The CIA is giving its surveillance tech to US law enforcement

The Justice Department's newest electronic dragnet--plane-mounted "dirtboxes" that can slurp thousands of cellular phone ID's from the air -- was originally developed by the CIA to hunt terrorists in the Middle East, The Wall Street Journal reports. Now however, it's being used domestically to track American citizens. That's not good.

According to a new report from the WSJ, the US Marshals Service, with assistance from both the CIA and Boeing, developed these Cessna-mounted devices. They are electronic sniffers that mimic cellular tower signals to incite any cellular telephone within range to broadcast its identifying registration information. It's essentially an aerial man-in-the-middle attack and one that has cost US taxpayers more than $100 million to create. With this information, US Marshals can effectively locate, identify, and lock on to specific cell phones -- out of a sample population of thousands or even tens of thousands of devices -- to within an accuracy of just three yards. What's more, once the suspect phone is found, Marshals can then listen in on any calls originating from it. According to the WSJ, these devices have been in operation since 2007, mounted on Cessna aircraft flying out of five metropolitan airfields throughout the US and can access a majority of the US population.

This isn't the first time that this technology has been put to use by US officials, mind you. Dirtbox technology first debuted in the Middle East where it was utilized in the hunt for terrorists in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However, this new program marks a troubling collaboration between domestic law enforcement and the nation spy agency that blurs a very important operational distinction between the two agencies...


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