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Cops reportedly fret about being targets of cellphone surveillance


Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 20:20:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: Nick Santucci <nick@ucf.ics.uci.edu>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject: Cell Phones Snoop on Cops (fwd)

Possibly of interest to politech readers.

Drug gang members are going high tech :)

-- Nick

[forwards snipped --DBM]

Forwarded from a law enforcement newsletter



It has been brought to our attention that many new generation
cellular phones have an 'auto-answer' feature that allows the phone
to answer a call automatically without the user's physical contact.
Apparently, this feature is designed for 'hands free' operation for
disabled individuals, and individuals operating their phones while

Further, it was posted in a Louisiana State Police Special Bulletin
(dated May 2) that DEA contacts in New York have received reports
from agents that their CI's know of drug gang members who are indeed
aware of this feature and use it to gather intelligence from law

"They will allow themselves to be picked up and then 'leave' a phone
in their vehicle to gather intelligence from them later or they will
secretly hide a phone in an officer's vehicle or in a spot that they
know that law enforcement gathers at to glean intelligence," the
bulletin reads.

Further, an April 2 edition of the bulletin detailed a scenario
involving one of these cellular phones, but at the time the Louisiana
State Police were unable to confirm the origin of the scenario.
However, representatives from the department told Xxxxxx that they
have since been contacted by the Phelps County (Missouri) Sheriff's
Department identifying that department as the origin for the

The scenario featured a Nextel phone, in particular, that was found
in a truck that officers were searching. There were 65 pounds of
marijuana in the sleeper.

During the search, the cellular phone began ringing while it sat in
the holster on the dashboard. When the phone stopped ringing, the
officers assumed that voicemail kicked in, however, they learned
later that the phone was set in auto-answer. The caller was the
intended recipient of the marijuana. Incidentally, he was able to
overhear the officers during their search of the vehicle.

Not only did this give away details of the search to the individual
on the phone, but it also potentially jeopardized the safety of the

Louisiana State Police has confirmed the details of the auto-sound
feature through Nextel. The feature can be accessed by pressing the *
key and then the # key.  Then hit the arrow key until you see the
auto-answer option.

You can also find out whether or not the feature is actually on, and
you can program how many rings it will take to activate it, or to
ring silently.

As stated in the Louisiana State Police Special Bulletin, April 2
edition: "This is a potentially serious threat to agents especially
in a controlled delivery environment. Always check cell phones to
make sure what kind they are. Be especially careful of Nextel phones
when found and make sure the auto-answer feature is turned off or at
least no one says anything near it that can be heard and tip off a
potential suspect."

We have sent this warning out strictly to inform you of the POTENTIAL
danger you could face if you find yourself in a similar situation.
The phone itself poses no threat, but as with any device featured in
our Weapons Warnings, in the hands of the wrong people it could be
used in a potentially dangerous way. Specifically, these phones could
be used as a communication device that could release official law
enforcement information to a potential suspect.  

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