The Justice Department is collecting data from cellphones through high-tech gear deployed on airplanes that mimics communications towers, sayst he Associated Press, quoting the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper said the hunt for information about criminal suspects collects data from many innocent Americans. The U.S. Marshal's Service program, started in 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports to collect the data.
The planes are equipped with devices that mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting unique registration information. The 2-foot-square devices allow investigators to collect data from thousands of cellphones in a single flight. A Justice Department official told the newspaper that discussion of such matters would allow criminal suspects of foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance capabilities. Calling it “a dragnet surveillance program,” Christopher Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union,said: “It's inexcusable and it's likely — to the extent judges are authorizing it — they have no idea of the scale of it.”