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Archive for June 8th, 2015

Star-Tribune: FBI’s Use of Small Planes for Surveillance Crosses Line

By Editorial Board
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Last week, reports surfaced that the FBI had flown small single-engine planes over 30 cities across the U.S. The planes, outfitted with video and cellphone surveillance equipment, were registered to fictitious companies in order to shield the government’s role during this domestic surveillance operation.

Cellphone surveillance equipment, commonly known as Stingrays, mimics existing cellphone towers, forcing cellphones to connect to them. If Stingrays were deployed, any phone calls, text messages or data transmitted while the FBI was circling overhead were intercepted before being relayed to their final destination. The indiscriminate nature of Stingray technology ensures that cellphone data will be collected from innocent American citizens.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has expressed his concern to the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence, asking under what legal authority the FBI was operating and what equipment was on board those planes. The American people will likely never learn the answers to these questions, though the senator may be treated to a classified briefing. While this may answer his questions, Franken would be unable to disclose any information to the public.

Of course, this is not the first time the FBI has leveraged secrecy to overstep its legal authority. COINTELPRO was an FBI program that illegally monitored the activities of many Americans for 15 years. This program was used to “expose, disrupt, misdirect or otherwise neutralize” groups or individuals that the FBI deemed subversive, such as antiwar activists and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Given the lack of legislative or judicial oversight, former presidents also used this program to spy on political opponents.

The existence of COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971, when activists burglarized an FBI field office and published documents related to the program. The FBI’s response was to declare the program terminated and close many of its field offices. Closing offices and making bold statements does not change the secretive nature of the FBI, and many similar tactics became integrated into other operations.

Thirty years later, after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, the FBI dramatically increased the use of national security letters, or NSLs. These are essentially search warrants compelling the recipient to disclose information, such as customer records from companies like banks and Internet service providers. But unlike a search warrant, an NSL is not signed by a judge and it comes with a gag order preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing its existence. Over 300,000 NSLs have been issued since 2000.

To read more click here. 

Bill Would Give FBI More Resources to Fight Online Harassment

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill that would give the FBI more  resources to tackle cybercrime, especially online harassment, the Washington Post reports.

The bill by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., would give the FBI 10 new agents whose sole jobs would be tackling threats made online. They would investigate stalkers and people who threaten violence.

Clark said online threats are increasing to alarming rates.

“While these threats may occur on the Internet, their impacts are far from virtual,” Clark told The Post. “They affect the bottom line for victims, who pay a real cost not just emotionally but also financially —  in fees to attorneys and private investigators, or to services to scrub personally identifying information from the Web. I don’t think that women, who are the primary targets of this kind of abuse, should have to do this alone.”

Border Patrol Helicopter Comes Under Fire; FBI Investigates

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is trying to determine who fired shots at a Border Patrol helicopter on Friday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing near the Mexican border.

The helicopter was carrying at least one Border Patrol agent during an operational mission along the Rio Grande near Laredo, Texas, when it came under fire, Reuters reports.

“The rounds penetrated and damaged the aircraft, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing,” Special Agent Michelle Lee told Reuters.

No one was injured, she said.

It wasn’t clear this weekend whether the shots came from the American or Mexican side of the border, which the FBI is investigating.

The Texas Rangers also are helping investigate.

Homeland Security Chairman: Espionage Motivates China to Hack U.S.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Evidence n0t only points to China as the culprit behind “the most significant breach in U.S. History,” but the hackers may have been sponsored by the Chinese government, The Hill reports. 

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said all indications are that hackers were motivated espionage because of the target, the Office of Personnel Management.

It’s not only looking very likely that someone located in China hacked the U.S.

“It was perhaps nation-state sponsored because of the way it was done,” he said. “It was done for espionage.”

“This is an area where there are no rules to the game,” McCaul added. “It raises all sorts of issues for Americans.”

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