Tagged: FBI

IRS seizes accounts on suspicion, no crime required

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up…

“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”

On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances…”

The new policy will not apply to past seizures.

RTFA. Contemptible policies made all the worse by their spread throughout our government. The NSA and FBI meet the same lowlife standard. Not that they’re copycats. They’re just behaving like the rest of the phony/law enforcement/foreign legion scumbags in our government. Regal, self-serving hypocrites.

Like so many police agencies in American government, they’re above the law.

Thanks, Mike

About these ads

NSA documents confirm close working relationship with US companies

Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents suggest a closer relationship between American companies and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed.

The documents, published last week by The Intercept, describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as the fact that the NSA has “under cover” spies working at or with some U.S. companies.

While not conclusive, the material includes some clear suggestions that at least some American companies are quite willing to help the agency conduct its massive surveillance programs.

The precise role of U.S. companies in the NSA’s global surveillance operations remains unclear. Documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by various news organizations show that companies have turned over their customers’ email, phone calling records and other data under court orders. But the level of cooperation beyond those court orders has been an open question, with several leading companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, asserting that they only turn over customer information that is “targeted and specific” in response to legal demands.

Apple’s public acknowledgement of device encryption making it impossible to cooperate with federal snoops has truly pissed off our lazyass spy bureaucrats.

The documents do not identify any specific companies as collaborating with the NSA. The references are part of an inventory of operations, of which the very “fact that” they exist is classified information. These include the:

Contractual Relationships (pg 7)

Backdoors in US Encryption Systems (pg 9)

Whipgenie collecting US communications (pg 7)

NSA going under cover in US companies (pg 7)

Predictably, our elected flunkies who head up Congressional Intelligence committees didn’t have any comment. They’re too busy being obedient, unquestioning.

Thanks, Mike

Oppenheimer’s reputation repaired by unredacted security records


Oppenheimer with a socialist who wouldn’t be allowed into the country, today

The release of unredacted transcripts of secret government hearings held in 1954 by the Atomic Energy Commission produced headlines last week as the disclosures reaffirmed the once-questioned loyalty of Los Alamos Manhattan Project mastermind J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Many are asking why it took six decades to release the previously secret sections, other than that the now-restored portions tended to exonerate Oppenheimer. One expert says there was no classified information in the redactions.

All questions of security in the United States are regulated by paranoid idiots.

In a monumental fall from grace, Oppenheimer went from the man who harnessed the power of the atom for the bombs that ended World War II to losing his security clearance after the AEC hearings amid accusations that this chain-smoking American eccentric was a Soviet spy.

The hearings were held against the backdrop of 1950s red-scare America, fueled by factors including the fact that Oppenheimer’s brother and wife had been communists, and his lack of enthusiasm for building the more powerful hydrogen or “Super” bomb.

RTFA. The JOURNAL isn’t quite as much of a PITA as some. They don’t require registration; but, you must answer one or more survey questions which earns them relevant baksheesh I guess.

Cold War hysteria fit perfectly into the reactionary politics of the American establishment post-WW2. Oppenheimer, with a scientist’s objectivity and reliance on observable and verifiable fact did not. Our politicians would rather reject talent than admit their foolishness. Which is why government transparency is a contradiction in terms.

His earnestness about trying to build peace – alienated him from hawkish thugs like Edward Teller who wanted more and bigger bombs every week [and got them] – sealed the deal. No pleas for peace in imperial ideology.

I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Oppenheimer a couple of times. He was just part of the audience at discussions about working to promote peace at forums sponsored by the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.

Time is running out on Freedom Act — with luck, the phony Patriot Act as well

As the clock ticks down on the 113th Congress, time is running out for the USA Freedom Act, the first legislative attempt at reining in the National Security Agency during the 9/11 era. Unless the Senate passes the stalled bill in the brief session following November’s midterm elections, the NSA will keep all of its existing powers to collect US phone records in bulk, despite support for the bill from the White House, the House of Representatives and, formally, the NSA itself.

But supporters of the Freedom Act are warning that the intelligence agencies and their congressional allies will find the reform bill’s legislative death to be a cold comfort.

On 1 June 2015, Section 215 of the Patriot Act will expire. The loss of Section 215 will deprive the NSA of the legal pretext for its bulk domestic phone records dragnet. But it will cut deeper than that: the Federal Bureau of Investigation will lose its controversial post-9/11 powers to obtain vast amounts of business records relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations. Those are investigative authorities the USA Freedom Act leaves largely untouched.

Section 215’s demise can happen through sheer incompetence, a feature – not a bug – of a House of Representatives controlled by Do-Nothing Republicans.

“Senators obstructing passage of the USA Freedom Act risk losing Section 215 altogether,” Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican and Freedom Act co-author – Chief NSA butt-kisser

The FBI has for years argued that its Section 215 powers, which permit the bureau to collect “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation at standards lower than probable cause, are critical for protecting the US against shadowy threats.

If the USA Freedom Act, already criticised as an insufficient reform, cannot be passed, “falling back to the fourth amendment is not a bad outcome,” Democrat Zoe Lofgren said…

Lawyer-think argues the provisions allowing a touch of habeus corpus before the FISA Court, the kangaroo court that pays lip-service to diminishing constitutional rights, will be lost. In practice, they generate nothing more than set decoration for the rule of government police.

Do I hold any hope for papier-mache reform? I doubt even that bit of play-acting will happen until after the mid-term elections. I do not expect any success at returning to standards of constitutional government until and unless a Progressive backbone can be rebuilt inside the Democrat Party. The Republican Party remains as it has since neo-cons took it over in the run for George W Bush’s first campaign. Their amalgamation with America’s racist and reactionary underbelly is complete.

Bush, government spies, Obama — you have only yourselves to blame for Apple’s spy-proof iPhone

If the government wants to listen in on your phone calls, it can. That’s the crux of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, enacted in 1994: It requires wireless carriers to keep the possibility open of wiretapping their networks. In 2005, the act was expanded to include VoIP and broadband providers.

But Calea has never been expanded from phone networks to phones themselves, and now phone makers—first Apple (AAPL), then Android—are releasing handsets with encryption that makes it impossible for the handset maker to retrieve data from the phone, warrant or no. The government is not happy. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” FBI director James Comey said last week. But there’s not much he or other branches of law enforcement can do to stop it, absent some help from Congress…

The lawmakers may not be as accommodating as they once were. Revelations about National Security Agency spying have made sanctioned surveillance into a political hot potato: The FBI’s recent push for further technological backdoors in Internet communications seems to have died last year. “Something happened,” recounted Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU at the hacker conference Defcon this summer. “Calea 2, which is the D.C. nickname for this backdoor proposal, for now is dead. It is dead in the water; no politician wants to touch that kind of surveillance for now. So thank you very much, Edward Snowden.”

If the public reaction to Snowden and Operation Prism killed political momentum to expand government power, it also pushed companies such as Apple to develop stronger encryption security in the first place. Assurances that the legal system alone is sufficient to protect privacy seem less credible than they have in the past, and Silicon Valley doesn’t want its reputation to suffer by appearing not to stand up for its users. If government officials are unhappy about this latest turn of events, they have only themselves to blame.

That portion of Congress not entirely consumed with theocracy, bigotry, the John Wayne theory of history – remains governed by cowardice. Fence-sitters and papier mache liberals have always been easy targets for the arrogant superpatriot brigade to tip over like a drunken heifer. Today, maybe not so easy.

Both the nutball Right and please-please-reelect-me Left know their base is pissed off about the NSA, the track record of the last two presidents and their lack of defense on the playing field of constitutional protections for the 98%. Minority caucuses, bona fide peaceniks, the few legitimate progressives in Congress know from decades of assault from every quarter that they haven’t any rights. So, it looks possible for a spell that technology and principles might prevail over political opportunism.

Sorry, NSA – we’re not able to decrypt user info – Apple

Among the privacy policies outlined by Apple in a new privacy policy webpage on Wednesday is an iOS 8 feature that makes it technically impossible for the company to decrypt a device to harvest user data, even if law enforcement agencies request it…

In a document (PDF link) meant to guide law enforcement officers in requesting user information, Apple notes that it no longer stores encryption keys for devices with iOS 8, meaning agencies are unable to gain access even with a valid search warrant. This includes data store on a physical device protected by a passcode, including photos, call history, contacts and more.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its new webpage dedicated to privacy policies. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

The safeguards do not apply to other services including iCloud, however, meaning any data stored offsite is fair game for government seizure. Still, the security implementation will likely be seen as a step in the right direction, especially given the current political climate following revelations of governmental “snooping” activities.

Overdue. As Edward Snowden suggested, encryption is still one of the best ways to frustrate government snooping. A standard that other tech companies might emulate even if it gets in the way of their monetization of your data.

Do you know about the decline in crime?

violent crime

Here’s a narrative you rarely hear: Our lives are safer. This message is so rarely heard that half of all respondents to a recent YouGov poll suggested that the violent crime rate had risen over the past two decades. The reality, of course, is that it has fallen enormously.

The decline in violent crime is one of the most striking trends over recent decades; the rate has declined roughly by half since 1993…

These trends aren’t caused by changes in our willingness to report crime to the police. We see an even more significant decline in violent crime in data derived from surveys asking people whether they’ve been the victims of certain crimes over the past year. The National Crime Victimization Survey reports that the rate of violent victimizations has declined by 67 percent since 1993. This reflects a 70 percent decline in rape and sexual assault; a 66 percent decline in robbery; a 77 percent decline in aggravated assault; and a 64 percent decline in simple assault. This survey has nothing to say about the decline in homicide, for obvious reasons…

It’s an unfortunate fact that media reporting on individual crimes yields a relentlessly dismal drumbeat of downbeat news. But even as each reported crime yields a story that is terrifying enough to shape our perceptions, the truth is that none of them tells us much about the broader trends. Far better to ignore the anecdotes and focus instead on the big picture, and the hard data tells us: There’s been a remarkable decline in crime.

There are beaucoup theories aimed at trying to determine scientifically the whys and wherefores of this decline. It is, after all, a good thing. Worth continuing – whatever it is we’re doing right.

Or you could just follow the lead of neo-Conservatives, neo-Confederates, neo-Nutballs and lay it off on a conspiracy by the mainstream media and New World Order politicians in Washington, DC, to hide the deadly truth.

Brits beg Obama for Special Dispensation over participation in US torture program


Preppie Crimelords

The government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.

The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11…

Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition…

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve, accused the UK government of seeking to redact embarrassing information: “This shows that the UK government is attempting to censor the US Senate’s torture report. In plain English, it is a request to the US to keep Britain’s role in rendition out of the public domain.”

Lawyers representing a number of terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay believe their clients were rendered via Diego Garcia. Papers found in Libya indicated that the US planned to transport Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, and his wife via the territory, an atoll in the Indian Ocean leased by Britain to the US. The government has denied Belhaj was rendered via Diego Garcia, but there are suspicions that others were held on the atoll.

Crider said the UK’s attempts to lobby the US into redacting parts of the report “turns the government’s defence in the Libyan renditions case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife entirely on its head”…

“The government protested America would be angered if this kidnap case ever went to trial – and now we learn the British government is leaning on the Americans not to air Britain’s dirty laundry. It exposes their litigation stance as mere posturing,” she added.

Confirmation that a British territory was involved in extraordinary rendition could leave the government vulnerable to legal action. Last month the European court of human rights ruled that the Polish government actively assisted the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw detainees interrogated in secret prisons across the continent…

The judges concluded that not only was Poland “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [High Value Detainee] Programme on its territory”, but also “for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it”, prompting lawyers to ask what else it has been used for since.

The exposure of how far Tony Blair would go to maintain the UK as the United States’ 51st state will open that nation to more than embarrassment for their crimes. Criminal prosecution of the kind already historically required against the United States – should proceed against co-conspirators. Breaking treaties, abrogating human rights on a global scale should have consequences. Citizens of countries committing such crimes have a responsibility to speak out, to demand that the thugs in charge of government should bear the responsibility for those crimes.

Tony Blair and William Hague deserve prison time as much as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Facts are no longer needed for you to qualify as a “terrorist”

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list…

The rulebook [.pdf takes a while to download], which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date.

Long, detailed article. Read the whole thing if you need more convincing about a government that considers every citizen in every nation – including our own – to be a potential saboteur and terrorist. Paranoia strikes deep, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. Constitution be damned.

Thanks, Mike

Snowden addresses HOPE Conference


Barton Gellman/Getty Images/AP

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of major U.S. surveillance programs, called on supporters at a hacking conference to spur development of easy-to-use technologies to subvert government surveillance programs around the globe.

Snowden, who addressed conference attendees on Saturday via video link from Moscow, said he intends to devote much of his time to promoting such technologies, including ones that allow people to communicate anonymously and encrypt their messages…

At the HOPE hacking conference, several talks detailed approaches for thwarting government surveillance, including a system known as SecureDrop that is designed to allow people to anonymously leak documents to journalists.

Attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation answered questions about pending litigation with the NSA, including efforts to stop collection of phone records that were disclosed through Snowden’s leaks.

Snowden is seen as a hero by a large segment of the community of hackers attending the HOPE conference [and the nation and the world], which includes computer experts, anti-surveillance activists, artists and other types of hackers.

HOPE in this case stands for Hackers On Planet Earth.

And if you think every kind of government snoop wasn’t doing their best to photogrqph, record and trace everyone at the conference – you’re still living in cloud cuckoo-land — watching Father Knows Best on TV.