FBI asserts right to monitor cell phones without a warrant


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It’d be neat if carriers/cellphone manufacturers could build in the technology to reject fake towers. I’m sure it’s technically possible. I could make a disappointing prediction about what would happen next…

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Thought. Crowdsourcing (via phones submitting the signal-vs-cell-ID-vs-coordinate) the map of the cell towers. Autodetecting discrepancies, manually selecting which is a false alarm (e.g. a mobile cell that the telco provided to a place with temporarily higher concentration of people) and which is a candidate for a hostile intercept device.

The auto-rejection via blacklist (or a location-aware whitelist) could be done either by patching the phone firmware, or by a micropower jammer attached to the phone; a few microwatts fed directly to the phone’s antenna and with proper modulation can take the cell “off the air” for the phone without generating enough emissions to attract attention.

I think we need to get some hacker onto breaking these devices wide open, and infesting them with viruses and malware. Presumably the Stingrays use a different OS than legitimate cell towers, so it should be possible to embed a worm into the signal that only affects the fake towers. Make it do something nasty, like brick the device, or (if possible) overheat and cause significant damage to it. Of course, you could just have it start giving false data, as well - perhaps have it report that phone numbers of known FBI agents and Stingray executives are calling Afghan phone numbers or something? Or just randomize the data <–> cell number pairings on what it’s collecting.


Now that we know they’re using this tactic to violate our Constitutional rights, couldn’t we file suit against them to get this stopped?

How is this different than reading our mail?


I get really fucking tired of LEO’s circular arguments…

“We can spy on you without a warrant.”

“How’s that?”

“Because you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

“Why don’t I have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ ?”

“Because we’re spying on you.”


In 1967, the Supreme Court said cops couldn’t tap phones without a warrant because there was a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

In 1990, the Supreme Court said cops could tap cordless phones, but not cell phones, because when using a cordless there was no “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Now, we have no “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

What changed?

The future arrived.

Magical radio transmission of the majority of telephonic conversations.

The “airwaves” are considered public property. Anything you broadcast within the regulated frequency bands are considered to be exposed to public view and so forth.

In 1967 telephone conversations were carried over wired connections.

In 1990 your wireless handset communicated with the base station in your house by FM radio.

We need to rewrite the laws to be agnostic of the medium by which a communication is transmitted. A communication between two individuals conducted by telephone absolutely should carry with it an expectation of privacy, regardless of whether any of those encoded sounds are transmitted by wire, radio waves, snail mail, or telepathy.


Just wondering … why aren’t all the Obama supported totally pissed off about this. Is this the type of “hope and change” you voted for? If a GOP President were doing this, you guys would be screaming for blood by now.

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Trust us, we ARE.


a) We are, and
b) A GOP president was doing this. This was happening under Bush as well, it’s just that we didn’t even know about it.


OK - only if the message comes up on your phone . . .

Sincerely, Your Government (B.O.)

In the absence of a reasonable expectation of privacy, presumably it’s equally legal for anyone to intercept cell-phone conversations.

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Yeah, I know. Both sides of the aisle are equally scummy in this regard. It is just that, as I said, if we currently had a GOP president, there would be lots of screaming over this issue. But since it is a Democrat, it is the “Well, that’s too bad. Boys will be boys.”

This whole thing pisses me off. When you take an elected office, you swear an oath to UPHOLD the Constitution. Certain parties have certain parts of the Consitution that they dislike – for Republicans, this tends to include the 4th Amendment, but the Democrats don’t have clean hands in this either.

OK. This is a stupid speculation, maybe ignorant and moronic. But, what if Obama WANTED to end all surveillance as he entered office. Then, once elected, he was shown a secret room with some evidence that turned his underwear brown. After that, he dropped the idea of reigning the NSA and even ramped things up. Just idle speculation, but that might explain much. Some dark, terrible secret so horrible that the public could not handle…

I am! Seriously, I am.

If the dark terrible secret is there, then the responsible action is to tell everyone about it and let them choose for themselves. That’s the thing about democracy, it says: we trust all people to know what’s going on and make wise choices. If there is “secret info” then trot it out and let us decide what the risk/benefit ratio is. Informed consent, not just for medicine anymore!

Maybe. I was thinking more on the line of an alien space ship with human-shaped costumes inside. Who knows?

“Some dark, terrible secret so horrible that the public could not handle…”
Or, you know, there’s a power structure within the US and various agencies with their own agendas and activities that the president doesn’t have a whole lot of ability to control because he relies on them far more than he has power over them. We can at least give Bush (or rather his administration, since he was a puppet figurehead) blame for setting up a lot of grossly unconstitutional programs, but even in the absence of Bush’s administration, some of this stuff was going to happen anyways, regardless of the president. I do believe Obama had at least some desire to change things, but once he got into office, the political reality set in and he realized it would be political suicide to even try.
I wish there was some dark secret, because the alternative is a power structure that’s incredibly complex and resistant to any sort of democratic process, which all the evidence indicates is the case.

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