The Department of Justice will conduct a massive review of its cellphone surveillance policies and reveal information on how law enforcement use a device called a Stingray to spy on cellphones.
In recent months, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun obtaining search warrants for the use of Stingrays, a good sign, since it spied for years without them, The Wall Street Journal reports. All these decisions come as Justice Department officials tell WSJ they are working to answer the calls for transparency on surveillance methods.
The Justice Department has been notoriously secretive about cell phone surveillance. Several law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals, FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration use Stingrays on a large scale.
Stingrays act like cellphone towers that intercept your cellphone signal. Once intercepted, the Stingray can collect information about your texts, calls and location.
They can intercept thousands of cellphones in a short amount of time and acquire immense amounts of data.
The DOJ also loans out the devices to local police departments on the condition of total secrecy about how they work and how often they are used. The devices are now used in departments all across the country.
Departments go to great lengths to keep Stingrays hidden. When pressed by defense lawyers on how certain evidence involving Stingrays was obtained, police will drop charges or offer plea bargains rather than give up the information.
But this secrecy on Stingrays is par for the course for the Justice Department. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request about the use of Stingrays, the FBI reportedly sent 5,000 nearly blank pages.
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