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Stingrays Letter, US Senator Wyden, 2018

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RONWYDEN

COMMITTEES:

OREGON

COMMITTEE ON RNANCE

RANKING MEMBER OF COMMITTEE ON
RNANCE

COMMITTEE ON ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES

COMMITTEE ON BUDGET

tlnitrd~tatrs~rnatr
WASHINGTON,

DC 20510-3703

SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
JOINT COMMITTEE ON TAXATION

221 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON , DC 20510
(202) 224 - 5244

June 26, 2018
The Honorable Ajit Pai
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street Southwest
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Chairman Pai:
I am writing to ask what steps, if any, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has taken
to ensure that cell site simulators used by law enforcement agencies do not interfere with 9-1-1
emergency mobile services and the mobile communications of innocent Americans .
Cell site simulators, which are more commonly described in the media as "Stingrays" or "IMSI
catchers," mimic mobile telephone towers to locate and identify nearby mobile devices, and can
covertly intercept calls and other communications from those devices. Cell site simulators have
become standard tools for federal, state, and local law enforcement, which deploy them for a
broad range of purposes. Because cell site simulators operate in licensed mobile spectrum, they
are subject to oversight and regulation by the FCC.
In addition to the purportedly stringent testing requirements imposed on cell site simulators by
the FCC, federal law enforcement agencies have repeatedly represented to federal courts that
these devices cause minimal interference. It is increasingly clear, however, that those agencies
take no active steps to establish the veracity of their claims. For instance, the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) recently confirmed to me that they neither undertake nor fund
independent interference testing of their cell site simulators. The Department of Justice (DOJ)
has provided me with information about this topic, but limited its public disclosure by marking it
Law Enforcement Sensitive. I've included DOJ's response with this letter. The lack of serious
testing by law enforcement in this country stands in stark contrast to the practices of our
Canadian law enforcement allies- who have tested this technology and determined that cell site
simulators do cause significant interference to emergency services- and to allegations from civil
liberties groups, who have long noted the considerable potential for interference.
The FCC has an obligation to ensure that surveillance technology which it certifies does not
interfere with emergency services or the mobile communications of innocent Americans who are
in the same neighborhood where law enforcement is using a cell site simulator. Given the total
failure by DHS to ensure that the surveillance technology it uses does not interfere with the
communications of innocent Americans, and the refusal of the DOJ to provide public, candid

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answers about its own testing or lack thereof, the FCC has an even greater duty to closely
supervise this surveillance technology and its potential collateral impact on public safety-related
services, such as 9-1-1.
As such, please provide answers to the following questions no later than July 13, 2018:
1. What, if any, testing does the FCC conduct or require to ensure that cell site simulators
certified by the FCC and that are used by state and local law enforcement agencies do not
disrupt communications with 9-1-1 or other emergency services? Please provide a
detailed explanation of the results of any testing conducted of cell site simulators certified
by the FCC. If the Commission does not conduct or require testing, please explain why
the Commission does not believe that testing for interference with 9-1-1 is necessary.
2. As part of the certification process, does the FCC test whether cell site simulators might
disrupt non-emergency cellular telephone service or wireless internet access, including
both the mobile devices targeted for surveillance and other nearby devices used by
innocent bystanders? If so, please describe the FCC' s findings. If not, why not?
3. What, if any, testing does the FCC conduct or require to assess whether or how cell site
simulators affect the functionality of cellular telephone handsets, including any effects on
the power consumption and broadcast strength of those handsets? Please provide a
detailed explanation of the results of any such testing conducted of cell site simulators
certified by the FCC. If the Commission does not conduct or require testing, please
explain why the Commission does not believe that such testing is necessary.
4. The FCC is required by law to determine that certification of a device is in the service of
the public interest, convenience, and necessity. If an FCC testing certification body
determines that a device complies with the technical standards for certification, does the
Commission then assume that certification would serve the public interest, convenience,
and necessity? If so, why? Please describe how, if at all, the FCC considers the disruption
of cellular telephone service, wireless internet access, or any other applications when
deciding if certifying a cell site simulator serves the public interest.
5. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled rely on Real Time Texting
(R TT) devices to communicate. R TT devices are required to be capable of transmitting
and receiving RTT communications to and from any 9-1-1 public safety answering point
in the United States.
a. Please describe any testing the FCC has done on cell site simulators to ensure that
they do not impede the transmission of R TT.
b. Please further describe any specific efforts the FCC has undertaken to ensure that
cell site simulators do not disrupt the ability .of people with disabilities to
communicate with emergency services.
c. If independent testing of an FCC-certified cell site simulator were to reveal that
the cell site simulator in fact disrupts RTT communications with 9-1-1, would the
FCC revoke the certification of that device?
6. The FCC has required mobile wireless service providers and device manufacturers to
offer handsets that do not cause interference with hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Please describe what efforts, if any, the FCC has undertaken to ensure that cell site
simulators do not interfere with.hearing aids and cochlear implant compatible handsets.

7. Wireless Emergency Alert-enabled mobile devices must meet certain conditions under
FCC regulations, including the ability to monitor for alert messages and present the alert
content. Please describe any efforts that the FCC has undertaken to ensure that cell site
simulators do not disrupt transmissions of Wireless Emergency Alert-enabled mobile
devices.
If you have any questions about this request, please contact Chris Soghoian in my office.

Sincerely,

United States Senator

 

 

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