CIA Aided Program to Spy on US Cellphones.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of US cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.
The CIA and the US Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the US through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said, Wall Street Journal reported.
The program operates specially equipped planes that fly from five US cities, with a flying range covering most of the US population. Planes are equipped with devices-some past versions were dubbed "dirtboxes" by law-enforcement officials-that trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.
The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.
The cooperation began a decade ago, when the CIA arranged for the Marshals Service to receive more than $1 million in gear to conduct such surveillance, said people familiar with the program. More than $100 million went into research and development of the devices.
For years, the US Marshals' Technical Operations Group worked with the CIA's Office of Technical Collection to develop the technology. In the early days it was the CIA that provided the most resources, said the people familiar with the matter.
The CIA gave the Marshals Service the ability to conduct what officials called "silent stimulation" of cellphones. By using a device that mimics a cell tower, all phones in its range are compelled to send identifying information. When the device finds a target phone in that sea of information, the plane circles overhead until the device can locate it to within about 3 yards.
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