In response to EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has released more than 400 pages of documents related to cell site simulator technology (commonly referred to as “Stingray“). This most recent release to EPIC includes training and promotional materials from a specialized unit within the FBI, the “Wireless Intercept & Tracking Team” that had previously been hidden from public view. According to the documents, the FBI’s Tracking Team provides technical and financial support to a quickly expanding group of federal and local law enforcement agents trained to use the controversial surveillance tools. The documents reveal that the FBI believes it can use cell site simulators without a warrant, but so far only one federal court has considered the Fourth Amendment implications of these devices, including their interception of innocent users’ data. For more information, see EPIC v. FBI (Stingray).
In addition, the newly released files reveal that it is not just the Stingray tool that the FBI has used to track down cellphones. In previous years, it has also deployed devices known as the “Loggerhead” and the “Triggerfish”—both made by Florida-based Harris Corp., the same company that manufactures the Stingray tool. While the Stingray is a device primarily designed to be used for tracking the location of phones, it is notable that both the Triggerfish and Loggerhead were designed to allow authorities to eavesdrop on the content of calls. The Loggerhead, however, is largely an obsolete device because it was made to spy on old analog cellphones that have been superseded by digital.