Jun 082015

In a response to a public records request from April 22, 2015, on June 1, the Pennsylvania State Police released a redacted administrative regulation for the use of “Telecommunication Identification Interception Devices” also known as cell site simulators, IMSI catchers or Stingrays. Administrative regulation AR 9-16 references Pennsylvania’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act and specifically refers to interception of electronic communications.

The Pennsylvania State Police FAQ on cell site simulators (CSS) claims that the CSS “cannot intercept the content of voice calls or text messages” nor can it obtain “cellular telephone numbers…of any user of a cellular device.” While the specific technical details and capabilities of the two Harris HailStorm devices owned by the Pennsylvania State Police are not known, the claim that the Harris HailStorm cell site simulators cannot obtain the cellular telephone numbers of cellular devices appears to be incorrect. In fact, the name IMSI catcher refers to the devices’ ability to capture the International Mobile Subscriber Identity, which is the device’s phone number.

For more information about the Pennsylvania State Police cell site simulators, see the excellent work by Dustin Slaughter at The Declaration and the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act request at MuckRock.

Pennsylvania purchase orders for Harris StingRay II to HailStorm Upgrade

Update: 6/26/15 – Text was updated to correct a mistake. It can still be seen in strikeout.

Apr 092015

In a March 19, 2015, response to my public records request, the Los Angeles Police Department responded, “To the extent that any such records may exist…they would constitute official information.” The letter goes on to state that all requested documents are exempt under California Government Code section 6254(k) and section 6255 without indicating whether such records exist.

However, a little research shows that on August 2, 2005, the Los Angeles City Council approved the purchase of a cell phone tracking system from Digital Receiver Technology for an amount not to exceed $260,000. Background material for the agenda item stated, “Most vendors only offered a product that could track phones issued by one or two cellular service providers. Conversely, DRT’s equipment can track and monitor all cellular phone traffic, making it the most advanced product on the market.” Digital Receiver Technology was purchased by Boeing in December 2008.

On April 29, 2010, the Chief of Police wrote a memo to the Police Board of Commissioners to approve a donation of $347,050 from the Los Angeles Police Foundation for a Harris StingRay II system, three high-power Harpoon amplifiers, a laptop, an Amberjack antenna and training. On July 6, 2010, the Los Angeles City Council formally accepted the donation.

Media coverage: