Tuesday, 25 November 2014
What could possibly go wrong when the Abbott Government is creating Fortress Australia to protect us all from a veritable host of 'terrors'?
When the Abbott Government’s wider surveillance powers were passed by the Senate, the Australian public was being assured by both major parties that the sweeping ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation had built-in safeguards which would protect us all from over reach by intelligence agencies and police.
The good citizens of Tacoma in Pierce County, Washington, United States probably thought they were protected too. After all, didn’t the police need to get a warrant from a Superior Court judge?
The News Tribune article of 15 November 2014 shows just how easily a mockery can be made of surveillance laws:
Pierce County judges didn’t know until recently that they’d been authorizing Tacoma police to use a device capable of tracking someone’s cellphone.
Now they do, and they’ve demanded that police change the way they get permission to use their so-called cell site simulator.
From 2009 to earlier this year, the county’s Superior Court judges unwittingly signed more than 170 orders that Tacoma police and other local law enforcement agencies say authorized them to use a device that allows investigators to track a suspect’s cellphone but also sweeps cellphone data from innocent people nearby.
In August, the assistant chief of the Tacoma Police Department told The News Tribune that investigators never deployed the device — a cell site simulator, commonly known as a Stingray — without court authorization.
The newspaper since learned police never mentioned they intended to use the device when detectives swore out affidavits seeking so-called “pen register, trap and trace” orders allowing them to gather information about a suspect’s cellphone use and location…..
Neither the pen register orders nor the affidavits filed by law enforcement mentioned that police had a Stingray or intended to use it.
Instead, detectives used language commonly associated with requesting an order that would force a cellphone company to turn over records for a particular phone, and, where possible, the real-time location of the phone…..
The News Tribune 17 November 2014:
The Tacoma Police Department, which owns the Stingray, did not want to reveal it to the public. The FBI, which provided it, was leaning on the city to keep the technology secret. As a result, the judiciary that monitors investigations for constitutional abuses wasn’t aware of the kind of surveillance it was authorizing. However noble the motives, this was subterfuge….
But a Stingray — which employs technology known as cell site simulation — is so much more intrusive than conventional surveillance that it demands extra scrutiny. It pulls in cellphone transmissions from all callers in a given area and identifies the unique signatures of each phone…..
This could get spooky in a hurry. The Pierce County Superior Court now has another safeguard in place: Police must sign affidavits that they will not store data on people who are not targets of the investigation…..
Think this example of over reach is too far removed from Australia to matter? Think again…..
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on what is already occurring in Australia on 7 July 2014:
Australian federal and state police are ordering phone providers to hand over personal information about thousands of mobile phone users, whether they are targets of an investigation or not.
Fairfax Media has confirmed Australian law-enforcement agencies are using a technique known as a "tower dump", which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to targeted cell towers over a set span of time, generally an hour or two.
A typical dump covers multiple towers, and mobile providers, and can net information about thousands of mobile phones.
The dumps are usually used in circumstances when police have few leads and can be a useful, powerful tool in tracking down criminals. But privacy advocates say that while they may be helpful to police, they also target thousands of innocent people and don’t have any judicial oversight.
In addition to no warrant being required to request a tower dump containing the mobile phone data of thousands of people to track down one or more criminals involved in a crime, privacy advocates also question what is being done to the data collected once an investigation is complete….