Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Justice Department to be more forthright about Stingray devices after learning they may interfere with 911 Emergency Services.
Last month, Wyden asked the Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC) about the device’s interference with emergency services citing the agency’s jurisdiction over the technology. This month the Senator informed Sessions of some of his findings during research into the devices and emergency services.
“Senior officials from Harris Corporation-the manufacturer of the cell-site simulators used most frequently by the U.S. law enforcement agencies have confirmed to my office that Harris’ cell-site simulators completely disrupt the communications of targeted phones for as long as the surveillance is ongoing,” Sen. Wyden wrote. “According to Harris, targeted phones cannot make or receive calls, send, or receive text messages or send or receive any data over the Internet.”
The Senator went on to say that while the company claims their devices have a feature that detects and permits emergency calls to 911, officials admitted to the Senator’s office the feature hasn’t been independently tested as part of the Federal Communication Commission’s certifications process.
Officials were also unable to confirm whether or not the feature was capable of detecting and passing-through emergency communications made by those who are deaf, heard of hearing, or speech disabled using Real-Time Text technology.
Sen. Wyden went on to cite the Communications Act of 1934 which prohibits the willful or malicious interference with licensed radio communications while questioning how federal law enforcement’s use of the devices without a court order consistent with a prohibition on interference with radio communications.
The senator also questioned Sessions on various other topics concerning the ethical use of Stingray devices and whether or not he felt certain uses were lawful and in which cases federal courts needed to be notified of the device’s use.