I was on Cape Cod this past weekend — specifically, the town of Eastham, which is way up by the wrist and fairly desolate in winter. What I didn't know at the time was that Janet Uhlar, one of the juror's from Whitey Bulger's trial, was right around the corner from me the whole time. Along with the collection of handwritten letters she'd received from him between 2014 and his totally suspicious prison death in 2018.
NBC News just published a piece about Uhlar and her relationship with Bulger, and how she came to regret her decision to convict him on racketeering charges and 11 counts of murder.
Uhlar started writing Bulger, she said, because she was troubled by the fact that much of the evidence against him came through testimony by former criminal associates who were also killers and had received reduced sentences in exchange for testifying against their former partner in crime.
"When I left the trial, I had more questions," she said.
After Bulger started returning her letters, Uhlar noticed he often dated them with the time he had started writing in his tight cursive style. "He always seemed to be writing at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning, and when I asked him why, he said it was because of the hallucinations," Uhlar said.
Uhlar knew, of course, about Whitey's reputation as a notoriously brutal mobster. And she knew that the FBI had enabled his behavior. Her uncertainty and regret had nothing to do with whether Bulger had actually killed people, either — that's a universally accepted fact at this point. Read the rest
I have a lot of issues with the American obsession around political binaries. But it's hard to deny that it's an overwhelming force that maintains a maddening influence on our country. Both-side-isms are built on the assumption that the "political center" is the exact middle between two equal but opposite poles. Given the choice between killing 100 people, or killing none, this kind of radical centrist confidently strides forward with their "logical" assertion that killing 50 people is the only possible solution that would allow us to maintain what they see as the equilibrium of the status quo.
The latest example of this comes from an FBI briefing in front of the House Judiciary Committee in early February. The bureau has been working to fine-tune its language in order to better address the (very real!) threat of domestic terrorism, which has often gone overlooked in the past. As part of these linguistic changes, the FBI has broken down domestic terrorism into four broad categories, including "abortion violent extremism," which FBI Director Christopher Wray described as "people on either side of that issue who commit violence on behalf of different views on that topic."
Rep. Karen Bass of California rightly pointed out to Wray that there is no evidence of violence on "both sides" of the abortion issue. But Wray insisted that the threats must be balanced on both sides. Later, when pressed by the Daily Beast, the FBI could only cite a single instance of "pro-choice extremism," which involved a man who threatened anti-abortion activists online. Read the rest
“Not only is the terror threat diverse, it’s unrelenting."
--FBI director Chris Wray.
The FBI has elevated the risk from neo-Nazis in America to the same level with which it regards ISIS. Read the rest
“They identify an issue that they know that the American people feel passionately about on both sides and then they take both sides and spin them up so they pit us against each other. And then they combine that with an effort to weaken our confidence in our elections and our democratic institutions which has been a pernicious and asymmetric way of engaging in affect information warfare.”
— FBI Director Chris Wray, Feb. 5, 2020
On Wednesday, FBI Director Chris Wray said Russia is targeting Americans with an ongoing “information warfare” campaign that is likely to intensify as the nation heads into the 2020 presidential election. Read the rest
Once again, the FBI is putting pressure on Apple to help them break into the phone of a mass shooter. And once again, Apple has been largely resistant to the effort. Which is good, because a government having control over a private company that gives them secret backdoor access into people's personal technology devices is an authoritarian wet dream waiting to happen.
It also doesn't matter anyway because — as Reuters pointed out this week — Apple already buckled under FBI pressure a few years and cancelled their plans to add end-to-end encryption to all iPhone backups in iCloud:
The company said it turned over at least some data for 90% of the requests it received [from the FBI]. It turns over data more often in response to secret U.S. intelligence court directives, which sought content from more than 18,000 accounts in the first half of 2019, the most recently reported six-month period.
But what if the FBI wants access to someone's locked iPhone, and they haven't backed it up to iCloud? They still don't need Apple's help, because — as with the San Bernardino shooting — there are plenty of third-party companies that can and will gladly solve the problem in exchange for money.
Read the rest
Over the past three months, OneZero sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to over 50 major police departments, sheriffs, and prosecutors around the country asking for information about their use of phone-cracking technology. Hundreds of documents from these agencies reveal that law enforcement in at least 11 states spent over $4 million in the last decade on devices and software designed to get around passwords and access information stored on phones.
No encrypted iCloud backups for you, citizen!
The time is always right to do what is right, that's true. But the timing of this is a pretty ugly retcon—especially after a new trove of FBI files on Martin Luther King, Jr. were just released six months ago, painting an ugly picture of frequent sexual misconduct. Read the rest
In last week's Superman #18, the eponymous hero held a press conference to reveal his identity to the public. Comic book continuity is ever-shifting, of course, and the connection between Superman and Clark Kent has been known or exposed by other people before, just as the genie will someday be placed back in the bottle once again. In this particular context, Superman was inspired to come clean after learning about the lies and deceptions of his birth father, Jor-El (who also used to be dead, but now is not, because comics). This revelation also comes on the heels of an epic crossover that shattered the acronym-happy intelligence community of the DC Universe with some other truths and justices.
This curiously came on the heels of the Inspector General's report on the origins of the FBI investigation into the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. The results of this investigation were as much of a political Rorschach test as anything is these days. But one thing it did reinforce was the FBI's overconfidence in its own self-righteous status quo enforcement, for better and for worse.
While there was (unsurprisingly, IMHO) no political bias found in the FBI's motives, the IG report did note a handful of oversights and omissions that had been along the way—a detail that the President's stalwart defenders have eagerly jumped on. For anyone who's ever paid attention to anything the FBI has ever done, however, this all came across as the same standard over-zealous stuff the organization's also done—again, for better, and for worse. Read the rest
On Friday, November 1, 2019, the FBI arrested a self-proclaimed white supremacist named Richard Holzer, who was allegedly planning to bomb Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colorado—the second-oldest synagogue in the state.
This is, largely, a good thing. After sleeping on the white supremacist infiltration of police departments all across the country, it's nice to see the FBI is actually taking action against this hugely dangerous epidemic. And there's absolutely no question that Richard Holzer was a white supremacist with violent intentions. As the Justice Department explained in a press release:
Holzer, who self-identifies as a skinhead and a white supremacist, told undercover FBI agents that he wanted to do something that would tell Jewish people in the community that they are not welcome in Pueblo, and they should leave or they will die. The affidavit states that during a meeting with the undercover agents, Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and his support for RAHOWA, shorthand for a racial holy war.
Holzer also told the undercover FBI agents that he had already hired a "witch doctor" to "hex and poison" the water at the Temple, paying a Mexican cook to add arsenic into the pipes. It's unclear if this actually happened, or if it actually accomplished anything—but clearly, this guy was trouble. Read the rest
If this holds out (we have not seen the actual indictment, just a reporter's tweet), The U.S. Department of Justice just took a sharp turn down a dark, winding road that leads the country right off a cliff. Read the rest
Trump foe may be charged by Trump cronies with lying to federal agents
In late July, FBI director Christopher Wray testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that his bureau had made 100 domestic terror arrests; later, an FBI spokesperson reduced that claim to 90 arrests -- but when Propublica called the FBI for a list of domestic terror addresses, the Feebs couldn't name one single instance in which they'd made a domestic terror arrest.
Read the rest
Keniel A Thomas is part of the wave of violent phone scam gangs that have led to chaos in cities across the island; he made the mistake of trying to con the 90-year-old William Webster out of $50,000 with a hamfisted advance-fee fraud scam, not realizing that Webster is a top US spook, the only person ever to have served as chief of both the CIA and FBI.
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Following protests against a neo-Nazi rally, the FBI opened a terrorism investigation into By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a civil rights group, conducting surveillance and citing the fact that a BAMN member had been stabbed by a neo-Nazi to justify it.
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Anti-abortion extremists are among the most violent domestic terrorists in America, having murdered and attempted to murder dozens of people using firearms, firebombs and traditional explosives.
Read the rest