Privacy SOS

Has the California Highway Patrol been using dirtbox spy equipment to eavesdrop on proteseters?

Despite the fact that sending undercover California Highway Patrol auto theft unit police officers to monitor a protest created a "mob mentality" that led to "violence," a command official has pledged to continue to deploy undercovers against protests in Oakland, Inside Bay Area news reports.

According to the reporting, the CHP sent undercover officers to demonstrations Wednesday night "because CHP's aircraft was unable to follow the crowd due to bad weather." What kind of information were officers looking for, that the aerial surveillance couldn't supply because of bad weather?

The officers followed the protesters in an unmarked car as they marched from Berkeley into Oakland, listening for information about targeting freeways, and relayed that information to the CHP, allowing uniformed officers to prevent blockages at Highway 24 and Interstate 880, Browne said.

If the undercover officers were "listening for information," and were only present because bad weather impeded aerial surveillance methods, can we deduce that CHP has been using cell site simulators or some other advanced surveillance technology to eavesdrop on protesters in the streets from planes or helicopters?

Inside Bay Area news reports that beyond aerial surveillance and the deployment of undercover officers in the streets, CHP has been using fake Twitter profiles to monitor dissidents in the recent uprising against police violence in the Bay Area.

Read the report for more information, including details about the confrontation that led to an undercover officer pulling a gun on the crowd of unarmed demonstrators. One person was arrested on "suspicion of felony assault on a peace officer," even though when the alleged assault took place, the officer was pretending to be a member of the general public. Echoing tweets from the night of the incident, protesters told reporters that the undercover cops were inciting property damage by banging on windows. No one in the group of 30-40 people knew the masked men, they said, leading them to confront the officers.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.