- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2016

The U.S. Marshals Service spent over $10 million on secret surveillance equipment and software to spy on Americans’ cellphones, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The heavily redacted documents show that the marshals purchased the hardware and software from Harris Corporation, the manufacturer of the cellphone snooping device known as a Stingray, between 2009 and 2014.

Stingrays are part of a class of sophisticated surveillance devices known as “cell-site stimulators” that gather metadata by pretending to be a cellphone tower.

The Stingrays can gather location information and event content from the phones that connect with them.

Although the names of the specific items purchased are redacted, the records specify that the technology is needed to “aid in the apprehension of fugitives” and note the devices purchased are “relatively low in power consumption and can be operated via standard automotive 12V DC or standard 110V,” meaning they are portable and can be easily attached to vehicles.

It is unclear whether the equipment mentioned in the documents was installed on aircraft or used to track suspects from land vehicles.

Recent reports revealed the use of Stingrays by several branches of law enforcement within the U.S.

A 2014 investigation by the Wall Street Journal found that the Marshals Service was using similar technology, known as a Dirtbox, installed in a fleet of Cessna light aircraft.

In 2015, it was revealed that local police departments had been forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI before using the devices.

Similar investigations have uncovered at least 61 federal agencies and police departments have used the devices.

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