CIA Helped the Justice Dept. Build Spy Planes to Snoop on Phones

Illustration for article titled CIA Helped the Justice Dept. Build Spy Planes to Snoop on Phones

There are rules barring the CIA from getting involved in matters of domestic surveillance. But here's some news: The CIA played a key role in developing a sketchy domestic dragnet phone snooping technology used by the Justice Department, according to a Wall Street Journal report.


Last year, we found out that there was a secret surveillance program in the US that used devices called "dirtboxes" to mimic cell phone towers. By putting dirtboxes in small airplanes, US Marshals can redirect phone traffic to hunt for suspects. In tricking phone data to redirect to dirtboxes so that law enforcement could hunt for suspects, these spy planes briefly conduct a kind of widespread data dragnet, even on people using their phones from within their homes.

They can also interfere with phone calls of whatever ordinary citizens happen to be near-ish to maybe-criminals. This is similar to Stingray spying devices used by the FBI and local police, which also screw up bystanders' cell service.


Sources told the Wall Street Journal that the CIA helped develop this program, which is similar to the technology used to catch terrorism suspects abroad as well as Stingrays:

The cooperation between the CIA and the Justice Department on this technology began a decade ago, when the spy agency arranged for the Marshals Service to receive more than $1 million in gear to conduct such surveillance, said people familiar with the program.

CIA and Justice Department officials say that this close-knit, coordinated decade-long project doesn't violate rules against the CIA participating in domestic surveillance.

Right. Sure.

[Wall Street Journal]

Contact the author at
Public PGP key
PGP fingerprint: FF8F 0D7A AB19 6D71 C967 9576 8C12 9478 EE07 10C


Share This Story

Get our newsletter



My god, it's like the government's intelligence organizations are sharing information and resources for a common goal. What a shocker!