Friday, April 04, 2014

Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys? The NSA Of Oakland County

Cell phone tracking, intercepting, and spoofing - it's not just for the Feds anymore.

The Detroit News: Secret military device lets Oakland deputies track cellphones

Oakland County commissioners asked no questions last March before unanimously approving a cellphone tracking device so powerful it was used by the military to fight terrorists.

Now, though, some privacy advocates question why one of the safest counties in Michigan needs the super-secretive Hailstorm device that is believed to be able to collect large amounts of cellphone data, including the locations of users, by masquerading as a cell tower.

Able to imitate a cell tower in order to track phones and intercept conversations, the big question is why does a County Sheriff's office need it, and what exactly are they planning on doing with it?

Of course, Oakland County didn't pay for this alone, the device, while in the first paragraph is stated to cost $176,000 in later paragraphs costs considerably more, but not to worry, a Federal grant covered all but $105,000 of the cost:

The county received a $258,370 federal grant that paid for all but $105,000 of the device, training and about $56,000 to purchase a vehicle to contain it, records show.

That would imply it costs $363,370 and whatever the vehicle purchased for it, at $56,000 it better be gold-plated.

Especially considering the Undersheriff has stated it would be illegal for the Sheriffs to listen in on phone conversations, which is a key point of having a Hailstorm device in the first place, its a lot of money to act as a cell phone locator.

Undersheriff Michael McCabe said, “Hailstorm helps us capture fugitives from the law, people wanted for murder and rape” and can be used only with a search warrant. He said the federal Homeland Security Act bars him from discussing Hailstorm, but he elaborated at length about what it doesn’t do.

“It’s not a tool to spy on people, unequivocally,” McCabe said. “It does not record cellphone conversations ... Hailstorm does not capture personal information on anyone or store unintended target data. It does not take photos of anyone. It doesn’t take videos or fly in the sky. It’s a tool used for criminal investigations and it’s legal and lawful.”

. . .

The commissioner said McCabe eased his concerns with written assurances that it’s illegal for local police in Michigan to listen in on phone conversations. Only federal policing agencies with warrants can do that, McCabe said.

It's a bad sign when an entity buys a showcase piece of very expensive and capable technology and then clams up when asked what they're going to do with it.

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