First, it came out that the Justice Department was using Stingrays, a secretive cell-phone-tracking device that allowed it to scoop up identifying information from thousands of mobile devices at once in order to pinpoint the location of a target.
But it wasn't the only one. The revelations kept coming: Last month, documents showed that even the Internal Revenue Service is using the surveillance devices—often called "Stingrays" after a popular model—making it the 13th federal agency known to operate them, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Now, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers wants to know just how many federal agencies are using Stingrays.
In a letter sent Monday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, ranking member Elijah Cummings, and the top two members of the panel's IT subcommittee—Reps. Will Hurd and Robin Kelly—asked 24 key agencies to share their policies for using the surveillance technology.
Known as cell-site simulators, Stingray devices pose as cell towers to force nearby cellular devices to establish a connection with them. Once a Stingray is connected to nearby mobile devices, it can scan them, usually to find a target or targets. The Stingray can use the direction and strength of a connection to a target device to figure out where the device is located.