Law Enforcement Agencies All Over California Secretly Tracking Cell Phone Users

techdirt.com | Mar 14, 2014

by Tim Cushing

stingray-cell-phone-trackingMore documents have been uncovered (via FOI requests) that show local law enforcement agencies in California have been operating cell phone tower spoofers (stingray devices) in complete secrecy and wholly unregulated.

Sacramento News10 has obtained documents from agencies in San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Alameda County — all of which point to stingray deployment. As has been the case in the past, the devices are acquired with DHS grants and put into use without oversight or guidelines to ensure privacy protections. The stingrays in use are mainly limited to collecting data, but as the ACLU points out, many manufacturers offer devices that also capture content.

California police using secret anti-terrorism, phone-tracking tech for ‘routine police work’

Police Use of “Stingray” Cell Phone Surveillance Technology Spark Privacy Concerns

‘StingRay’: Records Show Secret Cellphone Surveillance by Calif. Cops

The Latest Update in Technology: Sting Ray Cell Phone Surveillance Devices

When a Secretive Stingray Cell Phone Tracking “Warrant” Isn’t a Warrant

Some of these agencies have had these devices for several years now. Documents obtained from the Oakland Police Dept. show the agency has had stingrays in use since at least 2007, citing 21 “stingray arrests” during that year. This is hardly a surprising development as the city has been pushing for a total surveillance network for years now, something that (until very recently) seemed to be more slowed by contractor ineptitude than growing public outrage.

The device manufacturer’s (Harris) troubling non-disclosure agreement (which has been used to keep evidence of stingray usage out of court cases as well as has been deployed as an excuse for not securing warrants) rears its misshapen head again, mentioned both in one obtained document as well as by a spokesperson reached for comment. One document states:

“The Harris (REDACTED) equipment is proprietary and used for surveillance missions,” the agreement reads. “Its capabilities can only be discussed with sworn law enforcement officers, the military or federal government. This equipment’s capabilities are not for public knowledge and are protected under non-disclosure agreements as well as Title 18 USC 2512.”

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept. had this to (not) say when asked about its stingray usage:

“While I am not familiar with what San Jose has said, my understanding is that the acquisition or use of this technology comes with a strict non-disclosure requirement,” said Undersheriff James Lewis in an emailed statement. “Therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment about any agency that may be using the technology.”

Law enforcement agencies are conveniently choosing to believe a manufacturer’s non-disclosure agreement trumps public interest or even their own protection of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The devices aren’t cheap, either. Taxpayers are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for these cell tower spoofers, and the agencies acquiring them are doing very little to ensure the money is spent wisely. ACLU’s examination of the documents shows that many of the agencies purchased devices without soliciting bids.

It’s hard to know whether San José or any of the other agencies that have purchased stingray devices are getting good value for their money because the contract was “sole source,” in other words, not put out to competitive bidding. The justification for skirting ordinary bidding processes is that Harris Corporation is the only manufacturer of this kind of device. (We are aware of other surveillance vendors that manufacture these devices, though a separate Freedom of Information Request we submitted to the Federal Communications Commission suggests that, as of June 2013, the only company to have obtained an equipment authorization from the FCC for this kind of device is Harris.)

With Harris effectively locking the market down, buyers are pretty much ensured prices far higher than the market would bear if opened to competition. (Not that I’m advocating for a robust surveillance device marketplace, but if you’re going to spend taxpayers’ money on products to spy on them, the least you can do is try to get the best value for their money…) Using federal grants also allows these departments to further avoid public scrutiny of the purchase and use by circumventing the normal acquisition process.

Beyond the obvious Fourth Amendment concerns looms the very real threat of mission creep. These agencies cite combating terrorism when applying for federal funds, but put the devices to use for ordinary law enforcement purposes. The documents cite stingray-related arrests, but since so little is known about the purchase, much less the deployment, there’s really no way to tell how much data and content totally unrelated to criminal investigations has been collected (and held) by these agencies.
‘StingRay’ facilities blanketing surveillance

Stingray: How Feds Track Your Cell

TSA behavior detection officers’ ability to detect bad actors little better than chance, GAO study says

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A federal study that looked at hundreds of studies on identifying signs of deception concluded that behavior detection officers like those employed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport fare no better or only slightly better than anyone else in accurately picking up cues. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)

Plain Dealer | Nov 23, 2013

By Alison Grant

CLEVELAND, Ohio — On the eve of the busiest travel days of the year, a new report says the ability of behavior detection officers at airports to accurately identify a passenger with malicious intent is no better or only slightly better than chance.

The Transportation Security Administration has spent $900 million since 2007 to train and deploy guards at security checkpoints to observe whether passengers exhibit signs of fear, stress and deception and may be a risk. It has 3,000 behavior detection officers at airports nationwide, including at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

But a new government analysis of findings from over 400 studies conducted over the past 60 years, and interviews with experts in the field, calls into question whether checkpoint officers can reliably spot dangerous passengers by discerning suspect behaviors and catching verbal cues.

TSA’s billion-dollar blunder

“The ability of humans to accurately identify deception based on behaviors is the same, roughly — essentially the same as chance — slightly greater than chance — 54 percent,” Stephen Lord, director of the Office of Homeland Security, said in testimony last Thursday   before a House subcommittee.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, in written testimony to the same committee, defended the use of behavior detection officers. He said looking for anomalous behavior is a common-sense approach used by law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Terrorists have used underwear, shoe and toner-cartridge bombs, and liquid explosives, Pistole said, but they all have in common the malicious intent of an actor.

“Since we cannot always predict the form evolving threats will take, (behavior detection officers) provide a crucial layer of security,” Pistole said.

In 2012 alone, the specially-trained officers made 2,116 referrals to law enforcement, resulting in 30 boarding denials, 79 investigations by law enforcement groups and 183 arrests, he said.

The manager in charge of TSA operations at Hopkins referred a call to the agency’s Washington headquarters. There, spokesman Ross Feinstein confirmed only that there were behavior detection officers at the Cleveland airport. For security reasons, TSA doesn’t release details such as how many officers it has stationed at security lanes.

“Behavior detection is vital to TSA’s layered approach to deter, detect and disrupt individuals who pose a threat to aviation,” Feinstein said.

Rob Kneen, president and CEO of the Traveline agency in Willoughby, said behavior detection officers are a valuable addition to measures such as TSA’s PreCheck program, which lets pre-approved travelers move more quickly through security.

“I look at it at the very minimum as a great supplemental support,” Kneen said.

Douglas Laird, president of Laird and Associates, an aviation security firm based in Nevada, said behavior detection has potential. Some people are very intuitive and can look at a crowd and pick out someone who poses a threat, said Laird,  a former Secret Service agent and chief of security for Northwest Airlines.

The problem with airport behavior detection officers, he said — inadequate training.

“To even have a hope of being successful, I think you’re looking at several hundreds of hours of training and lots of observation,” Laird said.

TSA said officers in the SPOT program (Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique) get four days of classroom instruction in behavior observation and analysis and 24 hours of on-the-job training in an airport environment. TSA has about 30 behavior detection instructors, each with significant experience and rigorous training, the agency said.

The author of a recent book on aviation security and profiling, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Professor Richard Bloom, agreed with the GAO conclusion that there is insufficient validated research to support behavior detection as TSA has implemented it.

 

Bloom likened the debate over behavior detection at airports to the controversy over  polygraph tests. A huge “meta-analysis” of numerous studies in the 1980s and a similar examination a decade ago cast doubt on the reliability of lie detector tests, he said.

“Yet they continue to be used, especially for security clearances,” Bloom said. “The real issue is, can you find verbal or nonverbal characteristics that are associated with a state of mind? The answer to that, at least at the moment, is no.”

In his book “Foundations of Psychological Profiling: Terrorism, Espionage and Deception,” published earlier this year, Bloom says that lacking hard proof that behavior detection works, it might help to think in terms of techniques used to interpret literature, poetry and philosophy.

“Maybe we can look at how we get meaning from other information,” Bloom said, “and putting that together can lead to conclusions about the intent of a person.”

Union proposes armed TSA officers at every checkpoint in wake of LAX shooting

tsa checkpoint

news.medill.northwestern.edu | Nov 26, 2013

by Mallory Black

As autopsy results of a fallen TSA officer killed earlier this month were released Friday, union officials are outlining increased security measures for both the public and Congress to consider.

While a final report of the Nov. 1 shootings of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez and two other officers who were wounded has yet to be released, the American Federation of Government Employees has developed proposals for increased security measures for transportation security employees, which were released in a Nov. 14 statement.

One proposal suggests creating a separate unit of armed, law enforcement-trained TSA officers at security checkpoints.

“People don’t realize our TSA officers aren’t law enforcement officers,” said AFGE general counsel David Borer. “They don’t have that authority under the law; they don’t have arrest power; they don’t have the ability to detain people.”

The proposed special unit of Transportation Security Administration officers would be required to undergo law enforcement training as well as obtain proper weapons certifications. Though a call to arm all 45,000 TSA officers was never proposed, Borer said, officers wouldn’t replace existing airport authorities either.

“At O’Hare you’ll see Chicago Police Department officers in the terminal, but some airports have officers and some do not. This new unit would have to coordinate with whatever those existing programs are,” Borer said. “And we’re not proposing every officer should be armed, rather that every checkpoint should have an armed officer. Someone who is specifically there to protect those who work at the checkpoint or passengers who come through.”

Borer added that due to increasing harassment of TSA officers, employee safety at checkpoints has become a major concern.

“The event at LAX was the first time we’ve had an officer killed, but our officers are attacked both verbally and physically far too often.” Borer said. “We have officers punched, knocked out, kicked and tackled and spat upon on a fairly routine basis.”

AFGE’s second proposal involves implementing a raised platform or podium that would provide TSA employees better visibility around the checkpoint. Passengers would be able to better identify officers as well.

“A raised platform would go hand-in-hand with putting armed officers at those locations,” Borer said. “It’s a deterrent, but the platform can also be reinforced in a way that gives them a certain amount of protection if an event were to start and they needed a location from which to return fire, for example.”

The third proposal deals with airport exit lanes, and the restoration of TSA officers to these lanes with the addition of an armed officer. For budgetary reasons, the Transportation Security Administration began phasing out staffing at exit lanes in April, instead turning over jurisdiction to local airport authorities.

But Borer said this move was a mistake.

”Until we secure those exit lanes, that’s always going to be a point of vulnerability,” Borer said. “We need someone to stop any shooters, like the shooter in LA who allegedly killed Officer Hernandez and afterwards proceeded through the exit lane unimpeded down Terminal 3, where he shot three more people.”

Since it’s not considered part of the screening process, the TSA does not provide exit lane security at more than two-thirds of federalized airports, according to Ann Davis, regional TSA public affairs manager.

“To most efficiently use TSA’s limited resources and to focus on the priority of screening passengers and baggage, the TSA has proposed transferring exit lane access control responsibility to local airport authorities, reducing the agency’s budget request by $88.1 million for fiscal year 2014,” Davis wrote in an email.

Making the responsibility standard across all airport exit lanes, ensuring consistency with airport perimeter access controls and maintaining TSA’s compliance through its regulatory inspection program were additional reasons to eliminate TSA exit lane staffing, according to Davis.

AFGE’s last proposal entails the Behavior Detection Officer program, which was subject to a Nov. 14 House Subcommittee on Transportation Security meeting.

Behavior detection officers are trained to detect unusual or suspicious behaviors through the SPOT program – screening of passengers by observation techniques – and investigate situations in which someone poses a threat.

But a study released this month by the Government Accountability Office, “Aviation Security: TSA Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection Activities,” indicated the program lacked scientific evidence of its effectiveness. The study recommends the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the TSA Administrator to limit future funding for the BDO program until it can demonstrate the program’s effectiveness in identifying passengers who pose an aviation security risk.

According to the study, the BDO program has spent $900 million since it was implemented in 2007.

The TSA isn’t cutting BDO programs at O’Hare and Midway airports, and there are no plans to eliminate the program at these airports at this time, according to Davis.

Though Borer thinks if enough behavior detection officers been present the day of the shooting, maybe the disaster could have been avoided. And contrary to the study’s recommendations, what AFGE proposes is an expansion of the Behavior Detection Officer program.

But it’s difficult to put a ballpark figure on how much it would cost to expand the BDO program, and implement each of AFGE’s three other proposals.

“Obviously there is not an unlimited amount of funds,” Borer said, “but if the government’s going to put officers in harm’s way, they need to give them enough backup to protect themselves.”

Former TSA supervisor charged with trafficking cocaine

tsa

USA TODAY | Nov 25, 2013

by Bart Jansen

A Transportation Security Administration supervisor has been indicted for allegedly helping smuggle at least 11 pounds of cocaine through the Virgin Islands, according to federal officials and court documents.

A former Transportation Security Administration supervisor has been indicted for allegedly helping smuggle at least 11 pounds of cocaine through the Virgin Islands, according to federal officials and court documents.

Former TSA Supervisor Dwight Iva Durant, 44, and Shawn Dowe, 29, both of the Virgin Islands, were charged with participating in a trafficking conspiracy, according to Wilfredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for southern Florida.

The TSA Has Over $500,000 of Travelers’ Loose Change

Each defendant faces a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life in prison, if convicted.

The TSA said Durant no longer works for the agency and that agency officials and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General cooperated in his investigation and apprehension.

“The Transportation Security Administration has zero tolerance for unethical behavior in the workplace,” the agency said in a statement.

The indictment was unsealed Nov. 19, after being filed Nov. 14 – the same day a trial began in St. Thomas for several baggage handlers at Cyril King Airport, according to court records.

The baggage handlers were charged with smuggling drugs in luggage marked with colorful scarves for delivery to recipients in Miami and New York throughout most of 2012, according to their indictment.

The indictment against Durant and Dowe alleges that they helped traffic at least 11 pounds of cocaine during the first eight months of 2012.

Durant was arrested in St. Thomas on Nov. 19 and made his initial court appearance there Nov. 20, according to prosecutor Ferrer. Dowe was arrested in California and ordered held Nov. 20, according to court records.

Both defendants are scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court in Miami, where they were indicted.

Tennessee Highway Patrol uses big rigs to spy into cars and watch occupants

truck
It provides a better vantage point for officers. “You can actually look down in the vehicle and see what’s going on inside the vehicle,” said Lt. Don Boshears.

6 News | Nov 3, 2013

By HAYLEY HARMON

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Tennessee Highway Patrol is stepping up enforcement this week over the hot button issue of texting and driving.

Special patrols were out Tuesday in Knox County on the lookout for violators.

On day one of the two day sweep, they ticketed dozens of drivers.

6 News got to ride along with THP during the crackdown on what they call a deadly problem.

“People not looking, not paying attention to what they’re doing, not looking at the roadway,” said Sgt. Randall Martin with THP.

Troopers drove the front end of a tractor trailer Tuesday to scope out violators along I-40 in East Knox County.

“It’s marked up just like a highway patrol vehicle. It’s got lights. It’s got sirens,” said Martin.

Martin says drivers oftentimes don’t view it the same as they would a normal patrol car, so they’ll commit traffic violations right in front of it.

“They don’t really pay attention to the truck,” said Lt. Don Boshears of THP, who was driving the vehicle.

The tractor trailer enforcement has been used in other parts of the state, but this is the first time it’s being used in Knoxville.

It provides a better vantage point for officers.

“You can actually look down in the vehicle and see what’s going on inside the vehicle,” said Boshears.

When in a normal patrol car, it’s hard to be sure that someone is texting.

“You may think they’re texting, but if they’re holding it down low, you really can’t see it. But in this vehicle, obviously you can,” said Boshears.

During 6 News’ ride along with them, it took just a few minutes for them to ticket a number of texters.

“They’ll weave in the lane. They’re change their speed. They’ll speed up and then slow down,” said Boshears.

“Right there is one. White Toyota. He was driving with his left hand and had it in this hand and just had it right up here,” said Boshears, who radioed to other officers down the road in patrol cars to pull the driver over.

THP is using the program as a way to get drivers’ attention and get their eyes back on the road and off their phones.

“It puts awareness back where it belongs, and that’s on the road. Not on your cell phone,” said Martin. “If you’re not paying attention, you can’t see that vehicle changing lanes. You can’t see that vehicle pulling out in front of you. You can’t see traffic stopped in front of you so you have no time to react.”

The special enforcement continues through Wednesday, October 30 and will move around the county.

THP says the program has had a lot of success in other parts of the state, so they hope it cuts down on texting and driving in Knoxville as well.

Border Patrol Set to Weaponize Drones

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allgov.com |  Jul 7, 2013

When Customs and Border Protection (CPB) first got its drones, the rationale for the acquisition was that the unmanned aircraft would help improve monitoring and surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But now, CPB may be thinking about arming its Predator drones with “non-lethal weapons.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained a report produced by CPB in 2010 that shows the agency has considered equipping its Predators with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize” targets of interest. Given the date of the report, it is possible that the weaponization has already taken place.

Drones threaten motorists in Argentina

Predators were first developed for the U.S. military in the 1990s, and are designed to fire missiles, such as the Hellfire. It is unclear at this time what kind of weaponization CPB has in mind for the drones.

Whatever their plans are, “CBP needs to assure the public that it will not equip its Predators with any weapons—lethal or otherwise,” wrote EFF’s Jennifer Lynch. If it doesn’t, Congress should halt the expansion of CBP’s Predator drone program, EFF argues.

Sky Deutschland to broadcast adverts directly into train passengers’ heads

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Passengers leaning their head against the window will “hear” adverts “coming from inside the user’s head”, urging them to download the Sky Go app.
Andy Trotman

Sky Deutschland has developed technology to transfer adverts from train windows directly and silently into commuters’ heads.

telegraph.co.uk | Jul 3, 2013

By Andrew Trotman

Passengers leaning their head against the window will “hear” adverts “coming from inside the user’s head”, urging them to download the Sky Go app.

The proposal involves using bone conduction technology, which is used in hearing aids, headphones and Google’s Glass headset, to pass sound to the inner ear via vibrations through the skull.

A video for the Talking Window campaign released by Sky Deutschland and ad agency BBDO Germany states: “Tired commuters often rest their heads against windows. Suddenly a voice inside their head is talking to them. No one else can hear this message.”

The voice comes from a Sky-branded transmitter made by Audiva that is attached to the train window.

BBDO spokesman Ulf Brychcy told the BBC: “If our customer Sky Deutschland agrees, we will start with the new medium as quickly as possible.

“Some people don’t like advertising in general. But this is really a new technology. [It might] not only be used for advertising, but also for music, entertainment, mass transport information, weather reports and so on.”

Sky Deutschland said it had not made a decision on whether to launch the campaign.