The Chicago Police Department is being sued for acting in “bad faith” and “willfully and intentionally” failing to provide records on the use of “Stingray” surveillance devices to track and locate cell phones.
Freddy Martinez submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Chicago Police Department on March 22. He received an acknowledgment on April 1 from police that they had received his request. But then months went by, and despite multiple attempts to follow up and figure out when the department might complete his request, the police have chosen to ignore his emails, and his request.
The initial request for information was the following:
…I am seeking any records pertaining to the purchase or reception of any ISMI catchers, commonly known as Stingrays (a trademark of Harris Corporation). The purpose of these ISMI catchers is to intercept and log GSM [and/or] DCMA (cell phone communications). I am looking for any and all records related to the following (but not limited to) commercial products: Stingray, StingRay II, Amberjack, TriggerFish, Gossamer, Hailstorm, Harpoon or Kingfish. These devices (and devices like them which I am also seeking records for) can capture IMEI codes, TMSI, MSISDN and related phone data. I am looking for any and all records related to the purchase, billing, ongoing costs and how they are paid for…
The technology, according to the ACLU, enables the “electronic equivalent of dragnet ‘general searches’ prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.” Stingrays “emulate a cellphone tower” and “force” cell phones to “register their location and identifying information with the Stingray instead of with real cell towers.” When they search for cell phones in an area, “large numbers of innocent bystanders’ location and phone information is captured.”
It is believed and suspected that the Chicago police have this equipment and have used it. Occupy Chicago participants thought it was being used against them when they were occupying the corner of Jackson and LaSalle in downtown Chicago. They witnessed equipment being installed in November 2011, an increase in the number of unmarked surveillance vans, and an impact on the quality of cell phone service. It all took place ahead of the NATO summit (and the then-planned G8 summit).