Newly unsealed documents show the FBI used highly secretive and controversial cellphone sweeping technology to focus on President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer when agents raided his New York City home, hotel room and office last year, the Associated Press reports. Agents said they used a Triggerfish cell-site simulator to track the whereabouts of Michael Cohen’s two iPhones. That surveillance did not intercept his calls or texts, but agents separately obtained logs of the numbers Cohen was calling and texting, and reams of location data, including for the time period just before the 2016 presidential election, when he negotiated hush-money payments for women alleging they had sex with Trump.
Civil liberties and privacy groups have been objecting to the suitcase-sized devices, sometimes known as StingRays or Hailstorms, which act like a cell tower and often connect to cellphones other than the person being tracked. Police departments and federal agencies have been using them in relative secrecy for nearly three decades. In New York, use of the technology was virtually unknown to the public until the New York Civil Liberties Union forced the disclosure of records showing the NYPD used the devices more than 1,000 times since 2008. The Cohen disclosures were made after a federal judge granted a request by news organizations. One of those organizations, The Wall Street Journal, reports that the documents show special counsel Robert Mueller’s office began investigating Cohen in the middle of 2017, earlier than previously known, based on suspicions that he was acting as a foreign agent.