The Anaheim Police Department has spent almost a decade secretly building an inventory of powerful cell phone surveillance devices and making them available to neighboring cities in Orange County, according to the ACLU.
“This cell phone spying program, which potentially affects the privacy of everyone from Orange County’s 3 million residents to the 16 million people who visit Disneyland every year, shows the dangers of allowing law enforcement to secretly acquire surveillance technology,” ACLU attorney Matt Cagle wrote in a posting on the ACLU of Northern California blog.
The devices include the suitcase-sized “Stingray equipment, a hand-held and easy-to-hide cell phone spy tool, and “most surprisingly,” a military- grade piece of equipment known as a “dirtbox, which until now was only thought to be used by the federal government, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to Cagle.
“If a city of only a few hundred thousand people like Anaheim has purchased this wide array of devices, it begs the question of how widespread these tools really are,” he wrote.
“Additionally, Anaheim has represented in its secretive funding requests that ‘every city in Orange County has benefited’ from its cellular surveillance equipment, raising further concerns about transparency, democracy and accountability.”
The posting asserted that by “loaning out this technology well outside Anaheims borders,” the police department has subjected people throughout Orange County to surveillance decisions made by unelected leaders from other communities.
The ACLU said its findings were based in part on “heavily redacted” documents it obtained through a public records lawsuit.
City officials declined to comment because of the pending litigation, said Ruth Ruiz, a city spokeswoman.
—City News Service