The surveillance state goes local: Area police departments may be using Stingray technology to spy on you without a warrant — and the Feds don’t want you to know – THOR BENSON SATURDAY, OCT 15, 2016 07:45 AM PDT

The DOJ is blocking requests for information on Stingray, which can spy on you by connecting with your cell phone

The surveillance state goes local: Area police departments may be using Stingray technology to spy on you without a warrant — and the Feds don't want you to know

For the past several years, we’ve been learning more and more about police use of “cell site simulators” across the country, and it’s a disturbing trend. These devices, regularly referred to by the brand name Stingray, are about the size of a briefcase and mimic cell phone towers so phones nearby will try to access them. Once a signal reaches the Stingray, the machine can gather information about the phone. That means a strategically placed Stingray can access hundreds of phones in an area and figure out who the phones belong to and where they are, all without a warrant.

Because of secrecy agreements signed by police departments nationwide and the government’s general lack of transparency when it comes to surveillance, it’s been difficult for Americans to learn who’s using these devices, how they’re using them and why. Organizations like the ACLU have filed numerous lawsuits to learn more about Stingrays, and has gradually gained quite a bit of knowledge, but roadblocks are constantly being put in the way.

For example, the ACLU recently filed a lawsuit against the Delaware State Police after they refused to give up information on their use of Stingrays in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Furthermore, the Department of Justice stepped in and backed up the decision made by Delaware police.

“Although the United States is not a party to this case, it has a direct interest in the protection of the information withheld,” DOJ attorneys wrote. “Cell-site simulator technology is a key tool in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation, interdiction and suppression of criminal and terrorist activity. Disclosure of even minor details about this technology will jeopardize, if not vitiate, the ability of the FBI and the larger law enforcement community to successfully deploy this valuable technology.”

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Hubertus Knabe: The dark secrets of a surveillance state – Filmed June 2014 at TED Salon Berlin 2014

Tour the deep dark world of the East German state security agency known as Stasi. Uniquely powerful at spying on its citizens, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the Stasi masterminded a system of surveillance and psychological pressure that kept the country under control for decades. Hubertus Knabe studies the Stasi — and was spied on by them. He shares stunning details from the fall of a surveillance state, and shows how easy it was for neighbor to turn on neighbor.