell tower spoofer, but only data related to the targeted numbers retained.

Considering the years of opacity surrounding its Stingray use, this isn't going to be a fun legal battle for the Chicago PD. You can pretty much assume the FBI will take the lead in deciding what can or can't be presented in open court, as it has been granted this control with the non-disclosure agreement it makes every Stingray-purchasing law enforcement agency sign before it will allow them to deploy these devices.

Filed Under: chicago, imsi catcher, jerry boyle, stingray, surveillance


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 18 Jan 2017 @ 3:53pm

    interesting

    THe thing is the FBI and police can't simply dismiss charges. They won't have any recourse to not answering questions.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 5:07pm

      Re: interesting

      They can't drop the suit, and if "you have no evidence" is successfully refuted, then things may finally begin to fall apart.

      If he ahs evidence that he was tagged by a catcher, the police have records that one was deployed, and they have no other information to provide... what then? The FBI can't just redact everything and say that it's classified and inadmissible to court.

      If the FBI obstructs this investigation, does that make them culpable too? The equipment was used under their guidance, after all.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 8:31pm

        Re: Re: interesting

        > The FBI can't just redact everything and say that it's classified and inadmissible to court.

        Yes, they can.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:29pm

        Re: Re: interesting

        They can't drop the suit, and if "you have no evidence" is successfully refuted, then things may finally begin to fall apart.

        What about "you have no standing, because you saw the tower was fake and refused to connect, so nothing was captured"? Or "you knew and connected anyway, so it was voluntary"?

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

        • identicon
          Celeste Guanini, 20 Jan 2017 @ 4:28am

          Re: Re: Re: interesting How to trap a StingRay tower signal

          You do not have an option to connect or disconnect, as the stingray literally pulls your signal into it's web of signals. You have no choice but to be located and redirected to their tower.

          Standing is made easier by: 1) using the IMSI catcher detector app and taking screenshots of the interception 2) using a wifi hotspot mapping app, and screencaps 3) using a network sniffing tool like Wireshark app, and collecting I/O data of all connections, and using it with a screen capture app 4)using an app that documents the activity of the rogue AP's with signal strength as they connect (these and all of the above have bar graph and other types of signal strength graphs) 5) do all o the above at the same time an photograph the actual tower (which is difficult to pull off without help)

          Then, there are other ways, but these above are th most hand on a cell phone. Sometimes, you can actually watch your signal 'drive around' as they have it registered in their tower, and using multiple screencaps and the above techniques can trace your signal to 'known towers' versus 'unknown towers,'and the internet i ful of sites that have tower locators with 'historical data' and known coordinates.

          Also, many/all of these type devices use unregistered or unknown MAC addresses, which sets them apart in a graph. And too, they can be demonstrated to pull in ALL wireless signals(not just phones)so if you have a computer, and others do to, you can document the signals being pulled all at once into the same 'tower'

          There are other ways to document it, use your imagination.

          The hardest part of gaining standing though, is proving it was that particular PD that did it,or that there actually 'was' a StingRay deployed 'by' cops- most of these departments have no protocol for GPS tracking their own device, much less the guys who use them against our citizens.

          So, suuuure, prolly some "bad guys" or the 'Russian spies,' the 'godless Chinese,' or the mafia did it....or maybe you're just a crazy person, making it all up.

          Whaddayamean someone is tapping your phone/internet/etc and following you around?? That's classic paranoid schizophrenia!( and all of this as the psychologists use a definition of schizophrenia from 1952 in the Heyday of CIA mind control, and Wild Bill. Kafka is rolling in his cocoon. Or-maybe John Nash's Beautiful Mind...? Or Ilse Aichinger's circus, bu with a imaginary rope-or maybe, D.E. Cameron is rolling a dead Kafka around in Nash's mind, which is LIKE Aichinger's bound man at a Circus, but louder; and just 'sometimes,' when Nash 'imagines' he is hearing clicking noises on his phone, or out in the garage.)

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:47am

      Re: interesting

      Oh but there are plenty of venues to try for both the PD and the FBI if they get involved. They can try to settle the case (though the plaintiff can refuse), they can try to keep any info from reaching the court by declaring the info confidential or something (which may or may not result in a loss but the info on stingrays will be protected and the money of a possible fine will come from your pockets anyway), they can try to harass the guy but ultimately they can simply ignore the court. They've done it before and there was no real consequence so why not do it again? Unless there's a very ballsy judge that actually make key law enforcement people related to the incident go to jail nothing will happen. And even then, who arrests the FBI if the court orders so? Who judges the judge? Who legislate the legislators?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 4:40pm

    I thought man in the middle attacks were considered illegal, but I suppose certain individuals have qualified immunity because they are special.

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

  • identicon
    stine, 18 Jan 2017 @ 9:28pm

    FBI?

    Unless he's sued the FBI, how will they be able to insert themselves into this case? Surely they (via the DoJ) could file a brief. Unless they were onsite along side CPD during the operation.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 1:50am

      Re: FBI?

      Unless he's sued the FBI, how will they be able to insert themselves into this case?

      Same way the do all the time, from the shadows, in a smoke filled back room were they keep the rubber hoses and weighted body bags.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:43am

    From the "Tim-Cushing-Needs-To-Get-A-Real-Fucking-Job-Dept.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:01am

    Why stingray manufacturer is not a co defendant?
    Stingray violates fcc rules by default, so both manufacturer and offended cell operator are in collusion with cpd.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:22pm

      Re:

      > Stingray violates fcc rules

      The FCC granted them a special exemption from the rules. Because they're so special.

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

  • identicon
    Celeste Guanini, 20 Jan 2017 @ 4:53am

    And he's suing the parties in their 'individual capacity'

    It's really a well-written brief- a template that others can follow in seeking standing in these cases.

    Class action-oh my! Color of law-yesss!This case could be the icebreaker. Or, in Chicago terms "an Italian toothpick."

    The lawyer, who works for the National Lawyers Guild, might be on the right track-sue these individual cops who look the other way as our nation is overtaken by their colleagues who are on the take, under blackmail or otherwise corrupted as our people are exploited wholesale by the security industry and it's associated domestic terrorists:

    "(Police Chief)McCarthy is sued in his individual capacity for his direct participation in, supervisory liability for, and failure to intervene to prevent the unlawful use of cell site simulators on Mr. Boyle and all others similarly situated."

    Fair Disclosure: they have been using these since at least 2010,when the city was virtually federalized with DHS everywhere (well, not EVERYWHERE-mostly in black and Hispanic neighborhoods) often right AT the actual tower (don't ask me why I know that)-yet I have no idea why they would sit literally at the tower. Tower dumps?

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

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