Hundreds of open source packages, including the Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Debian distributions of Linux, are susceptible to attacks that circumvent the most widely used technology to prevent eavesdropping on the Internet, thanks to an extremely critical vulnerability in a widely used cryptographic code library.
The bug in the GnuTLS library makes it trivial for attackers to bypass secure sockets layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protections available on websites that depend on the open source package. Initial estimates included in Internet discussions such as this one indicate that more than 200 different operating systems or applications rely on GnuTLS to implement crucial SSL and TLS operations, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the actual number is much higher. Web applications, e-mail programs, and other code that use the library are vulnerable to exploits that allow attackers monitoring connections to silently decode encrypted traffic passing between end users and servers.
The bug is the result of commands in a section of the GnuTLS code that verify the authenticity of TLS certificates, which are often known simply as X509 certificates. The coding error, which may have been present in the code since 2005, causes critical verification checks to be terminated, drawing ironic parallels to the extremely critical “goto fail” flaw that for months put users of Apple’s iOS and OS X operating systems at risk of surreptitious eavesdropping attacks. Apple developers have since patched the bug.
Having read the code I can’t but help feel like it has the same level of plausible deniability when it comes to the question “is this on purpose”. And that worries me.
Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains “undesirable nudity”. Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography.
Jeffrey Grossman, on Twitter:
I have confirmed that the SSL vulnerability was introduced in iOS
6.0. It is not present in 5.1.1 and is in 6.0.
According to slide 6 in the leaked PowerPoint deck on NSA’s PRISM program, Apple was “added” in October 2012.
These three facts prove nothing; it’s purely circumstantial. But the shoe fits.
No Swiss fighter jets were scrambled Monday when an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane and forced it to land in Geneva, because it happened outside business hours, the Swiss airforce said.
“Working for the TSA,” I wrote, “has the feel of riding atop the back of a large, dopey dog fanatically chasing its tail clockwise for a while, then counterclockwise, and back again, ad infinitum.”
The National Security Agency has told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that it can not answer his question about whether it collects information on members of Congress because doing so would violate the law.
In a letter to Sanders, which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the agency, insisted that nothing the NSA “does can fairly be characterized as ‘spying on Members of Congress or American elected officials.’” But Alexander wouldn’t go more in depth than that, arguing that he would be violating the civilian protections of the program if he did.
“Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups,” Alexander wrote. “For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without the predicate.”
As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a “back door” in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.
Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.
The National Security Agency has made repeated attempts to develop attacks against people using Tor, a popular tool designed to protect online anonymity, despite the fact the software is primarily funded and promoted by the US government itself.
Top-secret NSA documents, disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal that the agency’s current successes against Tor rely on identifying users and then attacking vulnerable software on their computers. One technique developed by the agency targeted the Firefox web browser used with Tor, giving the agency full control over targets’ computers, including access to files, all keystrokes and all online activity.
But the documents suggest that the fundamental security of the Tor service remains intact. One top-secret presentation, titled ‘Tor Stinks’, states: “We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time.” It continues: “With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users,” and says the agency has had “no success de-anonymizing a user in response” to a specific request.
Roger Dingledine, the president of the Tor project, said the NSA’s efforts serve as a reminder that using Tor on its own is not sufficient to guarantee anonymity against intelligence agencies – but showed it was also a great aid in combating mass surveillance.
“The good news is that they went for a browser exploit, meaning there’s no indication they can break the Tor protocol or do traffic analysis on the Tor network,” Dingledine said. “Infecting the laptop, phone, or desktop is still the easiest way to learn about the human behind the keyboard.
Adobe said Thursday that it recently suffered a massive security breach which compromised the IDs, passwords, and credit card information of nearly three million customers.
“Our investigation currently indicates that the attackers accessed Adobe customer IDs and encrypted passwords on our systems. We also believe the attackers removed from our systems certain information relating to 2.9 million Adobe customers, including customer names, encrypted credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, and other information relating to customer orders,” Brad Arkin, Adobe’s chief security officer, wrote in a security alert.
They probably had an older version of Flash installed….
FBI agents put this pressure on ACLU clients Abe Mashal, a Marine veteran; Amir Meshal; and Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Each of these Americans spoke to FBI agents to learn why they were suddenly banned from flying and to clear up the errors that led to that decision. Instead of providing that explanation or opportunity, FBI agents offered to help them get off the No-Fly List—but only in exchange for serving as informants in their communities.Our clients refused.
The ACLU’s report,Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority, explains what happened to Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Nagib was denied boarding when trying to fly home to San Francisco after a trip to visit family in Yemen. Stranded abroad and desperate to return home, Nagib sought help from the U.S. embassy in Yemen and was asked to submit to an FBI interview. FBI agents offered to arrange for Nagib to fly back immediately to the United States if he would agree to tell the agents who the “bad guys” were in Yemen and San Francisco. The agents insisted that Nagib could provide the names of people from his mosque and the San Francisco Yemeni community. The agents said they would have Nagib arrested and jailed in Yemen if he did not cooperate, and that Nagib should “think about it.” Nagib, however, did not know any “bad guys” and therefore refused to spy on innocent people in exchange for a flight home.
Nagib’s experience is far from unique. After Abe Mashal was denied boarding at Chicago’s Midway Airport, FBI agents questioned him about his religious beliefs and practices.The agents told Abe that if he would serve as an informant for the FBI, his name would be removed from the No-Fly List and he would receive compensation. When Abe refused, the FBI promptly ended the meeting.
Neither Nagib nor Abe present a threat to aviation security. But FBI agents sought to exploit their fear, desperation, and confusion when they were most vulnerable, and to coerce them into working as informants. Moreover, the very fact that FBI agents asked Nagib and Abe to spy on people for the government is yet another indication that the FBI doesn’t actually think either man is a suspected terrorist. This abusive use of a government watch list underscores the serious need for regulation, oversight, and public accountability of an FBI that has become unleashed and unaccountable.
Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service was behind a cyber attack against Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian telecoms company. A “top secret” Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) presentation seen by SPIEGEL indicate that the goal of project, conducted under the codename “Operation Socialist,” was “to enable better exploitation of Belgacom” and to improve understanding of the provider’s infrastructure.
The presentation is undated, but another document indicates that access has been possible since 2010. The document shows that the Belgacom subsidiary Bics, a joint venture between Swisscom and South Africa’s MTN, was on the radar of the British spies.
Belgacom, whose major customers include institutions like the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, ordered an internal investigation following the recent revelations about spying by the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) and determined it had been the subject of an attack. The company then referred the incident to Belgian prosecutors. Last week, Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo spoke of a “violation of the public firm’s integrity.”
When news first emerged of the cyber attack, suspicions in Belgium were initially directed at the NSA. But the presentation suggests that it was Belgium’s own European Union partner Britain that is behind “Operation Socialist,” even though the presentation indicates that the British used spying technology for the operation that the NSA had developed.
Yes, this is a conspiracy theory. But I’m not willing to discount such things anymore. That’s is the worst thing about the NSA’s actions. We have no idea whom we can trust.
The federal agency charged with recommending cybersecurity standards said Tuesday that it would reopen the public vetting process for an encryption standard, after reports that the National Security Agency had written the standard and could break it.
“We want to assure the I.T. cybersecurity community that the transparent, public process used to rigorously vet our standards is still in place,” The National Institute of Standards and Technology said in a public statement. “N.I.S.T. would not deliberately weaken a cryptographic standard.”
The announcement followed reports published by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica last Thursday about the N.S.A.’s success in foiling much of the encryption that protects vast amounts of information on the Web. The Times reported that as part of its efforts, the N.S.A. had inserted a back door into a 2006 standard adopted by N.I.S.T. and later by the International Organization for Standardization, which counts 163 countries as members.
For encryption to be secure, the system must generate secret prime numbers randomly. That random number generation process — which is based on mathematical algorithms — makes it practically impossible for an attacker, or intelligence agency, to predict the scrambling protocols that would allow it to unscramble an encrypted message.
But internal memos leaked by a former N.S.A. contractor, Edward Snowden, suggest that the N.S.A. generated one of the random number generators used in a 2006 N.I.S.T. standard — called the Dual EC DRBG standard — which contains a back door for the N.S.A. In publishing the standard, N.I.S.T. acknowledged “contributions” from N.S.A., but not primary authorship.
In security, the worst case—the thing you most want to avoid—is thinking you are secure when you’re not. And that’s exactly what the NSA seems to be trying to perpetuate.
Suppose you’re driving a car that has no brakes. If you know you have no brakes, then you can drive very slowly, or just get out and walk. What is deadly is thinking you have the ability to stop, until you stomp on the brake pedal and nothing happens. It’s the same way with security: if you know your communications aren’t secure, you can be careful about what you say; but if you think mistakenly that you’re safe, you’re sure to get in trouble.
So the problem is not (only) that we’re unsafe. It’s that “the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way.” The NSA wants to make sure we remain vulnerable.
Of course, we “have been assured by Internet companies” that we are safe. It’s always wise to be wary of vendors’ security assurances—there’s a lot of snake oil out there—but this news calls for a different variety of skepticism that doubts the assurances of even the most earnest and competent companies. This is going to put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, because people will believe that U.S. companies lack the ability to protect their customers—and people will suspect that U.S. companies may feel compelled to lie to their customers about security.
The worst news of all, in my view, is that the NSA has taken active steps to undermine public encryption standards.
The U.S. government spied on Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Globo TV reported, citing classified documents obtained by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
The television network, which reported a week ago that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted phone calls and e-mails of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, aired slides from an NSA presentation from 2012 that explained the agency’s capability to penetrate private networks of companies such as Petrobras, as the oil company is known, and Google Inc.
One slide in the presentation listed “economic” as an intention for spying, as well as diplomatic and political reasons. None of the documents revealed the motivation for the alleged spying on Petrobras, according to Globo.
The presentation appears to contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to the Washington Post in an August 30 article, in which the agency said that the U.S. Department of Defense “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”
Petrobras declined to comment in an e-mailed response to questions. An official at the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information in order to monitor for signs of potential instability in financial markets, and not to steal commercial secrets, according to tonight’s program.
Apparently Petrobas is a hotbed of financial instability. They’re probably the single cause behind the 2008 meltdown of the financial markets.
On the Cryptography mailing list, John Gilmore (co-founder of pioneering ISP The Little Garden and the Electronic Frontier Foundation; early Sun employee; cypherpunk; significant contributor to GNU/Linux and its crypto suite; and all-round Internet superhero) describes his interactions with the NSA and several obvious NSA stooges on the IPSEC standardization working groups at the Internet Engineering Task Force. It’s an anatomy of how the NSA worked to undermine and sabotage important security standards. For example, “NSA employees explicitly lied to standards committees, such as that for cellphone encryption, telling them that if they merely debated an actually-secure protocol, they would be violating the export control laws unless they excluded all foreigners from the room (in an international standards committee!).”
The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments.
The agencies, the documents reveal, have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on what they see as one of the biggest threats to their ability to access huge swathes of internet traffic – “the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet”.
Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with “brute force”, and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.
Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software.
The TSA is allowed to lie in its responses to Freedom of Information Requests. Its court-granted ability to lie to the public it nominally serves isn’t limited to sensitive issues, either: they’re allowed to pretend that they don’t have CCTV footage of their own officers violating their own policies, even when they do.
Investigators believe an 8-year-old boy intentionally shot and killed his 90-year-old grandmother on Thursday evening after playing a violent video game.
The woman, Marie Smothers, was pronounced dead at the scene with a gunshot wound to the head in a mobile home park in Slaughter, Louisiana, the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Slaughter is about 20 miles north of Baton Rouge.
The boy initially told investigators he accidentally shot his grandmother while playing with a gun, but after further investigation officials determined it was a homicide.
The boy won’t face charges. Under Louisiana law, a child under 10 is exempt from criminal responsibility.
Before the incident Smothers had been watching TV in the living room while the boy played a video game in which players shoot people, the release from the sheriff’s office stated.
Why is it that the availability of the gun is not the problem?
There’s also a lot of comedy on TV, does that mean there’s more comedy in the street as well?
The saga of Lavabit founder Ladar Levison is getting even more ridiculous, as he explains that the government has threatened him with criminal charges for his decision to shut down the business, rather than agree to some mysterious court order. The feds are apparently arguing that the act of shutting down the business, itself, was a violation of the order:
… a source familiar with the matter told NBC News that James Trump, a senior litigation counsel in the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., sent an email to Levison’s lawyer last Thursday – the day Lavabit was shuttered — stating that Levison may have “violated the court order,” a statement that was interpreted as a possible threat to charge Levison with contempt of court.
That same article suggests that the decision to shut down Lavabit was over something much bigger than just looking at one individual’s information — since it appears that Lavabit has cooperated in the past on such cases. Instead, the suggestion now is that the government was seeking a tap on all accounts:
Levison stressed that he has complied with “upwards of two dozen court orders” for information in the past that were targeted at “specific users” and that “I never had a problem with that.” But without disclosing details, he suggested that the order he received more recently was markedly different, requiring him to cooperate in broadly based surveillance that would scoop up information about all the users of his service. He likened the demands to a requirement to install a tap on his telephone.
It sounds like the feds were asking for a full on backdoor on the system, not unlike some previous reports of ISPs who have received surprise visits from the NSA.
It turns out that the NSA’s domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we’ve learned, fight, and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it’s easier that way.
I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.
Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy’s life? It’s going to be the same way with you.
Before getting to the X-KEYSCORE questions, Burnett runs a clip of Gen. Alexander being lobbed softballs by Sen. Mike Rogers back on June 18th. Note Alexander’s verbal head fake that makes it appear he has actually answered what was asked.
Rogers: Does the NSA have the ability to listen to American’s phone calls and read their emails?
Alexander: No. We do not have that authority.
That wasn’t what was asked. Without a doubt, the agency does not have the authority to perform these acts. But what was asked was if the agency had the ability, whether or not it was being utilized.
When Burnett presses Hayden on this point, he provides the same dodge. She asks if the NSA has the ability to collect this kind of data and Hayden responds by saying the NSA can utilize this data, but only after it’s been lawfully collected.
When she pushes further, asking what’s stopping the NSA from “collecting whatever the heck you want on whoever the heck you want,” Hayden goes right back to claiming NSA analysts are only authorized to query the data that’s been already lawfully collected. The question about ability continues to be danced around.
Hayden even reiterates Alexander’s pseudo-answer:
“General Alexander made it clear: we don’t have the authorization to do that.”
Then he goes further, claiming that an order to view real-time data would be rejected by the analyst, simply because the request is unlawful. Hayden cannot possibly believe this statement is true. Sure, some analysts might reject legally-dubious requests from superiors but there is no way this is true across the board.
Hayden’s continual reference to “lawfully collected” and “authorization” (along with the usual mentions of “oversight” and “checks and balances”) is nothing short of ridiculous. It’s as if he wants everyone to believe that because analysts aren’t “authorized” to perform certain actions, they simply won’t perform them. In Hayden’s bizarrely credulous narrative, laws prevent lawbreaking.
Over and over again, he stresses the point that the data has been “lawfully collected” and that the NSA is only “authorized” to perform certain actions with the collected data. His ultra-simplistic responses are almost laughable. Of course an analyst wouldn’t perform real-time data monitoring! It’s not permitted!
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”
The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.
The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August.
The bulletin to travelers and expatriates, issued by the State Department, came less than a day after the department announced that it was closing nearly two dozen American diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa, including facilities in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Britain said Friday that it would close its embassy in Yemen on Monday and Tuesday because of “increased security concerns.”
No, really. If there really was such a communication, the guys, ehm, “communicating” now know they were intercepted, so there’s really no reason not to release the recording. There’s no ‘means and methods’ that need further protection, the cat is out of the bag.
Unless of course this entire conversion doesn’t exist, and this whole “let’s alert the embassy” crap is just a promo exercise to say “see, we’re keeping you safe!”
With NSA directors demonstrably lying to congress, there’s zero reason to believe anything they say.
Or, and that’s another alternative, arrest the official that made the statement about an intercept, and prosecute him just as much as Manning and Snowden.
And the stories of its failures spread faster than a speeding jetliner: TSA officers stealing money from luggage, taking bribes from drug dealers, sleeping on the job.
So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a new Government Accountability Office report, citing a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, is striking a nerve with some travelers who’ve had to endure the shoeless, beltless shuffle on the trip through security.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.
The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.
Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.
Here’s a quote from the article that is really worrying:
The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.
Since nobody heard about a single prosecution, and nobody has heard about an increase in population in Gitmo, there’s two options: 1) the NSA is lying about this number, or 2) the US has another place besides Gitmo where people disappear to.
The Transportation Security Administration has launched an expansion to their program that allows members to bypass regular airport pre-flight security checkpoints. Those enrolled in the ‘trusted traveler’ program, called TSA PreCheck, don’t have to remove their shoes, jackets and belts during screening. Members can also keep their laptop computers and approved liquids in their bags.
Currently, only members of several frequent-flier programs are given the opportunity to apply without paying a fee, the TSA says. But TSA Administrator John Pistole on Friday announced that all travelers will soon be able to join PreCheck – as long as they pay $85 for a five-year membership, provide identifying information, pass a background check, and undergo fingerprinting.
So now the terrorists have a cheap way to find out if the Feds are on to them. Also, the TSA now has a financial motive to make life for normal travelers even more annoying. “You should have paid the extra fee, peon!” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the fingerprinting and background screening are done by private companies? And that the contracts to do so just… might… go to some old friends? Maybe?
Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.
Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.
In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn’t a suspect in the investigation.
What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.
Consider today’s police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.
He was claiming to be a police officer, but the man she had seen looked to her more like an armed thug. Her boyfriend, Dorris, was calmer, and yelled back that he wanted to see some ID.
But the man just demanded they open the door. The actual words, the couple say, were, “We’re the f—— police; open the f—— door.”
Dorris said he moved away from the door, afraid bullets were about to rip through.
Goldsberry was terrified but thinking it just might really be the police. Except, she says she wondered, would police talk that way? She had never been arrested or even come close. She couldn’t imagine why police would be there or want to come in. But even if they did, why would they act like that at her apartment? It didn’t seem right.