DHS admits it uses Stingrays for VIPs, vows to sometimes get warrants, stop lying to judges


The DHS's newly released policy statement on the use of Stingrays (stationary fake cellphone towers used to track people in a specific location) and Dirt Boxes (airplane-mounted surveillance that tracks whole populations) represents a welcome, if overdue, transparency in the use of cellphone surveillance by federal agencies. Read the rest

FBI investigating ‘teen stoner hack’ of CIA Director John Brennan

John Brennan. Photo: Reuters

A pair of self-described teen stoner hackers say they breached an AOL account used by CIA Director John Brennan, the New York Post reported today.

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Mayor of Stockton, CA detained by DHS at SFO, forced to give up laptop password


Mayor Anthony R. Silva was on his way back from a mayor's conference in China when the DHS border guards confiscated his laptop and phones and detained him, telling him he would not be allowed to leave until he gave them his passwords. He has still not had his devices returned. Read the rest

Kilton Library's Tor node is back online


Kilton, New Hampshire's public library was the first library in the USA to offer an Tor node on its computers, giving its patrons a technological assist in maintaining their privacy and anonymity -- until the DHS sent them a letter demanding that they switch it off.

Now, ninja librarian Alison Macrina has tweeted the good news: "WE'VE DONE IT. THE KILTON LIBRARY WILL TURN THEIR #TOR RELAY BACK ON!!!"

(Image: Tor Project) Read the rest

Library offers Tor nodes; DHS tells them to stop

John writes, "After a library created a Tor node on its network, the DHS and local police contacted them to ask them to stop. For now they have; their Board of Trustees will vote soon on whether to renew the service." Read the rest

New pornoscanners are also useless, cost $160 million

The new generation of millimeter-wave body scanners from the convicted war-criminals at L-3 were supposed to replace the useless, expensive backscatter radiation machines from Rapiscan with a more robust, less privacy invasive alternative. Read the rest

Pre-crime: DHS admits that it puts people on the no-fly list based on "predictive assessment"

A DoJ filing in an ACLU lawsuit in Oregon admits that you can be put on a no-fly list based on "predictive assessments about potential threats," as opposed to threatening or dangerous things you've actually said or done. Read the rest

Privatized, for-profit immigration detention centers force detainees to work for $1-3/day

"We have a name for locking people up and forcing them to do real work without wages. It's called slavery." Read the rest

All 40 of the FBI & DHS's post-9/11 terror attack warnings fizzled

And yet, the press keeps on reporting these "reliable intelligence-based" reports of impending attacks on the "homeland" as though you should believe them. Read the rest

US Customs and Border Protection: America's largest, most corrupt police force

The force is the largest in America, with a starved and ineffectual Internal Affairs department, which has been powerless to check the Border Patrol's slide into collusion with drug-runners, shootings of protesters, and extreme violence in border areas. Read the rest

ACLU sues TSA to make it explain junk science "behavioral detection" program

The TSA refuses to explain how it spent $1B on a discredited "behavioral detection" program that led airport authoritarians to believe that when they racially profiled fliers, it was because they'd acquired the superpower of spotting guilty people through their "microexpressions." Read the rest

DHS's weird, creepy social media search-terms

Michael from Muckrock sez, "Through FOIA requests, MuckRock users have been helping keep watch on the watchers, and recently Todd Feathers's FOIA request to the DHS resulted 91 pages worth of the agency's social media searches, from the occult (seeking the "devil" in August) and creepy ("happy camp") to downright terrifying ("black market ebola")." Read the rest

The clown-prince of DHS checkpoint refusal videos

We've covered Checkpoint Refusal videos before (1, 2, 3) -- these are videos recorded by people who object to the DHS's internal checkpoints, where you are asked (but can refuse) to state your citizenship and allow your car to be searched -- but I missed the most prolific, funniest, and weirdest checkpointer of them all: Robert Trudell. Read the rest

Help Muckrock scour DHS social media spying guidelines and figure out what to FOIA next

Michael from Muckrock sez, "With a Freedom of Information Act request, MuckRock has received copies of two of the guides Homeland Security uses to monitor social media, one on standard procedures and a desktop binder for analysts. Now we're asking for help to go through it: See something worth digging into? Say something, and share it with others so we know what to FOIA next." Read the rest

Make your own DHS threat-level chart

Personalthreatlevel lets you create your own custom DHS-style threat-level that will serve you well as a means of frightening the people in your life with nebulous, ill-defined scariness. Here's Bruce Sterling's Tumblr version.

The Current Threat Level is... Read the rest

What it's like to come home to America if your name is "Ahmed"

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a respected journalist who holds US citizenship. Every time he returns to his home in New York, he is detained for many hours by the DHS, subjected to humiliating questioning and detention without evidence or charge, because he fits a "profile" that seems to consist entirely of "brown dude with Arabic name who visits the middle east." He recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and found himself detained for hours, despite having been assured that his name had been removed from the DHS's watch-list.

His story of harrowing treatment at JFK airport stands in sharp contrast to his experiences at checkpoints in the middle east, where security risks are much more immediate and more grave. As he points out, America has spent billions creating an aviation security system and system of border checks that have had no material impact on security, but have nonetheless enmiserated, alienated, and harassed millions of people who committed no crime and posed no threat, Read the rest

MPAA and ICE admit they yanked an innocent man out of a movie for wearing Google Glass

Representatives of the MPAA and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency confirmed that they worked together to yank a Google Glass wearer out of a movie theater, detain him in a small room against his will, confiscate and inspect his electronics (including his phone) and coerce an interview out of him with legal threats. They believed, incorrectly, that their victim had been recording the movie with his gadget. The Google Glass set he wore had been fitted with prescription lenses and he was watching the movie through them because they corrected his vision.

The MPAA's and ICE's statements are bland and anodyne (ICE says that the interview was "voluntary," though the man's account contradicts this). Neither of them explain how it is that a movie theater employee can call an MPAA hotline, and how the MPAA can then command ICE law-enforcement officials to drop everything and rush down to a multiplex to roust a potential camcorderer and treat him like a presumptive criminal.

The problem for the MPAA of camcordering is that they would like to stagger the release of their films -- first to the theatrical exhibition channel, then to airplanes and hotel rooms, then to pay-per-view and streaming services and DVD, etc. This makes them more profitable, but only if they can keep each channel discrete. Lots of businesses struggle with their profit-maximization strategies, but only the MPAA gets to command the forces of federal law-enforcement in the service of their business-model, putting the cost of that strategy onto the tax-payer. Read the rest

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