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Program has been in operation since 2007, and scoops up the information of innocent Americans in the process

It looks as though the Department of Justice has some explaining to do with regards to their ongoing spying program on Americans. A new report from The Wall Street Journal claims that the U.S. Marshals Service has been operating a program for the past seven years that allows the agency to intercept unique IDs (and more) from innocent Americans’ cell phones using fake cell towers installed in small airplanes.
 
According to the WSJ, the airplanes — typically single-engine Cessnas — are equipped with what are known as DRT boxes or “dirtboxes” that are manufactured by Digital Receiver Technology Inc., a subsidiary Boeing. These boxes are designed to imitate a cell tower signal, and most importantly, trick a cell phone into thinking that this “tower” is providing the strongest possible signal. Since cell phones are automatically programmed to connect to the tower providing the strongest signal, the cell phone will send its “unique registration information” to the dirtbox.
 
The whole purpose of the program is for the government to track individuals that are currently under investigation, but given the fact that these dirtboxes cast such a wide net due to its aerial nature, thousands, if not millions of innocent Americans have been subjected to the surveillance since 2007.

The report says that a court order is obtained to initiate the intercepts, but it is unknown if the drastic measures that the U.S. Marshals take to lock in on their target are detailed within those court orders.

 
The dirtboxes and the software running on the devices can sift through the registration information that it scoops up and identify the subjects that are currently under surveillance. What’s not known is what is done with the information collected from innocent Americans or how long it is kept before the data is purged. Stockpiling the information for later use would be unconstitutional.
 
These dirtboxes can even interrupt the phone service of targeted phones, but sources familiar with the operation of the devices say that the dirtboxes have been programmed not to interrupt 911 calls (which would open up a whole new can of worms). But the level of sophistication of the dirtboxes doesn’t stop there; they can triangulate a person’s position to within 10 feet, while newer versions can jam signals and intercept text messages and photos.
 
The scope of the program is pretty vast, with aircraft operating from at least five metropolitan airports with a “flying range covering most of the U.S. population.”
 
Officials for the DOJ said that they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the program.

Source: The Wall Street Journal





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