The Wall Street Journal reports that, for the last seven years, the U.S. Marshals Service has flown Cessna aircraft over America’s cities, collecting cellphone location data from thousands of people with “dirtbox” devices that mimic cellular towers. The Marshals Service, a unit of the Department of Justice, predominately searches for federal fugitives, but its Special Operations Group conducts “tactical operations for sensitive and classified missions involving homeland security, national emergencies, domestic crises and the intelligence community.” Flying spying and data harvesting on such a broad scale raises serious Fourth Amendment questions.
“Report: Secret government program uses aircraft for mass cellphone surveillance,” Gail Sullivan, Washington Post
“WSJ: A Secret U.S. Spy Program Is Using Planes to Target Cell Phones,” Kate Knibbs, Gizmodo
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Image (“Flying Phone Spy, after a 1964 comic book”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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