portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary oregon & cascadia

government | police / legal

Police and Military Monitoring Cell-Phones in Portland

Everyone knows the National Security Agency (NSA) gets off by listening to your phone calls, but did you realize that if you are a protester or activist, or even just happen to be near a protest, your cell-phone data is being collected by the military and shared with law enforcement in both Oregon and Washington?
An article in Grunge, Secrets The Police Don't Want You to Know, reported: ( https://www.grunge.com/63202/secrets-police-dont-want-know/)-- "Everyone knows the National Security Agency (NSA) gets off by listening to your phone calls, but did you realize some cops are monitoring you, too?

Remember how much work it took Jimmy McNulty and crew in HBO's The Wire to get a wiretap authorized? Heck, it took almost the entire first season! The first decade of the 2000s has come and gone, however, and the second decade has ushered in a new tool for privacy invasion and surveillance, officially called International Mobile Subscriber Identity catchers, but more commonly known as "Stingrays." Cops in 2014 were rolling out these mobile data vacuums all over the United States. Acting as cell-phone towers, one Stingray could effectively force every cell phone in the area to connect to it, giving the police an unprecedented amount of information, from call logs to your exact location, all without—and this is the best part—a warrant.

"How were cops getting away with this?" you might ask. Well, according to the Associated Press, it was all thanks to the federal government, specifically the Obama administration, which secretly advised police forces across the country not to disclose information regarding their surveillance technology and penchant for stealing everyone's cell phone metadata. The federal government also made a habit of interfering with routine cases pertaining to public records, as well as charges against the use of the technology. But we're sure it's all for your own good. You know ... "national security" and everything.

So the next time you're feeling lonely, just remember: Big Brother is watching."

Concerning surveillance in Washington State, the Huffington Post wrote: "With the militarization of police on the rise, the necessarily stark line between the military and domestic law enforcement is becoming increasingly blurred. And it's not entirely surprising—given ongoing revelations around mass surveillance—that the military would abuse its authority and spy on activists in order to undermine their political objectives. But, it has happened and likely still does." ( https://www.huffpost.com/entry/antiwar-activists-challenge-armys-domestic-spying_b_58e173e7e4b0ca889ba1a74e)

The Tacoma News Tribune reported in July 2018 that a judge found the city violated the state Public Records Act by deliberately withholding 11 records related to a police surveillance device called a cell site simulator from the American Civil Liberties Union and three Tacoma plaintiffs. The documents concerned the use of the surveillance device — known as a Stingray — which mimics a cell phone tower and compels all nearby devices — not just the target's phone — to connect to it. KOMO 4 News provided a description of Stingray devices in their article "The Spy in Your Pocket; How Your Phone Can be Tricked".  https://komonews.com/news/local/a-spy-in-your-pocket

The ACLU in its November 2018 article "Stingray Tracking Devices: Who's Got Them?" confirmed that both the Tacoma, WA Police Department and the US Army are using Stingray devices.
( https://www.aclu.org/issues/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/stingray-tracking-devices-whos-got-them)

According to public records ( https://pacer.uscourts.gov/): In January 2019, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) obtained a protective order from the Federal District Court in Tacoma, WA to seal records that contained information alleging that members of the JBLM Protection Division (Anti-Terrorism Office) "are unlawfully releasing personal identifiable information and collecting intelligence on U.S. citizens", and that "that JBLM DES is using Stingray, electronic warfare equipment, to unlawfully spy on citizens." ~ If JBLM was not attempting to conceal its use of Stingray to monitor the civilian community, why did they obtain a protective order to seal these records?

Concerned citizens in the communities around JBLM posted fliers expressing concern about warrentless electronic surveillance of their cell-phones. The response from JBLM was to post notices ( http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2020/02/438207.shtml) in the community calling those citizens who expressed concerning over this use of electronic warfare devices to target the civilian community, "homegrown violent extremists". The intent of the JBLM Anti-Terrorism Office was clearly to intimidate into silence anyone who questioned this on-going electronic surveillance, and to suppress the 1st Amendment Rights of individuals to speak out against the government.

In the summer of 2020, there were large protests in both Portland and Seattle in response to the death of Geroge Floyd at the hands of police. JBLM was present in both cities, using Stingray (JBLM records call these devices "Hailstorm") to gather cell-phone data from everyone in the protest areas. ( http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2020/07/439003.shtml) The military enters the data they collect into Intelink ( https://www.intelink.gov/) databases and shares that information with their partners in the Washington State Fusion Center ( http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2020/07/439003.shtml) The military enters the data they collect into Intelink ( https://www.intelink.gov/) databases and shares that information with their partners in the Washington State Fusion Center ( link to wsfc.wa.gov)

Learn more about Stingray electronic warfare devices from the Intercept ( https://theintercept.com/2020/07/31/protests-surveillance-stingrays-dirtboxes-phone-tracking/) and from Tech Crunch.
( https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/05/crocodile-hunter-4g-stingray-cell/)


At the Salish Sea Athenaeum ( https://salishseaathenaeum.blogspot.com/) we provide information and resources to help you protect yourself from corrupt and abusive government agents.