National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

FBI Releases ‘Cell Phone Tracking for Dummies,’ Plus 4,999 [Redacted] Documents

The FBI has just released more than 5,000 pages of documents regarding its highly controversial "Stingray" cell phone location tracker, a device so secretive that the agency has forced local law enforcement to drop criminal cases rather than risk disclosing details about it at trial. But don't expect to open these documents with the intent of understanding, well, anything about how the FBI uses them—nearly everything is redacted.

Stingrays are used by the FBI and state and local law enforcement to track potential criminal suspects. Technically, Stingrays are called IMSI catchers, because they catch the "international mobile subscriber identity" of every cell phone within a certain radius of the device (usually a couple miles). This necessarily means that law enforcement is tracking everyone nearby when it uses one, often without a warrant even for the criminal suspect they're targeting.

Thanks to a series of lawsuits, Freedom of Information Act requests, and court decisions, we know that Stingray use is widespread, and we know that the FBI goes to great pains to hide their use. Continue>>>