"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

1984 - National Guard spying on you without a warrant

Big Brother is Watching You

“There are really big privacy and constitutional due-process concerns with the use of this technology,” a state lawmaker said.

(Texas Observer)  -  The Texas National Guard last year spent more than $373,000 to install controversial cellphone eavesdropping devices in secretive surveillance aircraft.

Maryland-based Digital Receiver Technology Inc., or DRT, installed two of its DRT 1301C “portable receiver systems” in National Guard aircraft in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a contract between the Texas National Guard and the company. The contract states that the dirt boxes, as they’re often called after the company’s acronym, are for “investigative case analytical support” in counternarcotics operations and were purchased using state drug-asset forfeiture money.

Dirt boxes mimic cellphone towers by tricking every smartphone within a geographic area of up to one-third of a mile to connect with the technology, usually without cellphone users or telecom companies ever knowing about it. Also known as cell-site simulators, the devices can be used from land or air and are capable of intercepting the user’s location, phone numbers dialed, text messages and photos as well as recording or listening to phone calls.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates have called the use of dirt boxes a “digital dragnet,” because it’s nearly impossible for the government to avoid intercepting personal information from innocent cellphone users when pursuing investigative targets.

According to the contract documents obtained by the Observer, the eavesdropping devices were installed in two RC-26 surveillance planes used for counternarcotics operations. At one time, the RC-26s reportedly operated under a front company called Air Cerberus, but have since converted to military registrations, which generally mask their flight routes and unique tail numbers.

In a 2014 story, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the U.S. Marshals Service had been secretly using dirt boxes from a small Cessna aircraft to locate fugitives. Equipment and training was supplied by the CIA, but some officials inside the U.S. Justice Department were concerned that the activity was illegal. 

The revelations spurred numerous complaints from civil liberties advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, as well as lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

Law enforcement’s use of the technology is usually considered legal when used against Americans with a warrant. The Texas Department of Public Safety has made similar purchases for covert surveillance equipment from a DRT competitor, Harris Corp., which offers comparable technology called Stingrays.

But the Texas National Guard is a military force under the governor’s command, not law enforcement. It’s unclear under what legal authorities the State Guard would be operating to conduct electronic eavesdropping. 

Democratic state Representative César Blanco, a former Navy intelligence analyst who is the vice chairman of the Texas House committee that oversees the Texas National Guard, told the Observer that he wasn’t aware of the purchases, which haven’t previously been made public.  

“There are really big privacy and constitutional due-process concerns with the use of this technology,” Blanco said. “If it’s useful to authorities, then I completely understand that. … [But] if  the Texas National Guard want to get into the business of surveillance and utilizing intelligence and classifying intelligence, there’s got to be an oversight body that responds to the citizens of Texas.”

Because law enforcement agencies often sign nondisclosure agreements with companies such as DRT or Harris Corp., it’s difficult to determine how widely the surveillance equipment is used. The ACLU has identified 24 states, including Texas, where cell-site simulators are used by law enforcement.

Read More . . . .

Stingray Tower Collects Private Info Without A Warrant

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. ” 
― George Orwell1984

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