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FBI's Warrantless Searches Now Include Fake Cell Towers

By - Source: Wired | B 20 comments

Naturally, the FBI insists this is completely legal.

The FBI has made use of a novel technique to locate an criminal suspect that may constitute a violation of the American Constitution. At least, that's the charge made by Daniel David Rigmaiden, alleged leader of an identity theft ring who was located by using a fake cell phone tower to track down an aircard he was using. The fake tower - a device called Stingray - tricks wireless devices to connect to it by spoofing legitimate cell phone towers, attracting phone signals before passing them back to legitimate towers to evade detection. Stingray is then able to collect information like unique ID numbers and location data. This allows for a much more precise location fix than is obtainable using legitimate cellphone towers.

The FBI has previously insisted that they don't need a warrant to conduct utilize the technology. There may be some merit to that claim, considering the brazenly irresponsible granting of retroactive immunity to previous warrantless wiretapping campaigns. But they are now changing their argument somewhat, surprisingly claiming in Rigmaiden's case that Stingray's use did indeed constitute a lawful search. The use of Stingray, so they claim, was actually covered under a warrant they already obtained to get location, ID information and traffic data from existing Verizon towers. This may be, as Wired notes, an end run to avoid a deeper look into Stingray technology that may cause it to come under serious legal scrutiny.

The FBI claims the device is designed only to grab information like "dialing, routing and address" data as part of a suspect's routine communication. However, they can't use it to precision-target, which means Stingray is also collecting data on innocent people. Though the FBI is required by Internal Policy to discard such irrelevant data, the American government's official position is that, similar to someone's trash, the 4th Amendment's expectation of privacy doesn't apply to data gathered from stray wireless device signals. Though the argument is, to put it mildly, logically suspect, it has some basis in unfortunate legal precedent. In January, 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled, shockingly, that police may search the contents of an arrested person's cell phone. In September, the California legislature passed a law overturning that ruling, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed that law.

Wired has posted the full affidavit in PDF form, and it's worth a read to anyone interested in the latest attempts to finesse certain constitutional principles.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    syrious1 , November 9, 2011 9:21 PM
    total BS, the government needs to learn that people have rights and they should not be broken just because you have the technology and the legal preceidence to do so.
  • 21 Hide
    drwho1 , November 9, 2011 9:14 PM
    Going after known criminals is OK by me.
    But randomly collect data from everyone is NOT OK.

  • 18 Hide
    ickarumba1 , November 9, 2011 9:08 PM
    And the surveillance of our daily lives continues.
    Is there no more privacy?
Other Comments
  • 18 Hide
    ickarumba1 , November 9, 2011 9:08 PM
    And the surveillance of our daily lives continues.
    Is there no more privacy?
  • 21 Hide
    drwho1 , November 9, 2011 9:14 PM
    Going after known criminals is OK by me.
    But randomly collect data from everyone is NOT OK.

  • -2 Hide
    nukem950 , November 9, 2011 9:16 PM
    So after working for a cell phone company and dealing with law enforcement, I really do not see why they cannot just use the records they get from Verizon.

    If it is anything like the company I worked for (way cheap on the tech they used), then they should have the tower the cell phone uses, if not more information.
  • 21 Hide
    syrious1 , November 9, 2011 9:21 PM
    total BS, the government needs to learn that people have rights and they should not be broken just because you have the technology and the legal preceidence to do so.
  • 12 Hide
    Rob423 , November 9, 2011 9:21 PM
    they get the information they want one way or another
  • 8 Hide
    ewood , November 9, 2011 9:56 PM
    while im for them going after criminals they should do it 120% by the book. its a slippery slope if we bend the rules to catch people who break the rules.
  • 7 Hide
    alidan , November 9, 2011 10:30 PM
    syrious1total BS, the government needs to learn that people have rights and they should not be broken just because you have the technology and the legal preceidence to do so.


    im going to ask a few simple questions.

    do you pay taxes?
    do you own a car and drive it?
    do you own land?
    do you own a home?

    with taxes, even if you are off by 1 cent you can go to jail, and taxes are so needlessly complex than no one can be sure they payed everything.

    with a car, i have talked to cops, every car on the road is violating at lest 1 thing that they can pull you over for, its just knowing what it is to look for.

    with land and a home, the government can fairly easily find at least one thing on either the land or in the home that would effectively make it uninhabitable unless you pay through the nose, or possibly cant even build on the land.

    now, are you going to seriously go after the government and risk federal prison, or even just having your life turned upside down by them?

    for a long time the govenment doesnt give a damn about the person
    cops stopped working for the people around the same time we stopped being citizens and became civilians.

    do you really think they wouldn't? only reason they don't go after you en mass right now for the above is because it keeps you in line. if you started any kind of anti government movement that gained traction, i guarantee you would wouldn't come out unscathed. as no mater who you are, or what you fight for, tax evasion isn't something that really calls followers, and even if you are off by 1 penny, you know its the label you would get.
  • -6 Hide
    beenthere , November 9, 2011 10:56 PM
    If people really believe they are losing some God given right, I suggest you not use your cellphone or move to China and see what it's like to actually lose your civil rights.
  • 2 Hide
    ewood , November 9, 2011 11:26 PM
    alidanim going to ask a few simple questions. do you pay taxes?do you own a car and drive it?do you own land? do you own a home?with taxes, even if you are off by 1 cent you can go to jail, and taxes are so needlessly complex than no one can be sure they payed everything. with a car, i have talked to cops, every car on the road is violating at lest 1 thing that they can pull you over for, its just knowing what it is to look for. with land and a home, the government can fairly easily find at least one thing on either the land or in the home that would effectively make it uninhabitable unless you pay through the nose, or possibly cant even build on the land. now, are you going to seriously go after the government and risk federal prison, or even just having your life turned upside down by them?for a long time the govenment doesnt give a damn about the personcops stopped working for the people around the same time we stopped being citizens and became civilians. do you really think they wouldn't? only reason they don't go after you en mass right now for the above is because it keeps you in line. if you started any kind of anti government movement that gained traction, i guarantee you would wouldn't come out unscathed. as no mater who you are, or what you fight for, tax evasion isn't something that really calls followers, and even if you are off by 1 penny, you know its the label you would get.


    my anti government movement/statement is living in VT and looking out for myself. I dont rely on the government for much besides passable roads and surplus ammo
  • 4 Hide
    bobusboy , November 10, 2011 1:25 AM
    I think it was george carlin who pointed this out but:

    You have no rights.

    If you don't believe me then go to wikipedia; and in the search box type in Japanese Americans 1942 and see what comes up.

    Rights, aren't rights if some one can take them away.


    As for an expectation of privacy or a right to privacy you're in public, IMO if they'd have to subpoena the information from the services provider then they should need a warrant to collect singal data before it reaches the provider.
  • -1 Hide
    eddieroolz , November 10, 2011 3:30 AM
    Wow...that's a novel trick.
  • 5 Hide
    BulkZerker , November 10, 2011 4:53 AM
    beenthereIf people really believe they are losing some God given right, I suggest you not use your cellphone or move to China and see what it's like to actually lose your civil rights.


    However in China, there never was any inkling for ideals such as civil rights. Here in America, our country was founded so people could practice their own sub sects of Christianity without being pariahs. Now look at us, (Hate groups posing as churches notwithstanding) we're so eager in general to cast down the beliefs of others to worship a golden calf (money, cas,h dolla dollah, Cadillac, diamond encrusted teeth guards) that's honestly ripping the core of humanity apart. Our willingness to let a little slide, help each other out. Now it's all money, and getting as much as you can by any means necessary, without working hard for it. Or payong the government for it.

    And that's where a BIG bit of this problem stems from. The gub'ment, wants their share too. And unlike the rest of us they write the rules.
  • 4 Hide
    leper84 , November 10, 2011 10:23 AM
    beenthereIf people really believe they are losing some God given right, I suggest you not use your cellphone or move to China and see what it's like to actually lose your civil rights.


    Mmmmmkay... this-

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"

    Plus this-

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    Means I don't care what the Chinese government thinks. We the people voluntarily entered into a social contract based upon the exact words you just read. There is no excuse no matter how good, not for the children, not for safety, that gives our federal government the power to operate outside of our initial contract.
  • -4 Hide
    askers , November 10, 2011 11:02 AM
    Looks like a Mac but it's a cool case.
    thanks.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 10, 2011 12:46 PM
    One agency of government above all others must be destroyed: the federal burro of investigation (fbi):
    http://sosbeevfbi.ning.com/forum/topics/americans-embrace-their
    QUESTIONS! geral sosbee (956)536-0439
  • 0 Hide
    custodian-1 , November 10, 2011 12:57 PM
    It's always been legal to receive transmitted signals. Nothing new here.
  • 0 Hide
    rodney_ws , November 10, 2011 1:21 PM
    They won. We lost. Let's just plug our heads into the Matrix and quit kidding ourselves that we have any freedom.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 10, 2011 1:47 PM
    This is a wiretap plain and simple. No, they're not actually splicing into an actual WIRE and listening to your phone call out in the FBI van, but this accomplishes the same result (with even LESS discretion - since the cell tower intercepts EVERYONE elses call, too). If a search accomplishes the same result as a lower technology equivalent solution, then the question of its constitutionality does not change. Police still need to provide cause, and still need a warrant to do this.
  • 1 Hide
    f-14 , November 10, 2011 2:20 PM
    just keep on electing social communists, they will pervert everything into some form of dictorial communist fashion.
    not trolling, i don't care what you think, just trying to stir thought, so no need to reply
    i will however leave some words of wisdom from a founding father of america and ask all of you to stay out of my neck of the woods as i do not care what you do in your hole in the ground in your corner of the world, my only concern is my hole in the ground i like to call my yard.
    if it sounds like preaching, then it must be so, but again i am not trying to force my opinion on any of you, merely to make you think more on this, i do not care what you think.

    Quote:
    Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.
    Thomas Jefferson

    For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
    Thomas Jefferson

    Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.
    Thomas Jefferson

    I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.
    Thomas Jefferson
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 10, 2011 5:50 PM
    custodian-1It's always been legal to receive transmitted signals. Nothing new here.


    For all, nobody's forced into buying and using cell phones.

    For criminals, turn your cell phone off and remove the battery before going back to your hideout.

    Think of your your router's wireless signal. If it travels beyond the perimeter of your property, its your responsibility if its intercepted and/or used. Switch to 'wired only' connections, or add a nice layer or two of dense copper mesh to all of the exterior walls and ceilings/roof. :D 
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