IRS Expands Surveillance Capacity, Buys Stingray Cellphone Trackers

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues increasing its capacity to target and track Americans by deploying Stingray surveillance devices, according to a story published by The Guardian.


As reported by the paper online on October 25, invoices obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that between 2009 and 2012, the IRS purchased Stingray surveillance equipment from Harris Corporation, one of the known manufacturers of the device.


The suitcase-sized Stingray masquerades as a cell tower to trick cellphones into connecting to it. It can give police tracking identifiers for phones within a mile or more, depending on terrain. Given the mobility of the device, police who use it can triangulate a target’s location with better accuracy than if they relied on data transferred by traditional cell towers.


This equipment isn’t cheap. According to published reports, each Stingray device costs about $350,000.


The cache of invoices obtained by The Guardian indicates that not only has the IRS purchased these powerful surveillance devices, but they have contracted with Harris Corporation to keep them up to date, as well.


While the invoices are heavily redacted — it is obvious the IRS doesn’t want this information widely published — it is known that many government agencies and law-enforcement departments are secretly purchasing and using the Stingray equipment.


The New York Times published an article in March summarizing the surveillance situation in many police departments:


A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.


Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.


The Guardian reports that several efforts to expose the widespread use of the surveillance and tracking device has revealed that “at least 12 federal agencies are already known to have these devices, including the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The IRS makes 13.”


Readers of The New American are aware that for years the IRS has been secretly expanding its surveillance capacity and enlarging its role as the enforcer of federal tyranny.


In 2014, for example, Bloomberg reported that the IRS and the Forest Service (among others) awarded nearly half a million dollars to Vigilant Solutions, a California-based company that provides tools for tracking license plates and for accessing license plate databases.


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