More 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.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.

Well…what’s happening is a combination of an ill-informed public that — even when they’re apprised of the facts — appears to care more about the latest news item (What COULD have possibly happened to a foreign airliner on the other side of the planet?) than their own rapidly disappearing way of life; police departments count on the continuing devolution of John Q Public.

Indeed, a search of this site for surveillance society turns up a disquieting number of news items documenting that fact.

And the 4th Estate is complicit in this; do you know, for example, whether KCPD is using Stingrays? Isn’t that a topic about which The Kansas City Star should have informed the public? Maybe even the Pitch? 1

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  1. While you’re waiting for hell to freeze over (or at least another year to pass until a reporter at the Star goes :…hey!), pick up Silent Pocket or a like item. It’s a start…

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