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IRS Talks About Stingray,
FCC Doesn't


In the above letter from IRS Director John Koskinen to Sen. Wyden is a clear discussion of IRS' use of Stingray, a cell site simulator/"IMSI catcher". In October The Guardian revealed purchasing documents it had FOIA'd from IRS showing the purchase of such units.

They're not cheap! The IRS contract shows that just upgrading a Stingray to the newer "HailStorm" model costs $65,652! Training an extra 6k.

The IRS contract that The Guardian obtained also shows that IRS knows how to properly mark redactions on FOIA documents with the exemption number as mandated by 5 USC 552 (b)(9) - something that FCC has generally not done in the past. (An FCC insider has assured me that FCC has been in general compliance with this requirement, but since FCC does not make readily available past FOIA releases as CIA, NSA, FBI, and NRC do, it is not readily possible to see if FCC has been compliant with the law in the past. However, we have shown in this blog numerous other FCC FOIA releases, including one from the FCC IG, that were not properly marked with exemption numbers. Indeed, the only FCC FOIA release that I have ever seen is that is properly marked dealt with Stingray and it is likely it was actually redacted and properly marked by FBI since its redactions include information readily available elsewhere on the FCC website that FCC staffers would have been aware of.)

The ACLU website contains a map that allegedly shows how broadly Stingray is used by local and state as well as listing 12 federal agencies that reportedly posses this technology - although a few are military and their units may be intended for overseas operation.

As we have stated before, operation of Stingray and similar IMSI catchers in USA by either federal agencies or nonfederal agencies requires some degree of FCC coordination and acquiescence. As several commissioners are concerned about delegation of authority abuse and legislation is being considered that would require more explicit public documentation of delegations of authority (most, but not all of which, are now enumerated in Subpart B of Part 0 of the Commission's Rules) perhaps the commissioners and congressional committees should ask who at FCC authorized this broad use of Stingray-like technology and whether proper procedures were followed.

The IRS letter at the top of this post demonstrates that the basic facts of Stingray use are both now public and are being discussed publicly by other agencies. FCC's continued silence is thus puzzling.


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