Originally posted at The Conjure House
You can imagine the scene. Tear gas canisters fly overhead as a rag-tag group of protesters launch bricks at incoming police. Like a silent wall of death the cops move forward, a grand octopus built from hundreds of armored bodies snatching up whoever they can. With each step the body heat of the immediate area intensifies, screams mix with LRAD cannons, and a few feet ahead of us a red, sticky liquid stains the black asphalt red. A student looses her nerve and ducks into an alleyway. She texts her friends, parents, allies, even members of an Anarchist collective she heard of to pick her up. She continues running hoping her mask will hide her identity, hoping that someone has heard her call for help.
Suddenly her phone goes dead. Has the battery run out? As she taps her screen two police officers tackle her from behind, slamming her against the ground and dislocating her jaw. She’s dragged into a waiting transit vehicle left wondering how they found her.
But this is just the beginning.
What our young student doesn’t know is that the mass text she sent has sold out every one of her friends and family thanks to the shocking array of spy weaponry available to the police. They will be visited, they will be questioned, and now every phone call and text they send will in turn be tracked, monitored, and cataloged with tools that would give James Bond a raging hard-on.
And that’s just the stuff they bought two years ago. Welcome to the American police state.
The funny thing is the above scenario is not entirely unexpected. We American radicals have grown used to the idea of being watched, though we’re always a bit foggy on the details. Sure we remember the Snowden papers, and yes we’ve heard of fusion centers, but beyond that the details are fuzzy.
Take for instance the “Stingray.” You’ve probably heard of it, you probably know it’s been used against protesters, but you might not know what exactly it does. That’s because the little we do know about this equipment has only been revealed due to bloody FOIA lawsuits or forced courtroom disclosures by the government. Even when the Electronic Freedom Foundation filed a recent FOIA request that generated over 20,000 records related to StingRay, the Justice Department released only a pair of court orders and a handful of heavily redacted documents that didn’t explain when and how the technology was used due to “security concerns.”
Here’s what little we do know: StingRay trackers act as fake cell towers, allowing police investigators to pinpoint the location of a targeted wireless mobile by sucking up phone data such as text messages, emails and cell-site information. When a suspect makes a phone call, the StingRay tricks the cell into sending its signal back to the police, thus preventing the signal from traveling back to the suspect’s wireless carrier. But not only does the StingRay track the targeted cell phone, it also extracts data off potentially thousands of other cell phone users in the area. You don’t need a warrant to use one and they cost anywhere between $60,000 and $175,000 each.
Of course there is resistance. Foreign hackers reportedly sell an underground IMSI tracker to counter the Stingray to anyone who asks for $1000 and German security expert Karsten Nohl released “Catcher Catcher,” a powerful bit of software that monitors a network’s traffic to actually seek out and find a StingRay in use.
And that’s great. Hooray freedom. But according to a police catalogue leaked to The Intercept the Stingray is about as cutting edge as that old Nintendo 64 rotting in your garage.
The catalogue was obtained by The Intercept as part of a large trove of documents originating within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement…The document provides a rare look at the wide range of electronic surveillance tactics used by police and militaries in the U.S. and abroad, offering equipment ranging from black boxes that can monitor an entire town’s cellular signals to microphones hidden in lighters and cameras hidden in trashcans. Markings date it to 2014.
Take for instance this gem:
A note at the top reveals that cellphone users can be “tracked to less than 1 [meter] of accuracy,” a capacity police have often said they “never use.” But that’s kid stuff compared some of the newer toys.
Meet the 3-GN:
This laptop operated behemoth has a maximum output power of 50W, making it comparable in strength to cellular antennae constructed by the likes of AT&T or Verizon. Anyone inside its radius (potentially miles from the box itself) could be subject to invisible surveillance.