According to CNN, federal law enforcement agents fly small planes loaded with gear to spy on Americans’ cell phone calls.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, revealed the extent of the program: Federal government gathers the data from Cessna airplanes and can cover most of the U.S. population.
CNNMoney has independently confirmed that at least one federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has used this technology on planes since 2010, according to government documents. The planes carry a box that serves as a dummy cell phone site. That device mimics actual towers, duping nearby cell phones into connecting to it instead of a real phone company tower.
An official at the Department of Justice would not confirm or deny the use of flying spoof cell towers. He said any discussion would let criminals and foreign governments “determine our capabilities and limitations.” The official told CNNMoney that any tactics used comply with federal law.
This news is the latest revelation about the extent of surveillance on Americans by their government. This type of spying has increased dramatically since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Local police and federal agents make widespread use of these types of devices. Public records, such as a Florida court transcript, have revealed that police use this technology to gather information about suspects.
“Stingrays,” for instance, are machines that also spoof legitimate company cell phone towers.