back to article ACLU files new lawsuits in hunt for police 'Stingray' mobe-trackers

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California has filed another two lawsuits on Tuesday as the organisation's campaign to bring information about StingRay cellphone surveillance devices into the public domain continues. The lawsuits against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Interesting concept...

    If there's a non-disclosure agreement and the ACLU has no proof they are using this, it's just an expensive fishing expedition, I'd think. Even if the LEA's involved don't have one or access to one, how do they prove it? Just because they can get their hands on one doesn't mean they have. This is much like asking someone: "Do you still beat your wife/husband/grandmother?".

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Interesting concept...

      No it's a bit like asking "are there secret police outside the rule of law and the constitution - and should the public take an interest in this"

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Interesting concept...

      "If there's a non-disclosure agreement and the ACLU has no proof they are using this"

      LEOs in the USA have tried to claim that NDAs prevent them disclosing how the devices work even when ordered to by the judge during a trial. (NDAs do not trump a court and anyone who refuses to fess up when ordered to by a judge can be tossed in lockup (until they agree to explain) if the judge is sufficiently peeved.

      At least one LEO has been sanctioned for this and another came perilously close to being jailed for contempt late last year - in the latter case the entire body of evidence relating to the Stingray intercepts was withdrawn from the prosecution case with the judge's assent.

      In other cases, the prosecution has withdrawn cases entirely rather than face being compelled to explain how the devices work.

      Judges are also complaining that they're frequently being misled about the use of Stingrays on interception warrants they're signing off on. The requests frequently are made for warrants to use pen records (these are the telco's call records) but Stingrays are the device actually used to gather information.

      Judges in several states are so concerned that they are specifically asking if the devices are being used or putting language in warrants prohibiting them.

      When the prosecution will drop a case rather than expose how they're gathering evidence there's a strong suspicion that the actual methods used are criminal or involve illicit use of cryptography breaches. (I strongly doubt the claims that Stingrays are unencrypted as that only applies to 2G connections, 3G and 4G are never unencrypted)

      There's been some claims made that they don't want to explain how their directionfinding works but phase-driven RDF techniques have been around for decades so that doesn't fit the persistent refusal to have the information come out in court (open or under seal).

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Interesting concept...

        Referencing my previous post....

        As I understood from previous articles, not all LEA's could get one. Thus my supposition about "what if"... is there innocence and how would they prove they didn't have access. I'll have to assume that the ACLU in the two suits before the court now have knowledge that these units were/are used. It's not like the LEA's and specifically the LEO's have never lied to a court before.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Interesting concept...

        "At least one LEO has been sanctioned for this and another came perilously close to being jailed for contempt late last year - in the latter case the entire body of evidence relating to the Stingray intercepts was withdrawn from the prosecution case with the judge's assent.

        In other cases, the prosecution has withdrawn cases entirely rather than face being compelled to explain how the devices work."

        Makes me wonder what happens when Stingray is used and they discover that they've cuffed a high-profile criminal like a serial killer. The high profile will mean they'll be under tremendous public pressure to get a conviction unless they're prepared for a riot (and recent riots have shown things aren't getting much better there with public relations).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ACLU = AssCLowns Unlimited

    The ACLU is constantly making headlines about nothing of significant. Next they'll claim honeypots are illegal. The courts have ruled otherwise so the ACLU can go pound salt.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: ACLU = AssCLowns Unlimited

      Gee, so you are happy to have secret evidence gathering against you? You know, without any discussion by the folks who make the laws (i.e. your elected representatives, and I mean all of them and not just a select few on secretive committees) and the public they are supposed to represent, nor by your defence lawyer should you find yourself accused of some crime?

      I, and probably most of El Reg's commentards, have no problem with legal interception when it is done based on probable cause and with judicial oversight. If this equipment is gathering data on others who are not involved in the targeted operation that is no big deal as long as all such data is deleted afterwards and not misused outside of the scope of the investigation.

      What I do have a problem with is the current trend to assuming EVERYONE is guilty so worthy of surveillance and endless data retention, and that our judges and politicians are not telling us about this so we can have a democratic system in place.

    2. Marshalltown

      Re: ACLU = AssCLowns Unlimited

      Lots of folks say this until they need the ACLU behind them. The concept of civil liberty is something lots of folks don't get. They don't seem to understand that the fact that YOU claim a liberty means that YOU are supporting the same rights for others. If you don't admit to that, you are nothing better than a would-be tyrant, since the implicit reasoning is a form of "what's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine as well." You don't have to agree with someone to insist they have the same liberty as you. In fact, if you really want security, then allowing the nut jobs, fundamentalists, and would be oligarchs talking openly provides you with the best early warning system there is. It is one reason that forbidding "hate speech" is stupid. Let a person open their mouth in public and they are publicly known as a jerk. Tell them their right to expression is limited and all they do is hide it where it is more difficult to trace and attribute.

      One of the profound misunderstandings that even many law enforcement officers labor under is the idea that they exist to "prevent" crime. They don't. They exist to bring rule breakers to justice. Because of that they often feel entitled to ignore the very rules thy are supposed to be enforcing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ACLU = AssCLowns Unlimited

        The reason hate speech is limited is because it's provocative, much like shouting FIRE in a crowded theater. The phrase "Them's fighin' words" has real meaning for many people: some sleights can't be forgiven, so using a fighting word is basically inciting violence.

        As for preventing crime, there are some things for which prevention is the ONLY way to make it right, since murder is a one-way crime (as in once done it cannot be undone). Otherwise, the state has basically failed and people start wondering "What's the point?"

  3. corestore

    Regulations?

    "Regulation of the sale of StingRay equipment requires FBI involvement in law-enforcement purchases from the Harris Corporation."

    'Regulation' made by whom, under what authority? What powers 'require' the FBI to be involved before a business transaction can take place? What does the text of these 'regulations' say?

    These are the kinds of questions you should be asking.

  4. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Dear FBI

    If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

    Fess up!

  5. asdf

    hmm

    Wished most Americans cared as much about the Fourth Amendment as they do the Second. They should and even on the right some of libertarian types do as the Fourth can do a lot more to protect you from your government than any gun ever could. Government can keep selling the scary brown boogie men though any time things don't go their way. The modern public is so fearful of everything its easy to do. The biggest threat from terrorism is not deaths as the odds for any one person are so remote but the economic chaos caused when a bunch of cowards wet their pants and demand we starting throwing away liberties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hmm

      The main reason people keep espousing the Second Amendment is physical. When it all comes down to it, if you want to ENFORCE the other Amendments (or flout them), you still need to come to my house or my community. Point being, if you're not doing something nice, people can start coming together with arms and saying, "We don't think so." And before you throw the nuclear card, remember where the soldiers come from: anyone thinking about throwing the switch will be thinking if their wife or child's hometown will be next. That's why so many people note that the Second Amendment is the linchpin for the all the others: because it's the last resort that keeps the country from going totally totalitarian.

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