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By NWV News writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
April 23, 2011

Imagine driving in your automobile with your family on a bright, summer day and you hear a police cruiser's siren and the officer motions for you to pull over. The police officer walks up to your car and says hello using your full name without seeing your license. Not only that, he requests your cellular phone, and within seconds knows your home address, workplace, work-related telephone numbers, pictures and personal Internet information. Welcome to the 21st Century.

If what's happening in Michigan becomes the model for the rest of the country, Americans are in for a big surprise when they discover their secrets aren't so secret anymore thanks to modern technology, say national security and civil rights professionals.

Michigan State Police officers have begun using state-of-the-art handheld equipment known as "extraction devices" to download personal information from motorists they pull over, even if they're not suspected of any crime.

The devices, manufactured and sold by Cellebrite, Incorporated, give police officers the ability download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models.

"A disturbing part of this new gizmo is that it can bypass security passwords and access information American mistakenly believe is secure from prying eyes," said political strategist and attorney Mike Baker.

"The fact that a person's confidential data is ripe to be gathered by prying government officials could bring new meaning to the term 'innocent till proven guilty' and make a sham of the Fourth Amendment," said Baker.

"Everybody -- even weak-minded liberals -- can easily perceive that by-and-large it's the Democrats who are way over-the-top with regards to bloated in-your-face intrusive government and the disregarding and trampling of the personal liberties of citizens. The leftists invariably view the U.S. Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution as impediments to their agenda. That's not to say there aren't far too many Republican "ruling class" self-serving politicians, as well," said former police detective now security firm owner Sid Franes.

While some are surprised at this latest technology, it shouldn't have surprised cell phone users and new motor vehicle owners already familiar with Global Positioning Systems. Law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels have used GPS technology to locate individuals who own the latest-model cell phones and motor vehicles without their knowledge.

Forensic extraction device for cell phones, smartphones and PDAs

The Cellebrite forensic extraction device is billed as a state-of-the-art system that extracts vital information from 95% of all cellular phones on the market today, including Smartphones and PDA devices (Palm OS, Microsoft, Blackberry, Symbian, iPhone, and Google Android).

The company boasts that the system is simple to use even in the field with no PC required that it can easily store hundreds of phonebooks and content items.

"Extractions can then be brought back to the forensic lab for review and verification using the reporting/analysis tool. Cellebrite works exclusively with most major carriers worldwide including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile, Orange France and Telstra Australia, as well as 80 others. This ensures that future devices are supported prior to retail launch," said a Cellebrite media release.

The extraction system allows the user to extract a wide variety of data types including:

SMS text messages
Deleted text messages (SIM/USIM)
Call history (Received, Dialed, Missed)
Pictures and images
Phone details (IMEI / ESN, phone number)

Stonewalling FOIA Requests

The American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan Chapter has yet to receive any documents related to a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the Michigan State Police in 2008 regarding possible use of a portable device that can scan and extract personal information from cell phones.

The police have told the ACLU that they must pay $544,680 to cover the costs of seeking the requested information. The ACLU has balked at the steep amount, saying it undermines the intent of the FOIA law, while the State Police say they are simply following a procedure for calculating costs of processing fees. According to the ACLU, it is written in the FOIA law that any agency answering a request may not charge more than the hourly wage of the lowest paid employee capable of retrieving the information.

"I'm no fan of the ACLU, but I come down on their side when it comes to the government's spying on citizens," said former police officer Mike Snopes.

"I served in the Vietnam War and my father fought the Nazis during World War II. Generation of Americans fought and died for this nation and its freedoms. We didn't fight so a group of Yale educated sycophants could violate Americans' civil liberties," Snopes said.

Police Officer Response to Extractions contacted a former President of the American Federation of Police who served as Director of Training for the Saginaw County (Michigan) Sheriff's Department regarding the Michigan State Police's latest controversy.

According to Chief Dennis R. Martin, cities, counties and townships will not be using the technology to extract information from cellular phones or other electronic information storage systems.

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"What the state is doing will cause more discord between cops and civilians than it's worth," said Martin.

"I know that [Saginaw County), the Detroit Police Department, and others are not planning to initiate a program using these extraction devices. However, that doesn't mean the federal government's law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and DEA won't use this technology," said Martin.

2011 NWV - All Rights Reserved

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"A disturbing part of this new gizmo is that it can bypass security passwords and access information American mistakenly believe is secure from prying eyes,"