Saturday, September 7, 2019

The LAPD's Dirtbox

From Juliet Bennett Rylah's 8-18-15 LAist.com article entitled "How the LAPD Has Been Hacking Our Phones For Years":

The LAPD has had access to a device called a "dirtbox" for the past several years. This equipment allows them to intercept calls and text messages from numerous cellphones at once.
A "dirtbox" gets its name from the acronym of the company that makes them: Digital Receiver Technology, Inc., which is owned by The Boeing Co. These devices, which used by the military and the Justice Department, are also being used by police. Police departments in both Chicago and L.A. bought the equipment in 2005, according to an investigation by Reveal News. Los Angeles spent $260,000 on the equipment, using money from a homeland security grant to pay for the actual devices and a two-week training program on how to use it. Their reasoning was the same as it always is: to fight terrorism. Chicago, on the other hand, used funds from the controversial practice of asset forfeiture.
A dirtbox is something called a cell site simulator, and it works by mimicking a cell phone tower. Cell phones within range start using the dirtbox, and any information—voice calls, who you've called, texts, data you've sent—is intercepted and decrypted as it passes through. A dirtbox is capable of drawing from 200 cellphones at a time, and it can also jam signals....

To read Rylah's entire article, click HERE.

Whistleblowers and the Espionage Act

What follows is an excerpt from Micah Lee's 8-4-19 The Intercept article entitled "The Metadata Trap: The Trump Administrations Is Using the Full Power of the U.S. Surveillance State Against Whistleblowers":

Government whistleblowers are increasingly being charged under laws such as the Espionage Act, but they aren’t spies.
They’re ordinary Americans and, like most of us, they carry smartphones that automatically get backed up to the cloud. When they want to talk to someone, they send them a text or call them on the phone. They use Gmail and share memes and talk politics on Facebook. Sometimes they even log in to these accounts from their work computers.
Then, during the course of their work, they see something disturbing. Maybe it’s that the government often has no idea if the people it kills in drone strikes are civilians. Or that the NSA witnessed a cyberattack against local election officials in 2016 that U.S. intelligence believes was orchestrated by Russia, even though the president is always on TV saying the opposite. Or that the FBI uses hidden loopholes to bypass its own rules against infiltrating political and religious groups. Or that Donald Trump’s associates are implicated in sketchy financial transactions.
So they search government databases for more information and maybe print some of the documents they find. They search for related information using Google. Maybe they even send a text message to a friend about how insane this is while they consider possible next steps. Should they contact a journalist? They look up the tips pages of news organizations they like and start researching how to use Tor Browser. All of this happens before they’ve reached out to a journalist for the first time.
Most people aren’t very aware of it, but we’re all under surveillance. Telecom companies and tech giants have access to nearly all of our private data, from our exact physical locations at any given time to the content of our text messages and emails. Even when our private data doesn’t get sent directly to tech companies, our devices are still recording it locally. Do you know exactly what you were doing on your computer two months ago today at 3:05 p.m.? Your web browser probably does.
Yet while we all live under extensive surveillance, for government employees and contractors — especially those with a security clearance — privacy is virtually nonexistent. Everything they do on their work computers is monitored. Every time they search a database, their search term and the exact moment they searched for it is logged and associated with them personally. The same is true when they access a secret document, or when they print anything, or when they plug a USB stick into their work computer. There might be logs of exactly when an employee takes screenshots or copies and pastes something. Even when they try to outsmart their work computer by taking photos directly of their screen, video cameras in their workplace might be recording their every move.
Government workers with security clearance promise “never [to] divulge classified information to anyone” who is not authorized to receive it. But for many whistleblowers, the decision to go public results from troubling insights into government activity, coupled with the belief that as long as that activity remains secret, the system will not change. While there are some protections for whistleblowers who raise their concerns internally or complain to Congress, there is also a long history of those same people being punished for speaking out.
The growing use of the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that criminalizes the release of “national defense” information by anyone “with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation,” shows how the system is rigged against whistleblowers. Government insiders charged under the law are not allowed to defend themselves by arguing that their decision to share what they know was prompted by an impulse to help Americans confront and end government abuses. “The act is blind to the possibility that the public’s interest in learning of government incompetence, corruption, or criminality might outweigh the government’s interest in protecting a given secret,” Jameel Jaffer, head of the Knight First Amendment Institute, wrote recently. “It is blind to the difference between whistle-blowers and spies.”
To read Lee's entire article, click HERE.

HARPA: The Health Advanced Research Projects Agency

What follows is an excerpt from Frank Camp's 8-24-19 Daily Wire article entitled "Trump Admin Considering Program That Would Use Data Harvested From Smart Devices To Prevent Mass Violence": 

On Thursday, The Washington Post published a report alleging that the Trump administration has been presented with a project that would use technology as a means of collecting data on human subjects in order to prevent mental health-related violence.
The outlet states that a new governmental agency would be created, called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency, or HARPA, and that the agency would be Russian-dolled inside the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
According to the report, the HARPA agency was initially proposed by the Suzanne Wright Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the process by which treatments and cures for various diseases are uncovered and implemented.
The foundation states that HARPA is "modeled after the spectacularly successful DARPA unit at the Department of Defense, [and] would leverage federal research assets and private sector tools to build new capabilities for diseases that have not benefitted from the current system."
Following the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton in which 31 Americans were killed, the foundation once again approached the Trump administration, reports The Washington Post, offering a new program within HARPA, which would use "breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence" in order to potentially help prevent instances of public violence, such as mass shootings.
Robert Wright, the founder of the Suzanne Wright Foundation, is the former chairman and CEO of NBC, and is reportedly close with President Trump.
To read Camp's entire article, click HERE.

The Five Eyes Agreement

What follow are the first two paragraphs of James Stavridis' 5-3-19 Bloomberg article entitled "The Western Allies Need More Eyes on the World":

Every challenge the U.S. faces today — the rise of China, a resurgent Russia, the North Korean nuclear weapons program, Iranian adventurism throughout the Middle East, cyberthreats and many more — all have one thing in common: the need for high-grade, accurate intelligence. And as any intelligence expert will tell you, an accurate picture is not a sweeping oil painting, it is a mosaic. You build up that picture one small stone at a time until you can step back from what you have developed and have a full view of actionable intelligence. To do this in the fastest possible time, you need as many allies, partners and friends contributing stones as possible. No individual nation is as smart as all working together: Intelligence-sharing is the key to creating true security.
Today one of the most effective collaborations globally is the so-called Five Eyes agreement to fully share intelligence between the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The founding agreements were initiated in the immediate post-World War II period. Again and again, Five Eyes has proven its worth, saving countless lives and helping win the Cold War. It maintained secrets so well that its very existence wasn’t known by the public until the mid-2000s.

To read Stavridis' entire article, click HERE.