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


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.

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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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

Students: court orders government agencies to offer educational discount on FOIA requests


The Freedom of Information Act specifies that government agencies must give a discount to "educational institutions" when they file requests, but for years, agencies led by the Department of Defense have argued that this discount only applies to faculty, not students, who would have to pay full rate even though they generally have less money to begin with. Read the rest

Smart-meter vendor says that if we know how their system works, the terrorists will win


Phil Mocek filed a public records request to find out how Seattle's new smart meters -- supplied by Landis and Gyr -- will work. As Mocek writes, these meters are based on "unspecified and unverifiable sensors that monitor activity inside of private property and can communicate collected information in real-time to unspecified machines in remote locations, the workings of which are obscured from ratepayers, with interfaces used by [the city] that require specialized equipment and are thus completely unavailable to ratepayers for personal use or monitoring and verification of information communicated, is already shrouded in secrecy and seemingly proceeding despite repeated voicing of public concern and complete lack of public justification of expense." Read the rest

UK spy agencies store sensitive data on millions of innocent people, with no safeguards from abuse


Privacy International won a lawsuit forcing the UK government to publish thousands of pages of records on the use of "Bulk Personal Datasets" by the spy agencies GCHQ, MI5 and MI6. Read the rest

Heads of UK's tax havens to Her Majesty's Government: go fuck yourself


When the premiers of the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands (British Overseas Territories that are notorious tax-havens) visited the UK last year, Tory government ministers sent formal letters asking for meetings with them to discuss tax evasion. The premiers never answered the letters. Read the rest

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