Fake Cell Tower? What Fake Cell Tower?

The City of Sunrise, Florida, tried to take a page from the CIA’s anti-transparency playbook last week when it responded to an ACLU public records request about its use of powerful cell phone location tracking gear by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant documents. And the state police are trying to get in on the act as well. We have written about the federal government’s abuse of this tactic—called a “Glomar” response—before, but local law enforcement’s adoption of the ploy reaches a new level of absurdity. In this case, the response is not only a violation of Florida law, but is also fatally undermined by records the Sunrise Police Department has already posted online.

A few weeks ago, the ACLU sent public records requests to 36 state and local Florida law enforcement agencies seeking information about their use of “cell site simulator” surveillance devices known as “Stingrays.” We were partly motivated by the discovery that the Tallahassee Police Department had argued in court to permanently seal court records discussing its Stingray use, apparently in deference to a nondisclosure agreement with the device’s manufacturer. That’s pretty offensive, but at least the new Tallahassee police chief has promised to investigate his department’s practices. The City of Sunrise’s position might be even more galling.



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