Tagged: FBI

Rightwing nutball plotted to kill Muslims, Obama with death ray

A Ku Klux Klan member conspired to use a remote-controlled X-ray device hidden in a truck, which he called “Hiroshima on a light switch,” as a weapon of mass destruction to harm Muslims and President Barack Obama, a prosecutor told jurors on Monday…

In opening arguments at U.S. District Court in Albany, a lawyer for Glendon Scott Crawford, 51, of Galway, New York, said the device would have never been built if not for the government supplying the necessary components via “criminal” sources…

Crawford and Eric Feight were arrested in 2013 and charged in the plot to unleash radiation at a mosque in Albany and a Muslim school in nearby Colonie.

The men also planned to attack the White House, according to a recording of their May 2012 conversation played at the trial, in which Crawford described himself a Klansman and called the remote-controlled device “Hiroshima on a light switch.”

Feight, of Hudson, New York, pleaded guilty in 2014 to providing material support to terrorists…

Rodney Margolis, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, testified that Crawford tried to interest Jewish leaders in a “black-bag operation” that “would kill Israel’s enemies while they slept.”

Margolis said that Crawford scared him and he immediately called police. As a result, the FBI in Albany soon began surveilling Crawford at home and ultimately deployed a confidential source to further discuss Crawford’s scheme with him…

The dividing line between criminals and political activists is much closer together on the Right than many imagine. Especially if your brain is already confounded by what passes for conservative common sense, nowadays.

The Left has a long history of crazy bomb-throwing anarchists who justify their violence through one or another religion-like rationale about direct action. Rightwing thugs are simply that. They reject democracy, republican delegation of power as a sign of weakness. Not realizing the critical weakness is in their own minds.

Ignoranus Republicans think if your data is encrypted, the terrorists win

Jeb “I’m my own man” Bush sounds more and more like his know-nothing ex-president brother every day. This time, in between defending the Iraq War and saying he might bring back torture if elected president, he’s demanding that tech companies stop letting billions of the world’s citizens use encryption online to protect their information because of “evildoers.”

Bush’s comments echo the dangerous sentiments of FBI director Jim Comey, who has publicly campaigned against Apple and Google for attempting to make our cell phones and communications safer by incorporating strong encryption in iPhones and Android devices…

First of all, he seems to either be attacking, or just doesn’t understand, that the entire internet – and much of the economy really – is based around strong encryption. Every time he logs onto his email, uses online banking or wants to check his medical records online, there is some form of encryption that is protecting his data from criminals. So the fact that technology companies are “creating” encryption protects all of us

It begs the questions: how many candidates have technologists or computer scientists advising their campaigns? Given how almost every week there is yet another security breach at a major company, and that voters are concerned about their online privacy, you’d think at least some of the candidates would attempt to capitalize on it by merely having a coherent policy that does not make them sound like they’ve never touched a computer (or sent a fax) before without the assistance of their aides.

Strong end-to-end encryption is one of the best defenses against the massive cyber-attacks that have become all too frequent. If there is not a giant pile of data that is accessible by anyone, then the criminals can’t get it either.

As much as rightwing idjits prattle about hating big government they’re always in favor of using government to get in the way of individual privacy, free speech and free thought.

We get that crap daily from the FBI and the NSA. Two bodies with a long iron-clad history of rejecting privacy or civil liberties for anyone they want to sniff around. It doesn’t matter whether the White House or Congress is led by the vaguely liberal half of our 2-party electoral politics. The heads of our officially-chartered thought police are inevitably some flavor of proto-fascist creep.

Today’s Republican candidates for president nod their bobbleheads in agreement.

Social networks scan for predators — sort of

On March 9 of this year, a piece of Facebook software spotted something suspicious.

A man in his early thirties was chatting about sex with a 13-year-old South Florida girl and planned to meet her after middle-school classes the next day.

Facebook’s extensive but little-discussed technology for scanning postings and chats for criminal activity automatically flagged the conversation for employees, who read it and quickly called police.

Officers took control of the teenager’s computer and arrested the man the next day, said Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Duncan of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The alleged predator has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor…

Facebook is among the many companies that are embracing a combination of new technologies and human monitoring to thwart sex predators. Such efforts generally start with automated screening for inappropriate language and exchanges of personal information, and extend to using the records of convicted pedophiles’ online chats to teach the software what to seek out…

Like most of its peers, Facebook generally avoids discussing its safety practices to discourage scare stories, because it doesn’t catch many wrongdoers, and to sidestep privacy concerns. Users could be unnerved about the extent to which their conversations are reviewed, at least by computer programs…

NSS.

Barring a wave of costly litigation or new laws, it is hard to see the protections getting much tougher, experts said. Instead, the app and location booms will only add to the market pressure for more freedom on youth sites and greater challenges for parents.

…Said the FBI’s Brooke Donahue. “The free market pushes towards permissiveness.”

A free nation tends to push towards permissiveness, as well. The presumption being that as education becomes pervasive, probably more sophisticated – young individuals feel themselves more capable of making sophisticated decisions. Without someone looking over their shoulder. The only folks easily fitting the definition of OK to guide, overlook, regulate, of course are parents.

With more and more single parents that ain’t getting easier anytime soon. With a crap economy improving to just crappy, time for family life ain’t getting any easier.

Might be nice if there really was sufficient education, access to information beyond superstition and cultural foibles. You might think it a copout to only take the time to point young people in the direction of answers. But, I’m not confident even that much is easily available.

I think we need a Socrates or Mr. Chips-level Google.

Oh, the FBI? I trust ’em about as far as I can throw them uphill into a heavy wind.

Germany halts treason charges against journalists – for the present


Andre Meister and Markus Beckedahl

A treason investigation into two journalists who reported that the German state planned to increase online surveillance has been suspended by the country’s prosecutor general following protests by leading voices across politics and media.

Harald Range, Germany’s prosecutor general, said on Friday he was halting the investigation “for the good of press and media freedom”. It was the first time in more than half a century that journalists in Germany had faced charges of treason.

Speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Range said he would await the results of an internal investigation into whether the journalists from the news platform netzpolitik.org had quoted from a classified intelligence report before deciding how to proceed.

His announcement followed a deluge of criticism and accusations that Germany’s prosecutor had “misplaced priorities”, having failed to investigate with any conviction the NSA spying scandal revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and targeting instead the two investigative journalists, Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister.

In a scathing attack, the leading Green MP Renate Künast, who is also chair of the Bundestag’s legal affairs committee, called the investigation a “humiliation to the rule of law”. She accused Range of disproportionately targeting the two journalists, whilse ignoring the “massive spying and eavesdropping [conducted] by the NSA in Germany”.

Künast told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger: “Nothing happened with that. If it wasn’t for investigative journalism, we would know nothing.”…

In articles that appeared on netzpolitik.org in February and April, the two reporters made reference to what is believed to be a genuine intelligence report that had been classified as confidential, which proposed establishing a new intelligence department to monitor the internet, in particular social media networks.

The federal prosecutor’s investigation was triggered by a complaint made by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) over the articles, which it said had been based on leaked documents…

In an act of solidarity, the research website Correctiv reported itself to the general prosecutor’s office on Friday, saying that it too was “guilty of treason”, at the same time as republishing the controversial documents originally published by netzpolitik.org.

“They should be investigating the whole lot of us!” said Correctiv’s editor-in-chief, Markus Grill. Meanwhile, German lawyers called for the abolition of the offence “journalistic treason”.

The uproar against NSA-style security measures seems to have had the desired effect for now. German justice minister, Heiko Maas, is requesting the dismissal and retirement of the chief federal prosecutor, Harald Range, who initiated the charges against the journalists.

Of course, I wouldn’t expect the same to happen here in the GOUSA. And it hasn’t. Much of our Free Press is owned by entertainment media corporations. They aren’t about the rock the boat. The Democratic Party couldn’t turn out a united demonstration for Free Speech if it threatened the military-industrial complex. Republicans would start wearing armbands if requested. And American Greens don’t seem able to generate a grassroots movement with the energy and smarts to grow into a national party.

Yup. Still a cynic. Mail me a penny postcard when Obama invites Ed Snowden to return home.

Another corrupt politician goes up the river

Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), the Staten Islander best known for threatening on-camera to “break” a reporter “in half—like a boy,” has been sentenced by a federal judge to eight months in prison for tax evasion.

The sentencing, by US District Judge Pamela Chen, comes seven months after Grimm pleaded guilty to his role in filing a false tax return. Grimm had been indicted in April 2014 on 20 counts related to accounting practices at Healthalicious, a Manhattan restaurant he owned before his time in Congress. The restaurant’s co-owner, Bennett Orfaly, has previously been accused of having ties to a convicted Gambino family mobster.

Despite his indictment, last year, Grimm ran for reelection to his third term in Congress—and won. It was not until December 30—seven days after entering his guilty plea—that he announced his intentions to resign his seat.

Before Grimm was the target of an investigation by the FBI, he served for two decades as one of its agents. It was during this time that Grimm reportedly pulled a gun in a Queens nightclub, and, after a bouncer ejected him, stormed the nightclub with another FBI agent and members of the NYPD. “I’m a fucking F.B.I. agent,” Grimm reportedly said. “Ain’t nobody gonna threaten me.”

Sad commentary on the more criminal side of today’s Republican constituency. Just as the loony, creationist side of Christianity slanders well-meaning religious folk – just as Confederate flag-toting racists with teabags dangling from their AR-15s slander anyone who used to join the NRA to support their classes in hunting safety – conservatism as a political class is now deeply defined as the last bastion of fear and hatred. Better Dead Than Red is back and voting for more of the same.

FBI wants easy access to all our communications or Isis will KILL US ALL!


Quillian and Comey

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned US senators that the threat from the Islamic State merits a “debate” about limiting commercial encryption – the linchpin of digital security – despite a growing chorus of technical experts who say that undermining encryption would prove an enormous boon for hackers, cybercriminals, foreign spies and terrorists.

In a twin pair of appearances before the Senate’s judiciary and intelligence committees on Wednesday, James Comey testified that Isis’s use of end-to-end encryption, whereby the messaging service being used to send information does not have access to the decryption keys of those who receive it, helped the group place a “devil” on the shoulders of potential recruits “saying kill, kill, kill, kill”…

He added: “I am not trying to scare folks.”

Since October, following Apple’s decision to bolster its mobile-device security, Comey has called for a “debate” about inserting “back doors” – or “front doors”, as he prefers to call them – into encryption software, warning that “encryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place”.

But Comey and deputy attorney general Sally Quillian Yates testified…they did not wish the government to itself hold user encryption keys and preferred to “engage” communications providers for access, though technicians have stated that what Comey and Yates seek is fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end encryption.

Comey, who is not a software engineer, said his response to that was: “Really?”…

…Comey’s campaign against encryption has run into a wall of opposition from digital security experts and engineers. Their response is that there is no technical way to insert a back door into security systems for governments that does not leave the door ajar for anyone – hackers, criminals, foreign intelligence services – to exploit and gain access to enormous treasure troves of user data, including medical records, financial information and much more.

The cybersecurity expert Susan Landau, writing on the prominent blog Lawfare, called Comey’s vision of a security flaw only the US government could exploit “magical thinking”…

In advance of Comey’s testimony, several of the world’s leading cryptographers, alarmed by the return of a battle they thought won during the 1990s “Crypto Wars”, rejected the effort as pernicious from a security perspective and technologically illiterate.

A paper they released on Tuesday, called “Keys Under Doormats”, said the transatlantic effort to insert backdoors into encryption was “unworkable in practice, raise[s] enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm”.

I guess all these years spent successfully stopping enemies of democracy [excluding politicians and elected officials] before encrypted communications were broadly, cheaply possible were just a fluke.

Perhaps time spent hiring and training talented well-educated people to work within a system that respects democratic freedoms may have something to do with it. Perhaps aiding folks, domestic and foreign, to build a better life – instead of simply insisting upon obedience – might diminish the danger from demagogues.

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.