As nude celebrity photos spilled onto the web over the weekend, blame for the scandal has rotated from the scumbag hackers who stole the images to a researcher who released a tool used to crack victims’ iCloud passwords to Apple, whose security flaws may have made that cracking exploit possible in the first place. But one step in the hackers’ sext-stealing playbook has been ignored—a piece of software designed to let cops and spies siphon data from iPhones, but is instead being used by pervy criminals themselves.
On the web forum Anon-IB, one of the most popular anonymous image boards for posting stolen nude selfies, hackers openly discuss using a piece of software called EPPB or Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker to download their victims’ data from iCloud backups. That software is sold by Moscow-based forensics firm Elcomsoft and intended for government agency customers. In combination with iCloud credentials obtained with iBrute, the password-cracking software for iCloud released on Github over the weekend, EPPB lets anyone impersonate a victim’s iPhone and download its full backup rather than the more limited data accessible on iCloud.com. And as of Tuesday, it was still being used to steal revealing photos and post them on Anon-IB’s forum.
The fact that Apple isn’t complicit in law enforcement’s use of Elcomsoft’s for surveillance doesn’t make the tool any less dangerous, argues Matt Blaze, a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and frequent critic of government spying methods. “What this demonstrates is that even without explicit backdoors, law enforcement has powerful tools that might not always stay inside law enforcement,” he says. “You have to ask if you trust law enforcement. But even if you do trust law enforcement, you have to ask whether other people will get access to these tools, and how they’ll use them.”
Returning students at Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla. found 20 new armed officers in the elementary schools in the first year of a plan costing about $1 million.
The school board also approved security training for employees, the hiring of a safety consultant and more measures to control school access, such as fencing and buzzers.
Meanwhile, all 16 schools in the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, public school district have been enclosed in security fencing and each school limits visitors to a single entry point, officials said. This September, for the first time, two police officers will patrol elementary schools, at a cost of roughly $68,000 from the district’s state funding.
…officials continue to allow four anonymous employees to carry firearms on school property. Bulletproof glass and panic buttons have been installed, and officials held schoolwide assemblies for security training.
Because, clearly, the solution to “too many weapons in society” is “more weapons!”
The 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard, located at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Baltimore, Maryland, intends to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to award a single firm fixed-price contract for Construction of a CYBER/ISR Facility. Project to be LEEDR Silver Certified. Construction services will consist of the construction of a new CYBER/ISR Facility. The purpose of this facility is to house a Network Warfare Group and ISR Squadron. The Cyber mission includes a set of capabilities, expertise to enable the cyber operational need for an always-on, net-speed awareness and integrated operational response with global reach. It enables operators to drive upstream in pursuit of cyber adversaries, and is informed 24/7 by intelligence and all-source information
Let’s get real, how many guardsmen speak Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Swahili or Hindi?
How many know anything about NZ, Australia, GB or Canada worth knowing in a cyber context.
So who does that leave for adversaries?
Right. You and me.
Shortly after the initial news came out that NSA fakes google and yahoo servers with stolen or faked certificates:
the german computer magazine C’T issued a warning that it is a security risk, when microsoft automatically updates its list of certificates without any noticing of the users, so that dubious certificates could easily get into the windows certificate list, which is thrusted by webbrowsers like internet explorer or google chrome for windows:
After reading this, I filed a bug in chromium, which then was dismissed as a “won’t fix”, with the chromium developers saying that the certificate list is “signed by Microsoft” and there would not be any break in the “chain of thrust”.
And now I see this message from google:
“On Wednesday, July 2, we became aware of unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains. The certificates were issued by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) of India, which holds several intermediate CA certificates trusted by the Indian Controller of Certifying Authorities (India CCA).
The India CCA certificates are included in the Microsoft Root Store and thus are trusted by the vast majority of programs running on Windows, including Internet Explorer and Chrome. Firefox is not affected because it uses its own root store that doesn’t include these certificates.
We are not aware of any other root stores that include the India CCA certificates, thus Chrome on other operating systems, Chrome OS, Android, iOS and OS X are not affected. Additionally, Chrome on Windows would not have accepted the certificates for Google sites because of public-key pinning, although misissued certificates for other sites may exist.”
Update Jul 9: India CCA informed us of the results of their investigation on July 8. They reported that NIC’s issuance process was compromised and that only four certificates were misissued; the first on June 25. The four certificates provided included three for Google domains (one of which we were previously aware of) and one for Yahoo domains. However, we are also aware of misissued certificates not included in that set of four and can only conclude that the scope of the breach is unknown.”
Now microsoft has removed the certificates in question and it turnes out that the issue affected 45 domains:
In view of this list, the advice from google looks especially funny:
“Chrome users do not need to take any action to be protected by the CRLSet updates. We have no indication of widespread abuse and we are not suggesting that people change passwords.”
The microsoft certificate list is used in the browser chrome. Faking of a google server is difficult, since chrome checks its certificate by different means and that was how the attack was revealed. But chrome does not have a similar check for yahoo. If that attack would not be working after all, the hackers would not have used it.
But still, google does explicitely not suggesting anyone that they should change passwords…
William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.
On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations.
“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”
The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.
According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:
• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;
• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;
• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;
• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;
• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.
The official NSA reply is predictable:
No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.
On the other hand, a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.
The United States is as committed to protecting privacy rights and individual freedom as we are to defending our national security.
Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails.
At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect’s location from a “confidential source” rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.
A series of five emails (.pdf) written in April, 2009, were obtained today by the American Civil Liberties Union showing police officials discussing the deception. The organization has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with police departments throughout Florida seeking information about their use of stingrays.
“Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police,” the ACLU writes in a blog post about the emails. “And local and federal law enforcement should certainly not be colluding to hide basic and accurate information about their practices from the public and the courts.”
The U.S. Marshals Service did not respond to a call for comment.
James Comey, the FBI director, says the bureau’s no-tolerance marijuana policy is hindering the hiring of cyber-security experts. Coney added that he is “grappling” with possibly changing the practice.
The director’s comments come one day after five members of the Chinese military were indicted in the US on allegations of hacking into major US corporations and stealing trade secrets
“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Comey told a New York City Bar Association meeting Tuesday.
The bureau, which is seeking to employ as many as 2,000 new recruits this year, is prohibited from hiring those who have used marijuana the previous years.
The Guardian has obtained CCTV footage showing a police officer firing a Taser at a naked man in a cell.
A chief constable tried to prevent the release of footage showing the Wiltshire constable Lee Birch shooting the Taser at 23-year-old Daniel Dove – despite a court agreeing it could be published.
The Guardian obtained the footage from another source.
It shows Dove, who had been arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, being subjected to a strip search in a custody suite.
He pulls off his boxer shorts and flicks them at Birch. The officer takes a Taser he had held behind his back and fires it at Dove’s chest. The young man falls on to a mat that had been placed on the floor of the cell.
A crown court jury on Tuesday cleared Birch of assault causing actual bodily harm and misconduct in a public office. Charges were subsequently dropped against Dove.
However the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating five officers including Birch in connection with the incident and is also looking at why the force involved, Wiltshire, did not inform it about what happened.
The IPCC will now examine if Birch, 31, and four colleagues breached professional standards.
Meanwhile, the FBI fiercely resists any efforts at Congressional oversight, especially on whistleblower matters. For example, four months ago I sent a letter to the FBI requesting its training materials on the Insider Threat Program. This program was announced by the Obama Administration in October 2011. It was intended to train federal employees to watch out for insider threats among their colleagues. Public news reports indicated that this program might not do enough to distinguish between true insider threats and legitimate whistleblowers. I relayed these concerns in my letter. I also asked for copies of the training materials. I said I wanted to examine whether they adequately distinguished between insider threats and whistleblowers.
In response, an FBI legislative affairs official told my staff that a briefing might be the best way to answer my questions. It was scheduled for last week. Staff for both Chairman Leahy and I attended, and the FBI brought the head of their Insider Threat Program. Yet the FBI didn’t bring the Insider Threat training materials as we had requested. However, the head of the Insider Threat Program told the staff that there was no need to worry about whistleblower communications. He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people.
Now I have never heard of whistleblowers being required to “register” in order to be protected. The idea of such a requirement should be pretty alarming to all Americans. Sometimes confidentiality is the best protection a whistleblower has. Unfortunately, neither my staff nor Chairman Leahy’s staff was able to learn more, because only about ten minutes into the briefing, the FBI abruptly walked out. FBI officials simply refused to discuss any whistleblower implications in its Insider Threat Program and left the room. These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection.
The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting months of angry denials from the firms.
Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.
Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”
When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke the Prism story in June, thanks to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL – claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had “never heard” the term Prism.
De explained: “Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,” De said. “Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
As an aside during testimony on Capitol Hill today, a National Security Agency representative rather casually indicated that the government looks at data from a universe of far, far more people than previously indicated.
Chris Inglis, the agency’s deputy director, was one of several government representatives—including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence—testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government’s surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.
But Inglis’ statement was new. Analysts look “two or three hops” from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed. Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops. This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with—one hop. And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with—two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three. Two hops. And now: A third hop.
For a sense of scale, researchers at the University of Milan found in 2011 that everyone on the Internet was, on average, 4.74 steps away from anyone else.
Gives the average number of people you’re connected to as 634, or 669 for internet users. At 634 and three hops that leads to 254,840,104 individuals records, and at 669 it’s 299,418,309 people per suspected terrorist. Basically the entire population of the US for each suspected terrorist.
There’s an easy solution to overwork the NSA: Everyone friend Kevin Bacon on facebook.
Officers use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports and then scour their data.
The blanket power is so broad they do not even have to show reasonable suspicion for seizing the device and can retain the information for “as long as is necessary”.
Data can include call history, contact books, photos and who the person is texting or emailing, although not the contents of messages.
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, is expected to raise concerns over the power in his annual report this week.
Until you visit the yearly Expo, it’s easy enough to forget that the U.S. borderlands are today ground zero for the rise, growth, and spread of a domestic surveillance state. On June 27th, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Along with the claim that it offers a path to citizenship to millions of the undocumented living in the United States (with many stringent requirements), in its more than 1,000 pages it promises to build the largest border-policing and surveillance apparatus ever seen in the United States. The result, Senator John McCain proudly said, will be the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Yes, that same wall that his hero, Reagan, wanted torn down.
In a world where basic services are being cut, an emerging policing apparatus in the borderlands is flourishing. As Mattea Kramer and Chris Hellman reported at TomDispatch in February, since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent $791 billion on “homeland security” alone, an inflation-adjusted $300 billion more than the cost of the entire New Deal.
But at least this time around, that money is spent on the ‘right’ people.