Tagged: FBI

Feds abuse another law — defendant charged with clearing his browser history


A law designed to prosecute corporate fraud – but that requires work, integrity, dedication

Khairullozhon Matanov is a 24-year-old former cab driver from Quincy, Massachusetts. The night of the Boston Marathon bombings, he ate dinner with Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev at a kebob restaurant in Somerville. Four days later Matanov saw photographs of his friends listed as suspects in the bombings on the CNN and FBI websites. Later that day he went to the local police. He told them that he knew the Tsarnaev brothers and that they’d had dinner together that week, but he lied about whose idea it was to have dinner, lied about when exactly he had looked at the Tsarnaevs’ photos on the Internet, lied about whether Tamerlan lived with his wife and daughter, and lied about when he and Tamerlan had last prayed together. Matanov likely lied to distance himself from the brothers or to cover up his own jihadist sympathies—or maybe he was just confused.

Then Matanov went home and cleared his Internet browser history.

Matanov continued to live in Quincy for over a year after the bombings. During this time the FBI tracked him with a drone-like surveillance plane that made loops around Quincy, disturbing residents. The feds finally arrested and indicted him in May 2014. They never alleged that Matanov was involved in the bombings or that he knew about them beforehand, but they charged him with four counts of obstruction of justice. There were three counts for making false statements based on the aforementioned lies and—remarkably—one count for destroying “any record, document or tangible object” with intent to obstruct a federal investigation. This last charge was for deleting videos on his computer that may have demonstrated his own terrorist sympathies and for clearing his browser history.

Matanov faced the possibility of decades in prison — twenty years for the records-destruction charge alone.

Federal prosecutors charged Matanov for destroying records under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law enacted by Congress in the wake of the Enron scandal. The law was, in part, intended to prohibit corporations under federal investigation from shredding incriminating documents. But since Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in 2002 federal prosecutors have applied the law to a wider range of activities.

RTFA for all the details, all the analysis about what is reasonable – nothing the Feds want to do in this case.

Just like the Patriot Act, lousy policing leads to abuse of laws written for another purpose. Just like the Patriot act, abuse of constitutional rights is OK with incompetent cops who can’t begin to prove guilt under relevant law. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a local cop using the Patriot Act for parking violations.

Join the FBI Air Force and spy on all of America – from above!

Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy…

The FBI says blah, blah, blah…and the surveillance equipment is used for ongoing investigations…generally without a judge’s approval.

The FBI confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services.

“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. “Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes.”

The front companies are used to protect the safety of the pilots, the agency said. That setup also shields the identity of the aircraft so that suspects on the ground don’t know they’re being followed.

So, the program isn’t secret, Just the planes and phony companies and activities are secret. What’s left?

Continue reading

Patriot Act powers to lapse [legally] at midnight – Senate hawks FAIL


“What do we do, now?”

No doubt those who value security over liberty will return to Congress in coming days and weeks to rebuild a legal framework for keeping an eye on all of us. I have no confidence they will relent – even if illegal means are their core methods. We will need to continue the fight.

Meanwhile, read this GUARDIAN article to get up-to-date.

NSA bulk phone records collecting to expire – at least for a while – we hope


“What do we do, now?”

Even as the Senate remains at an impasse over the future of US domestic surveillance powers, the National Security Agency will be legally unable to collect US phone records in bulk by the time Congress returns from its Memorial Day vacation…

The administration, as suggested in a memo it sent Congress on Wednesday, declined to ask a secret surveillance court for another 90-day extension of the order necessary to collect US phone metadata in bulk. The filing deadline was Friday, hours before the Senate failed to come to terms on a bill that would have formally repealed the NSA domestic surveillance program…

It represents a quiet, unceremonious end to the most domestically acrimonious NSA program revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, in a June 2013 exposé in the Guardian – effectively preempting a bid by GOP leader Mitch McConnell to retain it. But McConnell and other Senate Republicans intend to continue their fight to preserve both that program and other broad surveillance powers under the Patriot Act…

I hope no one expected leading Republicans to support unfettered privacy for Americans other than themselves.

“The Senate is in gridlock, but the tides are shifting,” Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office said Saturday. “For the first time, a majority of senators took a stand against simply rubber-stamping provisions of the Patriot Act that have been used to spy on Americans…

It is unclear how the House will vote if its choices are pushed to the extremes that the Senate impasse has set up: all the post-9/11 domestic surveillance powers under the Patriot Act or none of them.

The NSA and the Obama administration have conceded that the bulk domestic phone records collection has never stopped a terrorist attack. Even though the administration has taken as a fallback position the line that the FBI surveillance powers under Section 215 are crucial for domestic counterterrorism, a Justice Department inspector general’s report issued on Thursday “did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders.”

I was heartened by the actions of a New Mexico Senator I haven’t followed as well or as long as I have Tom Udall. That is Martin Heinrich. I wasn’t surprised by Rand Paul’s grandstand opposition. After all, he’s running for president. Heinrich has nothing to run for other than re-election and that is with a base that is highly dependent on government funding for every military-industrial gewgaw since the invention of the Cold War.

Apprehensive as I am of Democrats who talk like they’re prepared to stand up for working class families and constitutional rights, civil rights and civil liberties – Martin Heinrich appears ready to walk the walk, as well.

Canada prepares to replace democracy with NSA-approved world view

Widespread protest and souring public opinion has failed to prevent Canada’s ruling Conservative Party from pushing forward with sweeping anti-terror legislation which a battery of legal scholars, civil liberties groups, opposition politicians and pundits of every persuasion say will replace the country’s healthy democracy with a creeping police state.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking forward to an easy victory…when the House of Commons votes in its final debate on the bill, known as C-51. But lingering public anger over the legislation suggests that his success in dividing his parliamentary opposition may well work against him when Canadians go to the polls for a national election this fall.

No legislation in memory has united such a diverse array of prominent opponents as the proposed legislation, which the Globe and Mail newspaper denounced as a a plan to create a “secret police force”.

The campaign to stop Bill C-51 grew to include virtually every civil-rights group, law professor, retired judge, author, editorialist and public intellectual in Canada…

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have described the bill as a “reasonable and proportionate” response to the threat of “jihadi terrorism.” – blah, blah, blah.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians signed petitions urging the bill be scrapped and took to the streets in a national day of protest last month.

Critics of the legislation say the imminent law gives Canadian spies sweeping new powers to investigate and disrupt broadly defined threats to public safety, with language that makes no distinction between terrorist plots and legitimate political protests and demonstrations. At the same time, it neglects to provide any increased oversight of the country’s vastly empowered chief spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Harper like so many other supposedly independent – but always obedient – leaders of the world’s industrial nations can be counted on to toe the party line established by the White House. Whether that rarely honorable structure houses a Republican or Democrat.

When the topic is homeland security – as defined by Wall Street savants and corporate lobbyists – there is only one source for standards or the lack thereof. That is Uncle Sugar. And if you want to keep your place in the gallery of loyalist ideologues, you had better fall in line.

Psychologists secretly aided Bush torture program

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The leading American professional group for psychologists secretly worked with the Bush administration to help justify the post-9/11 US detainee torture program, according to a watchdog analysis…

The report, written by six leading health professionals and human rights activists, is the first to examine the alleged complicity of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the “enhanced interrogation” program.

Based on an analysis of more than 600 newly disclosed emails, the report found that the APA coordinated with Bush-era government officials – namely in the CIA, White House and Department of Defense – to help ethically justify the interrogation policy in 2004 and 2005, when the program came under increased scrutiny for prisoner abuse by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A series of clandestine meetings with US officials led to the creation of “an APA ethics policy in national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” the report’s authors found…

In secret opinions, the US Department of Justice argued that the torture program did not constitute torture and was therefore legal, since they were being monitored by medical professionals.

…The report says the APA passed “extraordinary policy recommendations”, in which the association reaffirmed that its members could be involved in the interrogation program, without violating APA ethical codes.

Additionally, the APA permitted research on “individuals involved in interrogation processes” without their consent; according to the report’s authors, such a policy turned against decades of medical ethics prohibitions…

Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights…an organization with which all of the report’s authors have been affiliated at some point, said in a statement issued on Thursday: “This calculated undermining of professional ethics is unprecedented in the history of US medical practice and shows how the CIA torture program corrupted other institutions in our society.”

An accomplishment in its own right. The United States as a nation, government institutions, corporate entities and banks in particular, has descended steadily in all global ranking for corruption. A process that probably started with the VietNam War, nudged along by the Reagan years, and put into high gear by the Bush Administration.

We’ve posted before about individual shrink-wrapped programs designed to aid and abet torture programs run by the United States government. This is the first wholesale exposure of professional bodies complicit in torture on behalf of the American government.

Not a surprise to me.

FBI admits flaws in analysis, forensic testimony over decades

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.

The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.

In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”

RTFA for a long and painful tale. One serious aspect of the questions unanswered by this declaration is the role to be played by prosecutors, local law enforcement, district attorneys in many of these cases who, like so many in state judicial systems refuse to acknowledge any need to revisit these cases. Something the Innocence Project has encountered in state after state.

Judges, prosecutors, district attorneys often are political animals. They refuse to confront fallibility or responsibility for participating in lousy trials. Even in hindsight. This is a completely separate task facing those who came together for these revelations. Updating the science is the easy part. Getting law enforcement to review trials is going to be a much harder task.

Secret deal between FBI and police hides spying from the courts

Innovation = police state
Innovation + Police State = Lots of profits + no oversight

The FBI is taking extraordinary and potentially unconstitutional measures to keep local and state police forces from exposing the use of so-called “Stingray” surveillance technology across the United States, according to documents obtained separately by the Guardian and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Multiple non-disclosure agreements…revealed in Florida, New York and Maryland this week show federal authorities effectively binding local law enforcement from disclosing any information – even to judges – about the cellphone dragnet technology, its collection capabilities or its existence.

In an arrangement that shocked privacy advocates and local defense attorneys, the secret pact also mandates that police notify the FBI to push for the dismissal of cases if technical specifications of the devices are in danger of being revealed in court.

The agreement also contains a clause forcing law enforcement to notify the FBI if freedom of information requests are filed by members of the public or the media for such information, “in order to allow sufficient time for the FBI to seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels”.

The strikingly similar NDAs, taken together with documents connecting police to the technology’s manufacturer and federal approval guidelines obtained by the Guardian, suggest a state-by-state chain of secrecy surrounding widespread use of the sophisticated cellphone spying devices known best by the brand of one such device: the Stingray.

“The device has the ability to pull content, so all the sudden your text messages are at risk, your phone calls are at risk, and your data transmission, potentially,” said John Sawicki, a former police officer who consults attorneys on technological evidence, of the Stingray device made by Harris Corporation…

The ACLU has shown that at least 48 agencies across 20 states likely use the devices. Documents obtained by the Guardian show police from states as such as Texas, Florida, Washington, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Illinois,Arizona, and California utilize the devices.

The Florida agreement – obtained from the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office by the Guardian after a series of Stingray-related Freedom of Information Act requests sent over the past seven months – reads in part:

“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will, at the request of the FBI, seek dismissal of the case in lieu of providing, or allowing others to use or provide, any information concerning the Harris Corporation wireless collection equipment/technology, its associated software, operating manuals, and any related documentation.”

Law enforcement agencies that sign NDAs similar to the one in Hillsborough County are barred from providing “any information” about the Stingray-style devices in search warrants, pre-trial hearings, testimony, grand jury proceedings, in appeals or even in defense discovery. Per the agreement, police can only release the “evidentiary results” obtained with the device.

RTFA. Just in case you mistakenly thought you lived in a country where constitutional freedoms were honored and the government is working to bring a new level of transparency to law enforcement.

The sad life of trailblazing South African footballer Steve Mokone

Steve Mokone

When the Dutch journalist Tom Egbers first decided to find out what happened to his father’s footballing hero, he could never have imagined where it would lead. Almost 40 years had passed since the South African striker Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone spent two seasons playing for Egbers’ hometown club Heracles Almelo in Holland’s third division. But in 1993 no one had heard from him since…

“I decided to try and track him down but of course this was in the pre-Google age so it was not an easy task,” adds Egbers. “I eventually traced him to New York where he lived at the time working as a doctor in psychiatry and political science at a hospital. At first he was a little bit reserved and wanted to know who I was and why I wanted to talk to him. It was only years later that I was able to find out exactly why.”

After spending time with the man who had become the first black African to play professionally in Europe when he signed for Coventry City in 1955, Egbers published ‘De Zwarte Meteoor’ (The Black Meteor) – a novel based on Mokone’s successful spell at Heracles that saw them win promotion at the end of the 1957-58 season. It was remarkably well received and ‘Kalamazoo’ was invited back to the provincial town close to the German border for the first time in almost four decades as the club named the new stand in their Polman Stadion in his honour. Within five years the story had been turned into a film, too…

“Five days after the premiere there was a story in the newspaper by a Dutch journalist who had spoken to a South African who had told him that Steve had been in prison for years in America.

Egbers spent 18 months trawling through the archives looking for information on Mokone’s arrest and trial. Having also enjoyed brief spells at Cardiff, Torino, Barnsley, Salisbury, Marseille, Barcelona and Valencia, he had moved to the United States in 1964 and began studying psychiatry. Thirteen years later, having separated from his first wife and endured an acrimonious but eventually victorious custody battle, Mokone was accused of throwing acid into her face before a similar attack the following week left her lawyer blind in one eye.

“I had promised myself that, if I had found out that Steve was indeed guilty, I would write it down,” Egbers says. “But I became convinced more and more that he was convicted for a crime he didn’t commit.”

RTFA – please. It’s not just the tale of an athlete whose talents were challenged by the racist apartheid system of his home country, South Africa. He suffered through a trial and conviction in his adopted country, the United States. A trial manipulated by the FBI and the CIA.

Mokone’s death at the age of 82 in Washington last month after a prolonged illness was covered extensively in the Netherlands and South Africa’s players wore black armbands in this week’s friendly against Nigeria to commemorate one of their most important pioneers.

Following a ceremony at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium – the venue for the 2010 World Cup Final – next week, the ashes of the man described as “our flag bearer in all the corners of the world” by the sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, will be scattered in his homeland.

Thanks, Martyn

Protect and Serve at the highest level — emphasis on High!


Bags of heroin recovered from Lowry’s car

An FBI agent in the District fired for stealing heroin, collected as evidence, for his personal use has been charged with 64 criminal offenses and, through his attorney, said he would plead guilty and focus on avoiding a drug relapse.

The 33-year-old former agent, Matthew Lowry, had been part of a team targeting violent drug traffickers who cross between Maryland and the District. His misconduct compromised cases and forced the dismissal of charges against 28 defendants. It also exposed weaknesses in the handling of drug evidence in the FBI’s Washington field office…

The case represents a stunning turn for the Maryland resident, who graduated near the top of his class at the University of Maryland, earned a graduate degree while working full time for the FBI and tried to follow his father’s distinguished career in law enforcement. He was found six months ago, seemingly incoherent, on a lot near Southeast Washington’s Navy Yard with open bags of heroin in his agency car…

Friends had noticed Lowry’s erratic behavior, but knew that he had a new baby at home and was having trouble in his marriage. They took Lowry to a fellow agent’s apartment that night.

But the next day, agents were cleaning out the trash in the car when they found the drugs. Inside were evidence bags, full of heroin, that had been cut open…

The Washington Post obtained more than 600 pages of internal documents, memos and transcripts of interviews with Lowry’s fellow agents that detail how he managed to obtain the drugs and the personal events leading to his downfall.

In those documents, Lowry described how he took advantage of procedures that allowed a single agent to sign out drugs for lab analysis and did not track whether the packages reached their purported destination. As a result, Lowry was able to store drug evidence in his car, sometimes for as long as a year, with no questions asked. Lowry described how he forged signatures of agents on forms and evidence seals, repackaged drugs in bags and used store-bought laxatives to replaced heroin he had taken to avoid discrepancies in package weight…

Many of the 28 defendants whose cases were dismissed had already pleaded guilty and had been sent to prison, some for up to 10 years or more. Within two months, all of them had been freed and sent home with the convictions erased. Those charges had been filed based solely or substantially on drug evidence that Lowry stole from.

A scary example of unintended consequences – even from a drug addict.