[cryptome] Re: FOIPA adventures

  • From: coderman <coderman@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: cryptome@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, cpunks <cypherpunks@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 02:10:13 -0700

two new for DOCSIS tech @FBI, @CIA:

"Any and all "DOCSIS" technology records, including cross-references
and indirect mentions, including records outside the investigation
main file. This is to include a search of each of the following record
stores and interfaces: the Central Records System (CRS), the Automated
Case Support system ("ACS") Investigative Case Management system
("ICM"), the Automated Case Support system ("ACS") Electronic Case
File ("ECF"), and the Automated Case Support system ("ACS") Universal
Index ("UNI"). I also request a search of "ELSUR", the database
containing electronic surveillance information, for any and all
records or activities related to "DOCSIS" or "DOCSIS intercept" or
"DOCSIS access" technology. In addition, please extend the search
criteria across any external storage media, including I-Drives,
S-Drives, or related technologies used during the course of
investigation involving Cable internet data services. DITU
experimental technologies or research also within scope of this
request. Please include processing notes, even if request is denied in
part. Please identify individuals responsible for any aspect of FOIA
processing in the processing notes, along with explanation of their
involvement if not typically assigned FOIA responsibilities for the
record systems above."
- https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/indocsis-19725/

"Any and all records, receipts, training, technology transfer
programs, research, evaluation technologies, or other materials
relevant to "DOCIS" cable communication technology. This is to include
"DOCSIS 1.0", "DOCSIS 2.0", "DOCSIS 3.0", and other relevant DOCSIS
- https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/indocsisxfer-19726/

On 7/12/15, coderman <coderman@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

On 7/12/15, Douglas Rankine <douglasrankine2001@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Are they giving reasons for the rejections?

Glomar all around. see also:

"What Is the Big Secret Surrounding Stingray Surveillance?"


What Is the Big Secret Surrounding Stingray Surveillance?

State and local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are setting
up fake cell towers to gather mobile data, but few will admit it
By Larry Greenemeier | June 25, 2015

Stung: Law enforcement agencies sometimes use a device called a
stingray to simulate a cell phone tower, enabling them to gather
international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI), location and other
data from mobile phones connecting to them. Pictured here is an actual
cell tower in Palatine, Ill.

Given the amount of mobile phone traffic that cell phone towers
transmit, it is no wonder law enforcement agencies target these
devices as a rich source of data to aid their investigations. Standard
procedure involves getting a court order to obtain phone records from
a wireless carrier. When authorities cannot or do not want to go that
route, they can set up a simulated cell phone tower—often called a
stingray—that surreptitiously gathers information from the suspects in
question as well as any other mobile device in the area.

These simulated cell sites—which collect international mobile
subscriber identity (IMSI), location and other data from mobile phones
connecting to them—have become a source of controversy for a number of
reasons. National and local law enforcement agencies closely guard
details about the technology’s use, with much of what is known about
stingrays revealed through court documents and other paperwork made
public via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

One such document recently revealed that the Baltimore Police
Department has used a cell site simulator 4,300 times since 2007 and
signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI that instructed
prosecutors to drop cases rather than reveal the department’s use of
the stingray. Other records indicate law enforcement agencies have
used the technology hundreds of times without a search warrant,
instead relying on a much more generic court order known as a pen
register and trap and trace order. Last year Harris Corp., the
Melbourne, Fla., company that makes the majority of cell site
simulators, went so far as to petition the Federal Communications
Commission to block a FOIA request for user manuals for some of the
company’s products.

The secretive nature of stingray use has begun to backfire on law
enforcement, however, with states beginning to pass laws that require
police to obtain a warrant before they can set up a fake cell phone
tower for surveillance. Virginia, Minnesota, Utah and Washington State
now have laws regulating stingray use, with California and Texas
considering similar measures. Proposed federal legislation to prevent
the government from tracking people’s cell phone or GPS location
without a warrant could also include stingray technology.

Scientific American recently spoke with Brian Owsley, an assistant
professor of law at the University of North Texas Dallas College of
Law, about the legal issues and privacy implications surrounding the
use of a stingray to indiscriminately collect mobile phone data. Given
the invasive nature of the technology and scarcity of laws governing
its use, Owsley, a former U.S. magistrate judge in Texas, says the
lack of reliable information documenting the technology’s use is
particularly troubling.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

When and why did law enforcement agencies begin using international
cell site simulators to intercept mobile phone traffic and track
movement of mobile phone users?

Initially, intelligence agencies—CIA and the like—couldn’t get local
or national telecommunications companies in other countries to
cooperate with U.S. surveillance operations against nationals in those
countries. To fill that void companies like the Harris Corp. started
creating cell site simulators for these agencies to use. Once Harris
saturated the intelligence and military markets [with] their products,
they turned to federal agencies operating in the U.S. So the [Drug
Enforcement Administration], Homeland Security, FBI and others started
having their own simulated cell sites to use for surveillance.
Eventually this trickled down further to yet another untapped market:
state and local law enforcement. That’s where we are today in terms of
the proliferation of this technology.

Under what circumstances do U.S. law enforcement agencies use cell
site simulators and related technology?

There are three examples of how law enforcement typically use
stingrays for surveillance: First, law enforcement officials may use
the cell site simulator with the known cell phone number of a targeted
individual in order to determine that individual's location. For
example, officials are searching for a fugitive and have a cell phone
number that they believe the individual is using. They may operate a
stingray near areas where they believe that the individual may be,
such as a relative's home.

Second, law enforcement officials may use the stingray to target a
specific individual who is using a cell phone, but these officials do
not know the cell phone number. They follow the targeted individual
from a site to various other locations over a certain time period. At
each new location, they activate the stingray and capture the cell
phone data for all of the nearby cell phones. After they have captured
the data at a number of sites they can analyze the data to determine
the cell phone or cell phones used by the targeted individual. This
approach captures the data of all nearby cell phones, including
countless cell phones of individuals unrelated to the criminal

Third, law enforcement officials have been known to operate stingray
at political rallies and protests. Using the stingray at these types
of events captures the cell phone data of everyone in attendance.

How does law enforcement get permission to perform this type of

Federal law enforcement agencies typically get courts to approve use
of something like stingray through a pen register application [a pen
register is a device that records the numbers called from a particular
phone line]. With that type of application, essentially the government
says, we want this information. We think it’s going to be relevant to
an ongoing criminal investigation. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty
low bar for them to satisfy in the eyes of the court. Just about
anything could fit into that description. You don’t even have to show
that such an investigation would lead to an arrest or prosecution. Law
enforcement is telling the court, look, we’re in the middle of this
investigation. If we get this information, we think it might lead to
some other important information.

Different court orders have different standards for approval. The
highest standard would be for a wiretap. A search warrant likewise has
a much higher standard than a pen register, requiring law enforcement
to prove probable cause before a judge will grant permission to use
additional means of investigation. The problem that I have with a pen
register to justify use of something like a stingray is that the
standard for a pen register is much too low, given the invasive nature
of a pen register. Instead, I think the use of a stingray should be
consistent with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and pursuant
to a search warrant.

Why not explicitly state the type of technology being used and its
specific purpose when filing for a court order?

[When] law enforcement agencies seek to obtain judicial authorization
through a pen register, they do not directly indicate that they are
applying for authorization to use a stingray. Doing so might cause
some courts to question whether the pen register statute [as opposed
to some higher standard] is the appropriate basis for authorizing a
stingray. In addition, law enforcement agencies typically have to sign
nondisclosure agreements with Harris Corp. in order to receive the
federal Homeland Security funding needed to purchase the technology.
So there’s this concern, at least at the local law enforcement level,
about revealing any information about it because that would violate
the agreement with Harris and maybe subject them to losing the
equipment or some other consequences.

Why would law enforcement agencies sign a nondisclosure agreement with
a technology company?

I’m not sure whether the agreements are being driven by the FBI or by
Harris, but these agreements seem to be getting less relevant insofar
as [there is less] need to keep the public unaware of the existence of
this technology. In the last three or so years there’s been a lot more
awareness about the technology and its use. When agencies were first
signing these agreements years ago, use of this technology wasn’t
widely known. Now you are getting situations where criminal defense
attorneys learn about stingray and similar technologies and the role
they may be playing in the arrests of some of their clients. Defense
teams are starting to ask questions and require the government to
produce documentation such as court orders, and that’s creating the
confrontation you’re now seeing.

Why have law enforcement agencies kept their use of cell site
simulators so secretive?

Some of it is the cloudy legal issues surrounding the legitimate uses
of this technology. Law enforcement agencies will also argue that the
more information that’s available about this technology, the harder it
is for them to use these devices to fight crime. Yet there’s a growing
knowledge of this technology, and a serious criminal enterprise is
already aware of it. People are already using prepaid disposable
phones [sometimes referred to as “burner phones”] to some extent to
defeat this technology. Sophisticated criminals are aware that there’s
electronic surveillance out there in myriad ways, and so they’re going
to take precautions. From a technology perspective, it’s sort of a
cat-and-mouse game. There’s also a device that locates cell site
simulators, something referred to as an IMSI catcher. There’s an arms
race back and forth to get the best technology and to get the edge.

What does it say to you about the whole process that a prosecutor or a
law enforcement agency is willing to sacrifice a conviction in order
to keep their methods a secret?

I think it’s a very odd approach. You are throwing away some
convictions or potential convictions for the sake of secrecy. But it’s
even harder to understand now that knowledge of the technology is
becoming so common. There have been documented cases in Baltimore and
Saint Louis where stingray has supposedly been used. The use of
stingray and related technologies is a roll of the dice in the sense
that law enforcement is hoping that either the defense attorneys don’t
have enough savvy or wherewithal to find out about the technology and
ask the right questions or, even if that does happen, they’re hoping
that the judge that they have is favorable to their approach and not
going to order them to reveal information about its use. In the rare
occasions when things go against them, they just dismiss it.

You yourself denied a law enforcement application three years ago to
use a stingray. Under what circumstances would you approve its use?

I want to make clear: I don’t have a problem with stingray itself—I
understand that this can be a valuable tool in law enforcement’s
arsenal. My problem is that I want it to be used pursuant to a high
standard of proof that it’s needed, and that I want the approval
process to be more transparent. One of the reasons I’d like to see
some more documentation of stingray applications and orders is because
I have this suspicion—but there’s no way of confirming it one way or
another—that some judges are signing approvals to use this technology
thinking that they’re just signing a pen register. If a judge thinks
it’s [just] another pen register application, they’re just going to
sign it without giving it much pause.

Now that the use of this stingrays and related technologies has been
made public, where will this issue be a year or a few years from now?

A year from now I think we’re in the same position. You’re dealing
with outdated statutes concerning new and very different technology.
It’s possible in five years maybe that Congress will step in and do
something. More likely, state legislatures will take most of the
action to monitor this type of surveillance. Washington State,
California [and others] have already acted, and Texas is evaluating
the standards for approving stingray use.

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