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Homeland Security: Hackers Targeted Election Systems in 20+ States

ballot box flintBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The voter registration systems of more than 20 states have been targeted by hackers in recent months, a Homeland Security official said.

The discovery comes as election officials are worried about foreign hackers compromising the elections. But federal officials said hackers likely would not be able to alter the outcome of an election because the systems are generally not connected to the Internet, the Associated Press reports. 

It’s still not clear where the hackers are from and what their motives are.

The FBI has warned state officials about election security in the wake of the suspected hacking attempts.

FBI Director James Comey said last week that the bureau is investigating whether Russian hackers are trying to disrupt the election.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson encouraged state election officials to secure their election systems by implementing existing technical recommendations.

Authorities Say Black Box Wasn’t Working During N.J. Train Crash in Hoboken

New Jersey Transit train, via Wikipedia.

New Jersey Transit train, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Authorities hoping to determine what caused a New Jersey Transit train to crash in Hoboken received bad news Sunday.

The black box that was recovered was not working at the time of the accident, the New York Daily News reports. 

The black box, which was recovered from the rear of the train, recorded no information. It was built in 1995.

The engineer of the train told the National Transportation Safety Board that he doesn’t remember the fatal crash, but said the train was traveling 10 mph as it entered the station.

Another recorder was located at the front end of the train, but it has not been found.

“Right now it is very dangerous to get in there,” NTSB vice chair Bella Dinh-Zarr said. “We’re hopeful that that will have information, that it will be functioning.”

The Thursday morning crash killed one person and injured more than 100 people.

Other Stories of Interest

Justice Department: DEA Paid Informants Millions of Dollars without Proper Oversight

dea-badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is under fire for spending millions of dollars on confidential informants without proper oversight and using sources in a way that potentially violates the Constitution, the Justice Department inspector general has found.

The 65-page report lists serious missteps in the handling of confidential informants and recommended better policies and procedures, the Washington Post reports. 

Inspector General Michael Horowitz found a lack of oversight that led to fraud and abuse. One example showed that the DEA paid a source more than $469,000, even though he had previously been “deactivated” for lying in court and depositions.

The investigation found that the DEA used more than 18,000 informants between October 2010 and September 2015, and half were paid about $237 million.

The Washington Post wrote:

The sources ranged from criminals providing information on their associates to airline, train and parcel-service employees providing tips on suspected drug traffickers’ movements.

The work, for all involved, can be lucrative. The inspector general found one airline employee who received more than $600,000 in less than four years, and a parcel employee who received more than $1 million in five years.

The inspector general found, though, that more money did not always come with more oversight. The DEA’s Intelligence Division, for example, paid $25 million to eight sources over a five-year period and “did not independently validate the credibility of these sources, or the accuracy of the information they provide,” according to the inspector general. The Intelligence Division, according to the report, generally relied on “DEA field offices’ risk assessments and determinations that confidential sources are reliable.”

Weekend Series on Crime History: Nixon, The FBI, Al Haig and Deep Throat

Creepy Clown Hysteria Prompts Sheriff to Ask for Help from FBI, Homeland Security

Creepy clown, via Wikipedia

Creepy clown, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A clown hysteria has swept across social media and is now prompting law enforcement to take some drastic – and potentially unconstitutional – measures.

The panic appeared to start in August in Greenville, S.C., where clowns were reportedly luring children into the woods.

“From there, it ballooned into reports of people in clown costumes lurking in parks, assaulting people, chasing people and even threatening to kill people,” reports Network World, which chronicled law enforcement actions in light of the hysteria. 

A sheriff in Kentucky has asked the FBI and Homeland Security to help investigate a “creepy clown” threat. The sheriff in Gallatin County even warned that “clown threats” may face charges of “inducing panic and terroristic threatening.”

This week, Gallatin County Kentucky Schools said it received a “vague threat of violence” from two “clowns” who threaten to shoot high school students. As a result, school attendance plummeted 48%.

Network World wrote that most of the clown reports are rumors or pranks.

Gallatin County Sheriff Josh Neale told people to forward threatening messages from clowns to the police, who were “aggressively looking into each and every message.” Neale said he was consulting with the FBI and Homeland Security over the clown threats. He added, “The person or people making the ‘clown threats’ could face local charges of inducing panic and terroristic threatening.”

Other police have also addressed the clown threat after it was going viral in social media. Wearing a “full clown costume” in public got one man arrested in Kentucky. He was charged with “wearing a mask in a public place and disorderly conduct.” He’s notthe only “clown” who has been arrested.

Kentucky’s Barbourville Police warned that dressing like a clown “can create a dangerous situation.” While “approaching people in a threatening manner” is illegal, so too is “assaulting, shooting, attacking or otherwise injuring someone simple because they are wearing a costume.”

Ex-CIA Official to Lead New National Background Investigations Bureau

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The new National Background Investigations Bureau will be led by the CIA’s former security director.

Charles Phalen Jr., who was working in the private sector after 30 years as a government employee, will start next week as the new bureau’s first director.

The NBIB was established last year to handle the massive government data breach at the Office of Personnel Management, the Associated Press reports. 

Phalen brings a lot of experience. He worked at the FBI and CIA.

The AP wrote:

The break-in at the OPM exposed security clearances, background checks and fingerprint records of more than 21 million current, former and prospective federal employees. That intrusion was widely blamed on China and led to the resignation of the OPM director and drew outrage over changing explanations about the severity of the hack.

The bureau will be part of OPM, but the Defense Department will design and operate the computer system that houses and processes people’s personal information.

Beth Cobert, acting director of OPM, told reporters that the bureau also is working to reduce the time it takes to investigate and issue or deny security clearances. Currently, it takes an average of 170 days to investigate a top-security clearance request, far exceeding the goal of 80 days, she said.

Other Stories of Interest

Donald Trump Speculates – with No Proof – That FBI Granted Clinton Immunity

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that Hillary Clinton was given immunity, along with five of her staffers, during the yearlong FBI investigation into her use of a private email server.

But the Republican presidential candidate, who has a history of lying and misleading voters, couldn’t substantiate his claims that the FBI gave Clinton immunity.

“They gave so much immunity there was nobody left to talk to. There was nobody left, except Hillary,” he said, Politico reports. “They probably gave her immunity, too. Do you think Hillary got immunity? Yeah, she had the immunity. She had something.”

The FBI has denied Clinton was promised immunity.

What is clear is that five Clinton staffers, whom Trump dubbed the “FBI Immunity Five,” were granted immunity in exchange for information about the email server.

“You saw what happened about taking the Fifth Amendment, and her ring leaders getting immunity deals,” Trump said during a rally in Bedford, New Hampshire. “We’ll call them really the FBI Immunity Five.”

More Than 20,000 Guns Purchased by People Deemed Unfit to Own Firearms

gunBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

More than 20,000 guns were purchased by people the FBI deemed unfit to own firearms in the past 15 years because of a disagreement between the bureau and ATF.

A new report from the Office of Inspector General reveals a loophole that allowed people to buy guns, even though they were deemed unfit, the Christian Science Monitor reports. 

The responsibility for running background checks on prospective gun owners belongs to the FBI.

But the ATF and FBI disagree on who qualifies as a “fugitive of justice,” a label that is supposed to prevent prospective buyers from purchasing guns.

The FBI believes anyone with an outstanding warrant should not be allowed to purchase a gun. But the ATF disagrees, saying people who with warrants should be allowed to buy guns in the state where the warrant was issued, but not in other states.

“We recommend that the OLC issue an opinion as soon as possible to clarify the correct definition of the ‘fugitive from justice’ category of the persons prohibited from purchasing a firearm,” the review concluded. “Only then can ATF and the FBI be certain the law is being applied appropriately and as intended.”