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But they’ve been downloaded here…

“The longer the policy of denial of existence of these capabilities go on, the worse it is for police, citizens, and civil liberties in the United Kingdom”.

Avon and Somerset police have taken down documents from their website showing that they purchased secretive mobile surveillance equipment.

This follows the Cable’s expose showing that A&S police and six other national police forces have purchased IMSI-catchers. The devices also known as sting-rays can indiscriminately hack 400 mobile phones every minute within an 8km radius. IMSI-catchers live track everyone in the area, and can also read text messages and listen to phone calls.

The removed contract documents show that the force had purchased the equipment from CellXion – a manufacturer of IMSI-catchers- paying the company £169,575. However, the Cable has downloaded a copy of the documents, so you can view them here.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens confirmed to the Bristol Post that the documents had been taken down and redacted in the interests of “national security”. Ms Mountstevens told the Post: “Following advice from the constabulary, we’ve made some change to the information published on our website”.

In recent days, the Guardian, Times, BBC and international news outlets have covered the Cable’s findings, adding to growing calls for parliamentary debate over this indiscriminate snooping technology. “How else is the public to have any confidence in proportionate policing?” says Silkie Carlo, policy officer for human rights organisation Liberty.

This lack of transparency is to no one’s benefit, says Matthew Rice, advocacy officer for Privacy International. “The longer the policy of denial of existence of these capabilities go on, the worse is is for police, citizens, and civil liberties in the United Kingdom”.

Avon and Somerset Police continue to “neither confirm or deny the use of covert tactics.”

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