J Edgar Hoover fought to write ex-FBI agents out of Hitchcock's scripts


Michael from Muckrock writes, "Like almost everyone else in the J. Edgar Hoover era, Alfred Hitchcock managed to catch the attention of the FBI, leading to a 16-page file. Did it investigate the rumored murders the Master of Suspense committed? Secretive ties to foreign states? Nope, mostly just the fact that, in one episode of Hitchcock Presents, a bad guy was briefly referenced to be a 'former FBI agent,' a plot point that the Bureau worked surprisingly hard to change ... perhaps worth of a Hitchcock treatment all its own. Read on for the full story." Read the rest

1980: the Director of the FBI mixes up KISS & The Who, confusing the hell out of FBI agents


Michael from Muckrock writes, "Before rock legends KISS embarked on their 1980 'Unmasked' Tour of Europe, then FBI Director William H. Webster put out a request to field offices for information regarding instances of 'civil unrest' associated with the band's concerts, particularly an incident in Texas which escalated to open attacks on police. The field officers' response was unanimous - they had no idea what the Director was talking about. That and more details await in the FBI's files on KISS." Read the rest

The FBI has no trouble spying on encrypted communications


Every time the Bureau wants to spy on someone whose communications are encrypted, they just hack them. Read the rest

Walt Disney's plan for the FBI of tomorrow


Michael from Muckrock: "Union-busting Walt Disney became cozy with J. Edgar Hoover, the iconic animator's FBI files show, helping shut down dissident workers while infusing Disney programming with fond portrayals of federal enforcement. Disney even wanted to dedicate a special section of Tomorrowland to highlighting the Bureau of tomorrow -- which ended up being a step too far for America's head investigative agency." Read the rest

FBI agent faces discipline for alleged polygraph countermeasures


The unnamed career FBI agent could lose their job for allegedly gaming the widely discredited, unscientific polygraph tests that are the US government's equivalent to witch-ducking stools. Read the rest

For the first time ever, a judge has invalidated a secret Patriot Act warrant


Calyx is a privacy-oriented ISP. In 2004, the FBI brought its owner, Nicholas Merrill, a National Security Letter -- one of the USA Patriot Act's secret search warrants, which comes with a gag order prohibiting the recipient from ever disclosing its existence.

Merrill has fought the gag order for 11 years, refusing to give up despite government attempts to get the case booted and to run up the court costs beyond Merrill's ability to pay.

He had a partial victory in 2010, when he and the ACLU won a court victory that allowed him to disclose some elements of the NSL, but left important details -- including the categories of information the FBI believes it can request under an NSL -- still secret. This latest victory overturns that restriction.

The judge in this case, Judge Victor Marrero, also presided over a 2007 case that overturned part of the Patriot Act, requiring investigators to go through the courts in order to get NSLs. In his Calyx decision, he condemned the government's secrecy as "extreme and overly broad."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision invalidated the gag order in full, finding no “good reason” to prevent Merrill from speaking about any aspect of the NSL, particularly an attachment to the NSL that lists the specific types of “electronic communication transactional records” (“ECTR”) that the FBI believed it was authorized to demand. The FBI has long refused to clarify what kinds of information it sweeps up under the rubric of ECTR, a phrase that appears in the NSL statute but is not publicly defined anywhere.

Read the rest

After Katrina, FBI prioritized cellphone surveillance

Michael from Muckrock sez, "There's a lot of lessons that the federal government should have learned in the aftermath of Katrina. Increased domestic surveillance, however, appears to be the one the FBI took to heart, using the natural disaster as a justification for ramping up its use of Stingray cell phone tracking throughout Louisiana after the storm." Read the rest

The FBI kept files on author Ray Bradbury: "Definitely slanted against the United States"

Michael from Muckrock writes, "The FBI followed Ray Bradbury's career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare." Read the rest

What happened at yesterday's Congressional hearings on banning crypto?

Cryptographers and security experts gathered on the Hill yesterday to tell Congress how stupid it was to ban crypto in order to make it easier to spy on "bad guys." Read the rest

Computer scientists on the excruciating stupidity of banning crypto

A paper from some of the most important names in crypto/security history scorchingly condemns plans by the US and UK governments to ban "strong" (e.g. "working") crypto. Read the rest

US CIO defies the FBI, orders HTTPS for all government websites

Tony Scott, CIO of the US government, has spit in the eye of assistant FBI director Michael Steinbach, who called on companies "to build technological solutions to prevent encryption above all else." Read the rest

FBI replies to Stingray Freedom of Information request with 5,000 blank pages

The Stingray -- a fake cellphone tower that gathers identity/location information on everyone who passes it -- is the worst-kept secret in law enforcement, but that doesn't stop feds from going to absurd lengths to pretend they don't use them. Read the rest

As crypto wars begin, FBI silently removes sensible advice to encrypt your devices

The FBI used to publish excellent advice about encrypting your devices to keep your data secure when your stuff is lost or stolen; this advice has been silently dropped now that FBI Director James Comey is trying to stop manufacturers from using crypto by default. Read the rest

J. Edgar Hoover palled around with a suspected commie spy

Michael from Muckrock sez, "Few American officials could even come close to the legendary paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover, but that didn't stop the notorious FBI chief from striking up a close friendship with Samuel Dickstein, House Committee on Un-American Activities founder, Supreme Court Justice -- and suspected Russian spy." Read the rest

Molly Crabapple's FBI file is 7,526 pages long (UPDATED, it's worse)

After a protracted battle with the Bureau, artist and journalist Molly Crabapple (previously) has gotten them to admit that they're keeping a whopping file on her, which they will release to her lawyers at the rate of 750 (heavily redacted) pages/month for the next ten months. Read the rest

EFF makes DoJ admit it lied in court about FBI secret warrants

Department of Justice lawyers told a judge that when the FBI gives one of its secret National Security Letters to a company, the company is allowed to reveal the NSL's existence and discuss its quality -- it lied. Read the rest

FBI chief demands an end to cellphone security

If your phone is designed to be secure against thieves, voyeurs, and hackers, it'll also stop spies and cops. So the FBI has demanded that device makers redesign their products so that they -- and anyone who can impersonate them -- can break into them at will. Read the rest

More posts