Guidance for discussing cell site simulators (US Marshals)

Phil Mocek filed this request with the Department of Justice, United States Marshals of the United States of America.

It is a clone of this request.

Tracking #

2017USMS32528

Due Nov. 20, 2017
Est. Completion Jan. 28, 2019
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Phil Mocek

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Guidance provided to or intended for law enforcement agencies or other organizations regarding discussion of IMSI catchers (mobile phone surveillance equipment also known as "cell site simulators" or Stingrays). For example, talking points, recommended public relations strategies, FAQs, or references to other entities known to use such devices.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Phil Mocek

From:

Good morning,

I have been assigned to process your FOIA request to the U.S. Marshals Service. Attached please find a letter acknowledging your request.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

I first received your request on or about February 13, 2018. FOIA requests are handled in order of receipt, and I have a large backlog of requests received prior to yours to process. Additionally, this office is severely short staffed, and has been for well over a year, resulting in larger than usual backlogs of FOIA requests. Therefore, it will be several months before you receive a response to your request.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

As previously stated, I first received your request on or about February 13, 2018. FOIA requests are handled in order of receipt, and I have a large backlog of requests received prior to yours to process. Additionally, this office is severely short staffed, and has been for well over a year, resulting in larger than usual backlogs of FOIA requests. Therefore, it will be several months before you receive a response to your request.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972
---

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

This office remains short of staff, therefore, it will be several months or more before you receive a response.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

This office remains short of staff, resulting in large backlogs, therefore it will be several months before you receive a response.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

This office remains short of staff, resulting in large backlogs, therefore it will be several months before you receive a response.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972
---

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

This office remains short of staff, resulting in large backlogs, therefore it will be several months before you receive a response.
Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972
---

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,
This office remains short of staff, resulting in large backlogs, therefore it will be several months before you receive a response.
Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

This office remains short of staff, resulting in large backlogs, therefore it will be several months before you receive a response.
Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Phil Mocek

Dear Ms. Wassom:

Please provide an estimated date on which your agency will complete action on my request of October 20, 2017 (your identifier: 2017USMS32528). The OPEN Government Act of 2007 imposed several requirements on agencies in connection with their monitoring or tracking of outstanding FOIA requests. Under the Act, agencies must provide, upon request, "an estimated date on which the agency will complete action on the request." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(7)(B)(ii)

Your agency has provided no such date. On March 15, 2018, nearly five months after your agency received my request, you stated via e-mail that it would be several more months before you completed work on my public records request. Several months later, when I requested a status update, you again wrote that it would be "several months" before you provide the records. Several months after *that*, when I again requested an update, you again wrote that it would be several more months.

It has been more than one year since I submitted my request. It has been more than seven months since you stated that you would need several more months. I am given the impression that you have made no actual estimate of time required to provide public records requested by the public.

Cordially,
Phil Mocek

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good afternoon,

This office was severely short of staff for over a year and a half, resulting in lengthy delays in responses to most FOIA requesters. I have a backlog of requests received prior to yours. Each requester is concerned about receiving a response to his or her request. With regard to your request, it is complex and will require an extensive search, which is still being conducted as of this time. Until the search is completed, I am unable to provide an estimated date of completion.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Phil Mocek

Dear Ms. Wassom:

Please do not misinterpret my communication as simply an expression of concern. I have observed you violating the law. You put in writing both that you are knowingly doing it and that you have no intention of even attempting to rectify this ongoing violation. I understand queuing. I understand backlogs. I have observed that public records staff of government agencies are regularly over-tasked. The law allows for backlogs. The law requires estimates of when an agency's work on FOIA request will conclude.

Your refusal to provide an estimate of when your office will complete this work is not merely an inconvenience or a disappointment; it is a flagrant violation of the law. The OPEN Government Act of 2007 requires that agencies provide, upon request, "an estimated date on which the agency will complete action on the request." This is in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(7)(B)(ii).

Please estimate and communicate to me your estimate of the date on which your agency will complete action on my request of October 20, 2017 (your identifier: 2017USMS32528). The legal requirement that the U.S. Marshals Service do so is not imposed exclusively on agencies who effectively allocate their staffing resources; it applies also to those agencies that have thousands of staff generating public records but choose to allocate only a few of those thousands to performing tasks required in order for the public to access records created by their colleagues.

Cordially,
Phil Mocek

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

An estimated date of January 28, 2019 is provided. Please understand that this is only an estimate. Once the search is completed and the request is processed, it must be reviewed.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Phil Mocek

Dear Ms. Wassom:

I write again regarding my request of October 20, 2017 (your identifier: 2017USMS32528.

I fear my request has been misinterpreted as more complicated than it is. I seek guidance that your agency has prepared for organizations who use a certain type of mobile phone snooping device. The U.S. Marshals almost certainly funnel broad inter-agency communications like this through a communications or public relations department. Someone there probably has a file on this and could hand over the records in seconds.

I believe that these records will reveal your agencies' official line on an issue of large and current public concern. These portable surveillance devices, known as "cell tower simulators," IMSI catchers, and sold with names like Stingray, pose as mobile phone towers, forcing every mobile phone in the area to connect to the device instead of the tower, identifying which phones are in a given area (and thus providing a good idea of who was or is in that area, with precise locations within people's homes, even), and listen in on and record text messages and voice calls. They are incredibly powerful and incredibly intrusive--a very blunt instrument.

Until just a few years ago, these devices were almost entirely unknown to defense attorneys, to judges, or to the general public. Judges were regularly misled by police, who referred to the devices as "confidential sources" or as antiquated devices once used to literally tap into telephone lines. Prosecutions of violent crimes have been ceased when law enforcement agencies were faced with revealing use of the devices in court.

It was widely reported that in May or 2014, staff of your agency swooped in and physically confiscated documents related to such a device owned by the police department of Sarasota, Florida. Your agency did so in order to prevent the municipal government of Sarasota from allowing public access to those public records in compliance with FOIA. In response to your agency's action. ACLU affiliates across the nation queried law enforcement agencies in their areas to find out who else was using these dragnet-style surveillance devices. I did so in the Seattle area, and as 30-some Public Records Act request responses rolled in, I discovered that the Tacoma Police Department were secretly using such a device and providing use of it to other agencies. I won a freedom of information lawsuit after Tacoma Police refused to hand over an agreement they made to keep silent about the device.

Your agency attempted to hide information from the public--information that when later revealed led rapidly to state-level legislation across the United States. After your agency's action sparked all of this less than five years ago, Washington and multiple other states have passed laws that for the first time specifically regulate the use of these devices. Legislators heard the public outcry about unregulated and likely illegal use of cell tower simulators and took rapid action.

The public deserve to know how the Marshals did previously and do now advise other agencies to talk about these devices of great and demonstrated public concern, and the longer it takes for us to get a full picture of what's going on, the longer it will take for our representatives to get it under control.

I hope this is background information is helpful, and I look forward to getting that estimated time of completion you agency must provide.

Cordially,
Phil Mocek

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

I will forward this information to those offices who are conducting the search.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

From: Department of Justice, United States Marshals

Good morning,

A search for responsive documents has not yet been completed. I will email the appropriate office, but will not expect to hear back until next week.

Leila Wassom
FOI/PA Specialist
United States Marshals Service
Office of General Counsel
(703) 740-3972

Files

pages

Close