Obama’s Justice Department is conducting a Fourth Amendment busting surveillance dragnet using fake cell phone towers in Cessna aircraft.
The program, in operation since 2007 by the U.S. Marshals Service, uses Cessna aircraft with devices emulating cell phone towers.
The aircraft are flown out of at least five metropolitan airports, according to the Wall Street Journal. The airport locations allow the government to cover most of the United States.
The Justice Department would not confirm or deny the report.
Cell phone technology is designed to have phones connect to the strongest signal. The Justice Department’s fake cell phone towers trick phones into believing they have the strongest signal and then read the unique identification numbers of the phone. The data is then used to track the position of cell phones.
A side effect of the operation is that unsuspecting cell phone users may have their calls dropped.
“The details revealed in the WSJ article are nuts: One source said connecting to the fake roving towers can briefly disconnect calls, and that authorities were trying to figure out a way to make sure it didn’t mess up calls to 911,” writes Kate Knibbs for Gizmodo.
The Wall Street Journal report says the program is intended to track the movement of suspected drug dealers. In the process, however, data on thousands of people not under investigation or subject to court wiretapping warrants is collected.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the program an inexcusable “dragnet surveillance program.”