The real face of terrorism in America

Gavin Wright, 49, Curtis Allen, 49, and Patrick Stein, 47

Three Kansas men from a militia cell called “the Crusaders” plotted to bomb a mosque and apartment complex home to Somali immigrants…

Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49, and Patrick Stein, 47, were charged Friday with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, according to the Department of Justice’s national security division. The Crusaders call Muslims “cockroaches,” and they had discussed attacks brutal attacks on Muslims for months, federal prosecutors said.

FBI agents working on tips from an undercover informant said the three men planned to blow up four car bombs at the Garden City apartments. Allen, Wright and Stein hoped the attack on the 120-resident complex would “wake people up,” the feds said.

The arrests followed an eight-month investigation that took the agents “deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence,” said acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall. “Many Kansans may find it as startling as I do that such things could happen here.”…

If you read more than the TV Guide, watch more than Fox Noise, you shouldn’t be surprised.

…Allen, Wright and Stein had stockpiled guns, ammunition and explosive components, prosecutors said. They also spied on possible targets and planned to issue a manifesto, according to the feds.

They decided on the apartment complex in Garden City, a meatpacking town of 26,000 people in southwestern Kansas. Many Somali refugees who work at a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse live there, and the complex includes a mosque where they worship together.

“They chose the target location based on their hatred of these groups, their perception that these groups represent a threat to American society, a desire to inspire other militia groups, and a desire to ‘wake people up,'” the complaint said…

They talked about attacking targets such as city or county meetings, landlords who rent to Muslim refugees, organizations that assist Muslim refugees, a mall frequented by Muslims and Garden City’s African Community Center, investigators said. They decided on the W. Mary St. apartment complex in August, according to the complaint.

…Police in Liberal arrested Allen on Tuesday night after his girlfriend said he beat her, the charging documents showed. His car had ammo for an AR-15, an AK-47 and a Glock handgun, according to investigators.

Liberal police later found nearly a metric ton of ammo at Allen’s house, investigators said. FBI agents who searched G&G, where Allen worked for Wright, said they uncovered a detonator believed to be a homemade explosive and other bomb components…

Federal agents took custody of all three of them Friday morning. Allen, Wright and Stein face up to life in federal prison without parole if they’re convicted.

Throw away the key!

The Feds secretly subpoenaed the chat app Signal earlier this year

❝ Earlier this year, Open Whisper Systems was served with a federal subpoena for records on its users, according to documents published today. Prosecutors were seeking data on two suspects who used Signal, an encrypted chat app produced by Open Whisper. Unfortunately for the government, Signal keeps only minimal logs on users, so the vast majority of the requested information was unavailable.

❝ The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Open Whisper Systems in the fight, has published a number of court filings related to the the request. Portions of the filings are redacted and much about the subpoena is still secret — including the case number, the date it was served, and the details of the underlying case — but it’s clear that the government sought detailed information on the users including subscriber name, payment information, and associated IP addresses.

It’s also clear that almost none of that information was ultimately produced. One of the phone numbers named by the government did not correspond to a Signal account, and logs on the other number showed only when the user first signed up for the service and when they most recently logged in.

❝ Crucially, the request was filed under gag order, and Open Whisper was only able to publish the documents after a significant legal fight. That has become standard practice for such requests, although many legal scholars believe widespread use of the tactic presents a threat to free speech.

Not that the Department of Justice or any US government I can recall – liberal or conservative – cares a rat’s ass about Constitutional rights when the secret police boffins declare an event to be a question of national security. The creeps get to redefine the rules governing themselves. No democracy, no oversight, no transparency.

Yahoo scanned all incoming customer emails for US intelligence

❝ Yahoo last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials…

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time…

❝ Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

❝ According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook…

RTFA. It’s long and detailed – and I haven’t had a boatload of trust in the integrity of Yahoo in years. All credit to Alex Stamos for walking out.

Teen busted trying hire a clown to assassinate her teacher

❝ Police in Virginia have arrested a 13-year-old girl in connection with a social media threat involving a clown.

The investigation revealed that the girl made contact with someone via social media, and asked the person to murder one of her teachers at Davis Middle School…

The person she contacted was using a clown photo as a profile picture as well as an alias.

❝ The 13-year-old girl from Hampton was arrested and charged with one count of threatening to kill by electronic message. She remains in custody.

❝ Hampton police detectives made contact with the victim to ensure her safety and make her aware of the situation. At this time, there is no evidence to indicate a threat against any others.

There was increased police presence Monday at Davis Middle School and Hampton police officers are working with school security to ensure student safety.

❝ This incident comes just two days after schools in Hampton and Newport News tightened security because of threats from social media accounts of people posing as clowns…

The Hampton Police Division is collaborating with Hampton City Schools, the Newport News Police Division, and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate each of these threats and social media pages.

None of the security hustlers are going to miss out on an opportunity to increase fun and profits from fear. I’m surprised the NRA hasn’t shown up selling handguns outside the school. Yet.

Elizabeth Warren asks DOJ, FBI, to answer why bankers haven’t been prosecuted?

❝ Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is marking the eighth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy with a new push to investigate—and potentially jail — more than two dozen individuals and corporations who were referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution in 2011 by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a government-appointed group that investigated the roots of the 2008 financial crisis. None was ever prosecuted. The names of the referrals — including former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, who held a top job at Citigroup, and Citigroup’s former CEO, Charles Prince — became public earlier this year when the National Archives released new documents.

In a letter to the Justice Department’s inspector general, Warren calls the lack of prosecutions “outrageous and baffling” and asks the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to investigate why no charges were brought…

❝ In a separate letter, to FBI Director James Comey, Warren asks for the immediate release of “any and all materials related to the FBI’s investigations and prosecutorial decisions regarding these referrals.” This disclosure is warranted, she writes, by Comey’s decision in July to release a lengthy and critical statement that included previously undisclosed information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server—even though Comey decided not to recommend that charges be brought against Clinton. “Your recent actions with regard to the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” Warren writes, “provide a clear precedent for releasing additional information about the investigation of the parties responsible for the financial crisis.”

❝ …She said Comey’s rationale for disclosing details of the Clinton investigation — Comey said it was warranted by “intense public interest” — creates a new precedent that obligates him to shed light on why the bankers and financial institutions referred by the FCIC to the Justice Department were never prosecuted. “Those same standards ought to apply to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Warren said. “There’s a clear public interest in finding out why none of these individuals or corporations were held responsible.”

❝ The timing of Warren’s effort, less than two months before the presidential election, aims to encourage the next administration to prosecute financial crimes more aggressively than the Obama administration has done. “The public outrage is still there,” she said. “This is about reminding our government officials who they work for.”

Warren in 2024. Or 2000. 🙂

TSA, local coppers, panic over scientist carrying technical gear to DOE meeting – close down airport!

Jeremy Danielson is a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who was on his way to Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of 9/11, to present a mock-up of some sort of technical apparatus at a Department of Energy conference.

He never got past the security checkpoint at the Albuquerque International Sunport and his final destination for the day was the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Airport officials shut down the Sunport for hours and Danielson was carted off to jail by police, who apparently believed the device was a fake bomb.

Danielson, 40, is now facing a fourth-degree felony of having a facsimile or hoax bomb or explosive, according to court records. He has no criminal history and Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed he was an employee traveling on business.

His attorney, Dan Cron, said Danielson, who has a Ph.D., knew the Transportation Security Administration is sometimes concerned by the mock-ups, so as he was putting his carry-on bag on the conveyor belt, he told TSA workers that they would need to look at it…

Cron said Danielson has taken technical mock-ups on business trips in the past.

TSA said, blah, blah, blah.

Sunport said blah, blah, blah.

Albuquerque police said blah, blah, blah.

A spokesman for the FBI, which is helping in the investigation, said it is ongoing and wouldn’t comment further.

A LANL newsletter says Danielson was part of a “radiography source development team” that won a 2014 Defense Department award of excellence. He also is listed as an author of various research papers and a participant in scientific conferences.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Since the advent of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA, I fly nowhere. I will only visit any place I can get to in my 22-year-old pickup truck.

Spy chiefs briefed 8 Congress-drones a year ago on hacking of Democrats — didn’t tell DNC “because it was a secret”

U.S. intelligence officials told top congressional leaders a year ago that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, but the lawmakers were unable to tell the targets about the hacking because the information was so secret…

The material was marked with additional restrictions and assigned a unique codeword, limiting access to a small number of officials who needed to know that U.S. spy agencies had concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies or their proxies were targeting the Democratic National Committee, the central organizing body of the Democratic Party…

Our spy professionals decided the DNC didn’t need to know.

The alleged hacking of the Democrats and the Russian connection did not become public until late last month when the FBI said it was investigating a cyber attack at the DNC…

The congressional briefing was given last summer in a secure room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, to a group of congressional leaders informally known as the “Gang of Eight,” the sources said.

The group at the time included four Republicans: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, and Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs. Their Democratic counterparts were: Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the intelligence committees…

A bipartisan group of professional politicians who couldn’t care less about transparency, security.

The attack on the DNC later led the hackers to other party organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises funds for House candidates, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and other groups…

One of the sources said the Clinton campaign first detected attacks on its data system in early March, and was given what the source described as a “general briefing” about it by the FBI later that month. The source said the FBI made no mention of a Russian connection in that briefing and did not say when the penetration first took place.

According to a memo obtained by Reuters, interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile said on Thursday she was creating a Cybersecurity Advisory Board “to ensure prevent future attacks and ensure that the DNC’s cybersecurity capabilities are best-in-class.”

Better update security on your own. Obviously you can’t count on our bought-and-paid-for government spies to offer any help.

The FBI has a database that can catch rapists and other violent crooks — why aren’t cops using it?

More than 30 years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a revolutionary computer system in a bomb shelter two floors beneath the cafeteria of its national academy. Dubbed the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, it was a database designed to help catch the nation’s most violent offenders by linking together unsolved crimes. A serial rapist wielding a favorite knife in one attack might be identified when he used the same knife elsewhere. The system was rooted in the belief that some criminals’ methods were unique enough to serve as a kind of behavioral DNA — allowing identification based on how a person acted, rather than their genetic make-up.

Equally as important was the idea that local law enforcement agencies needed a way to better communicate with each other. Savvy killers had attacked in different jurisdictions to exploit gaping holes in police cooperation. ViCAP’s “implementation could mean the prevention of countless murders and the prompt apprehension of violent criminals,” the late Sen. Arlen Specter wrote…endorsing the program…

In the years since ViCAP was first conceived, data-mining has grown vastly more sophisticated, and computing power has become cheaper and more readily available. Corporations can link the food you purchase, the clothes you buy, and the websites you browse. The FBI can parse your emails, cellphone records and airline itineraries. In a world where everything is measured, data is ubiquitous — from the number of pieces of candy that a Marine hands out on patrol in Kandahar, to your heart rate as you walk up the stairs at work.

That’s what’s striking about ViCAP today: the paucity of information it contains. Only about 1,400 police agencies in the U.S., out of roughly 18,000, participate in the system. The database receives reports from far less than 1 percent of the violent crimes committed annually. It’s not even clear how many crimes the database has helped solve. The FBI does not release any figures. A review in the 1990s found it had linked only 33 crimes in 12 years.

Canadian authorities built on the original ViCAP framework to develop a modern and sophisticated system capable of identifying patterns and linking crimes. It has proven particularly successful at analyzing sexual-assault cases. But three decades and an estimated $30 million later, the FBI’s system remains stuck in the past…ViCAP was supposed to revolutionize American law enforcement. That revolution never came.

RTFA. It’s long and detailed…and interesting in many ways. Part of the problem is lousy design. Entering one case file can take over an hour. Part of the problem is who we get to be cops. “Cops don’t want to do more paperwork…Anytime you ask for voluntary compliance, it won’t be a priority. It’s not going to happen.”

The telling point is the Canadian program started to emulate ours — it works, it catches criminals. Especially violent criminals. The FBI system sucks up taxpayer dollar$ and gives back zilch.

Who owns your fingerprints?

These days, many of us regularly feed pieces of ourselves into machines for convenience and security. Our fingerprints unlock our smartphones, and companies are experimenting with more novel biometric markers — voice, heartbeat, grip — as ID for banking and other transactions. But there are almost no laws in place to control how companies use such information. Nor is it clear what rights people have to protect scans of their retinas or the contours of their face from cataloging by the private sector.

There’s one place where people seeking privacy protections can turn: the courts. A series of plaintiffs are suing tech giants, including Facebook and Google, under a little-used Illinois law. The Biometric Information Privacy Act, passed in 2008, is one of the only statutes in the U.S. that sets limits on the ways companies can handle data such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and retinal scans. At least four of the suits filed under BIPA are moving forward. “These cases are important to scope out the existing law, perhaps point out places where the law could be improved, and set principles that other states might follow,” says Jeffrey Neuburger, a partner at law firm Proskauer Rose.

The bankruptcy of fingerprint-scanning company Pay By Touch spurred BIPA’s passage. Hundreds of Illinois grocery stores and gas stations used its technology, allowing customers to pay with the tap of a finger. As the bankrupt company proposed selling its database, the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union drafted what became BIPA…

Under the Illinois law, companies must obtain written consent from customers before collecting their biometric data. They also must declare a point at which they’ll destroy the data, and they must not sell it. BIPA allows for damages of $5,000 per violation. “Social Security numbers, when compromised, can be changed,” the law reads.Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, [and] is at heightened risk for identity theft.”

National efforts to establish biometric guidelines haven’t gone well. In 2014 a Department of Commerce agency led an effort to develop a code of conduct for companies using facial-recognition technology, but consumer advocates withdrew from the group the following year, saying tech companies refused to consider the most modest of privacy protections…

..In May the Department of Justice proposed exempting the FBI’s facial-recognition program, called Next Generation Identification, from privacy protections. In June the Government Accountability Office reported that the FBI program failed tests of accuracy and privacy. So far the report hasn’t led to any action…

As it stands, one law in one state is all the protection Americans have against abuse or misuse of biometric data. I suggest you contact your elected officials, state and federal, nudge them off their rusty dusty.

Some parts of the world have a stronger tradition of protecting privacy than we do. Experience living under a truly fascist government can have that effect, eh? Given the long trend of attempts at a police state in the US – often under the banner of “protecting” individual liberty – I hope you don’t wait around until the question doesn’t stand a chance.

Progressive issues have an opportunity to influence the coming national election – this year. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Daniel Radcliffe and Edward Snowden in an off-Broadway play about “Privacy”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and actor Daniel Radcliffe will appear together in a play starting on Saturday in New York City.

The show, Privacy, premiered in London in 2014 and has been refashioned for the American theatre. It was inspired by Snowden’s revelations that the US government was conducting mass surveillance on its citizens.

Radcliffe and Snowden…rehearsed…though Radcliffe was in a Manhattan auditorium speaking to Snowden on video from Moscow, where he has lived since June 2013.

Snowden’s appearance in the play at the Public Theater will be confined to a screen as the US government has a warrant out for his arrest, because he leaked confidential NSA documents to journalists, including those at the Guardian.

Snowden and Radcliffe will appear together for about one minute, according to the Times, and only one of the men will be speaking live – the one actually on stage. The dialogue comes at a climactic moment and centers on statements Snowden has made about privacy.

Gotta piss off Uncle Sugar. Many of the creeps in and outside government officialdom who leaped to condemn Snowden are stuffed from eating their words. Even Obama has to admit much of this generation’s fight against government surveillance of American citizens flows from the critical revelations of Edward Snowden.

Not that our elected and appointed overlords have reduced or limited their commitment to snooping on us all. They’ve just been forced into more judicious choices of words describing their paranoia.