Wired's Kim Zetter rounds up some of the highlights from Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research [PDF], an NSA guide to finding unintentionally published confidential material on the Web produced by the NSA and released in response to a Muckrock Freedom of Information Act request. As Zetter notes, the tactics discussed as described as legal, but are the kind of thing that weev is doing 3.5 years in a Federal pen for:
Want to find spreadsheets full of passwords in Russia? Type “filetype:xls site:ru login.” Even on websites written in non-English languages the terms “login,” “userid,” and “password” are generally written in English, the authors helpfully point out.
Misconfigured web servers “that list the contents of directories not intended to be on the web often offer a rich load of information to Google hackers,” the authors write, then offer a command to exploit these vulnerabilities — intitle: “index of” site:kr password.
“Nothing I am going to describe to you is illegal, nor does it in any way involve accessing unauthorized data,” the authors assert in their book. Instead it “involves using publicly available search engines to access publicly available information that almost certainly was not intended for public distribution.” You know, sort of like the “hacking” for which Andrew “weev” Aurenheimer was recently sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for obtaining publicly accessible information from AT&T’s website.
Use These Secret NSA Google Search Tips to Become Your Own Spy Agency
Michael from MuckRock sez,
The Supreme Court ruled this morning that states have the right to restrict public records access to locals, meaning one more hurdle to would-be muckrakers everywhere. Even in-state requesters are harmed: It means one more bureaucratic hurdle and another excuse for agencies to respond in paper rather than electronically.
MuckRock has helped file requests in all 50 states -- important for projects like the Drone Census -- and we're looking for more volunteers to help ensure transparency from sea to shining sea.
* New Hampshire
* New Jersey
If you live in one of the above, fill out a simple form and we can help ensure that sunshine isn't restricted depending on where you live:
To keep filing in all 50 states, MuckRock needs your help
Muckrock Michael sez, "Today MuckRock's Mara Berg chronicles the saga of a particular public records request I put in for the following:
A copy of the backing track used during Beyonce's Inauguration performance, as well as copies of other backing tracks created in preparation for Inauguration events, whether or not they were actually used.
Unfortunately, while we received (some) of the requested documents, two outside legal experts and the U.S. Marines Corps have warned us strongly
against publishing what we have. The reason? Copyright."
from Muckrock sez, "Want to know what guns your neighbor has? Generally public record. What guns your government has? That's top secret.
A recent public records request for the armaments of a local police department in Somerville, MA
., was met with a surprising response: Releasing a list of guns the department held 'is likely to jeopardize public safety,' and so is exempt from public disclosure. Maybe they're arming up for an insurrection?
A reader writes,
GovernmentAttic.org, a noncommercial independent website, announces the publication of thousands of important government documents obtained through proper channels using public records access laws such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Government Attic includes fascinating historical documents, oddities and fun stuff about government programs, and government "bloopers". Browsing the site is like rummaging through the Government's Attic -- hence the name.
Among the notable holdings:
- Tens of thousands of pages of FBI files on important events and famous people;
- Weird items seized by customs inspectors at airports;
- A listing of movies, books and TV shows available on the International Space Station;
- Air Defense System audio recordings of the events on 9/11;
- Lists of investigations performed by dozens of agency Inspectors General;
- Internal newsletters from the National Security Agency;
- Complaints to the FCC about various television series, including The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and Law & Order; and
- Documents from most federal agencies, including those with responsibilities in law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense.
Welcome to governmentattic.org
An unconfirmed report of a UFO over New Mexico is the most popular item in the FBI's online reading room, the agency reports. Russell Contreras with the AP:
Vaguely written, the memo describes a story told by an unnamed third party who claims an Air Force investigator reported that three flying saucers were recovered in New Mexico, though the memo doesn't say exactly where in the state. The FBI indexed the report for its files but did not investigate further; the name of an "infomant" reporting some of the information is blacked out in the memo.
Aaron Swartz spent many years trying to get the FBI to cough up its file on him. Now that Aaron is dead, that file is automatically declassified, so FireDogLake's DSWright decided to request it, and has posted it, with a summary:
Exceptions aside, the records reveal that the FBI investigated Swartz for his role in the accessing the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) documents. Swartz himself was aware that he was being investigated and would later send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for his own FBI file. Swartz’s request seems to be different than what I received at least in redactions for example the 4/16/2009 meeting was apparently with Swartz’s lawyer Andrew Good who refused to talk to the FBI unless an assurance was given that his client would not be hurt – no assurance would be given so no further conversation took place.
There is another odd redaction on 2/19/2009. The FBI agent writes a report that includes information from a New York Times article but redacts one of the names that is actually listed in the article – Carl Malamud. Malamud also seems to be the one referenced in the 4/15/2009 report in a conversation with the FBI claiming he did not know “how Aaron did it.”
Overall the files tell you more about the FBI than they do Swartz. They collected information from Linked In, followed his blog posts, and even thought his membership in the “Long-term Planning Committee for the Human Race” was worthy of note. There is also a Kafkaesque entry concerning Swartz’s blog post NYT Personals which includes the question “Want to have the F.B.I. open up a file on you as well?” – which I read for the first time in Swartz’s FBI file. One can only wonder what is in the two classified pages of Swartz’s FBI file.
Aaron Swartz’s FBI File
Read the rest
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI seeking details of its surveillance policy -- who it spies upon, and how, and under what circumstances. The FBI sent back two 50+ page memos in reply, each of them totally blacked out except for some information on the title page.
In a 12-minute video posted online, Weissmann spoke about two memos: one focused on the use of GPS tracking on forms of transportation beyond cars, the other regarding how Jones applies to tracking methods outside of GPS (presumably like cellphone ping data).
“Is it going to apply to boats, is it going to apply to airplanes?” Weissmann asks in the video. “Is it going to apply at the border? What’s it mean for the consent that’s given by an owner? What does it mean if consent is given by a possessor? And this is all about GPS, by the way, without getting into other types of techniques.”
And those questions remain wholly unanswered.
“The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, wrote on Wednesday.
FBI to ACLU: Nope, we won't tell you how, when, or why we track you [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]
Michael, from Muckrock (a site that helps you make Freedom of Information Act requests) sez, "Aaron Swartz was one of MuckRock's earliest users, and a steadfast friend and advisor. He regularly suggested that we make the site free for anyone to file a request, and so in his honor, we're doing that
. Many of his own requests, on topics from the U.S. Mint to Bradley Manning to Domain Seizures, are public here
. I was always struck by Aaron's confidence and sincerity when we spoke, and always sensed that to him, the latest charges were a game to be beaten. That it should end like this is too tragic for me to comprehend.
The Australian government is following the UK, US and Canadian governments' examples and establishing a secretive, no-holds-barred snooping regime. The "data retention" bill that's been prepared by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department requires ISPs to store all communications for two years, and grants wide access to those stored records, as well as allowing snooping on residents' social networking activities. What's more, the Attorney General has denied a Freedom of Information request for a look at the draft legislation from the Pirate Party, saying that public scrutiny of spying laws is "not in the public interest" and would be prejudicial to the decision-making process.
The Pirate Party, which is an activist and political organisation which lobbies to maintain and extend Australians’ digital rights and freedoms, issued a media release this morning noting that it had filed a Freedom of Information request with the department, seeking draft national security legislation which had been prepared in 2010 with respect to the current proposal. The draft legislation had been mentioned by the Sydney Morning Herald in an article in August.
However, the Attorney-General’s Department wrote back to the organisation this week, noting that the request had been denied. Logan Tudor, a legal officer with the department, wrote that he had decided that the draft legislation was exempted from being released because it contained material which was being deliberated on inside the department. “… the release of this material would, in my view, be contrary to the public interest,” Tudor wrote.
In the Pirate Party’s statement, its treasurer Rodney Serkowski described the response by the Attorney-General’s Department as “disgraceful and troubling”.
“They have completed draft legislation, prior to any transparent or consultative process, and are now denying access to that legislation, for reasons that are highly dubious and obviously politically motivated,” wrote Serkowski. “The Department is completely trashing any semblance or notion of transparency or participative democratic process of policy development.”
Govt censors pre-prepared data retention bills
Loved your piece about the Trinity graphic novel this morning, and
thought you might find this interesting. MuckRock has published the FBI files of noted physicist, esteemed
author and all-around geek Richard Feynman.
Feynman and the FBI had an extended encounter after the Bureau
discovered he had been invited to speak at the USSR, which set off a
flurry of investigations into his loyalty — even as he pestered the
State Department for guidance on whether he should or shouldn't go,
guidance they only gave belatedly.
Of particular interest to the FBI was his avid devotion to the art of
lock picking, his high school membership in a socialism club (for
social reasons, he swore), and the fact that he was a godless
scientist who loved his bongo drums.
As always, the original FBI files are available free and unencumbered.
Which all puts me in mind of the outstanding Feynman graphic biography.
A reader writes, "Yet another voice calling attention to the ever narrowing access to information in Canada as the Harper Government repeatedly thumb their nose at the Canadian Access to Information Act." And the CBC's Meagan Fitzpatrick reports:
Budget cuts threaten access to information, watchdog says
Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault reported today that the federal government's budget cuts could jeopardize a "fragile" access to information system that has been improving... Legault said the access to information areas within government departments tend to be vulnerable when there are cuts and she has already heard from some requestors that they've been told their files are being delayed because of cuts.
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones writes about a trove of new photographs documenting the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which released nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.
In the midst of the disaster, BP and its contractors did everything they could to keep people from seeing the scale of the disaster. But new photos released Monday offer some new insight to just how grim the Gulf became for sea life.The images were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request that Greenpeace filed back in August 2010, asking for any communication related to endangered and threatened Gulf species. Now, many months later, Greenpeace received a response from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that included more than 100 photos from the spill, including many of critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles dead and covered in oil.
More photos and more about what they reveal at Mother Jones.
Forensic human rights statistician Patrick Ball sez, "More than 10 million images from the Historical Archive of the Guatemalan National Police (AHPN in the Spanish acronym) are now online at the University of Texas. Documents from the Archive start in the late nineteenth century and continue until the Police were disbanded in 1996. Scholars using the documents have detailed the role of the National Police in illegal surveillance and attacks on dissidents during Guatemala's armed internal conflict, scientists have used sampling and statistics to find patterns in the Archive that illuminate how command works, and prosecutors have won convictions of former police officers for disappearances that were unsolved for decades. Several retired officers from the senior leadership of the Police, including the former Director, Col. Héctor Bol de la Cruz, have been charged with overseeing disappearances in the 1980s, and are likely to stand trial. Now the AHPN is putting the entire archive online, unredacted, so that the world can learn from Guatemala's example."
A product of broad international collaboration, these digitized documents from the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN) aim to facilitate scholarly and legal research into a vast cache of historical documentation. The discovery of the National Police Historical Archive in 2005 opened an extensive and timely resource for the study of Guatemalan history and human rights in the region, spanning a broad array of topics from Guatemala's armed conflict between 1960 and 1996 to the sexually transmitted disease experiments performed at the behest of the United States government in the 1940s. The Archive is presented online here for the first time.
This site currently includes over 10 million scanned images of documents from the National Police Historical Archive. This digital archive mirrors and extends the physical archive that remains preserved in Guatemala as an important historical patrimony of the Guatemalan people.
Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN)
To kick off Sunshine Week, Catherine Shreve, the librarian for public policy and political science at Duke University's Perkins Library lists her five favorite declassified documents.
3. Bay of Pigs: Military Evaluation of the Central Intelligence Agency Para-Military Plan, Cuba. This memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara in early 1961 foreshadowed the humiliating failure of President Kennedy's Cuban invasion. It reads in part: "The amphibious assault should be successful even if lightly opposed; however the personnel and plans for logistic support are marginal at best. Against moderate, determined resistance logistic support as presently planned will be inadequate."
4. Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction: Senate Report 109-331 "Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments (unclassified version)". This 2006 report refuted President George W. Bush's reason for invading Iraq -- that it was developing weapons of mass destruction.
In part, it says: "Postwar findings support the assessment...that claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are 'highly dubious.'"
5. John Nash letters to National Security Agency. A find that made me smile, remembering the movie "A Beautiful Mind" based on the brilliant but schizophrenic mathematician John Nash. In this handwritten letter, he proposes an enciphering-deciphering machine he has invented. "I hope my handwriting, etc. do not give the impression I am just a crank or circle-squarer."
Top 5 Formerly Top Secret Documents