Airborne surveillance, IT interns and network defenses

Federal Computer Week

Tester, other senators want answers on airborne surveillance of cell phones

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is leading a group of 11 senators seeking more information from the attorney general and the Homeland Security secretary on the practice of using airborne surveillance devices to capture mobile phone user data and locate individuals via International Mobile Subscriber Identity information.

The Wall Street Journal first disclosed the practice of using airborne IMSI catchers to intercept user information in an article published in November about a program the U.S. Marshals Service has been running since 2007. The program has small aircraft based in far-flung airports, giving it access to most of the population.

Tester and his colleagues are concerned that the program is collecting information on people who are not law enforcement targets. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the senators wrote that “agencies that use these devices collect the information of thousands of Americans, potentially infringing on the Fourth Amendment and disrupting normal cell phone service.”

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