"parallel construction"

Geek Squad's secret spying on behalf of the FBI went on for a decade and involved constant, ongoing collaboration

A 2017 prosecution of a California doctor charged with possessing child pornography revealed that the FBI had been tipped off by a Best Buy technician the doctor had paid to service his computer; the technician had searched his computer and then provided evidence to the FBI, sidestepping the need for the FBI to obtain a warrant. Read the rest

A detailed look at how US police forces collude with spy agencies to cover up the origin of evidence in criminal cases

Since the 1970s, spy agencies have been feeding police forces tips about who to arrest and where to look for evidence, despite the illegality of their practicing surveillance within the USA. Read the rest

Case study of LAPD and Palantir's predictive policing tool: same corruption; new, empirical respectability

UT Austin sociologist Sarah Brayne spent 2.5 years conducting field research with the LAPD as they rolled out Predpol, a software tool that is supposed to direct police to places where crime is likely to occur, but which has been shown to send cops out to overpolice brown and poor people at the expense of actual crimefighting. Read the rest

Reality Winner was outed by invisible dot patterns added by printers (among other things)

There's been much speculation on exactly how NSA leaker Reality Winner was exposed after giving The Intercept documents that showed the extent to which the security agency suspects Russian meddling (previously) in last year's general election. On one hand, the filing against her talks of the "creases" seen in the scans The Intercept posted, tipping them off to it being a workplace printout from an insider--an insinuation of casual sloppiness on the reporters' part. On the other hand, it seemed clear Winner did everything at a work computer anyway and was surely doomed once the story came out and internal investigations began.

The truth is all of the above, but with a cherry on top: the printouts contained invisible dot patterns added by the printer to identify the worker who sent the print job. All surviving photocopying, scanning and PDF compression to be published, plain as day, on the world-wide web. Errata Security explains how, in detail.

The document leaked by the Intercept was from a printer with model number 54, serial number 29535218. The document was printed on May 9, 2017 at 6:20. The NSA almost certainly has a record of who used the printer at that time.

The situation is similar to how Vice outed the location of John McAfee, by publishing JPEG photographs of him with the EXIF GPS coordinates still hidden in the file. Or it's how PDFs are often redacted by adding a black bar on top of image, leaving the underlying contents still in the file for people to read, such as in this NYTime accident with a Snowden document.

Read the rest

AT&T developed a "product" for spying on all its customers and made millions selling it to warrantless cops

AT&T's secret "Hemisphere" product is a database of calls and call-records on all its customers, tracking their location, movements, and interactions -- this data was then sold in secret to American police forces for investigating crimes big and small (even Medicare fraud), on the condition that they never reveal the program's existence. Read the rest

U.S. directs federal agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

The U.S. trains federal agents how to falsify the sources of surveillance data that the Drug Enforcement Administration gives them, according to a Reuters special report.

Greenwald's "No Place to Hide": a compelling, vital narrative about official criminality

Cory Doctorow reviews Glenn Greenwald's long-awaited No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. More than a summary of the Snowden leaks, it's a compelling narrative that puts the most explosive revelations about official criminality into vital context.

NSA records every cell phone call in the Bahamas

The NSA and US DEA trick contractors working for the Bahamian phone companies into letting them record the full audio of every call placed in the Bahamas, according to newly published Snowden leaks released in an article in The Intercept. The NSA exploits the "lawful interception" system for conducting wiretaps without having to notify phone companies in order to harvest the full run of cellular calls, apparently as an engineering proof-of-concept in order to scale the program up to larger nations. The Bahamas is an ally of the US, identified by the State Department to be a "stable democracy that shares democratic principles, personal freedoms, and rule of law with the United States."

It's not clear whether the DEA conducts "parallel construction" with the NSA intelligence (this is when the DEA overtly takes a warrant to get intelligence it already has through an NSA covert operation). The phone calls are intercepted through two NSA programs: MYSTIC (which conducts analysis) and SOMALGET (which intercepts and stores the calls). These programs are used to capture the full audio of all cellular calls in another unnamed country, and are used to analyze metadata in the Philippines, Mexico and Kenya.

The NSA documents reveal that the intelligence gathered in the Bahamas did not focus on money-launderers and tax-haven banks -- rather, they are mostly used to catch drug traffickers. Read the rest

DEA reveals "parallel construction" techniques the "taint team" uses to disguise its reliance on NSA surveillance data

Michael from Muckrock sez, "MuckRock user CJ Ciaramella stumbled upon some recently interesting documents with a recent FOIA request: The DEA's training materials regarding parallel construction, the practice of reverse engineering the evidence chain to keep how the government actually knows something happened away from prosecutors, the defense, and the public. 'Americans don't like it,' the materials note, when the government relies heavily on classified sources, so agents are encouraged to find ways to get the same information through tactics like 'routine' traffic stops that coincidentally find the information agents are after."

Hilariously, the squad who engage in this obfuscation are called the "taint review team." Read the rest

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