Cops mum on cellphone trackers to avoid tipping off ‘bad guys’

The FBI tells local police departments not to talk about how they use devices to secretly track people’s cellphones so as not to tip off criminals, according to the head of the bureau.

“I don’t want the bad guys to know how we might be able to find them,” FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden sister has book deal, set to publish in April Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom MORE said in a newly unearthed video clip.


That’s “one of the reasons that we ask local authorities working with us and using our equipment not to talk about it,” he added. “It’s not because we’ve got something to hide from good people; we’ve got a lot to hide from bad people.”

Federal and local law enforcement outfits have come under fire for their secretive use of the devices, which mimic cellphone towers to get phones to send in information about their location and identifying data. The devices are known as “StingRays” or “IMSI catchers” and are in use in at least 47 agencies in 20 states and the District of Columbia, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to a 2012 letter, the FBI asks local police departments to sign a non-disclosure agreement before using the technology. 

Critics of the government’s use of the devices worry that they intrude on people’s privacy and may pick up information about thousands of innocent people during a search for one suspect.

Recently, the U.S. Marshals Service has come under scrutiny over a reported program that attaches the devices to airplanes and picks up data about people’s phones down below. 

Comey, however, defended the government’s use of the StingRay systems, which he said helped to stop murderers, kidnappers and rapists.

“With appropriate authority, we the feds and our local brothers and sisters have to be able to do that to investigate all kinds of things,” he said. “It’s work that you want us to be able to do — again, appropriately, with appropriate authority.”

The new video is from a press conference that occurred in October but only came to light this weekend, as part of an investigation into the technology by the Charlotte Observer