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British military firm gave spy gear to US police: Document



Armed American policemen at a crime scene (file photo)

British military firm Cobham has provided the US police with advanced eavesdropping equipment, a leaked document shows.

One of the company’s leaked catalogs revealed that it has equipped the US police with surveillance gear such as black boxes capable of monitoring the cell phone signals of an entire city, the Intercept reported on Friday.

The equipment also included tools to intercept wireless calls and text messages as well as cell phone jamming systems, the 120-page document showed.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesperson Molly Best confirmed the report but refused to provide further details.

Cobham spokesperson Greg Caires confirmed that his company had done business with the American police. However, he did not spill more details about the nature of the business either.

Richard Tynan, a technologist at Privacy International, told Intercept that the move contributed to mass surveillance of American societies.

“By design, these devices are indiscriminate and operate across a wide area where many people may be present,” Tynan.

Such “indiscriminate surveillance systems that are not targeted in any way based on prior suspicion” are “the essence of mass surveillance,” he added.

Cobham is one of over a dozen UK companies who have exported eavesdropping technology to countries with poor human rights records such as Saudi Arabia.

Among the equipment provided to the authoritarian regimes were IMSI-catchers, fake cell phone towers which force cell phone devices in their surroundings to connect to them instead of a real service provider.

“IMSI catchers are probably one of the most controversial and yet more demanded pieces of surveillance technology marketed today. They are of dubious legality and their use raises serious ethical and privacy concerns due to their invasiveness and wide reach,” said Claudio Guarnieri, technologist at Amnesty International.

The British government has drawn criticism for selling more than billions pounds worth of weaponry to repressive regimes identified by its Foreign Office as having dubious human rights records, including war crimes.

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