A company that makes spy-tech for cops threatened to sue Vice for publishing its sales literature (because Iran!)

Special Services Group makes surveillance crapgadgets for cops and spies: cameras and mics hidden in tombstones, vacuum cleaners, children's car-seats, and other everyday items. Muckrock's Beryl Lipton used a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of "Black Book," SSG's massive sales brochure out of the Irvine police department, with minimal redactions.

When Motherboard contacted SSG for comment prior to reporting on the document, the company's lawyer threatened to sue them, and Muckrock if they published. The lawyer made a bunch of outlandish claims, including that publication of the brochure would violate copyright law, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and that it would endanger US national security at a time of heightened international tensions (presumably the possibility of war with Iran).

The Irvine police retained outside counsel to review the brochure, and they concluded that there was a public interest in releasing the materials and that doing so would be safe.

The company does a brisk trade with government agencies and police departments — $820k for "Mobile Video Platform Kits" to the Secret Service, $1m for surveillance kits to the IRS; as well as deals with local law enforcement, ICE, etc.

"Certainly the idea of a 'Tombstone Camera' seems pretty far out there. I don't think I've seen a baby seat as a covert camera before either," Martinez added.

The so-called "K-MIC In-mouth Microphone & Speaker Set" is a tiny Bluetooth device that sits on a user's teeth and allows them to "communicate hands-free in crowded, noisy surroundings" with "near-zero visual indications," the Black Book adds.

Other products include more traditional surveillance cameras and lenses as well as tools for surreptitiously gaining entry to buildings. The "Phantom RFID Exploitation Toolkit" lets a user clone an access card or fob, and the so-called "Shadow" product can "covertly provide the user with PIN code to an alarm panel," the brochure reads.

This Secretive Surveillance Company Is Selling Cops Cameras Hidden in Gravestones [Joseph Cox/Motherboard]