American citizens’ cellphones targeted in secret US government spy program

“The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations,” Devlin Barrett reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program,” Barrett reports. “Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.”

“The technology in the two-foot-square device enables investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location, these people said,” Barrett reports. “Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, called it ‘a dragnet surveillance program. It’s inexcusable and it’s likely—to the extent judges are authorizing it—[that] they have no idea of the scale of it.'”

“Even having encryption on a phone, such as the kind included on Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6, doesn’t prevent this process,” Barrett reports. “A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that over-collection of data by investigators, and stockpiling of such data, was a violation of the Constitution.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. – Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1961

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[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
The U.S. NSA can still listen to your iPhone’s microphone when off; here’s the trick to beat it – June 10, 2014
How the NSA tapped AT&T’s network – May 23, 2014
U.S. House passes bill to curb NSA data collection programs – May 23, 2014
Apple, others to defy U.S. government authorities, notify customers of secret data demands – May 1, 2014
US NSA used Facebook to hack into computers – March 12, 2014
Rand Paul: ‘What you do on your cellphone is none of their damned business!’ – March 8, 2014
U.S. NSA watching, tracking phone users with Google Maps – January 28, 2014
Apple issues update on U.S. NSA and law enforcement orders – January 27, 2014
Obama’s NSA proposals fall far short of real change – January 17, 2014
U.S. NSA devises radio pathway into computers to conduct surveillance, launch cyberattacks – January 15, 2014
The NSA, Apple’s iPhone and a whole lot of bad reporting – January 8, 2014
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
Ex-NSA chief calls for Obama to reject commission’s recommendations to rein in NSA surveillance – December 30, 2013
How the U.S. NSA remotely bugs your Apple iPhone – December 30, 2013


      1. give me one of tho… no ten of those very cold beers, I have been spending the day fighting morons who think Net Neutrality is about fixing their throttled Netflix connection. They’re the ones that need to be throttled.

        Man, I thought these were supposed to be my Golden Years.

        1. I don’t understand….

          Net Neutrality – it’s supposed to be bits are bits. Do you prefer to pay more for something?

          I am willing to take your position, if I could understand better and if it could be explained in a logical way, how free market Internet services is better for everyone.

          This is what I think so far: Please show me the error of my ways.

          You do realize the natural order of things? Take and collect all that you can, until you can’t collect or take any more. Invent new ways to hold more, take more and faster.

          Banks or their leaders and stock holders do this to their customers and to each other. So do power companies, gas and oil companies, Russian leaders and oligarchs, cell phone providers, any service industry, governments and politicians.

          The point behind regulation is temperament. To slow the process down so that the process is more accessible to more people for longer periods of time.

          The ozone layer, naturally rebuilding, is a good example of a successful attempt to regulate and control freon emissions that impacted the entire globe.

          Deregulation has caused 4 disasters over the past 40 years. Savings and Loan, Housing bubble burst 1, Dot Com burst, and the mortgage collapse. Additionally it seems, we all pay more for our phone bills and electricity than ever before, we don’t have much choice from one vendor to the next because they charge the same amount.

          It’s possible, net-neutrality is the only thing we have to keep the Internet more accessible. You pay only for the onramp. What are the regulations like in other countries and how does that impact speeds and accessibility? It seems, in the US, we are falling faster behind. Though I don’t think Canada is doing all that well either.

          Unless you can show me a roadmap to Nirvana by categorizing internet lanes and tiered access, I call all anti-regulation, anti-net neutrality crusaders either greedy, nuts or both.

          I want to see a true logical solution. No fear mongering

          1. We have to spend more time reading the legislation. That it has been sound-bite’d into “Net neutrality” only suggests that the wordsmiths have figured out how to make it palatable. What you are describing are concepts that I think reasonable people could agree with — but is that what the legislation will really create? I’m not so sure yet.

            1. Well if you call a fox, a chicken, I have a problem with that. If this is not really net-nutrality, then I can understand that it’s unwanted. The complaint then needs to be, “malformed oppression, wrongly labeled net-neutrality.”

  1. Gee, surely Obola Messiah wouldn’t let our pals in the Federal government abuse the “Net Neutrality Act?” He’s our pal too!

    All hail Obola! O Giver Of Light!

    give me an effin’ break, impeach and convict this monster as soon as the newly elected congress takes their oaths.

      1. That is an amazing video. Thanks for sharing.

        And what the hell ever happened to the Democrat party. From JFK to Hussein Obama-Reid-Pelosi? We are looking at the most radical, subvertive, and corrupt government in our Country’s history. Just say NO to anything that comes from this trio. We can ask questions later.

        1. Agreed!

          The far left has an education disorder. They need reality and history lessons over empty sloganeering like Hope & Change.

          Kennedy got it right! The last great Democrat president FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.

    1. Oh, go screw yourself. If GWB and Cheney didn’t brainwash America into believing quoting the constitution made you a communist/Al Queda terrorist, we wouldn’t be in this mess at all. They terrified every Democrat by endlessly calling them terrorist supporters if they opposed any of the GOP fascist Patriot act.

      Not only that, who do you fucking think you’re fooling? GOP are the very imbeciles who opposed Obama in 2008 on every single Patriot act repeal statement he made. They claimed he was an Al Queda supporter for wanting to end the warrentless wiretapping you’re bitching about! The airwaves were blanketed in endless “Obama sides with Terrorists! He speaks about return to Constitutional limits on government spying!!!” ads and statements. Now you assholes expect us to believe you are the alternative to him only scaling it back somewhat?? PUH-LEEZ. I was born on a day, but not yesterday.

      1. Within two weeks of President Obama’s inauguration, Dick Cheney said the new chief executive would likely get us killed. “When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” the former vice president said.

        1. Dubya & Co. have not been in office for six effin’ years…you cannot keep blaming them forever. Obola and his Democratic congress have not repealed one goddamned Bush program. Hope and change? YOU need to get real.

    2. “I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense,” Giuliani continued. “We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense.”

  2. No judge could authorized blanket surveillance:

    It’s inexcusable and it’s likely—to the extent judges are authorizing it—[that] they have no idea of the scale of it.’

    …Unless that judge was a traitor to the US Constitution.

    The worst enemy of We The People at this point in time is our own government. And I don’t care what ‘party’ you prefer. They are both responsible for this assault on our freedom.

        1. If you need to go off topic, this is certainly better antidote to all the vulgar little trolls, their pudgy, greasy little fingers tapping out cruel words, key caps stained orange from countless bags of Cheetos, shoulders hunched over desks in their mother’s dingy garage apartment.
          Got me to breathing a little heavier. 😉

    1. When it comes to stuff like this, the government is it’s own worst enemy. As a nation, we have been inflicting wound after wound, to ourselves, ever since WWII. When will this ever stop?

      It’s McCarthyism all over again, but no one is accused of anything, because we are all guilty by default.

      It really sucks and is humiliating. I feel both frustrated and ashamed, that outsiders look back at this and snicker we are getting a taste of the crap they had to live with. But it doesn’t seem to matter they are getting it worse anyway.

      “DIGNITY”, put that on a giant poster in order for people not to forget.

      1. …and “RESPECT”.

        From my POV, the key attribute of the current rule of our Corporate Oligarchy is DISRESPECT. It’s written into all the legislation they attempt to force down our throats via our corrupt government:


        The customer, the citizen, is a default criminal.

        Not acceptable. Not representative of We The People.

  3. I would like to see a Constitutional Amendment that replaces impeachment along with the elimination of the electoral college…A recall amendment, where after x amount of citizens’ signatures were gathered and verified, an immediate nationwide referendum by the people would ensue. If the referendum went against the standing president, then he would immediately lose his position. The Senate Majority Leader or The Speaker Of The House would be acting president in the shortest possible interim required to have new candidates and another national election.

    1. A “we put you in there, and we can take you right out” law. It could be applied to any elected official on a smaller scale. The elected official would not necessarily have committed criminal acts; incompetence or neglect would be reason enough…a no-confidence vote. It would do two things: eliminate the unresponsive and tedious circus of impeachment proceedings and, most importantly, all elected officials would be beholding to the people and not their political allies or enemies in congress.

        1. But the Super PACs would save them. That’s already happened in several attempted recalls of state level officials in recent years. With even bigger dollars behind them at the national level, the situation would be the same.

          Your proposal (such as it is) will do absolutely nothing to fix the problem.

      1. I think this is good for all levels of government and for sitting judges. A simple no-confidence vote, or recall.

        I do remember, In California, Grey Davis lost the governorship under a recall. Something like you said, is already on the books. You just have to use it.

      2. Add in that no elected official can grant themselves a pay raise, with the ability of the people to vote whether their current pay stays the same, or by an election addendum would be decreased by an amount of no less than 10%, in each election. This should also include no retirement benefits, beyond Social (in)Security.

    2. I agree that if a popular vote was really what put an elected official into office than a popular vote should be all that is needed to remove that official. The frustrating part is that we need to elect leaders, people with the experience and smarts to lead the country forward on a plan that extends beyond the next voting cycle. If Jonathan Gruber is right and the American voter is stupid, we’ve got an electoral crisis on our hands! (And given a conversation I once had with a rural health social worker who told me new mothers were feeding their babies Mt. Dew I’m not sure he’s wrong!) We need voters to vote for the country not for their individual perceived gain. I think I’d go for constitutional amendments that codified “common sense” with provisions for emergencies — let’s say a balanced budget was just such a common sense position, with a two-thirds vote of congress required to alter that for a specified limit of time in the case of national emergency.

      1. The cynic in me wants to say that the American voter is stupid based on the people we have been electing for the past 25 years. However, we only have the opportunity to vote for the people that the parties nominate. The party nomination process and the primary election process are really the problem.

        Quality candidates just can’t get past the extremists in either party to actually be nominated to run in a general election.

        1. you’re too right..I can’t think of a viable solution to that problem. How would you set-up a system that allows any adult US citizen an opportunity to get on the presidential ballot, yet not have the actual ballot with eight thousand candidates? Some kind of run-off system that eventually hones-down the pool to 3 or 4 people? Can such a system be more efficient than the present caucus, primaries, convention system? A real conundrum.

    3. or what if we help prevent corruption, by taking money out of politics. The insidiousness starts with the financing need to win election. This starts the loss of moral resistance, and lets accepting further financing become easier. Eventually big money starts calling the shots. Instead, maybe we could restrict every candidate to an equal share of a government-funded pool of money, so only their stance on relevant issues decides their victory, and hopefully this yields less obligation to big money.

  4. Ahhh..the MacDailyRant…and yet another excuse for irony free, soapbox blathering by hubris-laden simpleton politicos. 😀
    And what is stopping any authority – legal or otherwise, from leasing two square feet adjacent to every cell tower in the land, to do this anyway?
    Oh wait…

  5. MDN using quotes out of context again. (the Benjamin Franklin quote). Once again, Big Business is doing infinitely more ‘spying’ on American citizens than the government even dreams of.

    1. Big business can’t break down your door, put you in handcuffs and throw your ass in jail. The government can. You need to ponder what freedom means and who can take it away.

  6. Oh, sweet freedom!… Until you get another 11th sept. on the back!
    See: we made a mess of a society on this planet, and we’ll have to drink the cup we filled.
    Now, let’s see: is there some insecurity around, or not?
    Are you a nice guy “free” to show up with what you do, or not?

  7. It’s too bad, considering the quote that MDN kindly provides us again and again when this topic comes up as it so very frequently does, that Ben Franklin never completed his thoughts and said what those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety.

    Of course one really can’t blame Ben Franklin for that omission, lubrication technology being what it was in 1759.

    Fortunately one of the gifts of the new world is popcorn, a delightful treat to eat while karma does what she does best.

  8. Where is the howling left wing and the media screaming for weeks when the Patriot Act was announced calling it spying on innocent Americans??? After the IRS spying, the NSA spying and now the charter plane spying not a peep from the freedom defending left?!? Oh wait, the president is a Democrat …

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