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Secret Service, ICE,and fake cell tower spying (theregister.com)
267 points by LinuxBender 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 124 comments



I can only imagine the people running these organizations share the perspective of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnO3igOkOk

They believe they are the law, not that they're subservient to it.


I think part of the problem is the apparent lack of accountability for violations. I mean, what were the repercussions for any of the violations the OIG found? Careers need to be ended and people sent to jail over this. This is a civil rights violation en masse and needs to be treated as such. There should be no exceptions; a warrant should be required per the 4th amendment.


Remember, we have a supreme court that recently decided sniffer dogs are acceptable grounds for searches, despite them being worse than a coin flip.

Our court system doesn't care about "fair." It cares about punishing.


It's likely that there's no law saying that the tools for "acceptable grounds for search" have to on average increase the probability of finding something

The courts are doing they're job wrt the law


If dogs are on average worse than a coin flip, than just stopping people randomly (with a coin/dice) would be more honest, fair, and cheaper.


@dang I'm not sure what the correct approach is to ask about this - my comment on this thread was flagged.

I believe flagging it was inappropriate, as there wasn't any rule violation, just perhaps an opinion that is unpopular (support for law enforcement officers).

I don't mind being downvoted for comments that are unpopular, but I think inappropriate flagging is harmful.

What redress is there?


I'm guessing users flagged your comment, not mods. The redress is for other users to "vouch" for your comment, as I have done right now.

For contacting Dang, see the "Contact" link at the bottom of the front page.


While I definitely sympathize with your sentiment, TFA is mostly about how confusing and inconsistent the laws are.

According to the article, Ron Wyden and several others tried to pass a bill to clarify the guidelines, but it didn't make it out of committee.

Perhaps we should write good, clear laws and guidelines before we break out the pitchforks.

I may be naive, but I still believe that most law enforcement officers want to do the right thing, and dedicate their lives to helping others.

Of course egregious violations should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.


> I may be naive, but I still believe that most law enforcement officers want to do the right thing, and dedicate their lives to helping others.

That is extremely naive, especially when talking about these sorts of federal entities.


It can be true and still be problematic. If a small city has 100 LEO, and 15 are bad apples, the overwhelming majority still want to do the right thing.

Unfortunately 15 is still a very big problem. If they can break the law with impunity it can rightly be said that the police force is doing more harm than good. Even outnumbered 6:1 the bad apples have a larger effect on the community.

Unless the 85 good apples focus their attention specifically on the 15 above all other crime. If they enforce the law against the 15 until the problem goes away, or until the ratio is 30:1 and it is really hard for the 3 bad apples to collude... well then maybe.

No organization is perfect. But the rule enforcers have to be held to a higher standard.


If you have 100 LEO and 15 are "bad apples" and the other 85 provide a permission environment (as another commenter put it), then you don't have 15 bad apples, you have 100 bad apples.

At some point it became acceptable for the "good apples" to just stand by and do nothing watching the "bad apples" do things like beat the shit out of people, plant evidence, lie in their reports, and "testi-lie".

If the majority of cops are good:

* why are the good cops not fighting to get rid of the bad cops?

* why are the good cops fighting things like federal standards and databases that track bad cops to keep them from getting re-hired? After all, the good cops wouldn't want to work with the bad cops, right?

* why are bad cops finding it easy to get re-hired? The good cops wouldn't want the bad cops to continue being cops, right?

* why are the good cops engaging in work slowdowns in the wake of protests over the killings of unarmed black men, and calls for shifting non-violent incidents to other people who are less confrontational and better trained to handle things like mental health emergencies? After all, if it was just the bad cops, they wouldn't have any problem with the protests, and not having to handle situations they're poorly trained for, right?

It goes back to the parent comment about A Few Good Men. "YOU NEED ME ON THAT WALL!"

The interesting thing about the work slowdowns is that it's showing us that we really don't actually need cops nearly as much as we seem to think we do.


We can soon expect and in most place and in some places it already is in effect, that number to be close to 20 to 30 instead of 15 because all good officers left or retired in droves due to defund the police movement.

Most tech people here do not realize what conditions these officers work in. If they are in shady part of town, they will get cursed, get called every name just for being there. They have to be on their heels for any kind of violence at all times. On top because of woke leaders they are not allowed to use force because they know, police chief and mayor will not have their backs when they use force.

Good one's who left are not coming back and good one's which were once planning on joining the force so many have changed their plans.


> all good officers left or retired in droves due to defund the police movement.

No. Your premise here is nonsense. Show me some evidence that protests caused "good officers" to leave law enforcement.


> the overwhelming majority still want to do the right thing.

If a small city has 100 LEO and 15 are "bad apples", and that situation persists, it persists because a substantial (especially as weighted by influence) majority of the other 85 view protecting the 15 as more important than "doing the right thing", from keeping quiet, to supporting union rules and institutions which insulate the bad actors, to...


I don't know that it's fair to characterize it as "protecting" so much as a good faith argument in someone's favor. I think most people would extend that favor to their peers, not *just* police.

I've had plenty of debates with opponents that talk about rape stats: they're pretty high, and assumed to be undercounted, and predominately it seems like it's men perpetrators and female victims. Now I'm not a rapist, and *to the best of my knowledge* nobody I know is a rapist, or a perpetrator of domestic violence, etc... But these are also things that can and do happen behind closed doors and are secreted away and swept under rugs — fair point. So when someone makes broad-strokes accusatory statements about men as a whole, acting under that assumption, I defend myself and my peers because me, my friends, my family are all being called to task over something I have *faith* we were no party to. And I've heard ballpark figures from some of these interlocutors that indicate as many as one-half of all men are perpetrators of the aforementioned crimes or their kindred malefactions.

And I think this kind of extension of trust is fundamental to society and civilization. I think it is also a considerable hazard as a population grows. Bystander effect but at scales inconceivable to any individual.


> Now I'm not a rapist, and to the best of my knowledge nobody I know is a rapist, or a perpetrator of domestic violence, etc... But these are also things that can and do happen behind closed doors and are secreted away and swept under rugs — fair point

That's the difference between you and the police. The police do have knowledge of the crimes of their co-workers. They stand by and watch it happening. Often there is body cam footage of it happening. If you knew one of your friends was a serial rapist, and you've watched them raping people, and you had video evidence of it, and you did nothing, you'd be the problem.

The "Bystander effect" is a solvable problem. That's what training is for. Training is how doctors, EMTs, and countless others are able to intervene in a crisis. There are even specialized programs designed just for police. One example is EPIC (http://epic.nola.gov/home/) and another is ABLE (https://www.law.georgetown.edu/cics/able/). If an officer isn't adequately trained to do their job, then they have no business wearing a badge. We should be holding police to much higher standard to the rest of the population.


What I'm really intent on getting at, albeit through a roundabout way, is that such institutions will always be susceptible to abuse, and that they hadn't ought to reasonably exist in the capacity they do operating under the pretenses they have offered. They're neither properly capacious to hold themselves to account, nor is the public suited to the matter (look at the US political system), either. Trust and defer is a hazard, but we're all culpable in it's maintenance and that is why and that is how the faux lacquer of the Rule of Law is maintained because most can yield that faith, they're willing to defer their authority to someone else be it the police, the FBI, CIA, et cetera.

As to the argument, there are a million and one ways to justify and rationalize behaviors, some convincing some not. The question then becomes one of faith. Some aspects of ones willingness to advocate in the favor of another are fraternity, I won't deny that. And some are due to shared experience. I would say the largest fraction of it is necessarily that faith just because very often we lack the omniscience we so often act as if we're in possession of.

We'd also do well to remember that these folks have elected to enter into a position where they're frequently endangered, or at least the probable threat of danger exists frequently. Often times they're veterans trained for combat and not peacekeeping. They also interface with other people in ways that you and I will seldom ever have to in situations we'd hardly ever imagine. Imagine pulling over a drunk driver in a several thousand pound vehicle. There's about a thousand things that could go on there. Is the driver deranged? Is he armed? Is he going to resist arrest? Will he decide to run me over?

As to training: I disagree. There is always room for error, period. Men are never machines, as such they should never be trusted with mechanical rectitude. I can make a long list of a wide variety of charlatans with conflicts of interest in pedaling their wares, myriad training programs it's quite the industry and often it's snake oil with one or two poorly constructed studies or apparent correlation, unreliable, unreplicible — but they sell. I could see it being a point of plausible deniability though. Trained expert police dispatching someone sounds a whole lot more acceptable than police murdering someone. But really it's the difference between an annual refresher training composed of a slide deck that nobody pays attention to and mocks, and no annual refresher training.

But nobody is going to take responsibility.


I actually think you're missing the mark on bad apples by an order of magnitude. I think 1-5% bad apples is not only more likely, but I think you perhaps underestimate the effect that this smaller percentage can have if allowed to operate in a permissive environment.


I would guess that 95% of the people I know exceed the speed limit 80+% of the time they drive. In fact, just suggesting that it is ok to drive the speed limit in the left lane of a U.S. freeway would draw near universal condemnation.

Imagine an individual who actually obeys the speed limit 99% of the time, exceeding it only by mistake. Imagine they are late to a once in a lifetime event. I think it almost impossible for the average do-gooder to contemplate the mental struggle of whether it is ok to--just this once--go 3 or 4 mph over the speed limit. Normal people wouldn't even hesitate.

Now imagine you are a concientious LEO driving a marked vehicle. There is practically no speed at which you will be punished. Every normal person is doing 5-10 over the limit. Some tap their brakes when they see you. But you can do 20 over the limit and never tap your brakes even when you see another police car. In fact, you rationalize, you all by yourself will impede traffic if you don't drive at least 10 over.

How do you not develop a sense of exceptionalism? Even if you are a good person? And, of course, how do you presume to pull another cop over and give them a ticket?

Now extend that beyond speed limits into every aspect of law enforcement. Is it reasonable to expect 80% compliance of the very best officers? No? So why should it surprise anybody to get <50% compliance from 15% of officers? Especially when you get <50% compliance from 80+% of non-officers.

The by-the-book officer is great for a comic movie. We all cheer for them in the theater. But on the street in real life they are intolerable to 99.9% of the public. Happily we all cut each other some slack. I think 1-5% percent is naive, or doesn't include the 10-20% grace we automatcally ignore by necessity in life.


Constitutional protections are VASTLY different from motor vehicle violations.


In your mind, yes. You likely have never been in a position where violating constitutional protections is useful to you at all. In the mind of a police officer, both are impediments to where they "need" to be. Also, the sanction for violating the constitution is actually lower than the sanction involved in speeding. There are ridiculous ideas like "qualified immunity" that allow cops to get cheap malpractice insurance that covers them, and their unions generally force departments to pay cops who are on leave - the worst case is a small loss of overtime pay.


Generally agree but I think it's important to make a distinction between federal law enforcement and local.

Local police departments have wildly different training and qualification requirements. Most famously generally not requiring a college education, having the right to pass on hires/fires because they score too high in IQ tests, etc.

At the federal level college is often a requirement up to including law degrees and PHDs[0]. One thing to look for at that link - the starting salaries and requirements are wild. The relatively low pay and high requirements likely either select for people with a strong sense of service or power crazed maniacs.

Most federal agencies other than the FBI have a single, consolidated training program at FLETC[1] (the FBI has their own in Quantico). Additionally, they generally have higher standards and regulations for everything from behavior to investigations and overall professionalism. This story includes multiple call-outs from agencies tasked with overseeing federal law enforcement (however effective they are). At the local level in many cases the only "oversight" is some citizen review board with practically no power or a useless internal affairs department.

In short, to be a "local cop" you can generally decide to be one (for whatever reasons), go to the police academy a short drive from where you live, and be walking around with a gun in a few months. It's very easy and low-effort.

That's not the case at the federal level. At the federal level you also don't have the whole "get fired or resign from one department, keep your certification, and get a job in the next town over" situation - which is ridiculous and basically serves as a funnel and retention system for bad cops.

LE is people too and you have the normal distribution of humanity (more or less). However, the job tends to attract people with a longing for power and that's problematic too. There's also the issue with LE generally, but especially local police, where they have a tendency to get extremely cynical and jaded.

I don't see myself as some "bootlicker" or whatever the current derogatory term is but I have been on a few ride alongs and spending hour after hour dealing with people at their worst can really wear on you - and I have roughly 24 hours of cumulative life experience observing this. As one cop said "for starters, everyone lies to you constantly". Frankly I can't imagine doing it day in and day out.

At the risk of going way off topic here, I can sympathize with how jumpy these local cops can get. Being by yourself, on some random dark street, pulling someone over, and walking up to the car cold is surprisingly scary. It's the little things - I was in the passenger seat and I was told I could walk up to the car with them but only if I walked around the back of the police car and came up to the drivers side behind them. You know, just in case the driver decides to put the car in reverse and pin me between the cars. There were a few situations that were dicy enough for me to realize "I'm the only one without a gun or body armor".

Most local police departments have ride along programs and I encourage everyone to do at least one. It's easily one of the most eye opening experiences I've ever had.

[0] - https://www.secretservice.gov/careers/special-agent/qualific...

[1] - https://www.fletc.gov/


> Unfortunately 15 is still a very big problem.

Especially when they are in charge of the hierarchy.


Can you elaborate? What do you think most law enforcement officers want to do, and what do you think being federal changes about it?


>What do you think most law enforcement officers want to do

Get paid large salaries and good benefits without having to go to college, in a country that doesn't respect the trades enough. And plenty of them like the power, especially the "bad apples."


“A few rotten apples spoil the bunch” as the saying goes.

Due to never facing consequences for illegal actions, a culture of flouting the law and abusing rights has been normalized — for both federal and other agencies.

The few “bad apples” rotted their organizations.


> I still believe that most law enforcement officers want to do the right thing

It's been legally determined that "the right thing" is 1. protection of property 2. protection of the status quo (i.e. the rule of law regardless of what the law is) 3. does not include the safeguarding of the welfare of people (see DeShaney v Winnebago and its impacts).

You say "some bad apples" - the tree was selectively bred to make anemic, putrid fruit.


[flagged]


Some people are on TikTok so everyone forfeited their privacy?


Having had worked in DC much of my career, more specifically within the IC, I think more likely they believe in a general utilitarian philosophy that “the ends justify the means”.

It is a common Western world view to begin with, but my personal observation is it is especially common in the grayer professions of the world.

Took me personally reaching a point in life and asking the big question “do they really?” or in my case, “doesn’t it matter how you get to those ends, too?” before my own worldview/choice of profession began to shift.


The impact on public morale when your “necessary” actions are discovered is an outcome too.

I find people who say “the ends justify the means” tend to ignore outcomes of their actions which don’t support their desired bad behavior — and generally completely ignore higher-order effects, such as the corruption of the US IC undermining the US rule of law in a way no foreign adversary ever could.

I don’t think US IC members have the wisdom to know what ends come from their means — they just shut their eyes, utter the catechism, and commit illegal acts that undermine the US.


Imho, A Few Good Men is a great movie because, especially for 1992, it spoke directly to those gray areas.

About ten years later, after 9/11, the US established Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where in 2023 there are still people (32?) held outside of normal legal processes.

I would expect that the 32 remaining, out of almost 800 total, are a clear threat to the United States.

But is it right to keep them there? What are the moral implications of the rest of America looking away while ugly work is done with their authority and in their name?

Colonel Jessep isn't 100% wrong (Santiago's death may have saved lives, but his death shouldn't have happened), and Lt Kaffee isn't 100% right (Jessep broke the law, but people are not owed unvarnished truth without earning it).

Everyone's who's worked for a large corporation, even outside the IC, knows that many things are done in that grey area, with the expectation bosses would deny asking someone to do it. See the recent news about Union Pacific train wheel bearing inspections being pressured to pass.

To me, the balance of any system is accepting an optimal level of corruption/abuse, in order to permit efficient functioning. Grease lets things slip, yet also decreases friction.

It's ugly, sad, and terrible... but also necessary. A perfectly enforced code of laws would rapidly implode any country in the world, because it wouldn't leave room for interpretation and exceptions.


Sure — but that’s already substantially back-pedaling from “the ends justify the means” as a general policy.

And by that same argument, arbitrarily lynching some of the corrupt actors — despite knowing that everyone is operating in such gray areas and such things are necessary — is the counterbalancing force to that necessary corruption. The tension and friction which makes it work. You define the gray area through those prosecutions at the edges.

Each foray into the gray zone becomes a risk — and so only the necessary ones are made, rather than normalizing a culture of corruption.

Without that, you have all slip and no stick, so the machine falls apart. Which is what we see in the US IC (and businesses): too much lubricating corruption; not enough punishment. Taken too far “out of tolerance”, the machine becomes broken or even dangerous to keep operating — and so must be replaced entirely.

If you want to tell me you have the wisdom to operate in such gray areas, then you should be aware of that necessary reality too.


Similar background, and I think it goes beyond an explicit "ends justify the means" analysis. Most of them think they are the Avengers, and anything they do is definitionally Good and Patriotic because they are the one doing it.

And in most cases, the good they are doing is quite tangible while the downsides (especially around due process, privacy, and other non-tangibles) are often quite abstract.


Certainly a fair point on mindset and I’m sure it will vary depending on where you work. I generally agree with you, but wonder if the viewpoints we each described are not mutually exclusive.

The viewpoint you are describing sounds along the lines of “good vs. bad”, “us vs. them”, “black vs. white”. I guess the viewpoint I mentioned is more describing how one consciously or unconsciously reconciles/reaches congruence between their actions and value system.

In other words, one part answers the “why” we do what we do and the other answers the “how do we feel ok with what we did”.

At least from my background, there were no illusions that many things we did would be considered of questionable morality or destructive in just about any other circumstances.

That then brings about the philosophical question I think your perspective ultimately answers, which is “this is wrong, but…sometimes doing wrong things can also be right or less wrong than the alternatives”.

Just to add, I especially agree regarding downsides. Aside from being abstract, the relationship between cause and effect may be murky or seemingly non-existent.

Thanks for adding your experiences/perspective!


What I've realized is that the means determine the ends, both intended and unintended.


I am not sure that I agree life is quite as black and white to where that maxim can always hold true.

I think we can agree that intent/means used to achieve an outcome certainly do matter (more deonotological/Kantian philosophical worldview), but I do believe that consequences/outcomes of action and/or inaction certainly matter as well.

All sorts of mental gymnastics we could go through as to my reasoning, but I try to be cautious in accepting strict maxims as absolute truths.


"we do what we must because we can"


"For the good of all of us."


Except the ones who are dead

But there’s no sense crying over every mistake

We must keep on trying till we run out of cake.


I once heard a park ranger literally say "I am the law" while telling a story to a random visitor about how she had her sister with dogs come live with her, even though dogs were prohibited in the park (or something like that).

This isn't to impugn park rangers in general nor the fantastic national park system, just a datapoint about how warped people's viewpoints can get with even an inkling of power.

The whole concept of sovereign immunity needs to be massively neutered, especially as extended to individuals employed by the state rather than the state itself.


There's a reason Cartman's "Respect my authority" bit is so good. These types of roles are especially attractive to a particular personality type. There are jobs where it is best to have people that do not want to be in that position vs having people seeking to be that position.


I see that even in my condo's HOA board. There are three types - those that are lurkers but will vote occasionally, those that do not really want to be there, but they feel they are qualified and it's their duty to do the work, and those who want to exercise power and exempt themselves from the declaration/by-laws as much as possible. You need at least one of the second to balance one of the third.


You give them too much credit. Thinking you are the law means you give a shit about justice. These people have quotas to meet and promotions to get and bosses to please. Violating your rights is just one mean to an end.

A law that isn't enforced is cheaper than the paper it is written on.


I think for a lot of them, especially the LE agents that come from a military background, the A Few Good Men reference actually applies. They really think we are in this endless war, and that they are patriotically defending their country from hand-wavey "enemies." If that's true, the ends justify any means, up to and including breaking the law. The law written by non-warrior civilians--what do they know about these dangers lurking around every corner?

This perpetual-warrior mindset is evidently pervasive throughout law enforcement and other branches of government.


You are right about them using the "perpetual warrior" thing, I think that to most of them it is just a mask they wear to not feel or look like the bad guys as opposed to that being their motivation.


Back in the day you could do off the books phone tapping with a set of alligator clips, a capacitor and a memo recorder. If you didn't want to do it yourself you could just get someone else to do it, preferably someone who works in a large central office (with or without phone company knowledge). The result was not usable in court, but it would save you immense amounts of time sitting around figuring out what criminals were doing.

Things like Stingrays preserve the capability of off the books phone tapping. This sort of capability is very important for things like drug trafficking where none of the people involved are very likely to file a police report. So I suspect that the attitude of the law enforcement people involved is that they have been asked to do a job that is practically impossible without this capability.


Then use the legal process laid out to get rid of the Fourth Amendment.


The fact that people involved are not filing police reports is a strong indication that it shouldn't be a crime in the first place.


That's not what that character believes.

It's more that a nation of law and order is very desirable, but to maintain that society, those who threaten it must be fought by any means necessary.

I don't know how true that is, but I can't rule out that that is how the world really works.


> law and order is very desirable, but to maintain that society, those who threaten it must be fought by any means necessary

Thats is one and the same thing.

When people who 'protect' the law don't follow the law themselves, you no longer have rule of law.


Sure. But that's a word definition argument, not a practical one.


If it's a definition argument it's a pretty significant one, that underpins the functioning of our society. Is the law something the public has, through its representatives, consented to? Or is it something the administrators and enforcers of the law have decided unilaterally without that consent?


You seem to be making an argument that law enforcement should do anything to keep order, no matter the legality.

I would argue that as soon as a “good guy” cuts legal corners, they set a bad example for those next to them. Those little corruptions have outsized consequences over time, like compound interest. I was in Los Angeles when LAPD brass were trying to figure out what to do after the Rampart District had been revealed for a perfect example of this corruption.


I'm not at all making that argument.

I share your ideals and agree with what you're saying.

But I also know the world doesn't 100% work that way, and am open to the idea that this is because it can't.

Maybe you and I actually can't "handle the truth", as the Nicholson line goes, so some essential things to preserve our civilized polite life has to be done is secret for the bigger good.

I don't claim it is that way, only that I can't be sure it isn't. And neither can you.


> Maybe you and I actually can't "handle the truth", as the Nicholson line goes

This comment is entirely about the examples/analogies.

Note that different people interpret that character’s line differently. Some people agree with the character that strict rules and discipline and walls and tough characters are needed to maintain the peace (“the sheepdog protects the sheep against the wolves” analogy that is common in police/military circles).

I personally see that character as having a god complex. In the movie, he walked around with an entourage of sycophants and enablers, he lied to investigators, he created a crime by telling subordinates to “handle” the whistleblower, he arranged for the crime to be covered up by altering logs at the airport, and he chose to withhold his actions from the military court until his ego was challenged.

Every time that “you can’t handle the truth” scene is invoked around policing, it is the perfect example to confirm my bias against people who would choose to give sheepdogs all of the power they demand.

And the analogy of sheep/sheepdog is an interesting tell because sheep are very far removed species from sheepdogs, but sheepdogs and wolves are the same family if not the same species. The only thing that differentiates a sheepdog from a wolf is action. If the sheepdog starts to selectively act like a wolf “to keep order”, then they are closer to a wolf than a sheepdog.


I mostly agree about the movie, though I'm impressed by how it makes us see how he honestly thinks of himself as the hero who does What Needs To Be Done in secret.

In the real world, I think more about the CIA and it's sister organizations across the world, who routinely and lawlessly assassinate people and many other deeply illegal things. I wish the world wasn't like that. But it is.


I also wonder if reality is more like No Country for Old Men


> They believe they are the law, not that they're subservient to it.

The public would be shocked at the level of criminality within the state, not satisfied with making up the law as they go along to suit their needs, they even go and break it.


The title is much stronger than the content.

You'd think that in an article about someone "breaking the law" you'd learn about a court of law determining that fact. Otherwise, at least in this country, "innocent until proven guilty". It's part of the journalistic unwritten rules to add "allegedly" in such a title.

What we learn instead is that an internal audit found that the Secret Service and ICE broke some internal DHS policy and generally internal policies are stricter than laws (otherwise they wouldn't be needed).

The actual law appears to be complex, as the article itself states later:

  Legislators recently have tried to make CSS usage clearer. In 2021, US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a bipartisan group of other lawmakers introduced a bill, the Cell-Site Simulator Warrant Act, requiring the government to obtain a warrant to deploy a CSS device. 
  "Current federal, state, and local policies regulating Stingrays are confusing and inconsistent, opening the door to abuse and unconstrained, invasive surveillance by law enforcement," the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) said in support of the bill.
  The bill never made it out of committee.


As I understand it, the allegation here is that only by following the internal policies would their activities be allowed under the Fourth Amendment, and by breaching these policies their actions are illegal under the Fourth Amendment, not under any more specific law. Of course, as you say, this all depends on the nature of how the internal policies were breached, so it's far from a given.


>> Guariglia argues the OIG should release the statistical data so that the public can better understand how often CSS devices play a role in investigations.

While the innocence until proven guilty policy does indeed apply to individuals, it is not applicable to government agencies as a whole. Until they release statistical data or provide some level of transparency, citizens have a right to assume their rights are being violated.


The Fourth Amendment is pretty friggin clear. Are you claiming their internal policies are stricter than the Fourth Amendment or are stricter than some lower statute that is superseded by the Fourth Amendment?


The security services here in the UK do what they like, you only have to look at some of the stuff coming out of the troubles in Northern Island for example, or things like the Hillsborough disaster.

The UK is terrible for this abuse of human rights and following their own interpretation of law, and it starts in childhood, usually under the pretence of teaching people/kids a law whilst they get abused.

The British culture is toxic, it needed to be in order to force itself on the rest of the world as a criminal empire.


IMSI catchers should be made illegal in general.

If they want data from mobile users, ask the telcos, they have all the data in their logs. Except for some minor edge cases, using an imsi catcher is only beneficial to the three letter agencies, if they're doing shady stuff and don't want the telcos to find out.

Also, with any matter of surveillance, where a mass of personal info is gathered, everyone involved should be notified about the data collection in some reasonable amount of time (eg. max 30 days, unless the courts prolong it for 30 days more and have to keep manually prolonging that), so everyone gets a letter "on date X. y. 20ZQ, a police investigation done by XYZ gathered your data from X hour to Y hour in location of cell towers QWE and WER, where the following lines from the log have been forwarded to the agency: ..."


The problem is much deeper unfortunately.

If they banned IMSI catchers it just makes the job marginally harder. When I mean marginally I truly mean MARGINALLY. Right now a police officer can fire up some software, draw a selector box around a region, and pull everyone who was in that region inside some timeframe. They don't need an IMSI catcher for that. Cell phone data from advertisers is often enough. It's real minority report pre-crime level shit. This of course all ignoring the fact that IMSI leaking happens with EM emissions which can be argued are incidentally picked up anyway and therefore information that doesnt require a warrant. Like a license plate for your car.

We need much, much stronger privacy laws. But first we need to get people into congress that actually care.


This comment is gold. Another way to attack the problem is to educate end users.

How do we convince Bob down the road that giving private information to corporations is a cause of some of our own problems? Usually I get retorts of condescending looks with a “I’ve got nothing to hide” -type response.

We need to draw the whole problem space out for regular people somehow but it’s big and complex.


Well yeah, but the police will ignore the laws, do a parallell reconstruction, and do whatever they want.

We must take away the tools that make their illegal works possible. One of them are imsi catchers, the other is location access to apps on phones, especially when the app is closed, then better authentication schemes must be implemented (some of it is done with 5g, but eg 2g is completely broken), etc.

IMSI catchers are not passive listeners, but actively transmit and act as if they are a legit tower and let phones connect to them, identifying them only because phones send identifiers to them. Passively listening to signals doesn't do much on newer networks and even with older (eg. 2g) only works if you capture the first connect to the network (when IMSI is transmitter, after that a temporary TMSI is used).


I care. And I consider running, but it feels like a race to the bottom...


Two questions on technical counter-measures:

1. Could OpenWRT + LTE modem be configured to lock onto a whitelist of known-good provider cell tower IDs?

2. If the physical location of a known-good tower is available, could a directional LTE antenna be used to ensure that tower's signal is the "strongest"?


This list:

https://opensource.srlabs.de/projects/mobile-network-assessm...

... continues to be the best checklist of suspicious or incorrect behavior that would indicate the base station to which you were connected was not a real base station.

Scroll down to the "IMSI catcher detection" table and see behaviors like:

- Cell is not advertising any neighbor cells

- The LAC of a base station changes

- Your phone sends at the highest possible power

Many of these behaviors to test are GSM specific however the attacker can perform a downgrade attack and force your 4G phone to collapse down to 2G service, thus exposing you to these.


Fake towers have always been super easy to detect. There are ways to be sneaky about it, but law enforcement doesn't care because it's not like they're going to have to face any consequences.


If they are easy to detect, could OpenWRT and GrapheneOS block them, or be driven by a crowd-sourced blocklist?


If you can crowd source a blocklist and effectively keep the cops from interfering with your efforts, then you've solved a hard problem.

If you have that level of coordination, you might be able to find something more impactful than interfering with surveillance to use it on.


IMSI catchers are not limited to law enforcement, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18469118

> With $20 of Gear from Amazon, Nearly Anyone Can Make This IMSI-Catcher in 30 Minutes. Surveillance takes on different character when it trickles down to more ordinary, everyday users. The significance and threat from IMSI-catchers is multiplied when a lot more people can deploy one using cheap tech from Amazon and free code from Github.

Looks like U of Washington has a 2017 paper on city-scale tower anomaly detection, https://seaglass.cs.washington.edu/ & https://seaglass-web.s3.amazonaws.com/SeaGlass___PETS_2017.p...


An adversary is an adversary, law enforcement or otherwise. If you crowd source a list of that's useful in limiting your adversary's skulduggery, they're going to figure out how to become part of that crowd and "contribute" to your list in ways that make it useless.

The fix is to get the crowd to participate in some kind of hygiene/self policing activity: Not impossible, but if we had a readily available solution to that problem we wouldn't have governments that don't follow their rules in the first place


That $20 quote is for 2g.


For a while maybe. When such lists/apps become common enough then Siemens and others would just sell a addon for a fee that does a better job of spoofing the legit towers some of which they make. Then the block-lists would just become a placebo.


Sounds like cell towers have weaker identification than the average web/SSH server.


I'm not sure, but you can write a script to warn you if you are locked to an unknown cell id.


For most of my life, I didn't understand the American aversion to government.

But having lived in this country and having seen innocent people put into precarious circumstances by poor government processes, I get it.

The US government is very very incompetent. It is very important to keep power away from government agencies in America.


This is why making the government more effective or powerful has major unintended consequences. Checks and balances, fundamental rights, separation of powers are all beautiful things that are under-appreciated today


For my entire life, I've judged the competency of news orgs by whether they prioritize citizens' need for Gov accountability over baked-in deference to the NatSec state.

This article serves us first and that feels a lot like relief.


You are confusing competency with bias.


> You are confusing competency with bias.

If you mean the conservative derogatory version, I am not. Deference to NatSec has long cut a deep gash across both major political ideologies. Neither serve us when they fail to be an fact-based adversary to Gov/Corp/LEO.

If you mean the stock vanilla version where everyone prefers one thing to another, that seems too generic a term to be useful in this context.


Worth noting that both Secret Service and ICE likely have exceptions to Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure based on context. Without specific examples, it’s hard to say if laws as is are being violated. If laws are not being violated, then real issue is if the exceptions should stand.


As if they need much effort elsewhere. ICE (HSI) got a search warrant against me because an anonymous dog allegedly accused me of wrongdoing. That anonymous dog allegedly told an anonymous officer, who allegedly told an HSI detective. I was served a warrant based off 3rd degree, inter-species hearsay. How do you even argue against that. I still have no fucking clue what that was all about and I never interacted with a dog that alerted on me.

Then the cost of the (fruitless) search warrant was sent to collections, and I now have debt collectors chasing me where the debt document literally says guarantor "ICE" on it.


Had to read this many times to understand what you are talking about, but referring to the use of police dogs as "interspecies hearsay" seems like a novel defense. Legally, I would think the use of K9 teams would count as valid evidence for a search. I did not know they billed people for the cost of exectuting a search warrant. Is that really a thing?


> think the use of K9 teams would count as valid evidence for a search

If the dog handler lies 100% of the time, would you ever know?


The dog handler actually didn't lie. Straight to my face he expressed disappointment the dog did not alert. Someone else lied about the dog alerting. That's the great thing, no one can question the dog so literally anyone in the whole chain can lie and without a recording or testimony of the dog it's impossible to refute.


They handcuffed me, tossed me in a cell, then dragged me to two different hospitals by prisoner van, then told the hospital to search me for an alleged "drug conspiracy" up my ass. Literally. Then the hospital sent me the bill after nothing was found.


Are we talking something similar to this [1]?

[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/05/man-seeks-mi...


So, it sounds like they cloaked the search in terms of a "medical procedure". That surprises me, but I guess by now it shouldn't. They do this kind of thing, when they know they can get away with it.


So I decided to test that exact theory. The warrant wasn't actually signed by the judge until about halfway through my detention.

So I complained to the nursing board, that the nurse had searched me without consent and without a signed court order after a doctor had explicitly noted I was fully alert and oriented and denied informed consent.

The nursing board denied the complaint, stating a nurse acting under the command of an officer is acting in a "search" and not bound by nurse practice act that would make it impermissable to act without a signed court order or informed consent (if individual alert and oriented, which dr documented I was).

That's the gambit. When you legally claim it was a search, they call it a "medical procedure." When you attack the medical procedure, they call it a search. They just flip flop so it's impossible to hold anyone accountable.


Sounds like their position is law enforcement officer commanded the nurse to perform a medical procedure which as result of it being related to a border crossing was legal if there was “reasonable suspicion” which you have said the claimed to have based on your responses and lack of cell phone.

To be clear, not stating I agree with situation, fully understand law, your perspective, law enforcement perspective, etc — but claim that body cavity search requires a warrant once reasonable suspicion is established at a border crossing to my knowledge is inaccurate if you’re claiming it is.

Example of Google search that appears to return search results supporting this:

https://www.google.com/search?q=is+it+legal+for+us+customs+t...

Disputing reasonable cause is very hard to do. Most people would likely find it reasonable to be suspicious of a person lacking a cell phone. Also appears judge granted a warrant, which to me confirms they believed their the threshold for reasonable suspicion had been passed.


> Disputing reasonable cause is very hard to do. Most people would likely find it reasonable to be suspicious of a person lacking a cell phone. Also appears judge granted a warrant, which to me confirms they believed their the threshold for reasonable suspicion had been passed.

I don’t know what I stumbled upon but it definitely does not meet my threshold of reasonable suspicion to do an involuntary body cavity search for anyone solely because they do not own a cell phone.

Also I would hope the public pays for all costs of whatever involuntary search or medical procedure regardless of whether the search results in evidence of guilt but definitely if the search does not yield anything.


To do X is irrelevant, what matters is if it meets legal definition of reasonable suspicion, which I assure you is both extremely low at border crossings and that law enforcement is very aware of how to establish it; hence why the warrant was granted.

Way to address issues like this is not online or at a border crossing — but by changing laws themselves. I assure that vast majority of people support laws like these, otherwise they would not have been in place so long.

Again, I am not saying I agree with situation, but attempting to accurately describe the reality of it.


Sounds horrendous. There is no remedy for you here I take it? Sue them?



Interesting that they can charge you for a search.

Another note: depending on your state, you might have a lot of power in challenging the debt collection. Make sure you demand they send you proof that they hold the debt, that it is in your name, etc. even if the debt was legally applied to you, some debt collectors buy debt that is insufficiently documented.

I’m curious if a small claims court could help you.


> Then the cost of the (fruitless) search warrant was sent to collections, and I now have debt collectors chasing me where the debt document literally says guarantor "ICE" on it.

Wait, am I understanding this correctly? You got a bill for a bullshit search warrant issued against you?


Use of K9s as pretext for plausible cause is well known issue, that said, without knowing specifics of the situation, impossible to comment on legal merit of them submitting the cost of search warrant for debt collections.


> submitting the cost of search warrant for debt collections

I'm not sure how that would even work.


Depends on context, jurisdiction, etc — for example, given topic is US law enforcement, here’s one example of costs of investigation assigned for collection based on outcome of a case:

https://www.findlaw.com/legalblogs/criminal-defense/when-do-...


The way it works is they have a private party perform part of the search, then have that party bill it to you.


Annoying, for sure, but short of them having a your signature acknowledging responsibility for the cost, it should be straightforward to shut down the debt collector's efforts.


Until that debt gets sold to a collector that couldn't give two shits about what is legal


Your statement ignores the fact that this article’s info comes from the DHS Inspector General’s report on CSS usage within the department. The IG did the legwork to figure out that agents didn’t comply with department policy, nor the relevant Pen Tap and Trace statutes.

In the case that agents use the already well established workarounds for 4A protections, the agents must still file for a warrant post hoc within 48 hours, which they didn’t do, hence the article.

And Stingrays / CSS devices are used, there is always an unreasonable search applied towards all phones accidentally intercepted, so there is good reason for both department policy to be followed, and for a judge to at least review this after the fact.

Your comment is lazy. The IG report exists for a reason. It removes almost all of the ambiguity you pretend might exist in these cases.


It's not really an exception so much an application of the "reasonable" part, right? You don't have a right against search and seizure, just unreasonable searches and seizures. The existence of a warrant makes a search definitely reasonable, but there are contexts where a search can be reasonable without one.


How do these things even work? Do phones not have some sort of security certificate authentication?


It is more a WHY do these things work and the reason is, that the whole "security" part of these networks are build to do one thing:

Make sure the operator of the network knows who to bill for what.

Nothing else. Not to protect your ID or the content of your messages. Just and only to bill correctly.

It is even forbidden for your phone to indicate IF and HOW your session is secured. Just to make sure you are not aware you're being MitMed.


Why are there no consequences for these people?


Because every time someone proposes meaningful consequences a bunch of moaners come out with procedural arguments arguing that their conception of a just system is more important than the reality of an unjust one, and they get offended if you challenge their civic religiosity. Judicial opinions are full of such Paglossian nonsense.


Because When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, instead of a ting, we retreat to the bread and circuses.


It's unfortunate that what everyone was afraid of happening but expected to happen, happened.


Now it will probably be a service offered by private entities via satellite.


Oversight is just another big lie.


Amusingly, perhaps, this could reasonably be read as either Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Interactive Connectivity Establishment


In that article ICE != Internal Combustion Engine and CSS != Cascading Style Sheets. What a time to be alive.


Also != Interactive Connectivity Establishment


Do you really think governments and government organizations/forces obey the law?

Don't get me wrong in an ideal world they should, but we're far from that world.


The vast majority of time yes. Nobody obeys the law absolutely. The government is comprised of human beings.


When one is in a position of authority, where they assume rights that the individual does not have, then even a single misuse of that authority by that person, no matter how minor, should lead to blackballing from ever being allowed to be in a position of authority again, including political office.

Want a police force that actually deserves respect? Then you must weed out the bad apples with vigor, and make it very clear that their behavior will not be tolerated.

We could start by getting rid of "qualified immunity" as it stands, and recraft it in a much narrower fashion.


I agree with all of that. Police need more training, higher standards, higher pay, and more consequences for misconduct or betraying their mission and values.

We also need to be more forgiving when mistakes are genuine.


Haven't read it yet but keywords like Secret Service, ICE,and fake cell tower spying are music to my ears




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