Posts Tagged ‘NSA’

Surveillance companies like Axon hope to turn every law enforcement officer into a data-gathering drone for a bodycam surveillance database they privately control. Now ShotSpotter, a listening technology that triangulates gunfire in “urban, high-crime areas,” announced a planned IPO.

Above: ShotSpotter mobile app integrated with Google data, showing Oakland California.
They are also expanding from “urban” neighborhoods to a college campus near you. From the submission:
Our solutions consist of our highly-specialized, cloud-based software integrated with our proprietary, internet-enabled sensors and communication networks. When a potential gunfire incident is detected by our sensors, our software analyzes and validates the data and precisely locates where the incident occurred. An alert containing a location on a map and critical information about the incident is transmitted directly to law enforcement or security personnel through any internet-connected computer and to iPhone® or Android mobile devices.

There is still a lot we don’t know regarding the WikiLeaks exposure of CIA cybersecurity documents this week. Many have suggested the documents may not be true or may have been tampered with before posting. And of course, everyone is wondering what the ramifications of such a revelation will be in terms of the CIA’s ability conduct its spycraft in the future. Some of the spying methods described in the documents may seem impossible, but I can attest that at least on that point, many of the tools described by the 8,000 documents do in fact exist.

According to what has been released so far, the CIA, through its Remote Devices Branch called UMBRAGE, maintains a library of hacking tools it has “stolen” from other groups. It goes on to explain the CIA can use the tools to compromise iOS and Android phones, and smart TVs, turning them into listening devices. It’s interesting to note the documents claim the CIA acquires these tools from others, instead of making them in-house.

That said, in my work as a reviewer of high-end security products, I have run across many of the hacking tools described in the leaked documents. In a few cases, companies have even provided them to me so I could challenge their defenses. I keep them in an air-gapped computer network along with my virus zoo, pulling them out whenever needed for a controlled test.

Full disclosure: I have no idea if I have the same tools the CIA is allegedly using, only that they seem to do many of the same things described by the WikiLeaks documents.

Hacking smart TVs seems to be getting the most attention, though it should come as the least surprising aspect of this. Smart TVs are basically all-in-one computers, only without any of the protections found on actual dedicated computers. That is why so many smart TVs ended up being part of the Mirai botnet.

In some cases, smart TVs seem to have been designed for spying. Vizio, which is one of the most popular manufacturers, recently agreed to pay $2.2 million in fines for secretly recording what people were watching and selling that data to advertisers.

The Vizio hacking tool, which was installed on new systems and allegedly also retrofitted to older TVs connected to the internet, was fairly ingenious. It would take snapshots of several pixels on the screen and then compare that to a database of what was playing. So, blue and blue and red might mean the user was watching the “Fresh off the Boat” sitcom, while black and white and green might line up with a feature movie. It required very little data to be sent from the TV back to the company, with all the high-end big data processing occurring after the data was captured.

Back to the alleged CIA tools. The CIA is supposed to be able to turn certain smart TVs into listening devices, while making it appear like the unit is turned off. I have recently tested a tool like that with a Samsung smart TV. I am not sure if it works with other types of TVs, but the tool I have uses a variant of the Samsung Screen Mirroring, modified to both record sound and keep its presence hidden from users.

As most TVs have no security, paring the hacking tool—which I was running off a Samsung tablet—with a TV is extremely easy. Simply select the TV in range you want to target. From there, I could share my screen with the TV, but the tool reverses this so users can instead see what is on the TV.

But then it gets interesting. By entering silent operation mode, the TV screen goes dark, as if whatever input is selected has no data. It also activates the internal microphone if the TV is equipped for videoconferencing, or uses the device’s speaker system if it’s not—though the sound quality is not nearly as good in the latter case.

From another room, I could clearly hear everything going on in the one with the TV. I even deployed this against a conference room setting, and the people talking in that room had no idea someone was listening in from a nearby office.

Read the rest here

REUTERS

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand. Yahoo declined any further comment.

Through a Facebook spokesman, Stamos declined a request for an interview.

The NSA referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declined to comment.

The request to search Yahoo Mail accounts came in the form of a classified edict sent to the company’s legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. phone and Internet companies are known to have handed over bulk customer data to intelligence agencies. But some former government officials and private surveillance experts said they had not previously seen either such a broad demand for real-time Web collection or one that required the creation of a new computer program.

“I’ve never seen that, a wiretap in real time on a ‘selector,'” said Albert Gidari, a lawyer who represented phone and Internet companies on surveillance issues for 20 years before moving to Stanford University this year. A selector refers to a type of search term used to zero in on specific information.

“It would be really difficult for a provider to do that,” he added.

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target. The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, separately said on Tuesday that they had not conducted such email searches.

“We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way’,” a spokesman for Google said in a statement.

A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement, “We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.” The company declined to comment on whether it had received such a request.

CHALLENGING THE NSA

Under laws including the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, intelligence agencies can ask U.S. phone and Internet companies to provide customer data to aid foreign intelligence-gathering efforts for a variety of reasons, including prevention of terrorist attacks.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others have exposed the extent of electronic surveillance and led U.S. authorities to modestly scale back some of the programs, in part to protect privacy rights.

Companies including Yahoo have challenged some classified surveillance before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal.

Some FISA experts said Yahoo could have tried to fight last year’s demand on at least two grounds: the breadth of the directive and the necessity of writing a special program to search all customers’ emails in transit.

Apple Inc made a similar argument earlier this year when it refused to create a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone used in the 2015 San Bernardino massacre. The FBI dropped the case after it unlocked the phone with the help of a third party, so no precedent was set.

“It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court,” Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Some FISA experts defended Yahoo’s decision to comply, saying nothing prohibited the surveillance court from ordering a search for a specific term instead of a specific account. So-called “upstream” bulk collection from phone carriers based on content was found to be legal, they said, and the same logic could apply to Web companies’ mail.

As tech companies become better at encrypting data, they are likely to face more such requests from spy agencies.

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said email providers “have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”

SECRET SIPHONING PROGRAM

Mayer and other executives ultimately decided to comply with the directive last year rather than fight it, in part because they thought they would lose, said the people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo in 2007 had fought a FISA demand that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a court-approved warrant. Details of the case remain sealed, but a partially redacted published opinion showed Yahoo’s challenge was unsuccessful.

Some Yahoo employees were upset about the decision not to contest the more recent edict and thought the company could have prevailed, the sources said.

They were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.

Stamos’s announcement in June 2015 that he had joined Facebook did not mention any problems with Yahoo. (bit.ly/2dL003k)

In a separate incident, Yahoo last month said “state-sponsored” hackers had gained access to 500 million customer accounts in 2014. The revelations have brought new scrutiny to Yahoo’s security practices as the company tries to complete a deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc for $4.8 billion.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Tiffany Wu)

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Via John Whitehead @ The Rutherford Institute

We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”—President Harry S. Truman

Don’t Be a Puppet” is the message the FBI is sending young Americans.
As part of the government’s so-called ongoing war on terror, the nation’s de facto secret police force is now recruiting students and teachers to spy on each other and report anyone who appears to have the potential to be “anti-government” or “extremist.”
Using the terms “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably, the government continues to add to its growing list of characteristics that could distinguish an individual as a potential domestic terrorist.
For instance, you might be a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the FBI (and its network of snitches) if you:

  • express libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
  • exhibit Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership)
  • read survivalist literature, including apocalyptic fictional books
  • show signs of self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
  • fear an economic collapse
  • buy gold and barter items
  • subscribe to religious views concerning the book of Revelation
  • voice fears about Big Brother or big government
  • expound about constitutional rights and civil liberties
  • believe in a New World Order conspiracy

Despite its well-publicized efforts to train students, teachers, police officers, hairdressers, store clerks, etc., into government eyes and ears, the FBI isn’t relying on a nation of snitches to carry out its domestic spying.
There’s no need.
The nation’s largest law enforcement agency rivals the NSA in resources, technology, intelligence, and power. Yet while the NSA has repeatedly come under fire for its domestic spying programs, the FBI has continued to operate its subversive and clearly unconstitutional programs with little significant oversight or push-back from the public, Congress or the courts. Just recently, for example, a secret court gave the agency the green light to quietly change its privacy rules for accessing NSA data on Americans’ international communications.
Indeed, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the FBI has become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be easily corrupted and abused.
When and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America.
Owing largely to the influence and power of the FBI, the United States—once a nation that abided by the rule of law and held the government accountable for its actions—has steadily devolved into a police state where justice is one-sided, a corporate elite runs the show, representative government is a mockery, police are extensions of the military, surveillance is rampant, privacy is extinct, and the law is little more than a tool for the government to browbeat the people into compliance.
The FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property.
And that’s just based on what we know.
Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government; recruiting high school students to spy on and report fellow students who show signs of being future terrorists; or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.
The FBI was established in 1908 as a small task force assigned to deal with specific domestic crimes. Initially quite limited in its abilities to investigate so-called domestic crimes, the FBI has been transformed into a mammoth federal policing and surveillance agency. Unfortunately, whatever minimal restrictions kept the FBI’s surveillance activities within the bounds of the law all but disappeared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The USA Patriot Act gave the FBI and other intelligence agencies carte blanche authority in investigating Americans suspected of being anti-government.
As the FBI’s powers have grown, its abuses have mounted.
The FBI continues to monitor Americans engaged in lawful First Amendment activities.
COINTELPRO, the FBI program created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government considers politically objectionable, was aimed not so much at the criminal element but at those who challenged the status quo—namely, those expressing anti-government sentiments such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. It continues to this day, albeit in other guises.
The FBI has become a master in the art of entrapment.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the FBI has not only targeted vulnerable individuals but has also lured them into fake terror plots while actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.”
FBI agents are among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers.
In addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts. USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.
The FBI’s powers, expanded after 9/11, have given its agents carte blanche access to Americans’ most personal information.
The agency’s National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose the demands. An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread violations.
The FBI’s spying capabilities are on a par with the NSA.
The FBI’s surveillance technology boasts an invasive collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls.  In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.”
The FBI’s hacking powers have gotten downright devious.
FBI agents not only have the ability to hack into any computer, anywhere in the world, but they can also control that computer and all its stored information, download its digital contents, switch its camera or microphone on or off and even control other computers in its network. Given the breadth of the agency’s powers, the showdown between Apple and the FBI over customer privacy appears to be more spectacle than substance.
James Comey, current director of the FBI, knows enough to say all the right things about the need to abide by the Constitution, all the while his agency routinely discards it. Comey argues that the government’s powers shouldn’t be limited, especially when it comes to carrying out surveillance on American citizens. Comey continues to lobby Congress and the White House to force technology companies such as Apple and Google to keep providing the government with backdoor access to Americans’ cell phones.
The FBI’s reach is more invasive than ever.
This is largely due to the agency’s nearly unlimited resources (its minimum budget alone in fiscal year 2015 was $8.3 billion), the government’s vast arsenal of technology, the interconnectedness of government intelligence agencies, and information sharing through fusion centers—data collecting intelligence agencies spread throughout the country that constantly monitor communications (including those of American citizens), everything from internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails.
Today, the FBI employs more than 35,000 individuals and operates more than 56 field offices in major cities across the U.S., as well as 400 resident agencies in smaller towns, and more than 50 international offices. In addition to their “data campus,” which houses more than 96 million sets of fingerprints from across the United States and elsewhere, the FBI is also, according to The Washington Post, “building a vast repository controlled by people who work in a top-secret vault on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington. This one stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.”
If there’s one word to describe the FBI’s covert tactics, it’s creepy.
The agency’s biometric database has grown to massive proportions, the largest in the world, encompassing everything from fingerprints, palm, face and iris scans to DNA, and is being increasingly shared between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to target potential criminals long before they ever commit a crime.
This is what’s known as pre-crime.
If it were just about fighting the “bad guys,” that would be one thing. But as countless documents make clear, the FBI has no qualms about using its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities and high-ranking government officials, and intimidate dissidents of all stripes.
It’s an old tactic, used effectively by former authoritarian regimes.
In fact, as historian Robert Gellately documents, the Nazi police state was repeatedly touted as a model for other nations to follow, so much so that Hoover actually sent one of his right-hand men, Edmund Patrick Coffey, to Berlin in January 1938 at the invitation of Germany’s secret police. As Gellately noted, “[A]fter five years of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Nazi police had won the FBI’s seal of approval.”
Indeed, so impressed was the FBI with the Nazi order that, as the New York Times revealed, in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen, brought them to America, hired them on as spies and informants, and then carried out a massive cover-up campaign to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. Moreover, anyone who dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.
So not only have American taxpayers been paying to keep ex-Nazis on the government payroll for decades but we’ve been subjected to the very same tactics used by the Third Reich: surveillance, militarized police, overcriminalization, and a government mindset that views itself as operating outside the bounds of the law.
This is how freedom falls, and tyrants come to power.
The similarities between the American police state and past totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany grow more pronounced with each passing day.
Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Intimidation. Harassment. Torture. Brutality. Widespread corruption. Entrapment. Indoctrination. These are the hallmarks of every authoritarian regime from the Roman Empire to modern-day America.
Yet it’s the secret police—tasked with silencing dissidents, ensuring compliance, and maintaining a climate of fear—who sound the death knell for freedom in every age.

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Cyber security expert and Libertarian presidential candidate John McAfee is alarmed at the potential implications from Apple being forced to create a virtual backdoor to their encrypted system. In an enlightening op-ed, McAfee blasts the FBI for its ineptitude, while exposing the archaic hiring practices of the Feds that create a technology gap between FBI and private sector capabilities. McAfee makes clear that if the government gains access, privacy, as we know it, will fail to exist.+

“No matter how you slice this pie, if the government succeeds in getting this back door, it will eventually get a back door into all encryption, and our world, as we know it, is over,” McAfee writes.

The tech guru offers his teams hacking services to the FBI free of charge, as a means of allowing the phone in question to be accessed – without allowing the government to have a backdoor into all iPhones. McAfee would provide the FBI with the information they claim to seek, while at the same time allowing for secure encryption to continue to exist – of course there is a distinct possibility that the actual intention of forcing Apple to create a backdoor isn’t to access this particular phone, but as a means of breaking encryption on a global basis.

Read McAfee’s op-ed to the FBI below:

Using an obscure law, written in 1789 — the All Writs Act — the US government has ordered Apple to place a back door into its iOS software so the FBI can decrypt information on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

It has finally come to this. After years of arguments by virtually every industry specialist that back doors will be a bigger boon to hackers and to our nation’s enemies than publishing our nuclear codes and giving the keys to all of our military weapons to the Russians and the Chinese, our government has chosen, once again, not to listen to the minds that have created the glue that holds this world together.

This is a black day and the beginning of the end of the US as a world power. The government has ordered a disarmament of our already ancient cybersecurity and cyberdefense systems, and it is asking us to take a walk into that near horizon where cyberwar is unquestionably waiting, with nothing more than harsh words as a weapon and the hope that our enemies will take pity at our unarmed condition and treat us fairly.

Any student of world history will tell you that this is a dream. Would Hitler have stopped invading Poland if the Polish people had sweetly asked him not to do so? Those who think yes should stand strongly by Hillary Clinton’s side, whose cybersecurity platform includes negotiating with the Chinese so they will no longer launch cyberattacks against us.

The FBI, in a laughable and bizarre twist of logic, said the back door would be used only once and only in the San Bernardino case.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, replied:

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

No matter how you slice this pie, if the government succeeds in getting this back door, it will eventually get a back door into all encryption, and our world, as we know it, is over. In spite of the FBI’s claim that it would protect the back door, we all know that’s impossible. There are bad apples everywhere, and there only needs to be in the US government. Then a few million dollars, some beautiful women (or men), and a yacht trip to the Caribbean might be all it takes for our enemies to have full access to our secrets.

Cook said:

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The fundamental question is this: Why can’t the FBI crack the encryption on its own? It has the full resources of the best the US government can provide.

With all due respect to Tim Cook and Apple, I work with a team of the best hackers on the planet. These hackers attend Defcon in Las Vegas, and they are legends in their local hacking groups, such as HackMiami. They are all prodigies, with talents that defy normal human comprehension. About 75% are social engineers. The remainder are hardcore coders. I would eat my shoe on the Neil Cavuto show if we could not break the encryption on the San Bernardino phone. This is a pure and simple fact.

And why do the best hackers on the planet not work for the FBI? Because the FBI will not hire anyone with a 24-inch purple mohawk, 10-gauge ear piercings, and a tattooed face who demands to smoke weed while working and won’t work for less than a half-million dollars a year. But you bet your ass that the Chinese and Russians are hiring similar people with similar demands and have been for many years. It’s why we are decades behind in the cyber race.

Cyberscience is not just something you can learn. It is an innate talent. The Juilliard school of music cannot create a Mozart. A Mozart or a Bach, much like our modern hacking community, is genetically created. A room full of Stanford computer science graduates cannot compete with a true hacker without even a high-school education.

So here is my offer to the FBI. I will, free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone, with my team. We will primarily use social engineering, and it will take us three weeks. If you accept my offer, then you will not need to ask Apple to place a back door in its product, which will be the beginning of the end of America.

If you doubt my credentials, Google “cybersecurity legend” and see whose name is the only name that appears in the first 10 results out of more than a quarter of a million.

Make no mistake that this is one of the most epic battles in the history of privacy, as the decisions that are reached in this case will reverberate throughout the world and have far reaching consequences. There is a fundamental battle taking place as to whether an individual has a right to privacy or, if as the U.S. government is asserting; privacy is a privilege bestowed upon individuals at the behest of the government.+

Ironically, privacy is considered a fundamental human right as recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in many other international and regional treaties. Privacy is the lynchpin of human dignity and many other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech have their roots in privacy.

When the U.S. government works to undermine what is considered a fundamental human right by most of the world, perhaps it’s time to seriously question why those elected to represent the people are actively working to undermine the rights of those that put them in office.


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Conflict of Interest? The US Navy Has a Base in a Brutal Dictatorship with Ties to ISIS

Why Does the US Navy Have a Base in a Repressive Dictatorship Whose Govt Officials are ISIS Members?

Much has been said about the most notorious dictatorship in the Middle East and close ally of the United States. Saudi Arabia, the number 1 beheader, carries out tasks such as bombing Yemen targets, including hospitals, and helping to stamp out rebellions for neighboring US-allied dictators. In exchange for this thuggery (and the flow of oil), the Saudis receive access to some of the best weapons in the world and guarantees of the monarchy’s continued existence in the face of massive discontent.

This resentment against Western puppets that rule Gulf nations is a contributing factor in the support for terrorism. Saudi Arabia is turning out to be a hotbed of support for ISIS, which also has to do with the fact that the state-sanctioned religious clergy teaches a radical form of Islam known as Wahhabism.

The U.S. government ignores these things, along with atrocious human rights records, when it has a vested interest in the country. Indeed, the U.S. has a particular liking for brutal monarchies with rich oil reserves.

The small country of Bahrain plays an incredibly large role in American military hegemony, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Central Command.

Prison Officials Spying on Inmates to Find Net Worth, Suing Anyone Worth Over $10K for Stay in Jail

 

With the ability to read their mail and record their phone conversations, state prisons have increasingly been filing lawsuits against inmates with over $10,000 in assets. In cases of blatant retaliation, prison officials have also been targeting inmates who won civil suits against the departments for prison beatings and denying medication.

In 1846, Michigan introduced the first correctional fee law authorizing counties to charge prisoners for the cost of medical care. According to a report released earlier this year from the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 35 states are currently authorized to charge inmates for medical treatment. And at least 43 states allow officials to charge prisoners for the cost of their own imprisonment.

While incarcerated on a drug conviction, Johnny Melton received a $31,690 settlement over the wrongful death of his mother. After learning of the settlement, the Illinois Department of Corrections sued Melton and won nearly $20,000 to cover the cost of his “care, custody, treatment or rehabilitation” during his 14 months served at the state’s Logan Correctional Center.

Paroled earlier this year, Melton entered a homeless shelter and went on food stamps before a cousin offered to help him. According to his family, Melton was destitute when he died in June.

“He didn’t have a dime,” one of Melton’s sisters, Denise Melton, told the Chicago Tribune. “We had to scuffle up money to cremate him.”
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/state-prisons-sue-inmates-cost-incarcerating/#WhHuRZg3iQ9AXidB.99

Isolated Incident? Nine Officers Arrested After They Were Caught Running a Massive Drug Ring

A massive drug ring was recently raided in Florida, in which law enforcement officers were caught smuggling large amounts of opiate medication and meth.

Bradford County, FL – 50 people were arrested this week, in connection with a drug smuggling operation, where prescription opiates were transported into a Florida state prison, with the help of prison employees. In total, nine corrections officers were arrested in the operation, which lasted over 11 months and included multiple other arrests along the way.

The investigation was called “Operation Checkered Flag,” and it began late last year when local police were tipped off about drugs flowing into Bradford County prisons. Back in June, two conspirators that were thought to be at the head of the drug ring were arrested, both of them were corrections officers. Officer Dylan Oral Hilliard of Lawtey and Maj. Charles Gregory “Chicken Hawk” Combs were each arrested in June, but the smuggling operations still continued.

Deeper into the investigation, police discovered that it was a much larger scheme taking place, involving multiple other corrections officers.
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/9-corrections-officers-arrested-smuggling-prescription-opiates-prison/#Cf2KyDKVSHIv0IFf.99

You just know in your bones that the NSA spied on you and shared that data with Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, right? So how can you confirm this? Through a new online tool offered by the British civil liberties group Privacy International.

Thanks to a legal victory Privacy International obtained earlier this year, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal is now required to search through data the GCHQ obtained from the NSA for information collected on anyone in the world if that person so requests it. If you request the info and the Tribunal finds something, it must let you know. The catch is you have to make the request before December 5, 2015. Privacy International has made this easy with its “Did GCHQ Illegally Spy on You?” online tool.

Earlier this year the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the UK ruled that British intelligence services acted unlawfully when they accessed the private communications of millions of people that had been collected by the NSA under its mass-surveillance programs known as PRISM and Upstream and shared with the British spy agency. The PRISM program, which began in 2007, allowed the NSA to collect data in bulk from U.S. companies like Yahoo and Google. The Upstream program involved the collection of data from taps placed on hundreds of undersea cables outside the U.S.

The Tribunal will only search for records shared between the NSA and GCHQ prior to December 2014. And, unfortunately, it won’t reveal if the GCHQ obtained data about you on its own and/or shared it with the NSA, or if the NSA spied on you and didn’t share that data with GCHQ. The amount of data the Tribunal will search may also be limited.

“Once a claim is filed, the IPT will usually only search GCHQ’s records for unlawful activity during the year before the claim was submitted,” Privacy International notes. “What this means is that a claim submitted on 14 September 2015 would lead to records being searched for the time period between 14 September 2014 and 5 December 2014.”

There’s one other caveat about the request. The Tribunal can only search its data for information about you if you submit details such as your name, email address and phone number. Of course in submitting your email address and phone number, you’re potentially providing the British government with information it doesn’t already have about you. But, as Privacy International points out in its FAQ about the tool, there’s no way around this.

The good news is that if the tribunal does find information collected about you, GCHQ must delete that data once the investigation into your records is done, along with the request form you submitted.

Source

h/t Kerodin

Privacy Apocalypse: 5 Devices You Can’t Hide From

Devices you can't hide from

I’m going to alert you to what many are considering to be on of the worst doomsday scenarios for free American patriots. One that apparently not many are prepping for, or even seem to care about.

By now everybody knows that the government ‘alphabet agencies’ including mainly the NSA have been methodically collecting data on us. Everything we do, say, buy and search on the internet will be on permanent data base file by next year. All phone calls now are computer monitored, automatically recorded and stored with certain flag/trigger words (in all languages).

As technology improves, every single phone call will be entirely recorded at meta-data bases in government computer cloud storage, when ‘They’ finish the huge NSA super spy center in Utah. Which means they will be available anytime authorities want to look them up and personally listen for any information reference to any future investigation. Super computer algorithms will pin point search extrapolations of ANY relationship to the target point.

You can rest uneasily, but assured, that in the very near future when a cop stops you and scans your driver license into his computer, he will know anything even remotely ’suspicious’ or ’questionable’ about ALL the recent activities and behavior in your life he chooses to focus upon!

This is the ‘privacy apocalypse’ coming upon us. And you need to know these five devices that you can run to protect your privacy, but you can’t hide from.

When Security Overlaps Freedom

The NSA does more spying on ‘We the People’ than it does on the enemies of the country! Even simple text messages over a certain number of characters will join the wealth of stolen private communications flagged by certain trigger words, in the happy hunting grounds of mega-data heaven.

The two biggest fallacy arguments are that ‘those with nothing to ‘hide’ have nothing to fear’, or ‘this is the price we pay for living in a fast paced convenient modern computerized world if we want to improve our security and safety’.

Why does all these lame excuses remind me of something the old sage Ben Franklin used to say to slap that kind of thinking? “Those who are willing to give up any freedoms for a little more security deserve neither.’

The factual true reality is that these egregious violations of our privacy rights are premised on the never ending lies of the government. Maybe ‘They’ still get away with it because for some reason people are so dumbed down or not paying attention, or simply don’t know or see the bigger picture.

So assuming that most of us really don’t want the government or police to know our most private business just because it’s so easy for them to do so even though we are not doing anything wrong, we’ll provide a little edification herein about the cold hard realities.

Read the whole thing @ http://www.survivopedia.com/devices-that-you-cant-hide-from/#

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool in criminal, terrorism or intelligence probes. But the program raises questions about whether there should be updated policies protecting civil liberties as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.

U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services. Even basic aspects of the program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general.

“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. “Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes.” Allen added that the FBI’s planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.”

But the planes can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over for prosecutions.

Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is rare.

Details confirmed by the FBI track closely with published reports since at least 2003 that a government surveillance program might be behind suspicious-looking planes slowly circling neighborhoods. The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights since late April orbiting both major cities and rural areas.

One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side. A federal budget document from 2010 mentioned at least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, in the FBI’s surveillance fleet.

The FBI also occasionally helps local police with aerial support, such as during the recent disturbance in Baltimore that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who sustained grievous injuries while in police custody. Those types of requests are reviewed by senior FBI officials.

The surveillance flights comply with agency rules, an FBI spokesman said. Those rules, which are heavily redacted in publicly available documents, limit the types of equipment the agency can use, as well as the justifications and duration of the surveillance.

Details about the flights come as the Justice Department seeks to navigate privacy concerns arising from aerial surveillance by unmanned aircrafts, or drones. President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance, and has called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified programs.

“These are not your grandparents’ surveillance aircraft,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, calling the flights significant “if the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft.”

During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI’s fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia, most with Cessna 182T Skylane aircraft. These included parts of Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and Southern California.

Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a “cell-site simulator” — or Stingray, to use one of the product’s brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

Officials say cellphone surveillance is rare, although the AP found in recent weeks FBI flights orbiting large, enclosed buildings for extended periods where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection. Those included above Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

After The Washington Post revealed flights by two planes circling over Baltimore in early May, the AP began analyzing detailed flight data and aircraft-ownership registrations that shared similar addresses and flight patterns. That review found some FBI missions circled above at least 40,000 residents during a single flight over Anaheim, California, in late May, according to Census data and records provided by the website FlightRadar24.com.

Most flight patterns occurred in counter-clockwise orbits up to several miles wide and roughly one mile above the ground at slow speeds. A 2003 newsletter from the company FLIR Systems Inc., which makes camera technology such as seen on the planes, described flying slowly in left-handed patterns.

“Aircraft surveillance has become an indispensable intelligence collection and investigative technique which serves as a force multiplier to the ground teams,” the FBI said in 2009 when it asked Congress for $5.1 million for the program.

Recently, independent journalists and websites have cited companies traced to post office boxes in Virginia, including one shared with the Justice Department. The AP analyzed similar data since early May, while also drawing upon aircraft registration documents, business records and interviews with U.S. officials to understand the scope of the operations.

The FBI asked the AP not to disclose the names of the fake companies it uncovered, saying that would saddle taxpayers with the expense of creating new cover companies to shield the government’s involvement, and could endanger the planes and integrity of the surveillance missions. The AP declined the FBI’s request because the companies’ names — as well as common addresses linked to the Justice Department — are listed on public documents and in government databases.

At least 13 front companies that AP identified being actively used by the FBI are registered to post office boxes in Bristow, Virginia, which is near a regional airport used for private and charter flights. Only one of them appears in state business records.

Included on most aircraft registrations is a mysterious name, Robert Lindley. He is listed as chief executive and has at least three distinct signatures among the companies. Two documents include a signature for Robert Taylor, which is strikingly similar to one of Lindley’s three handwriting patterns.

The FBI would not say whether Lindley is a U.S. government employee. The AP unsuccessfully tried to reach Lindley at phone numbers registered to people of the same name in the Washington area since Monday.

Law enforcement officials said Justice Department lawyers approved the decision to create fictitious companies to protect the flights’ operational security and that the Federal Aviation Administration was aware of the practice. One of the Lindley-headed companies shares a post office box openly used by the Justice Department.

Such elusive practices have endured for decades. A 1990 report by the then-General Accounting Office noted that, in July 1988, the FBI had moved its “headquarters-operated” aircraft into a company thathttps://wordpress.com/post/71052805/new/ wasn’t publicly linked to the bureau.

The FBI does not generally obtain warrants to record video from its planes of people moving outside in the open, but it also said that under a new policy it has recently begun obtaining court orders to use cell-site simulators. The Obama administration had until recently been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology’s use in open court.

A Justice Department memo last month also expressly barred its component law enforcement agencies from using unmanned drones “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment” and said they are to be used only in connection with authorized investigations and activities. A department spokeswoman said the policy applied only to unmanned aircraft systems rather than piloted airplanes.

According to a Federal Business Opportunities report posted today, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to solicit proposals for a “license place commercial data reader service” later this month.

An official DHS statement says that the Department is not attempting to set up its own database, but to instead query existing data held in commercially available license plate reader databases.

That statement continues, saying:  https://readfomag.com/2015/04/runaround-dhs-to-purchases-access-to-license-plate-databases/