An audio recording leaked by the hacktivist group Anonymous appears to prove that Chicago police used an IMSI catcher, commonly referred to as a Stingray, to intercept phone calls during an Eric Garner protest Thursday evening.
IMSI catchers, small devices that mimic cell phone towers, give police and government agencies the ability to capture people’s cellular data in real-time. The audio, posted to the official Anonymous Twitter account Friday, reveals a conversation between the CPIC, Chicago’s Homeland Security-run Fusion Center, and a police officer spying on an alleged protest leader.
Chicago police and CPIC discuss cell phone surveillance at 01:05
“Yeah, just uhh, the one of the girls is kind of an organizer here, um, she’s been on her phone a lot,” an unknown government employee told CPIC. “Are you guys picking up any, uh, any, uh, information, uh, where they’re going, possibly?”
“Yea, we’re keeping an eye on it.” a CPIC employee answers. “We’ll let you know if we hear anything.”
The leaked audio comes only one day after protesters began tweeting out pictures of a mysterious government vehicle equipped with an unknown device on its hood.
— Page May (@may20p) December 5, 2014
Cellular surveillance experts have thus far debated over the vehicle’s capabilities, with some noting not only an antenna, used alongside IMSI catchers, but two cameras, LED lighting and license plate scanners as well.
Regardless, the leaked audio serves to once again shatter claims by police departments that Stingrays are only used to stop the most heinous of crimes.
Just last August, documents acquired through a public records request revealed that a Washington state police department used a Stingray to hunt down a missing city laptop, not to investigate a homicide, rape or kidnapping as the department previously claimed.
Speaking with Infowars last month, Kirk Wiebe, a highly decorated 36 year NSA veteran turned whistleblower, condemned the domestic use of Stingrays by police and federal agents.
“These devices feed the mentality of the Police State, not unlike that experienced under the Nazis (Germany) and Stasi (East Germany),” Wiebe said. “Law enforcement is using this information to investigate and prosecute people without warrants – that is unconstitutional. At the national level, the same thing is happening.”
Given the fact that federal agencies have been caught teaching law enforcement groups to deceive judges in order to spy on Americans illegally, the act is likely going on much more often than the average citizen realizes.
With leaked Department of Defense documents labeling First Amendment-protected protest as “low-level terrorism” in 2009, it is hardly a surprise that the government would deploy technology originally developed for use overseas against innocent Americans at home.