schwit1 sends along an Ars Technica report covering the release of documents obtained under the FOIA suggesting that the Justice Department may have been evading privacy laws
in their use of "triggerfish" technology. Triggerfish are cell-tower spoofing devices that induce cell phones to give up their location and other identifying information, without recourse to any cell carrier. "Courts in recent years have been raising the evidentiary bar law enforcement agents must meet in order to obtain historical cell phone records that reveal information about a target's location. But documents obtained by civil liberties groups under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that 'triggerfish' technology can be used to pinpoint cell phones without involving cell phone providers at all. The Justice Department's electronic surveillance manual explicitly suggests that triggerfish may be used to avoid restrictions in statutes like CALEA that bar the use of pen register or trap-and-trace devices..."
The article does mention that the Patriot Act contains language that should require a court order to deploy triggerfish, whereas prior to 2001 "the statutory language governing pen register or trap-and-trace orders did not appear to cover location tracking technology."