NYPD Puts Terrorism On The Run By Ordering Twitter To Turn Over Parody Account User Data 'Linked' To Brooklyn Bridge Flag-Switching

from the because-you-can't-know-how-low-you'll-sink-until-you-try dept

Late last month, some audacious pranksters (or possibly ultra-dangerous individuals) snuck to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge's two towers and replaced the American flags with the universal symbol for surrender: white flags. Or to be more specific, bleached-white American flags.

As city law enforcement mobilized into "panic mode," a tweet claiming responsibility went out from a long-running parody Twitter account:
If you can't read/see the tweet, it's sent from @BicycleLobby and says the following:
Earlier today we hoisted two white flags to signal our complete surrender of the Brooklyn Bridge bicycle path to pedestrians.
The New York Daily News fell for it. More surprisingly, the Associated Press did as well, infecting an untold number of local outlets with its automated breaking news feed. In their hurry to be proven fools, the Daily News and the AP ignored both a) EVERY TWEET EVER MADE BY THE ACCOUNT and b) the second line of the account's profile.
An all-powerful enterprise.
Parody account.
The parody account heaped more scorn on the two news agencies, suggesting they google "Dorothy Rabinowitz," the inspiration for the account. Rabinowitz, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, once famously said, "The bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise," as she attempted to protect average New Yorkers from the two-wheeled menace that was "begriming" upscale neighborhoods with "blazing blue Citi Bank bikes."

Apparently, the NYPD can't take a joke. Sure, it's taken DNA from the "crime" scene, along with grabbing cell tower dumps, surveillance footage and searches of the ALPR database for plates spotted in the vicinity, but it can't seem to wrap its mind around a parodic tweet from a parody account.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office has issued a subpoena for information about the Twitter account @BicycleLobby.

The anonymous, satirical account announced Friday that the company Twitter had received a summons to appear before a grand jury against John Doe defendant in a criminal investigation.

“On Monday, Twitter alerted this account that it had received a subpoena from the office of the District Attorney of the County of New York,” the account tweeted Friday afternoon — clarifying that it was being “100%” serious about the legal notice.
It's the real deal (embedded below). The straight-faced subpoena demands that Twitter turn over:
Any and all records including but not limited to account opening documents, user Contact information (subscriber information, including email addresses, billing information, associated telephone numbers), Group Contact information, and all available IP logs for the Twitter account(s) associated with the following…
If Twitter fails to do so, it may be facing "imprisonment for one year." The subpoena also warns Twitter against notifying the end user:
Pursuant to 18 USC § 2705(b), this Court orders Twitter not to notify or otherwise disclose the existence or execution of this subpoena/order to any associated user/accountholder, until the conclusion of this investigation or otherwise by court order.
If Twitter didn't just shrug this off, then it's likely the investigation has concluded or the court has rescinded its order. The subpoena went out on July 23rd and the account holder was notified August 4th. The person behind the parody account has retained legal assistance, not that he or she should actually need it. The NYPD's investigative "technique" apparently consists of grabbing as much data as possible (surveillance, cell tower dumps, "DNA," parody Twitter accounts) and running it through some sort of angsty, terrorism-fueled centrifuge until either a) discretionary spending is increased for counterterrorism units or b) the actual culprit outs him or herself by walking into the police station, dripping with blood flag bleach and shouting "DETECTIVE!" until someone starts paying attention.

While there is legitimate concern that a highly-symbolic structure (like a flagpole atop the Brooklyn Bridge) could be so easily accessed (and without leaving a trace despite pervasive surveillance), the response so far should raise serious questions about the NYPD's counter-terrorism skills.
Cops were similarly stumped, although they hoped some answers might come from the quintet caught on blurry video crossing the bridge about 20 minutes before the tower lights went out and the flags were stolen around 3:30 a.m…

The graveyard-shift cops who missed the trespassers jumping a locked gate, scaling the two towers and hanging the bleached flags will not be disciplined, police sources told The News.
The answer, of course, is to add more cameras to the exact spot where something has already happened. Someone "inside the police department" posited that it could have been a dry run for a terrorist attack, and the response has been a lot of barn-door kicking and the hassling of any other person who might cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot during the early hours of the morning.

This clumsy fear-driven thinking is only exacerbated by willing accomplices like the NY Daily News -- the same entity so quick to claim a parody Twitter account did it -- which rushed out this reductio ad absurdum headline the next morning:


That's how the NYPD ends up throwing more cameras at the same spot the previous cameras captured the flag-switchers at work, as though more unwatched eyes will somehow prevent an attack. And that's how a local judge signs off on a subpoena ordering Twitter to hand over user data on a clearly parodic Twitter account -- one that has also claimed to have faked the moon landing. If our main "weapon" in the War on Terror is "swift and disproportionate" reaction, no wonder everyone in the intel community believes we're "losing."

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  • icon
    Titania Bonham-Smythe (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:01am

    At last!

    I do hope Twitter is imprisoned for one year - I might finally get some work done!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    relghuar, 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:14am

    http://imgur.com/MQRVu1X

    They should arrest this little critter right NOW!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:23am

    I'm not sure if it's so much 'willing accomplishes', so much as moronic, egotistical editors who can't stand the thought of admitting they fell for such an insanely obvious prank/parody, and so just double-down on their idiocy.

    Not to mention panic and fear always sells, so it's hardly a surprise that they wouldn't pass up a chance to stir up more of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:27am

    This time it was a parody tweet, next time it could be a TERRORIST THREAT!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:28am

    Please

    Won't somebody think of the Flagpoles?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:04am

      Re: Please

      No. That means we have to stop the terrorist flags from hijacking this great nation through our flagpoles!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    LduN (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:42am

    logic?

    If this was a dry-run for a terrorist attack why would they leave a clue that they were there and successful? Mind you I'm not a terrorist (That's exactly what a terrorist would say!!) but I'm pretty sure that letting authorities know you found a weakness is counter productive...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:58am

      Re: logic?

      Tse. Tse. Didn't you still learn from the movies or what?

      The dumb bad guys always explain their evil plans and must leave clues for the good smart guys to follow.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:56am

      Re: logic?

      The only reason I could see it remotely working is to leave a threat if you want to raise levels of fear. Say for instance they wanted New York to ban oysters, have the mayor required to appear in all press conferences dressed like a clown, or make the NYPD uniforms bright pink for some reason, spray painting or leaving a note saying. "Dye or die, if the NYPD aren't wearing bright pink uniforms by next year this bridge is going to go tumbling down!"

      It wouldn't be so much of a dry run as a warning if they were serious or just a politically motivated hoax if they were bluffing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Matthew Cline (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:56pm

      Re: logic?

      No, see, by leaving a clue that they were successful, the police will put in more cameras. Then the terrorists put bombs into the cameras! Mwuahahahaha! *twirls mustache*

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 9:03pm

        Re: Re: logic?

        No,they're real cameras, they're just tricking the police into photographing themselves, so they have to assault each other, and simultaneously attempt to destroy the cameras and arrest each other for contempt of cop.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 6:52am

    Cui bono?

    It's not the "War on Terror" it's the "War of Terror".

    They are the ones who are terrorizing people for a gain. Deliberately.

    Their other terrorist partners don't need to bother to do anything anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:04am

    hah.  cops used to be andy.  now they're barney - except with lots of bullets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:20am

    "If our main "weapon" in the War on Terror is "swift and disproportionate" reaction, no wonder everyone in the intel community believes we're "losing.""

    Of course you're "losing". One of the main aims of terrorism is to spread fear and, on the basis of this story, you're doing that without terrorists actually having to do anything. It's hard to "win" a "war" when the enemy doesn't even have to engage you for them to achieve their aims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:29am

    It is scary that no paper bothered to point out the simple truth...
    For every indignity, right repressed, right ignored, money spent... these idiots were unable to stop this event.
    Rather than consider it might just have been a protest (or perhaps because protesting means you are a terrorist now) they are pouring buckets of cash pursuing "something" so they can have a perp walk.
    Those charged with protecting the violated site, will face no repercussions for the complete failure in their duties.

    The parody is the NYPD.
    The joke is lost on everyone because it isn't funny.
    A bad event happened once, the overreaction and expansion ushered in by fearful people brought much worse terrorism to the city.
    NYC is in the control of terrorists, who feel their holy mission trumps the alleged rights of those they hold hostage.
    That the impossible dream of stopping all bad things can happen... if only we throw more money at it, violate more rights, violate more laws, and keep executing undesirables with impunity.

    If it were a 3rd world country, wouldn't we have sent in "military advisers" to help the repressed people by now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:43am

    If Twitter fails to do so, it may be facing "imprisonment for one year."


    Jail Bird ">

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:49am

    Eddie Izzard is right. The terrorists will take over our country with the cunning use of flags.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 7:59am

      Re:

      "No flag, No Country, You can't have one! Those are the rules... that I just made up!...and I'm backing it up with this gun, that was lent to me from the National Rifle Association."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:03am

    So the banks that were too big to fail, they can steal billions from the public by committing fraud, NO JAIL.

    Documents show that GM knew about the faulty ignition switch for year, admits 13 people were killed by the faulty ignition switch, all after being caught lying about not knowing; NO JAIL.

    Twitter hosts parody account that claim responsibility for the erection of two white flags exposing the awesome terrorist fighting skills, and billions of dollars spent in surveillance by the NYPD (with the help of the CIA) over the years. NYPD now tells Twitter if they don't turn over the account information, JAIL.

    "One of these things is not like the others. Which one is different, do you know? Can you tell which thing is not like the other? I can't tell you, cause I might end up in jail."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:44am

      Re:

      Because the third follows a very common theme - contempt of authority MUST be punished.

      The first two atrocities were committed by those in authority, therefore, they do not get jail.

      The third was someone making fun of the incompetent NYPD, with all their anti-terror budgets, security theater, and general sense of paranoia at every turn. That MUST be punished to deter us pointing out the incompetence of those in authority (especially with those in authority who have so much money to throw around, despite their obviously shitty performance).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re:

        Lets hope this sort of prank and parody becomes common place, and perhaps, just perhaps, people will see how utterly paranoid and over the top these people actually are.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:08am

    Their definition of a terrorist includes peaceful, 1st amendment expression criticism of out of control government policies and methods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:19am

    http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/10/5988363/ny-officials-subpoena-parody-twitter-account-tied-to-brook lyn-bridge-white-flags

    "Maybe it is high time to get these guys behind bars."

    Yeah, someone might want to investigate what the DA has been smoking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kP (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:35am

    This time it was a flag, next time it could be:

    - a PIZZA
    - JOAN RIVERS
    - a box of INSTANT OATMEAL
    - NOTHING AT ALL

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:46am

    this is really a case for internal affairs

    Since it was the law had screwed up and let the pranksters slip past them in the first place. Notice I said prankster and not terrorist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:59am

    Alright people

    Let's get the media riled up even further and declare a WAR ON FLAGPOLES

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lord Binky, 11 Aug 2014 @ 9:14am

    How does a camera PREVENT terrorism? As opposed to.. I dunno, a patrol unit or stationary guard, it's only going to help you respond, but not actually foil any plots. Does not do anything either if the terrorist decides to watch from a front row seat either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:49pm

      Re:

      If someone is actually watching the camera feeds, cameras allow one officer to watch many places (and with a bit of AI you could increase that even more).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 9:22am

    the response so far should raise serious questions about the NYPD's counter-terrorism skills.

    I saw what you did there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 10:01am

    I'd think the NYC taxpayers would be pretty upset this is how their tax dollars are being squandered , I still find it funny that an International symbol such as a White Flag, that means surrender Is being even remotely alined with terrorism , and merits an all out terrorism response from authorities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 10:31am

    Dump these guys into downtown Davis without a native guide.

    I know, it's a terrible thing to do to a New Yorker. The carnage will be horrible! But the survivors will come out hardened, more liberal and with a healthy respect for the all-powerful bicycle enterprise. (Also a craving for Thai food and sushi.)

    But they'll never get rid of the taste of bugs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 11:25am

    Apropos for the NYPD?

    Well I'm so tired of losing
    I've got nothing to do and all day to do it
    Well I'd go out cruising, but I've no place
    To go and all night to get there
    Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal
    Is it any wonder I'm not in jail

    Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands


    --Styx
    Apropos

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2014 @ 3:35pm

    Muwahaaaaa

    While NYPD is distracted by white flags they overlook the evil going on elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 11 Aug 2014 @ 8:42pm

    Some people have suggested that the white flags are a promotional stunt for the TV show The Leftovers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eldakka (profile), 11 Aug 2014 @ 9:34pm

    Where's the NSA?

    Surely they detected this dastardly plot in the planning stages?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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