Meet the spooky tech companies getting rich by making NSA surveillance possible


Wildly profitable companies like Neustar, Subsentio, and Yaana do the feds' dirty work for them, slurping huge amounts of unconstitutionally requisitioned data out of telcos' and ISPs' data-centers in response to secret, sealed FISA warrants -- some of them publicly traded, too, making them a perfect addition to the Gulag Wealth Fund.

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FBI's 83-page glossary of leetspeak

Muckrock filed a FOI request for the FBI's list of Twitter slang and "leetspeak" and got back an insane, 83-page glossary of terms that the Feebs use to spy on the kids (think "AYFKMWTS") (via Sean Bonner)

FBI to reverse no-recording policy for interrogations of suspects in custody

Reuters


Reuters

Since its inception in 1908, the FBI has prohibited audio or visual recordings of statements made by criminal suspects, unless agents obtain special approval. "Now, after more than a century, the U.S. Department of Justice has quietly reversed that directive by issuing orders May 12 that video recording is presumptively required for interrogations of suspects in custody, with some exceptions."

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Kafka, meet Orwell: Lavabit's founder explains why he shut down his company

Writing in the Guardian, Lavabit founder Ladar Levison recounts the events that led to his decision to shutter his company in August 2013. Lavabit provided secure, private email for over 400,000 people, including Edward Snowden, and the legal process by which the FBI sought to spy on its users is a terrifying mix of Orwell -- wanting to snoop on all 400,000 -- and Kafka -- not allowing Levison legal representation and prohibiting him from discussing the issue with anyone who might help him navigate the appropriate law.

Levison discloses more than I've yet seen about the nature of the feds' demands, but more important are the disclosures about the legal shenanigans he was subjected to. In fact, his description of the legal process is a kind of bas relief of the kind of legal services that those of us fighting the excesses of the global war on terror might need: a list of attorneys who are qualified to represent future Lavabits, warrant canaries for the services we rely upon; and, of course, substantive reform to the judicial processes laid out in the Patriot Act.

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State Dept launches 'Free the Press' campaign while DOJ asks Supreme Court to force NYT's James Risen to jail

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The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual "Free the Press" campaign today, which will purportedly highlight "journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting." A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.

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Hacker and FBI informant Sabu, aka Hector Monsegur, linked to cyberattacks abroad

Sabu.


Sabu.

From the NYT: "An informant working for the F.B.I. coordinated a 2012 campaign of hundreds of cyberattacks on foreign websites, including some operated by the governments of Iran, Syria, Brazil and Pakistan, according to documents and interviews with people involved in the attacks." The informant was Sabu; his helper Jeremy Hammond.

FBI recommended felony counts against Joe Arpaio's cronies


The FBI has turned over a redacted set of documents from its investigative archives related to Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious strong-man whose antics have cost the taxpayers millions in civil suit settlements for actions ranging from racial profiling to stealing a defendant's paperwork in open court to arresting newspaper owners who refused to turn over readers' identities to torching a house and killing a puppy in the process of investigating traffic citations.

The FBI archives, which go back to 2008, reveal that the Bureau recommended that some or all of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio and his officers be indicted for felony counts of "obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion." This recommendation was ignored by federal prosecutors, who concluded that there was not enough evidence to proceed.

County officials who tried to rein in Arpaio have had their offices swept for bugs, believing that Arpaio's regime engages in dirty tricks and illegal wiretapping against local politicians that are hostile to his tactics. Arpaio's office filed several charges against hostile local politicians, none of which led to convictions (by contrast, Arpaio's friendly county attorney Andrew Thomas was unable to get reelected and was eventually barred from practicing law altogether).

Arpaio's bid to quash the FBI investigation and his campaign against local politicians have cost Arizona taxpayers over $44M to date.

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"A reason to hang him": how mass surveillance, secret courts, confirmation bias and the FBI can ruin your life


Brandon Mayfield was a US Army veteran and an attorney in Portland, OR. After the 2004 Madrid train bombing, his fingerprint was partially matched to one belonging to one of the suspected bombers, but the match was a poor one. But by this point, the FBI was already convinced they had their man, so they rationalized away the non-matching elements of the print, and set in motion a train of events that led to Mayfield being jailed without charge; his home and office burgled by the FBI; his client-attorney privilege violated; his life upended.

At every turn, the FBI treated evidence that contradicted their theory as evidence that confirmed it. Mayfield's passport had expired and he couldn't possibly have been in Madrid? Proof that he was a terrorist: he must be using his connections with Al Qaeda to get false papers so that his own passport isn't recorded as crossing any borders. Mayfield starts to freak out once he realizes he's under surveillance? Aha! Only the guilty worry about having their homes burgled by G-men!

The FBI was so sure of their theory that they lied to a judge during their campaign against him. His story is the perfect embodiment of "confirmation bias" -- the tendency of human beings to give undue weight to evidence that confirms their existing belief and to discount evidence that rebuts it. Confirmation bias is one of the underappreciated problems of mass surveillance: gather enough facts about anyone's life and you can find facts that confirm whatever theory you have about them.

Or, as Cardinal De Richelieu said: "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." This line is the epitaph in my story Scroogled (here's Wil Wheaton's reading of it), about the risks of automated, unaccountable attributions of guilt based on algorithms that are not subject to scrutiny. But as bad as the automated attribution as guilt can be, it's nothing compared to the directed attribution of guilt from cops who are absolutely sure that they have their man.

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Guilty plea in Fox News leak case shows why Espionage Act prosecutions are unfair to reporters' sources


Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Image: Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.

Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.

The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a “co-conspirator” in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim’s case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future.

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Social-engineering the FBI in 1971


In The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, Betty Medsger reveals the long-secret details of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, an activist group that raided the FBI's offices, retrieving evidence of J Edgar Hoover's criminal program of secret spying. The book is a rollicking history of the confluence of protest, locksport, activism and amateur spycraft. One of its most hilarious moments is the description of the group's social engineering hack on an unpickable lock that they needed to get past in order to get to their target:

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US intel chief James Clapper: journalists reporting on leaked Snowden NSA docs “accomplices” to crime


U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In a Senate Judiciary Hearing on NSA surveillance today, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper insinuated dozens of journalists reporting on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were “accomplices” to a crime. His spokesman further suggested Clapper was referring to journalists after the hearing had concluded.

If this is the official stance of the US government, it is downright chilling.

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Did you use TorMail? If so, 'the FBI Has Your Inbox'

Kevin Poulsen at Wired News: "While investigating a hosting company known for sheltering child porn last year the FBI incidentally seized the entire e-mail database of a popular anonymous webmail service called TorMail. Now the FBI is tapping that vast trove of e-mail in unrelated investigations." [Threat Level]

FBI to Students: Watch Out! Socialists Are TOTALLY Gay.

In 1971 the Young Socialist Alliance ended its policy of barring gays. The FBI's San Diego office seized on this announcement "to play on people's bigotries to dissuade them from joining a political organization" by creating these fliers, says Jesse Walker of the Hit & Run blog. The FBI also made another flier with women's names and said the organization was "now accepting 'les' membership."

FBI headquarters wholeheartedly approved of the smear campaign: "Bureau feels preparation of leaflets as requested in relet has merit, and you are authorized to duplicate sufficient copies on commercially obtained paper to have posted on various bulletin boards where they might be seen by majority of students at San Diego State College. It is hopeful this action will have desired effect of dissuading would-be new recruits from membership in YSA."

When the FBI asks you to weaken your security so it can spy on your users


Nico Sell is the CEO of Wickr, a privacy-oriented mobile messaging system that's been deliberately designed so that the company can't spy on its users, even if they're ordered to do so. As we know from the Snowden leaks, spooks hate this kind of thing, and spend $250M/year sabotaging security so that they can spy on everyone, all the time.

After a recent presentation, she was approached by an FBI agent who asked her if she'd put a back-door into Wickr.

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FBI no longer primarily a crime-fighting agency


A new info-sheet issued by the FBI redefines the bureau's primary mission, dropping "law enforcement" and replacing it with "national security." The bureau has not made any formal announcements regarding this change -- but it does signal that the bureau's leadership views its primary activity as spying on Americans, not catching bad guys, possibly because the budget for spying is effectively bottomless.

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