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FBI replies to Stingray FOIA request with 5,000 blank pages

FOIA'd FBI document inre Stingray cell towersThis is an unbelievable story about the FBI being complete jerks about the FOIA requests they’ve received from MuckRock in regards to fake cellphone towers called “Stingrays” which are used to “gather identity/location information” on everyone that passes by them — which btw I had no idea these things were real! MuckRock received almost 5000 pages of FOIA’d documents which were almost completely redacted. I wonder how this is meeting the Obama Administration’s [[Open Government Initiative]].

The Stingray — a fake cellphone tower that gathers identity/location information on everyone who passes it — is the worst-kept secret in law enforcement, but that doesn’t stop feds from going to absurd lengths to pretend they don’t use them.

We know that police departments have to sign non-disclosure agreements when they buy Stingrays, and we’ve even seen them lie to judges about how they acquired their evidence to maintain their non-disclosure obligations. We’ve seen US Marshalls raid city cops to steal Stingray evidence before it could be introduced in court (even more dismaying — it worked, and the case against the cops collapsed because the evidence had been disappeared down the Marshalls’ memory hole).

Since 2014, Muckrock has been firing out Freedom of Information Act requests about Stingrays to agencies at all levels of government, using crowdfunded dough to pay for it.

The fun-loving feds at the FBI have turned over 5,000 pages of Stingray records in response to one set of Muckrock requests — but they redacted virtually every word on every page first.

[HT BoingBoing]

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


3 Comments

  1. “We know that police departments have to sign non-disclosure agreements when they buy Stingrays, and we’ve even seen them lie to judges about how they acquired their evidence to maintain their non-disclosure obligations.” Wait a minute. It’s easy to read this sentence and agree that police departments are completely helpless. That they have no choice. That they are forced to buy Stingrays. I hate to sound old-fashion, but what about the Fourth Amendment? Our indifference, apathy, complicity, timidity about defending liberty for all is not without consequence.

    • too true Jim. That’s definitely unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause. You’d think that police depts would know that.

  2. I ran across your document as I was researching the technology and wanted to let you know (which you probably already do). Here are two sources of documents and a list of agencies that are utilizing same.
    The topic of Stingrays with respect to the IRS came up in the Facial Recognition Hearing on January 15, 2020. (Tweet 1.5/x)

    Here is my threaded tweet, the documents are in 19/x and 20/x I will add yours there. I am filing an FOIA with the IRS.

    I used these sources:

    [1]My Twitter Thread:
    https://twitter.com/LulaEDUcate/status/1217481988971683840?s=20
    1.5/x is the Hearing; 19/x- USAToday; 20/x ACLU

    [2] ACLU listing: of all agencies and law enforcement using with a heat map. See

    [3] National Security Archive, then have many. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//dc.html?doc=6549787-National-Security-Archive-14-Christopher-Krebs
    3. EPIC Privacy FOIAs are listed.

    I hope that helps you! If not message me, happy to share the FOIA.

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