Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have been purchasing surveillance equipment from a British weapons and defense manufacturing company.
Cobham offered devices to police departments with advanced spying capabilities, like intercepting cellular phone calls and text messages, locating a person’s whereabouts through a cellphone and jamming wireless communications. The equipment was presented in the form of a highly confidential 120-page catalog, which was obtained by The Intercept.
Police departments in the U.S. are confirmed customers, according to Greg Caires, a spokesperson for Cobham. But when asked to confirm the legitimacy of the catalog, Caires chose not to completely verify the legitimacy, but did say that it “looked authentic.”
Cobham, along with other United Kingdom companies, allegedly purveys surveillance technology to authoritarian regimes around the world, according to Motherboard.
One of the pieces of technology within the catalog called cell site simulators (colloquially known as “Stingrays”), has seeped into lower levels of law enforcement in America. The Baltimore Police Department has been accused of illegally using Stingrays.
Nathan Wessler, an attorney for the ACLU, said that, “the note at the top of the page  about the ability to intercept calls and text messages (in addition to the ability to geo-locate phones)” is particularly disconcerting, since, “domestic law enforcement agencies generally say they don’t use that capability,” according to The Intercept. (RELATED: Government Is Creating A One-Stop Shop For Agencies To Purchase Cybersecurity Gadgets)
While Cobham does not use the word Stingray, the stated functionality is identical; except for the fact that page 105 of the catalog claims that targeted devices “can be tracked to less than 1m levels of accuracy.” The inherent problem with Stingrays and similar technology is that they usually gather data in an indiscriminate manner from multiple cellular devices in the area.
An extremely tech savvy area in Silicon Valley became the first county in the U.S. to mandate law enforcement seek official approval before snooping, after suspecting that police were using such technology.
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