On Monday, January 11th, 2016, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a petition from EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC's petition asked the court to force the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release details of Standard Operating Procedure 303 (SOP 303), also known as the government's secret cellular phone and internet killswitch.
EPIC's battle for information about the killswitch started in 2011, and while they weren't able to get the Supreme Court to force a release of the details of SOP 303, they were able to get some information during the legal battle against the government, including a heavily redacted copy of SOP 303. The redacted copy states in part that the purpose of SOP 303 is to provide "detailed procedures for the National Coordinating Center for
Telecommunications (NCC) to coordinate requests for the disruption of cellular service." According to SOP 303 the disruption or disabling of "cellular service to a particular site or region" may be requested "by a designated federal/state/local law enforcement official or member of government..."
SOP 303 was approved by the National Communications System on March 9, 2006. The National Communications System was an office of the DHS, but was disbanded by Executive Order 13618 in July of 2012. According to EPIC, "In a 2006-2007 Report, the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (‘NSTAC’) indicated that SOP 303 would be implemented under the coordination of the National Coordinating Center (‘NCC’) of the NSTAC, while the decision to shut down service would be made by state Homeland Security Advisors or individuals at DHS. The report indicates that NCC will determine if a shutdown is necessary based on a ‘series of questions.’"
The killswitch was engaged for a period of 3 hours on August 11, 2011 at 4 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations in San Francisco. The cellular services were shutdown during a protest of the July 2011 shooting of a homeless man by a BART officer.
It is possible that the government may have used the killswitch again, this time during the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. On Sunday, January 31st, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) interviewed David Fry, one of four remaining occupiers, who told OPB that, "the FBI made it so the occupiers can’t make outgoing calls on their cellphones," and that only his cell phone, "can receive incoming calls, but that the other three in the refuge appear unable to receive calls on their cellphones." The occupiers also told OPB that they’ve lost access to the internet. According to TheCount.com, "Supporters who attempt to call Fry end up reaching the FBI instead."
It isn't clear if SOP 303 is being used or if the government is using a dirtbox or stingray-like device to hack the occupiers phones, whether with or without a warrant. It also isn't known if cell phone service has been tampered with for others that go near the area of the refuge.
EPIC v. DHS - SOP 303
Standard Operating Procedure 303 - Redacted
Termination of Cellular Networks During Emergency Situations
The President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee
BART San Francisco cut cell services to avert protest
The Washington Post
FBI Blocking Most Lines Of Communication, Militants Say
Final Four Militia: FBI Killed Our Cell Phones
New article on IPFS coming soon!
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