ICE is Using Stingray to Track Illegal Immigrants

According to court documents, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using Stingray cell-site simulators to track illegal immigrants.

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 2:19 PM • 17 Comments

Comments

SCMay 23, 2017 3:45 PM

Finding and tracking illegal immigrants using these tools is nothing but incidental. This whole idea appears to be an attempt at justification for the continued use of these controversial tools which are in fact used to monitor all communications and not as a means to capture illegal immigrants or anyone else.

Oh you don't like that we are able to passively monitor all your communications. Well look here, we captured an illegal immigrant with it. and he was a bad one that did bad things. all of which we were able to tell by listening to his and you mobile phone conversations. How do you feel now?

IggyMay 23, 2017 5:20 PM

After 20 years of my various governments not only not doing nearly enough to enforce the laws that would reduce the number of criminals--above and beyond the border trespass crime--but actively thwarting enforcement of our laws, I'm having a hard time being mad about it.

Patriot COMSECMay 23, 2017 10:06 PM

The U.S. is very leaky about its security information. Using SIGINT against illegal immigrants is exactly the kind of thing that the U.S. should be doing. How it collects SIGINT ought to be protected. When it is not protected, heads should roll. But what we often see is that no one is held responsible. In fact, I am not sure that many even care. Somewhere there is a fat slob whose job is to prevent confidential information from being released in court documents. I take these lapses as evidence that the U.S. is on its way out as the world's leading power--it cannot protect its borders, nor can it keep its security methods secret. Important techniques are compromised, and the silence is deafening.

That information could have helped protect Americans. It could help keep out terrorists and major drug dealers. After these constant leaks, and especially because of Snowden, everyone on the planet knows that they are being collected against, and they even know the methods. In fact, criminals may even buy their own equipment and counter-collect.

The American mind-set is often like this: it is not me, it is not my problem, it does not effect me or my wallet. Continual security lapses and leaks may very well effect both sometime.


DroneMay 24, 2017 12:55 AM

"ICE is Using Stingray to Track Illegal Immigrants"

For once a headline that really shouldn't be a headline.

Every minute the U.S. Government spends lawfully tracking people who break the law is a minute NOT spent illegally tracking law abiding citizens for political purposes.

keinerMay 24, 2017 2:26 AM

@Drone

That's utterly naive, doing one thing doesn't mean that you can't do the other ting at the same time.

NoneMay 24, 2017 6:45 AM

@keiner

So by your reasoning, there is an equal chance it is being used legitimately.

keinerMay 24, 2017 7:48 AM

@None
If I read the articles correctly, there is debate ongoing if there is ANY legal use for these devices (also functioning as mobile phone jammers)...

Call GirlMay 24, 2017 8:35 AM

A cell phone is no different than one of those ankle bracelets "offenders" have to wear after they post bail while awaiting trial. We're all monitored by ICE, NSA, all sorts of three-letter agencies with no interest in justice or civil rights.

War GeekMay 24, 2017 8:39 AM

I think the best cure for stingray fakes would be easy and glaring publicity on when they were present. That the LEAs agree with that seems self-evident from their bizarre case withdrawals and NDAs.

I dimly recall an Android app existing (Dsense? Apparently I need more coffee for my google-fu) that was at least a step in the right direction. Something easy enough for a buzzed bar patron to install when they challenge the idea that they treated like childish peasants by the surveillance crowd.

I know I can see the tower IDs my phone last connected too in txt from the other side of a USB cable attached to an Android. Pretty sure that's what the old App used as well...

WG

douglas2May 24, 2017 9:09 AM

The warrant allowed ICE to get E-911 Phase II data and triangulation data from Sprint (The mobile provider), and maybe use stingray if needed.

The expert quoted in the linked article says that this is the only case he has ever seen where permission for ICE to use Stingray has been revealed.

So it is patently not clear (from the sources and court documents) that ICE "is Using Stingray to Track Illegal Immigrants". They may have used it to track one illegal immigrant, but we don't even know that for sure. How likely is it that between location data from a modern phone and tower triangulation they couldn't find this fellow without the use of a cell site simulator?

Glossed over is that this is not just any illegal immigrant, but one who has already been deported twice, and who has a history of becoming a fugitive.

That's not to say that use of stingray is good, or that it should be legal, or that this is an admirable use of an investigation technique. It is not to sat that ICE isn't using stingray in many other cases.

The snarky websites would headline this "ICE uses controversial means to find young El Salvadoran restaurant-worker for being undocumented and being a criminal fugitive who has been a danger to the public, (but mostly for being a criminal fugitive who has been a danger to the public).

AnonMay 24, 2017 12:39 PM

@Patriot COMSEC:
The problem I have with line of reasoning is that it strongly implies that everything would be just hunky dory if no one knew about the violations of the law that are going on.

The problem here is the constitution which clearly prohibits many of the things that the NSA is doing with "Congress shall make no law...". Thus the fact that such laws exist is an unconstitutional abomination - regardless of whether they are followed or not since the government was never empowered with the consent of the governed to create the such a law in the first place.

Many people are okay with turning a blind eye to government illegality if they think it's done for the right reasons. But one must ask oneself, what are those reasons? To save lives? You could just lock everyone up in solitary and achieve that. To protect freedom and liberty? Well, isn't one of the hallmarks of a free society having a government that follows the rules? If not that, just what is the difference between a tyranny and a democracy?

While I agree with you that the leaks are doing nothing great for our public image and are negatively influencing our policy, not acting on the contents of the leaks if they expose wrongdoing is far worse than anything the leaker could have done. Thus I cannot pretend everything would be fine if the leaks stopped.

As for the Snowden leaks in particular, it was no news to any terrorist with half a brain that we were doing our best to listen to them (phone, internet, etc). What was news is that they were listening to us too.

Call GirlMay 24, 2017 12:52 PM

@douglas2

So it is patently not clear (from the sources and court documents) that ICE "is Using Stingray to Track Illegal Immigrants".

Of course not. That's just the parallel construction that they bring in court.

DroneMay 25, 2017 4:10 AM

@keiner & @Larry,

@keiner, you said, "That's utterly naive, doing one thing doesn't mean that you can't do the other thing at the same time."

Ah, but it does... Remember, the government agency doing the spying has only a finite amount of money and resources! For one to assume otherwise would be naive. Check your ideology, it may be clouding your judgement.

Clive RobinsonMay 25, 2017 5:18 AM

@ Drone,

Remember, the government agency doing the spying has only a finite amount of money and resources!

Whilst they do have a finite resorces issue, I don't think you realy grasp the difference between "targeted" bespoke and "general" industrial eavesdropping. It's the "Henry Ford" method -v- the Michael Angelo method. The result is the Ford method gives vastly greater utility for a similar resource level. As an example you nolonger see "repairable" radios of the sort made by hand soldered valve sockets on hand folded metal chasis in hand crafted cases, PCBs and injection molding killed it off faster than the dodo got made extinct.

Nor likewise do I think you have a grasp on the notion of "cost offsetting" which is a major reason for industrial eavesdropping and the subsequent parallel construction. Without doubt parallel construction is a major saver on resources that can thus be used for higher productivity etc.

Further within the LE and IC agencies, the greatest currancy is not money but "information" that can unlike money be multiply spent and acrue major favours to be cashed in when most judicious / advantageous.

As used to be said "Get with the program"...

@MeMay 25, 2017 7:59 AM

@ Drone

Indeed as Clive Robinson was saying, the use of a Stingray is not targeted, it affects all phone users in an area. Thus using it for a legitimate purpose ALLOWS (rather than prevents) the use of it for illegitimate purposes.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.