The DHS classes nonviolent environmental activists in the same "domestic terrorist" category as Dylan Roof and James Fields

Property of the People (previously) used Freedom of Information Act requests to force the Department of Homeland Security to reveal that it tracks members of the Valve Turners -- a nonviolent environmental group that practices civil disobedience against oil pipelines -- alongside of white nationalist mass-murderers and killers like Dylan Roof (the mass murderer behind the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston) and James Fields, who murdered Heather Heyer when he drove his car into an anti-Nazi counterprotest in Charlottesvilla. Read the rest

A company that makes spy-tech for cops threatened to sue Vice for publishing its sales literature (because Iran!)

Special Services Group makes surveillance crapgadgets for cops and spies: cameras and mics hidden in tombstones, vacuum cleaners, children's car-seats, and other everyday items. Muckrock's Beryl Lipton used a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of "Black Book," SSG's massive sales brochure out of the Irvine police department, with minimal redactions. Read the rest

Why is the FBI protecting Superman's civilian identity?

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

McKinsey designed ICE's gulags, recommending minimal food, medical care and supervision

Obama brought McKinsey and Co, the giant management consulting firm, into ICE to effect an "organizational transformation," so they were already in place when Trump took office, and as Trump pivoted to concentration camps, McKinsey had some suggestions to save money: cut back on food, medicine and supervision. Read the rest

Quiet Rooms: Illinois schools lead the nation in imprisoning very young, disabled children in isolation chambers

20 years ago, Illinois was rocked by a scandal after the widespread practice of locking schoolchildren, especially those with disabilities or special needs, in small, confining boxes was revealed. The teachers who imprisoned these children argued that they did so out of the interests of safety -- that of the imprisoned students, of the other students, and of school staff. Read the rest

Today is Aaron Swartz Day

Lisa Rein writes, "Today, Saturday November 9th is Aaron Swartz Day all over the world. We have events going on all over the world here - with a Zoom channel and Gitters set up for questions that will be monitored from San Francisco all day (The San Francisco event details are here for FOIAPALOOZA). Read the rest

Suppressed internal emails reveal that the IRS actively helped tax-prep giants suppress Free File

America is one of the only wealthy countries where you have to pay someone to prepare your tax return; in most other countries, the national tax office prepares a return for you and if it looks right to you, you just sign it and return it (you can always prepare your own return, too, or pay someone else to do it). Read the rest

Amazon's secret deals with cops gave corporate PR a veto over everything the cops said about their products

Last week, Motherboard broke a story revealing that Amazon had entered into secret agreements with local law enforcement agencies that had the cops pushing Ring surveillance doorbells to the people they were sworn to protect, in exchange for freebies and access to a system that let them request access to footage recorded by the Amazon's industry-leading internet-of-shit home surveillance tools. Read the rest

Crowdfunding public access to the Social Security death index

The Social Security Administration has a tool for looking up deaths in the USA that took place within the past three years, but older deaths are in the Social Security Death Master File (aka Death Index); you can buy a limited version of that from the SSA for $2.3k + $3.4k/yr; the SSA has quoted access to the full version at $5.2k. Read the rest

Axon makes false statements to town that bought its police bodycams, threatens to tase their credit-rating if they cancel the contract

Axon -- formerly Taser International -- makes police bodycams that they sell to towns on the cheap, betting that they'll make it up by gouging the towns for cloud-based storage for footage from the cameras (what could possibly go wrong?!). Read the rest

New Mueller Report version released after BuzzFeed News and EPIC sued for it

A new version of Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections has just been made public in response to a BuzzFeed News lawsuit. Read the rest

The #ShellPapers: crowdsourcing analysis of all correspondence between Shell and the Dutch government

The Dutch activist/journalists Follow the Money and Platform Authentieke Journalistiek -- last seen revealing the dark money funding thinktanks that backed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- have a new project: the #ShellPapers, a deep, crowdsourced investigation into Shell oil, its sweetheart relationship to the Dutch government, its corruption and violence throughout the world, its role in climate change and environmental devastation. Read the rest

Internal files reveal how US law enforcement classes anti-fascists as fascists, and actual fascists as "anti-anti-fascists"

The Property of the People transparency group (previously) has published another damning US intelligence file, this one a report circulated by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (RICOC, a joint state/federal intelligence body), revealing how the US intelligence bodies advised local law enforcement after the Charlottesville white supremacist march. Read the rest

The strangest FOIA redactions (and FOIA releases) MuckRock has seen over the years

[Editor's note: We're happy to help our public record ninja friends at Muckrock celebrate Sunshine Week with this tribute to the censor's heavy hand -Cory]

After nine years and over 60,000 requests, MuckRock has been witness to some pretty impressive efforts to keep public information from the public. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we’ve compiled some of the weirdest, wildest, and downright hilarious redactions we’ve received. Read the rest

How the payday loan industry laundered policy by paying academics to write papers that supported its positions

When Elizabeth Warren inaugurated the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of her prime targets was subprime/payday/predatory lenders; and the lenders' lobbyists went on an all-out blitz, eventually prevailing under Trump's CFPB boss Mick Mulvaney. Read the rest

Public records requests reveal the elaborate shell-company secrecy that Google uses when seeking subsidies for data-centers

It's not just Amazon and Apple that expect massive taxpayer subsidies in exchange for locating physical plant in your town: when Google builds a new data-center, it does so on condition of multimillion-dollar "incentives" from local governments -- but Google also demands extraordinary secrecy from local officials regarding these deals, secrecy so complete that city attorneys have instructed town councillors to refuse to answer questions about it during public meetings. Read the rest

Chasing down that list of potential Predpol customers reveals dozens of cities that have secretly experimented with "predictive policing"

Last October, I published a list of cities that appeared to have contracted with Predpol, a "predictive policing" company, based on research provided to me by an anonymous source who used clever methods to uncover the customer list. Read the rest

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