Posts tagged FBI

FBI Wants Power to Fine Internet Chat Providers That Don't Comply With Real-Time Spy Orders

Via Slate:

Bad news for telecommunications companies: New details have emerged about the FBI’s efforts to upgrade its surveillance powers—and the feds’ latest idea is to heavily fine firms that don’t comply with eavesdropping requests.

Last month I reported that the bureau said it was having a hard time monitoring services like Gmail, Google Voice, and Dropbox in real time when attempting to spy on criminals. The FBI’s general counsel Andrew Weissmann revealed in a speech that a “top priority” for the bureau in 2013 was to reform surveillance laws in order to force email, cloud services, or online chat providers like Skype to provide a wiretap function. The 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act already allows the government to mandate Internet providers and phone companies to install surveillance equipment within their networks. But it doesn’t apply to third-party providers—like Google or Facebook—which has led the bureau to claim that its ability to monitor suspected criminals’ conversations is “going dark.”

Now, according to the Washington Post, the feds have prompted a government task force to draft a proposal to update CALEA and the 1968 Wiretap Act to put more pressure on companies that do not currently fall under the scope of their powers.* This could involve, the Post reports, “a series of escalating fines, starting at tens of thousands of dollars, on firms that fail to comply with wiretap orders.” If a company fails to comply with an order in a set timeframe, it would “face an automatic judicial inquiry, which could lead to fines. After 90 days, fines that remain unpaid would double daily.”

When the FBI Responds to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act Request

Via the ACLU:

Two key memos outlining the Justice Department’s views about when Americans can be surreptitiously tracked with GPS technology are being kept secret by the department despite a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU to force their release. The FBI’s general counsel discussed the existence of the two memos publicly last year, yet the Justice Department is refusing to release them without huge redactions…

…The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant. This is yet another example of secret surveillance policies—like the Justice Department’s secret opinions about the Patriot Act’s Section 215—that simply should not exist in a democratic society. Privacy law needs to keep up with technology, but how can that happen if the government won’t even tell us what its policies are?

More background via Ars Technica:

Back in August 2012, we reported on how the American Civil Liberties Union was compelling the FBI to fully disclose how it interprets the results of the United States v. Jones case—a unanimous Supreme Court decision establishing that law enforcement does not have the authority to put a warrantless GPS tracker on a suspect’s car.

As we reported then, other types of high-tech surveillance and monitoring by law enforcement continue on a nearly daily basis around the country. Cops are using everything from tap and trace, ping data, license plate surveillance, and other techniques as a way to keep tabs on suspects and innocent citizens without going through the threshold of a judicially reviewed probable-cause-driven warrant.

Now, the ACLU has received a response to its query—with nothing. The FBI sent the ACLU back pages (PDF) upon pages (PDF) that are heavily redacted, providing zero insight into what this policy actually is.

Images: First five pages of an FBI memorandum obtained by the ACLU via a FOIA request that outlines the agency’s post United States v Jones Supreme Court decision guidelines. Fifty-four pages of the the 57-page memo are fully redacted. (PDF)

Murder in America
The Wall Street Journal takes FBI data from 2000 to 2010 to analyze the who, what, where, why, how and when murders take place across America.
All 165,068 in the decade analyzed.
The interactive they’ve created lets users sort and explore “why” a murder occurred (eg., Lover’s Triangle, Gang Killing and a large bucket of “Other”), who was killed and by whom (by race, sex and relationship), what weapon was used (eg., gun, knife, blunt object, etc.), when murders occurred (by year) and where they occurred (by state).
Needless to say, guns top the weapons category. While unlikely, getting pushed or thrown out a window  has occurred 35 times.
Most often the relationship between the victim and killer is unknown (in over 70,000 cases). How or why this doesn’t become known goes unexplained but acquaintances accounted for over 27,000 murders, strangers for over 25,000.
In the good to know but it goes against our folk history category: the least likely to commit murder are stepmothers with 57 killings attributed to them in the decade analyzed.
The WSJ notes in their methodology that the data they’re working with has many holes in it. For example:

The FBI collects this data from the states, except for Florida. Florida doesn’t use the FBI’s guidelines when reporting additional information about homicides. The FBI data don’t capture all homicides. The states’ reporting is voluntary, and the country’s thousands of police agencies aren’t consistent in how they report. Some states, including New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all for some years. In recording the circumstances of a murder, the information recorded in the FBI data may capture only the relationship of the killer to one of the victims — but not other victims — in a given situation. Because of the unlimited number of scenarios in which a homicide can occur, the coding used in the FBI database may not explain the full set of circumstances involved.

That said, an interesting data set and interactive but view it as a big picture account of murder in America.
Image: Detail, Murder in America, by the Wall Street Journal.

Murder in America

The Wall Street Journal takes FBI data from 2000 to 2010 to analyze the who, what, where, why, how and when murders take place across America.

All 165,068 in the decade analyzed.

The interactive they’ve created lets users sort and explore “why” a murder occurred (eg., Lover’s Triangle, Gang Killing and a large bucket of “Other”), who was killed and by whom (by race, sex and relationship), what weapon was used (eg., gun, knife, blunt object, etc.), when murders occurred (by year) and where they occurred (by state).

Needless to say, guns top the weapons category. While unlikely, getting pushed or thrown out a window  has occurred 35 times.

Most often the relationship between the victim and killer is unknown (in over 70,000 cases). How or why this doesn’t become known goes unexplained but acquaintances accounted for over 27,000 murders, strangers for over 25,000.

In the good to know but it goes against our folk history category: the least likely to commit murder are stepmothers with 57 killings attributed to them in the decade analyzed.

The WSJ notes in their methodology that the data they’re working with has many holes in it. For example:

The FBI collects this data from the states, except for Florida. Florida doesn’t use the FBI’s guidelines when reporting additional information about homicides. The FBI data don’t capture all homicides. The states’ reporting is voluntary, and the country’s thousands of police agencies aren’t consistent in how they report. Some states, including New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all for some years. In recording the circumstances of a murder, the information recorded in the FBI data may capture only the relationship of the killer to one of the victims — but not other victims — in a given situation. Because of the unlimited number of scenarios in which a homicide can occur, the coding used in the FBI database may not explain the full set of circumstances involved.

That said, an interesting data set and interactive but view it as a big picture account of murder in America.

Image: Detail, Murder in America, by the Wall Street Journal.

Wanted Ads, Then and Now.

via ReadWriteWeb

Last summer social media played a role in helping the FBI track down fugitive gangster Whitey Bulger. now the FBI is looking for help in capturing Kenneth John Konias, Jr., a 22-year-old armored car driver who allegedly killed a co-worker and made off with $2.3 million from Garda Cash Logistics in Pittsburgh’s Strip district on Feb. 28.

post on the bureau’s Facebook page has gotten 425 likes, 430 shares and nearly 100 comments as of this writing, with some people offering advice and tips on how the FBI should investigate the case. What the FBI is hoping for is that information about Konias, including a mug shot and a surveillance photo of his Ford Explorer fleeing the scene, will help a tipster recognize him.

"It’s a way of reaching a wider audience," Special Agent Robert Ambrosini told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Before, a person might have seen the poster by walking into a post office. Now you have access right on your iPhone or Blackberry."

This is devastating to the organization. We’re chopping off the head of LulzSec.

FBI official to Fox News on the arrest of key members of the hacktivist group LulzSec. The Atlantic Wire, FBI Says LulzSec Hacker Kingpin Was an Informant.

Apparently arrested in New York was LulzSec “leader” Hector Xavier Monsegur. Additional arrests occurred in England, Ireland and Chicago.

Page 39, FBI File on Steve Jobs
Via New York Magazine:

The FBI has released its file on Steven Paul Jobs, the late Apple founder, compiled mostly during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. According to the The Vault description, “In 1991, Jobs was considered for an appointed position on the U.S. President’s Export Council. This release consists of the FBI’s 1991 background investigation of Jobs for that position and a 1985 investigation of a bomb threat against him.” The background check includes tidbits like, “Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs’ honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.”

The file can be viewed here.

Page 39, FBI File on Steve Jobs

Via New York Magazine:

The FBI has released its file on Steven Paul Jobs, the late Apple founder, compiled mostly during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. According to the The Vault description, “In 1991, Jobs was considered for an appointed position on the U.S. President’s Export Council. This release consists of the FBI’s 1991 background investigation of Jobs for that position and a 1985 investigation of a bomb threat against him.” The background check includes tidbits like, “Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs’ honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.”

The file can be viewed here.

FBI Rejects FOIA Request over Carrier IQ Documents
The FBI rejected a Freedom of Information Request by MuckRock, a small organization that helps journalists file FOIA requests. MuckRock is seeking “manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ.”
Carrier IQ, of course, is the company who’s software was found to be secretly logging user location and actions on millions of wireless devices. 
Via MuckRock:

What is still unclear is whether the FBI used Carrier IQ’s software in its own investigations, whether it is currently investigating Carrier IQ, or whether it is some combination of both - not unlikely given the recent uproar over the practice coupled with the U.S. intelligence communities reliance on third-party vendors. The response would seem to indicate at least the former, since the request was specifically for documents related directly to accessing and analyzing Carrier IQ data.

FBI Rejects FOIA Request over Carrier IQ Documents

The FBI rejected a Freedom of Information Request by MuckRock, a small organization that helps journalists file FOIA requests. MuckRock is seeking “manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ.”

Carrier IQ, of course, is the company who’s software was found to be secretly logging user location and actions on millions of wireless devices. 

Via MuckRock:

What is still unclear is whether the FBI used Carrier IQ’s software in its own investigations, whether it is currently investigating Carrier IQ, or whether it is some combination of both - not unlikely given the recent uproar over the practice coupled with the U.S. intelligence communities reliance on third-party vendors. The response would seem to indicate at least the former, since the request was specifically for documents related directly to accessing and analyzing Carrier IQ data.

In Open Letter, Anonymous Taunts FBI

In an open letter to the FBI, the hacker groups Anonymous and Lulz Security write:

Hello thar FBI and international law authorities,

We recently stumbled across the following article with amazement and a certain amount of amusement:

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/20/138555799/fbi-arrests-alleged-anonymous-hackers

The statements made by deputy assistant FBI director Steve Chabinsky in this article clearly seem to be directed at Anonymous and Lulz Security, and we are happy to provide you with a response.

You state:

"We want to send a message that chaos on the Internet is unacceptable, [even if] hackers can be believed to have social causes, it’s entirely unacceptable to break into websites and commit unlawful acts."

Now let us be clear here, Mr. Chabinsky, while we understand that you and your colleagues may find breaking into websites unacceptable, let us tell you what WE find unacceptable:

  • Governments lying to their citizens and inducing fear and terror to keep them in control by dismantling their freedom piece by piece.
  • Corporations aiding and conspiring with said governments while taking advantage at the same time by collecting billions of funds for federal contracts we all know they can’t fulfil.
  • Lobby conglomerates who only follow their agenda to push the profits higher, while at the same time being deeply involved in governments around the world with the only goal to infiltrate and corrupt them enough so the status quo will never change.

These governments and corporations are our enemy. And we will continue to fight them, with all methods we have at our disposal, and that certainly includes breaking into their websites and exposing their lies.

We are not scared any more. Your threats to arrest us are meaningless to us as you cannot arrest an idea. Any attempt to do so will make your citizens more angry until they will roar in one gigantic choir. It is our mission to help these people and there is nothing - absolutely nothing - you can possibly to do make us stop.

"The Internet has become so important to so many people that we have to ensure that the World Wide Web does not become the Wild Wild West."

Let me ask you, good sir, when was the Internet not the Wild Wild West? Do you really believe you were in control of it at any point? You were not.

That does not mean that everyone behaves like an outlaw. You see, most people do not behave like bandits if they have no reason to. We become bandits on the Internet because you have forced our hand. The Anonymous bitchslap rings through your ears like hacktivism movements of the 90s. We’re back - and we’re not going anywhere. Expect us.

As Michele Bachman might say, these folk have “choots-pah”.

Anonymous Does Hip Hop

In related news:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has raided the homes of over a dozen alleged “hacktivists” associated with Anonymous in New York, New Jersey, Florida and California this morning, according to Fox News. The main Anonymous Twitter accounts, the group’s primary mode of communication with the world, have been silent but a correlated account @ThaiAnonymous has weighed in on the raids.

"It doesnt matter how many people the ‘FBI’ arrest.. wether they are core members or not.. #anonymous have started something unstoppable."

Anonymous and related hacker group LulzSec have angered governments across the United States and Europe in recent weeks with an “AntiSec” campaign designed to attack government agencies and contractors. It was just a matter of time before the FBI tracked some members down. Yet, who are they and what their involvement is remains uncertain.

Three Quick Links on Phone Hacking

While reports are coming in from all over, here’s what we’re finding interesting this morning.

Guardian: News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks resigns. Brooks was News of the World editor when reporters hacked the phone of a missing girl which lead investigators astray as the reporters deleted messages so they could hear new ones coming in. The girl, it turns out, was murdered. 

BBC: The FBI is opening an investigation into whether News Corp sought to hack phones of 9/11 victims.

WSJ: Rupert Murdoch says News Corp is handling the phone hacking crisis “extremely well in every possible way,” and calls reports that the company might sell off its newspaper assets “pure and total rubbish.”

Via the Guardian:

The underground world of computer hackers has been so thoroughly infiltrated in the US by the FBI and secret service that it is now riddled with paranoia and mistrust, with an estimated one in four hackers secretly informing on their peers, a Guardian investigation has established.
Cyber policing units have had such success in forcing online criminals to co-operate with their investigations through the threat of long prison sentences that they have managed to create an army of informants deep inside the hacking community.

Or is it law enforcement psyops to freak hackers out?

Via the Guardian:

The underground world of computer hackers has been so thoroughly infiltrated in the US by the FBI and secret service that it is now riddled with paranoia and mistrust, with an estimated one in four hackers secretly informing on their peers, a Guardian investigation has established.

Cyber policing units have had such success in forcing online criminals to co-operate with their investigations through the threat of long prison sentences that they have managed to create an army of informants deep inside the hacking community.

Or is it law enforcement psyops to freak hackers out?

Journalist Denies FBI Ties

Yesterday we noted that the Center for Public Integrity uncovered a memo revealing that the FBI used an ABC journalist as a confidant during the 1990s.

Today, the New York Times runs a story where Christopher Isham, the journalist in question and now an executive at CBS, denounced the accusation as ““outrageous and untrue.”

Via the New York Times:

Like every investigative reporter, my job for 25 years has been to check out information and tips from sources,” Mr. Isham said in a statement released through a CBS spokeswoman. “In the heat of the Oklahoma City bombing, it would not be unusual for me or any journalist to run information by a source within the F.B.I. for confirmation or to notify authorities about a pending terrorist attack.”…

…One of Mr. Isham’s former colleagues said Tuesday that there was “tremendous pressure” for F.B.I. agents to recruit informants in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and noted that being considered an F.B.I. source did not necessarily mean a person was a willing informant.

FBI Mole Inside ABC

Via the Center for Public Integrity:

A once-classified FBI memo reveals that the bureau treated a senior ABC News journalist as a potential confidential informant in the 1990s, pumping the reporter to ascertain the source of a sensational but uncorroborated tip that the network had obtained during its early coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing.

The journalist, whose name is not disclosed in the document labeled “secret,” not only cooperated but provided the identity of a confidential source, according to the FBI memo — a possible breach of journalistic ethics if he or she did not have the source’s permission.

Via Gawker

According to an FBI memo obtained by the Center, a nameless ABC News journalist contacted the FBI on the evening of the bombing to pass along information he had heard from a source: That the “bombing was sponsored by the Iraqi Special Services” and that two more attacks in Los Angeles and Houston were imminent.

The Center didn’t name the informant, but we’ve learned he was Christopher Isham, who is now a vice president at CBS News and the network’s Washington bureau chief.

Isham’s tip was of course not true, and ABC News never reported it. But the FBI found him useful enough to open an informant file on him, and circled back a year later to ask who his or her source was. Astonishingly, Isham gave him up.

Update: Christopher Isham denies the allegation.