Earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union revealed a trove of documents it had obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to more than 200 police departments around the country. They show a pattern of police tracking cell phone locations and gathering other data like call logs without warrants, using devices that impersonate cell towers to intercept cellular signals, and encouraging officers to refrain from speaking about cell-tracking technology to the public, all detailed in a New York Times story.
But at least one document also details the day-to-day business of telecoms’ handing over of data to law enforcement, including a breakdown of every major carrier’s fees for every sort of data request from targeted wiretaps to so-called “tower dumps” that provide information on every user of certain cell tower. The guide, as provided by the Tucson, Arizona police department to the ACLU, is dated July 2009, and the fees it lists may be somewhat outdated. But representatives I reached by email at Verizon and AT&T both declined to detail any changes to the numbers.
Here are a few of the highlights from the fee data.
- Wiretaps cost hundreds of dollars per target every month, generally paid at daily or monthly rates. To wiretap a customer’s phone, T-Mobile charges law enforcement a flat fee of $500 per target. Sprint’s wireless carrier Sprint Nextel requires police pay $400 per “market area” and per “technology” as well as a $10 per day fee, capped at $2,000. AT&T charges a $325 activation fee, plus $5 per day for data and $10 for audio. Verizon charges a $50 administrative fee plus $700 per month, per target.
- Data requests for voicemail or text messages cost extra. AT&T demands $150 for access to a target’s voicemail, while Verizon charges $50 for access to text messages. Sprint offers the most detailed breakdown of fees for various kinds of data on a phone, asking $120 for pictures or video, $60 for email, $60 for voice mail and $30 for text messages.
:: Price Breakdown via Forbes ::
A couple things here: first, these powers were justified because of the war on terrorism but have overwhelmingly been used as part of the war on drugs. Second, the Summit of the Americas is coming up and it appears that the vast majority of American countries are in favor of a debate on legalization. However the Obama administration has signaled that it’s not even interested in the discussion. I found this interesting:
Cesar Gaviria, a former Colombian president who has been a forceful critic of the U.S. policy, said American officials acknowledge the failure of the policy behind closed doors and do little to defend it publicly. He said it is simply a policy on automatic pilot.
“You reach the conclusion that all this killing in Mexico and Central America has been in the name of a failed policy that the United States does not believe in or vigorously defend,” said Gaviria, speaking in his Bogota office.
:: Latin Alternatives via WaPo (Thanks Melissa!) ::
AND speaking of droids, since everyone knows that Star Wars is extremely awesome…you should definitely check out a small comic book arc that just concluded called Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse. It’s about a secret agent for the empire’s intelligence service named Jahan Cross. Think James Bond x Star Wars. There are 5 comics and you can buy them through iTunes here or amazon here. If you’ve never checked out any Star Wars comics you can preview it here. Comic books on a computer typically use .cbr files which are basically just a collection of jpegs but you need a special reader for it. On a mac, I use FFview. Agent for the Empire is definitely worth checking out.