Long-secret Stingray Manuals Detail How Police Can Spy on Phones

Photo: U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

Photo: U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

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.

And the Harris software isn’t just extremely powerful, Tynan added, but relatively simple, providing any law enforcement agent with a modicum of computer literacy the ability to spy on large groups of people:

The ease with which the StingRay II can be used is quite striking and there do not seem to be any technical safeguards against misuse. … It also allows the operator to configure virtually every aspect of the operation of the fake cell tower. … The Gemini platform also allows for the logging and analysis of data to and from the network and “Once a message to/from any active subscriber in the Subscriber list is detected, Gemini will notify the user.” How many innocent communications of the public are analyzed during this process?

Tynan also raised questions about the extent to which Stingrays may be disrupting the communications infrastructure, including existing cellular towers.

Click here for the full article on The Intercept.


QUOTAS AND QUOTES: Multimedia Art Exhibit and Panel Discussion Organized by Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP)

QUOTAS AND QUOTES: A Multimedia Art Exhibit and panel discussion focused on NYPD’s quota-driven “Broken Windows” arrest and summons practices that inflict hardship and harm on vulnerable New Yorkers, especially low income people of color, the homeless, and persons with a history of trauma.

Opening Reception: June 21st, 2016, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, followed by a panel discussion.

Location: El Barrio’s Artspace PS 109, 215 East 99 Street, New York, NY 10029


As applied by high-level NYPD officials, quotas refer to the aggressive pressure placed on street cops to engage in a certain number of punitive interactions such as arrests, summonses (tickets), and stops.  As a result, everyday our city’s courts devote considerable resources to the administration of injustice, applying sanctions in hundreds, if not thousands of cases where the charges involve at worst, petty infractions and where the defendants are almost always people of color.

The Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) believes that increased awareness of these everyday injustices by the public, the press and political leaders will lead to a shift in the political landscape regarding policing and prosecution.

Featured art mediums include: mixed-media, scultpure, graphic design, painting, photography and a live interactive installation. 

PROP: Exposing and ending the NYPD's discriminatory and abusive practices that routinely and disproportionately affect our city's low-income communities and people of color. 

Curators: Rolinda Ramos and Jasmine R. Castillo 

Design Team: Maesha Meto, Bog Gangi, Rolinda Ramos, Kim Sanchez, Donald Bajema, Robert Lee. 

Participating Artists: Angie LMV x JT Leiss, Yazmeen Collazo x Adon Wone, Jimmy Aponte, William "BI" Sloan, Amar Bennett, Antony Posada, Atikur Abdule and Harlem Artist Collective. 

For more information, email: Rolinda Ramos, Maesha Meto or Bob Gangi.


Half of People Killed by Police Have a Disability: Report

Hands up, don't shoot . Artist:  LMNOPI . Photo:  Venusinorbit . Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC. Summer 2015. 

Hands up, don't shoot. Artist: LMNOPI. Photo: Venusinorbit. Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC. Summer 2015. 

NBC News, March 14, 2016, by Ari Melber and Marti Hause.

Almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, according to a new report, as officers are often drawn into emergencies where urgent care may be more appropriate than lethal force.

The report, published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability organization, proposes that while police interactions with minorities draw increasing scrutiny, disability and health considerations are still neglected in media coverage and law enforcement policy.

"Police have become the default responders to mental health calls," write the authors, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, who analyzed incidents from 2013 to 2015. They propose that "people with psychiatric disabilities" are presumed to be "dangerous to themselves and others" in police interactions.

The report wades directly into the racial debates over policing, noting that while coverage of police brutality cases has understandably "focused on race," that lens can also obscure how disability also factors into police interactions.

Take one of the most discussed recent police brutality cases — the Chicago Police shooting of LaQuan McDonald, a black teenager killed while acting erratically and holding a knife. Prosecutors took the unusual step of charging an officer with first degree murder, noting McDonald did not pose a lethal threat to the officers who had surrounded him. When video of the shooting was released, it sparked the resignation of Chicago's police chief and a national debate over race and policing.

There was far less focus, however, on McDonald's health. According to a later investigation by the Chicago Tribune, McDonald suffered from PTSD and "complex mental health problems."

Click here to read the full article.