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May 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

DEA More Than Triples Use of Wiretaps, Other Surveillance Over Past Decade

By Steve Neavling

The DEA’s use of wiretaps and other electronic surveillance more than tripled in the past decade, often bypassing courts and federal prosecutors, according to newly obtained records, the USA Today reports.

The DEA used electronic surveillance 11,681 times in the last fiscal year, compared to just 3,394 a decade ago.

The increase comes as the DEA has begun taking more of its cases to local prosecutors and judges, as opposed to federal ones, because they are finding an easier time getting approval.

State and federal laws are vastly different when it comes to wiretaps. On the federal level, a senior Justice Department official must approve. But state courts don’t have the same rules.

“That law exists to make sure that wiretap authority is not abused, that it’s only used when totally appropriate,” said Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s a burden. And if there’s a way to get around that burden, the agents are going to try to get around it.”

Other Stories of Interest

FBI Agent and Boston Cop Fatally Shoot Man Under Active Terrorism Probe

By Owen Boss
Boston Herald

An armed man in his 20s being surveilled by the FBI counterterrorism unit was shot and killed by an FBI agent and a Boston police officer in Roslindale this morning, according to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.

“He was on foot, under surveillance,” Evans said. “The officers have been surveilling him and again they wanted to speak to him … and he turned and our officers gave several commands for him to drop the weapon and unfortunately he came at the officers and they did what they were trained to do and that’s never an easy decision for any officer to make.”

One FBI agent and one BPD officer fired, FBI Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi said.

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7News Boston WHDH-TV

FBI Flying Low-Hanging Surveillance Planes Using Fictitious Names

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has been operating a fleet of small planes equipped with video and occasionally cell phone surveillance technology, concealing the information from the public by registering the aircraft under fictitious company names, the Associated Press has found. 

What’s more, the surveillance is often used without a judge’s approval.

The AP found that the bureau flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states in a recent 30-day period.

The AP traced the aircraft, which the FBI acknowledged for the first time it was using, to at least 13 fake companies.

The technology allows the FBI to identify thousands of people on the ground through their cell phones.

The FBI says it’s doing nothing wrong.

“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” FBI 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.”


Congressmen: FBI Plan Would Make American Phones Vulnerable to Hackers

By Steve Neavling

Two Congressmen with computer science degrees said the FBI is making Americans vulnerable to hackers, and any suggestion otherwise is ignorant, CNN reports.

U.S. Reps. Will Hurd of Texas and Ted Lieu of California are criticizing FBI Director James Comey’s insistence that cell phone companies allow a “backdoor” for the bureau to see what’s on the phones of Americans during investigations.

The elected officials said such a move would allow hackers the same access as the FBI and that terrorists are using software tools to conceal their communication anyway.

“We strongly, but respectfully, disagree with the FBI’s proposal to force privacy sector companies to weaken the security of their products and services,” Hurd and Lieu wrote. “As computer science majors… we strongly urge the FBI to find alternative ways of addressing the challenges posed by new technologies.”

The FBI declined to comment.

Teen Impersonates FBI Agent to Take New Dodge Charger from Dealership, Crashes

By Steve Neavling

A teenager from Michigan crashed a new Dodge Charger after he convinced a car dealer that he was an FBI agent and wanted to test drive the car, the Associated Press reports.

The Ann Arbor 17-year-old, who was carrying what appeared to be a firearm on his hip, told the dealership in Ypsilanti Township that he was testing the car for the bureau.

The teen drove the car all the way to Toledo, Ohio, before heavily damage it in a crash.

When police in Ohio questioned him, he repeated his story that he was an FBI agent, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

The teen is expected to be charged soon in both Ohio and Michigan.

Border Patrol Agent Rescued Following ATV Crash in Texas

By Steve Neavling

A Border Patrol agent is recovering from traumatic injuries after his ATV plunged over a ledge near the Rio Grande in Sanderson, Texas.

Agents from the Office of Air and Marine boarded a helicopter and rescued the agent soon after the crash.

“The safety of our officers and agents is critical. These men and women put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. We are glad to say that our air crew was able to successfully extract this individual from an extremely remote location to safety,” Supervisory Air Interdiction Agent Clay Tippit said in a press release.

The agent was treated and stabilized and then sent to a hospital via helicopter.

“We work closely with other agencies in the area especially Border Patrol. When an agent, or any individual, is injured we do everything we can to ensure an outcome such as this. Everyone worked together and got this injured agent the care that he needed. Because of that, I can gladly say that the agent has been released from the hospital and is doing well,” said Tippit.



TSA Director Carraway Removed from Helm After Serious Security Flaws

Melvin Carraway

By Steve Neavling

In an effort to improve security at U.S. airports, Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson has reassigned the acting TSA head.

Al Jazeera English reports that the move comes after the embarrassing discovery that checkpoint scanners miserably failed to detect mock explosives and weapons in 95% of the cases.

Johnson said Melvin Carraway will be reassigned to the Office of Local Law Enforcement at Homeland Security headquarters, while TSA acting Director Mark Hatfield takes the helm.

“The numbers in these reports never look good out of context but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security,” Johnson said. “We take these findings very seriously in our continued effort to test, measure and enhance our capabilities and techniques as threats evolve.”

Other Stories of Interest

Stejskal: The Double Steal — The Right and Wrong Way to Steal Trade Secrets

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

Greg Stejskal

By Greg Stejskal

It took about 5,000 years from the discovery of glass until a process was developed to economically mass produce flat glass, and only a few years before the technology was stolen.

Glass is one of the great fundamental inventions – not at the level of the wheel or fire, but up pretty high on the list. Glass is chiefly made from relatively common and inexpensive raw materials: sand, soda ash (sodium carbonate) and lime.

No one knows when glass was first invented or by whom. It does occur in nature when lightning strikes sand or sometimes from volcanic eruptions (obsidian). Its first use seems to have been as a glaze for ceramic vessels in about 3,000 BCE. It wasn’t until about 1,500 BCE that glass vessels were produced in Egypt (ultimately used to hold beer, one of my favorite inventions). The use of a pipe for blowing superheated glass wasn’t invented until circa 30 BCE.

Through the ages uses for glass have multiplied and are as diverse as flat glass to optical lenses which enabled the development of telescopes and microscopes. But this story is about the technology to produce flat glass, and why some people would go to great lengths to steal it.

Flat glass is used primarily for windows and doors on homes, buildings and vehicles. Until relatively recently there wasn’t an economical way to produce large quantities of quality flat glass.

Flat glass was originally made by blowing cylinders of glass that were cut open and flattened then cut into panes. Most window glass up until the early 1800s was made using the cylinder method. The cylinders were limited in size. They were 6-8 feet (2-3m) long and 10-14 inches (~30cm) in diameter, thus limiting the size of the panes that could be cut. Large windows had to be made of multiple panes.

In 1848 Henry Bessemer, an English engineer, designed a system that produced a continuous ribbon of flat glass by forming the ribbon of molten glass between rollers. This was an expensive process as the surface of the glass had to be ground and polished. This did overcome the size limitations of the cylinder method. Beginning in the 1920s, a continuous ribbon of glass was passed through a lengthy series of inline grinders and polishers, reducing glass loss and cost.

The major breakthrough in the production of flat glass didn’t come until the late 1950s. Sir Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff of Pilkington Brothers, Ltd. in the UK developed the first successful commercial float glass process.

Bill Davidson

Float glass uses common glass-making raw materials. The materials are mixed with cullet (waste glass) in a furnace where it is heated to ~2,800 degrees F (1,500C). When the mixture becomes molten, it is allowed to pour onto a “tin bath,” a bath of molten tin about 2.3 inches (6cm) deep, 3-4 feet (3-4m) wide and 150 feet (45m) long.

The glass enters via a canal. The speed and volume of glass flow is controlled by a gate called a twill. The glass literally floats on top of the tin with uniform thickness. (The molten tin does not adhere to the glass, but an oxygen free atmosphere has to be maintained to keep the tin from oxidizing and adhering to the glass.) As the glass flows along the tin bath, the temperature is gradually reduced. At the end of the bath, the glass has cooled to approximately 1,100F (600C). At that temperature the glass can be lifted from the bath onto rollers. The glass ribbon is pulled by the rollers at a controlled speed. The speed at which the glass is pulled determines its thickness.

As the glass is pulled from the bath, it passes through a lehr (a type of kiln) where it gradually cools so that it anneals and does not crack from more rapid temperature change. After exiting the lehr, the glass is cut by machines.

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