New surveillance industry database reveals small-town US police departments browsing surveillance tech alongside Libyan and Egyptian intelligence agencies

Press release
ISS World

In collaboration with the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, Privacy International today published a database of all attendees at six ISS World surveillance trade shows, held in Washington DC, Dubai and Prague between 2006 and 2009. ISS World is the biggest of the surveillance industry conferences, and attendance costs up to $1,295 per guest. Hundreds of attendees are listed, ranging from the Tucson Police Department, to the government of Pakistan, to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Many guests were representatives of infamous human rights-abusing regimes, including intelligence agencies from Kenya, Yemen, Bahrain and pre-revolutionary Libya and Egypt, and interior ministries from Pakistan, Sudan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Tunisia. American attendees included 47 county and state police departments, 10 sheriff’s offices, 12 prosecutor’s and district/state attorney’s offices (all lists below) and some national bodies whose presence on the list is somewhat surprising – the Department of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to name but a few.

The technologies for sale at ISS World conferences are so sophisticated and ambitious in the scope of their invasions that many of them are only suitable for use in combating terrorism and serious crime, within strictly defined legal parameters. They include devices that intercept mobile phone calls and text messages in real time on a mass scale, malware and spyware that gives the purchaser complete control over a target's computer and trojans that allow the camera and microphone on a laptop or mobile phone to be remotely switched on and operated.

Yet equipment and software that was once the sole preserve of the intelligence services is now available to low-level law enforcement – at a price. While an IMSI catcher might set you back around $5,000, deep packet inspection software can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of the police departments in attendance number fewer than five employees, while others have jurisdiction over tiny rural towns with under 1,000 inhabitants – in such cases, the likelihood of officers being properly trained in the legal parameters, levels of accuracy and limits of acceptability in the use of surveillance technologies is highly questionable.

Eric King, Privacy International’s Head of Research, said:

We expected to see the Department of Defense on this list, but not a local police department with just a handful of employees. Small town law enforcement seems to be just as fascinated by the new spy technologies as the Bahraini intelligence services. There is definitely a question of public spending here – thousands of taxpayers’ dollars are being spent on just visiting these trade shows, and how many more are used to buy the spy technologies exhibited there? In the current economic climate, US citizens should be asking whether purchasing mass surveillance capabilities is the best use of local government resources.

US Police departments attending ISS World

  • Alexandria Police Department
  • Baltimore County Police Department
  • Champaign Police Department
  • Chicago Police Department
  • City of Richmond Police
  • City of Southmayd Police
  • Clark County School District Police Department
  • Cloverdale Police Department
  • Connecticut State Police
  • Colonial Heights Police Department
  • Denver Police Department
  • Doraville Police Department
  • Falls Township Police Department
  • Fayettesville Police Department
  • Florida Department of Police
  • Franklin Police Department
  • Fremont Police Department
  • Henrico County Police
  • Houston Police Department
  • Indiana State Police
  • Irvine Police Department
  • Kansas City Missouri Police
  • Las Vegas Metropolitan Police
  • Lockport Police Department
  • MPDC (Metropolitan Police Department)
  • Maryland State Police
  • Montgomery Police Department
  • Morrow Police
  • Mount Dora Police Department
  • Municipal Police Bergen County
  • New Jersey Police
  • New York City Police
  • Northborough Police Department
  • Oklahoma City Police Department
  • Orlando Police Department
  • Pennsylvania State Police
  • Prince George's County Police
  • Roswell Police Department
  • Ruidoso Downs Police Department
  • San Bernadino County Police
  • Scottsdale Police
  • Syracuse Police Department
  • Town of Bethany Beach Police
  • Tucson Police Department
  • Virginia State Police
  • Wellesley Police Department
  • West Virginia State Police

US Prosecutors and District Attorneys attending ISS World

  • Bergen County Prosecutor's Office
  • Hall County Georgia, DA
  • Harris County DA's Office
  • Kern County District Attorney
  • Lake County Prosecutor's Office
  • Maricopa County Attorney's Office
  • Multnomah County District Attorney
  • New Orleans District Attorney's Office
  • New York Attorneys' Office
  • Pennsylvania Office Attorney General
  • Rockland County District Attorney's Office
  • Virginia Attorney's Office

US Sheriff's Departments attending ISS World

  • Charles County Sheriff's Office
  • Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
  • Kane County Sheriff's Office
  • Martin County Sheriff
  • Orange County Sheriff's Department
  • Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
  • Richland County Sheriff's Department
  • Riverside County Sheriff
  • San Bernadino Sheriff's Department
  • St Mary's County Sheriff