By Ali Winston.

The California Department of Justice supports a plan by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and the Oakland and Fremont police departments to obtain controversial cellphone surveillance tracking technology, according to documents obtained through the California Public Records Act.

The East Bay prosecutor and police departments have been awarded $180,000 by the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative, a local entity that disburses homeland security grant money. The agencies will use the funds to purchase and install Harris Corp.’s Hailstorm cell-site simulator, which is capable of tracking cellphones using the state-of-the-art 4G LTE network on a modified Ford F-150 pickup truck, as well as a KEYW Corp. Thoracic device, a smaller handheld surveillance device that also locates cellphones but passively listens in on radio frequencies instead of intercepting them like a cell-site simulator.

The Department of Justice, led by Attorney General – and U.S. Senate candidate – Kamala Harris, supported the Hailstorm project last year in a letter written by Larry Wallace, director of the law enforcement division.

The grants, Wallace wrote, “would enable local law enforcement agencies in the area to perform vital functions such as the prevention of and in response to a terrorist attack, tracking and apprehending serious violent offenders, capturing fugitives from justice and locating or recovering at-risk persons or kidnapping victims.”

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