Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Small Towns Buying Once-Classified Military Surveillance Equipment

'Their usage was once classified and deployed in places like Afghanistan and Iraq...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) In the post-9/11 terror wars, the U.S. military used classified surveillance equipment to track people through their cell phones and license plates.

Now, such equipment is being purchases by small towns throughout the U.S. According to the political outlet NOTUS, at least two Texas towns along the U.S.-Mexico border have purchased a product called “TraffiCatch,” which collects the unique wireless and Bluetooth signals emitted by nearly all modern electronics to identify devices and track their movements.

NOTUS quoted TraffiCatch’s manufacturer, which said its product can “detect in-vehicle wireless signals [and] merge such signals with the vehicle license plate.”

“Combining license plate information with data collected from wireless signals is the kind of surveillance the U.S. military and intelligence agencies have long used, with devices mounted in vehicles, on drones or carried by hand to pinpoint the location of cell phones and other electronic devices,” NOTUS noted. “Their usage was once classified and deployed in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The Texas towns using TraffiCatch are Webb County, Texas—which includes the border city of Laredo—and Val Verde County. A Texas state grant program called Operation Lone Star helped fund the purchases, NOTUS reported.

Webb County Sheriff’s office Capt. Federico Calderon told NOTUS that the technology was used as a pilot to scan for radiofrequency signals in areas where no devices should be — specifically to try and protect seasonally-used rural ranches from trespassers.

He reportedly said the county did not share data with the federal government, and that the county purchased a “very restricted” version of TraffiCatch compared to what governments abroad have purchased.

Supreme Court precedent suggests that using TraffiCatch against Americans would require a warrant. But NOTUS noted that police departments around the country have worked around such requirements with equipment such as TraffiCatch and “stingrays”—technology that simulate cell towers and collect signals from devices nearby.

As Headline USA has reported, police agencies have tried to conceal their use of such equipment.

Documents obtained by the Project for Privacy & Surveillance Accountability and the ACLU show that the FBI has been forcing local police departments to sign nondisclosure agreements before providing them with stingrays. The NDAs prohibit stingray data from being used as primary evidence in any affidavits, hearings, or trials.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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