The FBI Let Suspects Off In Order to Maintain its 'Stingray' Secrets

There has been a nationwide cover-up, perpetrated by the FBI and local police departments, to keep their use of Stingray devices secret. Stingrays, or international mobile subscriber identity catchers, are devices which fool cell-phones into revealing their locations and enable access to their content.


The attempt to keep this information secret was revealed through a Buffalo judge’s recent court order. Last week, Judge Patrick H. NeMoye, described a deal, dating back to 2012, between the FBI and the Erie County Sheriff's Office. Apparently, the FBI instructed the police department to drop charges against a suspect, rather than admit to the use of such devices. The police have tried to keep that deal secret, but NeMoye has rejected that reasoning and wants information on Stingrays to become public knowledge.

The Stingray phone tracker is manufactured by the Harris Corporation, a Florida-based company that Wired Magazine ranked as the Number 2 threat to privacy on the internet; Number 1 was the NSA. The Harris Corporation has been sued many times by organizations, like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for denying FOIA requests and violating public records laws. According to the ACLU, 42 law enforcement agencies use Stingray throughout the country. In 2006, the LAPD used a grant to obtain Stingray technology claiming that it would be used only for terrorism investigations. However, it was revealed that the technology was actually used for a variety of different cases.

While many have suspected that questionable efforts have been made to protect the secrecy of the programs, we now know, for a fact, that the FBI has let suspects off to maintain these relationships. It remains to be seen how much more we are able to learn about such practices.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close