Harris Corp.’s Stingray surveillance device has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in law enforcement for more than 15 years. The company and its police clients across the United States have fought to keep information about the mobile phone-monitoring boxes from the public against which they are used. The Intercept has obtained several Harris instruction manuals spanning roughly 200 pages and meticulously detailing how to create a cellular surveillance dragnet.
Harris has fought to keep its surveillance equipment, which carries price tags in the low six figures, hidden from both privacy activists and the general public, arguing that information about the gear could help criminals. Accordingly, an older Stingray manual released under the Freedom of Information Act to news website TheBlot.com last year was almost completely redacted. So too have law enforcement agencies at every level, across the country, evaded almost all attempts to learn how and why these extremely powerful tools are being used — though court battles have made it clear Stingrays are often deployed without any warrant. The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department alone has snooped via Stingray, sans warrant, over 300 times.
Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International, told The Intercept that the “manuals released today offer the most up-to-date view on the operation of” Stingrays and similar cellular surveillance devices, with powerful capabilities that threaten civil liberties, communications infrastructure, and potentially national security. He noted that the documents show the “Stingray II” device can impersonate four cellular communications towers at once, monitoring up to four cellular provider networks simultaneously, and with an add-on can operate on so-called 2G, 3G, and 4G networks simultaneously.