Virginia State cops have blown a fortune on useless cellphone spying gear

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Muckrock has been sending Freedom of Information requests to state police forces to find out how they're using "cell-site simulators" (AKA IMSI catchers/Stingrays), and they hit the motherlode with the Virginia State Police. Read the rest

America's "most prolific" transparency advocate is crowdfunding to force disclosures from Trump

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Ryan Shapiro, the punk Freedom of Information Access ninja, is crowdfunding a warchest to fund his inevitable lawsuits against the Trump government when he subjects it to the same relentless bombardment of transparency requests he visited upon the Obama administration. Read the rest

Man attempts illegal soak in Yellowstone acidic hot pool, is reduced to wallet and flip-flops

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Via a Freedom of Information Act request, Yellowstone National Park recently reported the tragic details of an accident last summer, where a 23 year old man dissolved after an illegal attempt to bathe in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. He had gone 200 yards past the legal tourism area with his sister, who was recording on her cell phone when the incident happened. Luckily, that video has not been released.

Though search and rescue was attempted, Deputy Chief Ranger Lorant Veress remarked, "in a very short order, there was a significant amount of dissolving" due to the churning, acidic water. The man was reaching down to test the temperature, with the intent to "hot pot," aka bathe in the steaming water, when he slipped and fell in.

Reports Wyoming's KURL news:

Search and rescue rangers who arrived later did find the victim's body in the pool, along with his wallet, and flip flops.  But, a lightning storm stopped the recovery efforts.  The next day, workers could not find any remains.  Veress says the water was churning, and acidic.

He remarked, "In a very short order, there  was a significant amount of dissolving"

Veress said the park posts warning signs for important reasons,  "… because it is wild and it hasn't been overly altered by people to make things a whole lot safer,  it's got dangers.  And a place like Yellowstone which is set aside because of the incredible geothermal resources that are here, all the more so."

Yellowstone is meant to be wild and preserved as such, so the park posts warning signs for this very reason. Read the rest

Lawsuit: mayor's social media blocklists are public records

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Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine has a history of blocking his critics on social media, including Grant Stern, who runs the Photography is Not a Crime group. Read the rest

By stealing from innocents, Chicago PD amassed tens of millions in a secret black budget for surveillance gear

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Since 2009, the Chicago Police Department has seized $72M worth of property from people who were not convicted of any crime, through the discredited civil forfeiture process, keeping $48M worth of the gains (the rest went to the Cook County prosecutor's office and the Illinois State Police) in an off-the-books, unreported slush fund that it used to buy secret surveillance gear. Read the rest

News groups sue FBI for iPhone hacking details in San Bernardino case

FBI and police are seen around a vehicle in which two shooters were killed following a mass shooting in San Bernardino.  REUTERS/Mike Blake

VICE Media, USA Today owner Gannett, and the Associated Press today announced a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI. The news organizations want to how much and who the government paid to hack into the San Bernardino shooters' iPhone, during the government's investigation into last year's mass shooting.

Read the rest

Geographically representative map of the London Underground

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The Transport for London tube map, building on Harry Beck's pioneering work in 1931, is rightly hailed as a masterpiece of simplification and clarity in data visualisation. Read the rest

Flossing is bullshit

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The Associated Press filed Freedom of Information requests with the US government to find the evidence behind the Surgeon General's admonition to floss regularly for dental health and found that there was no good evidentiary basis for flossing. Read the rest

Jacksonville police pension fund blows $1.8M worth of tax-dollars fighting open records requests

When Times-Union Editor Frank Denton sued the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund over breaking the law by meeting secretly to negotiate pension benefits, the fund and the city blew nearly half a million dollars fighting the case before finally losing. Read the rest

Congress: TSA is worst place to work in USG, nearly half of employees cited for misconduct; it's getting worse

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The House Homeland Security Committee Majority Staff Report has just published its investigation on aviation security, and the title really tells you everything you need to know: MISCONDUCT AT TSA THREATENS THE SECURITY OF THE FLYING PUBLIC. Read the rest

UK cops routinely raided police databases to satisfy personal interest or make money on the side

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Between 2011-2015, there were more than 800 individual UK police personnel who raided official databases to amuse themselves, out of idle curiosity, or for personal financial gain; and over 800 incidents in which information was inappropriately leaked outside of the police channels. Read the rest

Leaked FBI documents reveal secret rules for spying on journalists with National Security Letters

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Today, The Intercept published leaked documents that contain the FBI’s secret rules for targeting journalists and sources with National Security Letters (NSLs)—the controversial and unconstitutional warrantless tool the FBI uses to conduct surveillance without any court supervision whatsoever.

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Mounties used Stingrays to secretly surveil millions of Canadians for years

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Motherboard used public records requests to extract 3,000+ pages of court docs from a massive 2010 RCMP mafia/drug bust in Montreal, codenamed "Project Clemenza," which revealed the full extent of the Mounties' secret use of Stingrays -- AKA "IMSI Catchers," the fake cellular towers that let cops covertly track whole populations by tricking their phones into revealing information about them. Read the rest

NSA dumps docs about its Snowden response, reveals that Snowden repeatedly raised alarms about spying

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Since the earliest days of the Snowden revelations, apologists for the NSA's criminal spying program have said that Snowden should have gone "through channels" to report his concerns, rather than giving evidence to journalists and going public. Read the rest

In 1977, the CIA's top lawyer said Espionage Act shouldn't be applied to press leaks

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Yesterday, the State Department declassified and released Organization and Management of Foreign Policy: 1977-80, volume 28, a Carter-era document that includes startling statements by CIA General Counsel Anthony Lapham on the role of the WWI-era Espionage Act in prosecuting leaks of classified material to the press. Read the rest

Untangling the Web: the NSA's supremely weird, florid guide to the Internet

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Michael from Muckrock found a reference to "Untangling the Web," an internal NSA guide to the Internet, on Google Books, so he requisitioned a copy from the NSA under the Freedom of Information Act. Read the rest

EFF fights order to remove public records documents detailing Seattle's smart-meters

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the legal threats from Landis and Gyr against the Freedom of Information service Muckrock, which had received documents from the City of Seattle detailing the workings of Landis and Gyr's smart-meter system, which Seattle has purchased from them at public expense. Read the rest

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