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US government uses fake cell towers on low-level spy planes to map physical location of all cell phone users


Cell phone users

(NaturalNews) It seems that Big Brother never tires of finding new methods for keeping an eye on us.

The latest revelation involves a scheme that has been in progress for the last seven years, in which small aircraft are being used to collect information from cellphones by mimicking communication towers.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported on the activities of a US Marshal Service program which regularly sends Cessna airplanes on flights from five unnamed major airports carrying equipment which mines information from cellphones by tricking them into sending unique registration details.

The program was ostensibly created to monitor and track criminals, but it collects the same type of information from ordinary innocent American citizens as well.

The planes are equipped with high-tech devices known as "dirtboxes," which are capable of gathering information from thousands of phones in a single flight -- the information reveals details regarding location and identity of the phones' users.

The dirtbox device works by falsely identifying itself as the strongest nearby cell tower, which causes all the phones in the vicinity to automatically connect to it, thereby sending the unique location and registration data from each phone -- whether it's one owned by a criminal or not.

And the scale of the program is potentially enormous. By using five major airports to deploy these flights, virtually the entire population of the United States is able to be monitored by the program.

The Justice Department refused to confirm or deny the existence of the program, saying that revealing details of surveillance programs could give foreign criminals too much information regarding our capabilities.

A Justice Department official also said that their agencies comply with federal laws regarding surveillance, including obtaining court approval for such activities.

Christopher Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union would beg to differ. Soghoian, the ACLU's chief technologist, calls it a "dragnet surveillance program," saying: "It's inexcusable and it's likely -- to the extent judges are authorizing it -- they have no idea of the scale of it."

This technology allows law enforcement authorities to sidestep the process of going through the phone companies to access information. With the dirtboxes, they can collect information directly, which is precisely what makes this kind of surveillance technique so dangerous -- and, in the opinion of many observers, so illegal.

The Fourth Amendment clearly states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Presumably, that covers cellphones as well. In the name of national security and law enforcement, our sovereign rights regarding freedom and privacy are being systematically eroded.

And often, except for the actions of whistleblowers, we are not even aware of the existence of the surveillance methods and programs which are being used against us on a daily widespread basis.

It seems that our current government only pays lip service to the fundamental principles that our nation was founded upon, while doing everything within its power to monitor and control the formerly free citizens of what was once a great place in which to live.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://online.wsj.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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