Was DEA's Fake Claims Of Not Being Able To Intercept iMessages Part Of Evidence Laundering Efforts?

from the questions,-questions dept

We recently covered the story of how the DEA’s “Special Operations Division” (SOD) was getting information from various intelligence agencies — including the NSA, FBI and CIA — and was using that to alert DEA, IRS and other government officials of investigations they might want to do, without revealing too many details. Those agencies were then told to “launder” (i.e., manufacture evidence) the information to pretend that they’d discovered any criminal activity through other means. As an example, it was discussed how the SOD might tell DEA agents to look for “a certain kind of truck” at a specific truck stop. The DEA would then get local police to come up with some random traffic law reason to stop the truck, and have that turn into a search. And, then, of course during discovery the defense is never told how the government knew to stop the truck, because they’ll claim it was just a “random traffic stop.” That’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

However, I was recently reminded of a story from just a few months before all of these revelations started coming out — in which a DEA memo was “leaked,” in which the DEA complains that Apple’s iMessage encryption had “stymied” DEA agents from being able to spy on conversations. Except, as many people noted, this was clearly not true, because the iMessage encryption is not truly end-to-end. Apple holds the key itself, so the DEA can easily get the decrypted messages via Apple. Most of the assumptions were that this bogus memo was leaked either to try to get even more legal justification for requiring back doors in all communications technology, or to try to lull drug runners into believing iMessage was safe when it’s clearly not.

Of course, now I’m wondering if there’s even more to it: given that it’s now been confirmed that DEA staff have been told to fake things to cover up where investigations originated, perhaps the letter was part of a laundering effort to hide the fact that some key breaks came from decrypted iMessage conversations that the government had been snooping through…

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Comments on “Was DEA's Fake Claims Of Not Being Able To Intercept iMessages Part Of Evidence Laundering Efforts?”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

That’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, under the law as it is now, it probably is constitutional. The police can legally stop a vehicle for any valid traffic violation, even if the traffic stop is mere pretext. E.g., Whren v. U.S., U.S. Sup. Ct. 1996 or Arkansas v. Sullivan, U.S. Sup. Ct. 2001

I realize the likely illegally obtained pretext from NSA makes this different, but it’s obviously never been tested in court. For a court to find it unconstitutional, it would have to disregard and overturn a ton of contrary caselaw which supports an officer’s ability to stop vehicles for any valid traffic violation. I highly doubt the United States Supreme Court would, given its current makeup.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately, under the law as it is now, it probably is constitutional. The police can legally stop a vehicle for any valid traffic violation, even if the traffic stop is mere pretext. E.g., Whren v. U.S., U.S. Sup. Ct. 1996 or Arkansas v. Sullivan, U.S. Sup. Ct. 2001

It’s not the act of stopping that I think is unconstitutional, but rather failing to hand over the evidence and reveal why the person was stopped.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 8:39pm

Faking evidence is ‘perverting the course of justice’.It lets the spooks plant drugs and conceal their involvement in court, it lets lets them run entrapment stings too. Preventing defendant from pusuing ‘planted drugs’ and ‘entrapment’ examples.
If you think they wouldn’t do that, you need to review the ‘Occupy Wallstreet’ cases.

Optimus awesome says:

Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 8:39pm

It is unconstitutional! Violates the RIGHT to a fair trial! Violates the RIGHT to travel! Can and has violated search and seizure laws and probably more than I can think of. Only a kangaroo court would allow this. They should be arresting themselves.
You are unamerican if you think any of this is constitutional.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re:

“It’s become very evident that lying and coverup has become the order of the day. I keep wondering how long this is going to take for the whole ball of wax to melt down.”

I’ve been wondering that for probably longer than you’ve been alive! — It’s far more horrible than you grasp: the closing in of the police state and general decline can go on indefinitely. The plan is exactly to put emprisoning tech in place slowly so there’s never any actual revolt. This “leak” or scandal is about the biggest so far, but there’s no place to make a stand and resist. We’re up against gov’t and corporate interests getting hundreds of billions by selling your privacy. And Mike doesn’t really help with pieces like this that diffuse what little anger there is over actual crimes into vague worries about minor aspects.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d say it’s probably all three.

1. US Gov wants backdoors in all corporations that use encryption. Lavabit is the latest example of this.

2. US Gov is attempting to hide illegal domestic SMS interception from defense attorneys, during the discovery process.

3. US Gov wants citizens to be lulled into a false sense of security, so they think encrypted SMS text messages are secure. In order to get them to spill the beans on topics they might not otherwise discuss, if they suspect their conversation is not private.

My advice to everyone, based on my own personal experience with TextSecure SMS encryption. Do not EVER trust that your conversations or texting is secure or private on a cell phone. Even when using encryption software!

Encryption software is only as secure as the operating system it’s being run on. Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are FAR from being secure. These operating systems have proprietary drivers and come with pre-installed rootkit applications, such as CarrierIQ, which logs your key strokes.

If for some reason a government adversary can’t get to you through pre-installed drivers or rootkits. They will then attempt to redirect you to a different homepage when you open up the web browser on your phone. The website homepage will be disguised as a “web browser update”, coming from your carrier’s network, asking you to click on a link to accept the update.

In reality, it’s NSA spyware trying to infect your phone so they can decrypt and read your encrypted text messages.

If the web browser’s homepage ever changes, asking you to update something, don’t click on anything! Not even the decline button, because there is no such thing as declining a spyware infection!

You can try to change your homepage settings in your phone’s web browser, but you will still be redirected to the fake carrier page every time you open your web browser. This is due to a server-side DNS redirect happening through your carrier’s network, every time you open your phone’s web browser.

So you’ll have to live with the new spyware homepage, forever and not click on anything. One example of this type of spyware sold to Governments, is FinFisher spyware.


Until Free and Open Source drivers, firmwares and operating systems become available for Smart Phones, they can never be trusted as a secure device.

Even if the software apps themselves are secure, such as TextSecure, the underlying software the application is running on top of, is not secure.

Basically, the only way to communicate securely is to run a Free and Open Source operating system on a laptop or desktop computer, then use FOSS peer-to-peer communication applications such as Pidgin for text chat, or Jitsi for VOIP.

I’m sure we’ll get a FOSS operating system for smart phones in the near future. The biggest obstacle holding these projects back are closed-source drivers for the hardware components inside the phone.

Learn more about opting out of PRIMS spying at:


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Speaking as a security expert: this comment is an incisive and accurate bit of writing. I recommend that the author expand it and submit it to TechDirt as a full-length article.

(And yes, smartphones are completely insecurable. Can’t. Be. Done. So anyone who cares about security and privacy must NOT own or use one.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Remember kids – SSL Encryption (https://) IS Secure – unless the bad guys has ALL parts of the conversation OR a bad Cert is in the chain.

I suspect some bad guys have the capability to do both – listen in on all parts of every https:// conversation AND inject a bad Cert into your chain.

It is much better to use a strong Public/Private key…for now…

Ninja (profile) says:

Of course, now I’m wondering if there’s even more to it

This is you expressing the cynicism many people have adopted after these last few weeks of damning leaks. I’m not saying you are being cynic or that this specific iMessage case has or has not anything more than what was reported. It’s the cynic attitude people are adopting towards anything that’s officially released to the public.

It’s happening everywhere. People don’t believe in what the police says here for instance. And it’s slowly growing to encompass the Govt. This is bad in a number of ways. When the Govt needs people to believe them because of valid true reasons it may be impossible and it may, in fact, cost lives. Imagine if we stop believing that there is an issue with H1N1 or the likes and refuse to receive the vaccine but the virus is truly lethal and not some Govt cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry?

Food for thought.

bgmcb (profile) says:

The Chain

A is conducting unconstitutional surveillance.
A gives immunity to B so B will help
B gives data to C and uses it to arrest D.
E prosecutes D never mentions B.

It works if unconstitutional means nothing.

The constitution gives the US gov it’s authority to exist.
If the US gov does not follow the constitution umm…
I think the word is coup.

Optimus Awesome says:

Violation of civil rights period! Top 5 unconstitutional situations I've seen!

Fair trial? The RIGHT to travel?- 1st amendment! Violation of search and seizure laws!- 4th… example If it’s cannabis and there isn’t any smell the police will lie under oath saying they smelled it for their probable cause. Police lie and steal. That’s a fact. We need to end prohibition on marijuana and decriminalize all drugs! Portugal is actually saving money doing this and use has gone down.- Spend the court costs and all the other costs it takes to arrest and convict Someone and get them rehab if actually needed. Given felonies for a plant? What’s next a war on coca cola? It has caffeine and caffeine is a drug. I’d actually like to collect my social security which will be pretty difficult if we keep giving felonies to the younger generation.

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