Apr 062015

On July 21, 2009, the Anchorage Assembly approved the purchase of a KingFish Dual-Mode system from Harris Wireless Products Group (Harris Corporation) for $109,600, plus $9,600 to train four officers of the Anchorage Police Department. The background material for the meeting included a June 24, 2009, memo (Old link – broken) detailing the capabilities of the KingFish system:

  • Identify location of an active cellular device to within 25 feet of actual location anywhere in the United States
  • Track the route of any active cellular device and record tracking information for evidentiary purposes
  • Mimic the functional appearance of an active cellular service tower
  • Interrupt service to active cellular connection
  • Prevent connection to identified cellular device (“No Service”)

During the meeting, Anchorage Police Chief Rob Huen added,

This is funded by a Homeland Security Grant. And it provides a capability of tracking suspect’s cell phone and additionally the ability to interrupt specific signals. For instance if somebody had an IED device and we had information regarding that. The Alaska FBI has such a device. They have one of them with one operator. Unfortunately coordination and availability of that specific unit and operator have made share use almost impossible. Now this is….when you talk about the cooperative purchase of this. This is actually purchased off a GSA federal contract with a federal grant in lieu of going sole source here locally. So, before we utilize this thing, you have to remember, we have to get a warrant for the phone number. It’s very closely controlled. And so the warrant that is needed to access the phone number. Once we get that, then we use the device to locate the cell phone of a suspect. Once we locate it, we need to get another warrant to access where that phone’s located – say its located in a home or a car. So there’s strict protections on that. And one of the other things that the device is capable of doing and we are prohibited by federal law from doing is using it to eavesdrop on conversations. We cannot do that. Only the NSA and Homeland Security can do that.

For video of the meeting click here. Audio of Chief Huen’s remarks are available here.

On January 28, 2015, I filed a public records request for a copy of the non-disclosure agreement between the Anchorage Police Department and the FBI. The request was acknowledged in a letter dated March 18, 2015, but no response has been received yet.