The Texas National Guard bought two DRT 1301C cell-site simulator devices for more than $373,000. The purpose of buying these devices was to intercept calls and monitor text messages and photos. These devices were then installed on two surveillance planes. However, it isn’t clear how the cell-site simulators were or are used and if a warrant was obtained before using these devices.
The cell-site simulators can serve as fake cellphone towers, so that cell phones are tricked into connecting with them, and this is how these perform surveillance on cell phones. However, it is necessary that the cellphone is within one-third of a mile where the device is installed to perform surveillance.
According to a report from Texas Observer, significant documents were obtained by the company which showed that Digital Receiver Technology Inc. (DRT) did install the two DRT 1301C boxes in two surveillance planes owned by the Texas National Guard. DRT is a Maryland-based tech firm.
The planes were used to operate under Air Cerberus and now possess military registrations to hide their flight routes and “unique tail numbers.” The contract file depicted that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was also a partner in the deal between DRT and the National Guard. The devices, which were referred to as the two Dirt Boxes, were bought using state’s drug-asset forfeiture money. The devices were installed for investigative purposes and to perform case analysis in counternarcotic operations.
Texas National Guard Secretly Installed cell-site Simulators on Surveillance Planes
According to attorney Scott McCollough, these devices are more advanced than Stingrays as the latter cannot capture content but cell-site simulators can. Jennifer Lynch from EFF explained in a surveillance catalog leaked previously that the DRT boxes can locate over 10,000 targets and process various analog and digital wireless devices simultaneously. Furthermore, these devices can intercept and record digital voice data, and all of this occurs secretly as no one gets a hint about the espionage services of the boxes.
The Texas National Guard has claimed that the organization isn’t using DRT boxes for this purpose. “Regarding your questions, the items you are asking about are not associated with the Operation Secure Texas mission,” stated a representative of the National Guard.