Friday, January 6, 2017
Legislation Badly Needed To Curb Police’s Secret Cellphone Surveillance Tool
A report this week by the House Reform and Government Oversight Committee raised new concerns about the devices’ popularity. “Cell-site simulator use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the use, extent and legality of government surveillance authority,” it said.
The FBI is one of the major users of the device. The House of Representatives report said that agency alone had more than 194 cell-site simulators in use across the country.
Yet even as the federal government has encouraged the use of the simulators, the FBI has demanded that Harris Corp., the defense contractor that manufactures the most commonly used of the devices, provide notification every time it sells a device to law enforcement agencies. In turn, the FBI requires those agencies to sign a non-disclosure agreement that blocks them from telling the public of the purchase or acknowledging the device’s use in court proceedings.
Until recently, the FBI avoided disclosing its own use of the surveillance apparatus and also “its role in assisting state and local law enforcement agencies in obtaining the devices,” the oversight committee report said.