The CIA helped provide airborne surveillance technology to the U.S. Marshals Service that can identify the location of any cellphone in the country.
The existence of the technology was first reported last year but the collaboration between the CIA — which helped develop the $100 million technology that tricks phones into revealing their registration data — and the Marshals has only now come to light, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The CIA is legally prohibited from hunting terrorists inside the U.S. while the Marshals are charged with tracking down criminal suspects in the homeland.
The technology, dubbed "dirtbox," is operated from small fixed-wing planes flying over the country vacuuming up cellphone signals by mimicking cellphone towers, and tricks cellphones into revealing their unique registration. Telephone data that is not suspect is "let go," officials say, as the system concentrates on "sought after" numbers.
The technology is capable of pinpointing the location of a phone authorities are searching for within a couple of yards, according to the Journal.
The high-tech collaboration between the CIA, which is barred from conducting most types of operations on U.S. soil, and domestic law enforcement concerns civil libertarians and lawmakers.