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The Central Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (COADCDL) wants to know whether law enforcement in Ohio is using the controversial Stingray surveillance device in the Buckeye State. Some people think it is.

Technically, the Stingray is an IMSI-catcher. ISMI stands for International Mobile Subscriber Identity, meaning this device is meant to “catch” your conversations and communications, but also to extract stored data from your cell phone. The Stingray is a cellular phone spying device initially created by the Harris Corporation for the Deep State. Not only does the device track and locate you, it is designed to unlock encrypted content.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tracks which federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence use these devices for “spying without a warrant.” Ohio is listed as a state where it is “unknown” if the device is in operation. The ACLU lists 13 federal agencies as using the spying device, among them are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Army/Navy/Marines, the National Security Agency, and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ACLU found that 75 agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia are using the Stingray.

The ACLU warns: “When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.” Originally created under the guise of hunting terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11, the Stingray is now the point of the spear for an authoritarian society. CBS News Chicago reported that protestors had proof that their cell phone conversation were being monitored by a Stingray device during a protest.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation estimated that a small Stingray unit in a police cruiser could capture the data from 10,000 phones at once. Last year Newsweek reported that the most recent version of the equipment is capable of snatching information from 100,000 phones at one time.

The U.S. Department of Justice refuses to confirm or deny that federal government agencies use this controversial surveillance equipment that is in conflict with the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizure.” The Amendment requires “warrants” based on “probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Law enforcement is simple ignoring this part of the Bill of Rights.

Research reveals that the device is likely being used by the FBI and DEA operating out of the Ohio State University’s Don Scott Airport. A concerned Ohio citizen alerted the Free Press to a suspicious plane at the OSU airport that appeared to have a Stingray device attached and provided a photograph.

The plane in question, a Cessna T206H, according to its aircraft registration number is owned by Freelance Air out of Kennesaw, Georgia. The plane’s logs indicate frequent flights from Ohio State to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton.

After extensive research, the Free Press could not find a phone number for Freelance Air, but discovered that their Kennesaw address is a post office box in a Goin’ Postal franchise storefront at a strip mall. Freelance Air is not registered with the Georgia Secretary of State, was previously registered in Florida and according to Federal Aviation Administration records owns nearly 100 airplanes.

In 2015, NBC nightly news ran a segment based on an Associated Press investigative report found that the “FBI controls a fleet of planes…flying above cities across the U.S..” The next year, Buzzfeed news published maps of where the government surveillance planes were flying over urban areas.

BuzzFeed news reported in 2017 that another “shadowy company” was flying spy planes over U.S. cities. BuzzFeed identified an airline known as Acorn Growth Companies run by “an obscure hedge fund out of Oklahoma.”

Flight logs reveal that the Cessna plane in question flies curious routes where it repeatedly circles urban areas. For example, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, the plane left Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport at 12:10pm, circled the city repeatedly, and landed at the same airport at 3:09pm. The Free Press checked to see if there was a Reds game at the same time the plane might be circling, but there was not.

If, in fact, Ohio State University is allowing these spy planes to fly out of their airport, their President and Board of Trustees need to be held accountable for perpetrating authoritarian values.  

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