In Detroit, ICE is now using Stingray cell tower devices to listen in and hunt undocumented immigrants as the Trump regime's reign of fear continues.
Federal investigators are using a cellphone snooping device designed for counter-terrorism to hunt undocumented immigrants amid President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, according to federal court records obtained by The Detroit News.
An unsealed federal search warrant affidavit obtained by The News is the first public acknowledgment that agents are using secret devices that masquerade as a cell tower to find people who entered the U.S. illegally, privacy and civil liberty experts said.
The secret device was used in March by a team of FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Metro Detroit to find Rudy Carcamo-Carranza, 23, a twice-deported restaurant worker from El Salvador whose only brushes with the law involve drunken driving allegations and a hit-and-run crash.
The use of the cell tower simulator comes amid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown and attempt to temporarily ban travel from six Muslim-majority nations.
The cell-site simulator device, known as a Hailstorm or Stingray, tricks nearby phones into providing location data and can interrupt cellular service of all devices within the targeted location. Federal investigators are required to obtain a judge’s approval to use the device.
“While the warrant does ensure a modicum of judicial oversight, it is troubling to see the government using invasive surveillance technology on the streets of America to grease the wheels of the Trump administration’s deportation machine,” said Nathan Wessler, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “This is the first warrant I have seen specifically showing ICE’s use of a cell-site simulator in an immigration enforcement operation.”
It's the first warrant. It will not, of course, be the last. And the next generation of cell phone tower spoofing devices, called Hailstorm, are easily portable.
The Hailstorm technology from Florida-based defense contractor Harris Corp. is believed to be an upgrade of Stingray. Cell-site simulators, in general, are suitcase-sized contraptions that can be installed in cars or planes to track nearby phones.
Harris sells the device to police agencies and requires them to sign nondisclosure statements. Oakland County, like other agencies, obtained Hailstorm using money from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant.
Homeland Security also lets local law enforcement agencies pay for the devices using terrorism prevention grants.
Michigan State Police has owned the device for about a decade, according to documents obtained by The News. The equipment, originally designed for military and intelligence agencies, was upgraded in 2013, and an internal memo indicates it was used three years ago on 128 cases ranging from homicide to burglary and fraud, but not terrorism.
Federal investigators, meanwhile, were not required to obtain a search warrant to use the device until September 2015. That’s when the Justice Department implemented a new policy requiring a judge’s approval.
Under the Justice Department policy, all data from targeted cellphones must be deleted immediately after the device is located. Under the policy, Stingrays cannot be used to collect emails, texts, contacts or images during an investigation.
There is no similar policy governing local law-enforcement agencies in most states, said Shahid Buttar, director of grassroots advocacy for the nonprofit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. The group is committed to defending civil liberties and privacy in the digital age.
How long before that 2015 DoJ directive requiring a warrant to use Hailstorm vanishes thanks to Jeff Sessions? How long before that becomes standard practice for ICE raids?
Yeah, I know that Obama came up short on tech and civil liberties sometimes, but this stuff in the hands of Trump should terrify everybody.