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by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 27th 2015 9:27am
the pirate bay
The article admits that the guy may still face civil trials which could come with huge damages, but it's instructive to look at the results of the criminal case here and compare it to another case.
Given the scale of the case it was expected that punishments would be equally harsh but things did not play out that way.
Despite admitting that he operated servers at his home and in central Stockholm and the court acknowledging that rightsholders had suffered great damage, the man has just been sentenced to probation and 160 hours of community service.
According to Mitti.se, two key elements appear to have kept the man’s punishment down. Firstly, he cooperated with police in the investigation. Secondly – and this is a feature in many file-sharing prosecutions – the case simply dragged on for too longThe Pirate Bay case dragged on for quite a long time as well. Yet it still ended with huge fines and jail time. It's hard to look at the results of the two cases as anything other than the tax one pays for actually calling out a ridiculous system for being ridiculous, rather than sucking up to the system whose own credibility is called into question.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 27th 2015 8:04am
Sheriff Dart’s actions are an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech without legal authority or due process. See Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1963). The First Amendment precludes a government official from banning a forum of speech simply because he dislikes it. Prior restraints are presumptively unconstitutional and can be imposed only in the most exigent of circumstances, requiring the least restrictive means to further a compelling state interest and requisite procedural safeguards. Sheriff Dart’s actions do not come close to passing constitutional muster.The lawsuit notes that not being able to accept credit cards has cut off nearly all revenue to Backpage, and so the company sought a temporary restraining order against Dart in his efforts to kill off their business.
Sheriff Dart’s actions to cripple Backpage.com and all speech through the site are an especially pernicious form of prior restraint. He has achieved his purpose through false accusations, innuendo, and coercion, whereas, if he had brought suit directly or Cook County had attempted to pass a law to shut down the website, Backpage.com would have had a fair opportunity to respond and defeat such efforts, given well-established law. Backpage.com received no notice or opportunity to be heard before card services were terminated. Moreover, Sheriff Dart’s actions have not only infringed Backpage.com’s rights to publish and distribute speech, but the rights of millions of the website’s users to post and receive protected speech.
Backpage may stand in the shoes of its users in seeking relief from the burden placed on their freedom of speech as a result of not being able to use credit cards to access Backpage’s forum. Here, Backpage meets the “relaxed” third-party standing requirements because its Backpage’s commercial injury gives it “sufficient injury-in-fact to satisfy the Article III case-or-controversy requirement” and it can “reasonably be expected properly to frame the issues and present them with the necessary adversarial zeal.” ... In addition, Backpage’s own status as, in essence, a publisher (it does not create any content) gives it a direct First Amendment injury.And, of course, Dart's claims that there is no protected speech in prostitution ads also falls completely flat, because there's plenty of other content on Backpage:
Nor does the Court accept Dart’s argument that standing is lacking because there is no protected First Amendment interest at stake here at all. Clearly First Amendment protection does not extend to exhortations to illegal conduct— Dart’s stated concern. E.g., United States v. Williams, 553 U.S. 285, 297 (2008) (“Offers to engage in illegal transactions are categorically excluded from First Amendment protection.”). But here, there is no dispute that all of the advertisements on Backpage.com are affected; Backpage cannot collect its normal fees for even the most benign advertisements, and therefore will be unable to host any when the money runs out. Given that Dart sought to “defund” Backpage, not just shut down its adult sections, based wholly on the content of some ads, Dart cannot maintain that the First Amendment is not implicated by his actions, even if he were correct that none of Backpage’s “escort ads” themselves are protected.Separately, the court notes that even if Dart is correct that those ads are not protected by the First Amendment, that's up to a court to decide, not Dart on his own. That's called due process.
The only remaining question with respect to the plaintiff’s likelihood of success on the merits is whether Backpage will be able to establish a First Amendment violation—that is, whether Dart’s actions are the type of informal prior restraint that the Bantam Books line of cases prohibits. And, as the parties’ oral arguments made clear, that involves two main questions: (1) whether Dart’s letter constitutes a threat, and (2) whether the credit card companies involuntarily withdrew business from Backpage. The plaintiff has a better than negligible—but not certain— chance of proving that both answers are “yes.”The court also slaps away Dart's argument that there's no problem here since the credit card companies' decision was "voluntary":
The threat at issue in Bantam Books came from Rhode Island’s Commission to Encourage Morality in Youth, which had no direct authority to prosecute or impose sanctions on the distributors it entreated to stop circulating certain books. Despite simply requesting “cooperation” from book distributors, the Commission’s actions effectively suppressed the circulation of the objectionable books entirely because of the Commission’s official status, its coercive language, and its practice of sending police to follow up with the distributors. As the Supreme Court explained, “though the Commission is limited to informal sanctions—the threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion, persuasion, and intimidation—the record amply demonstrates that the Commission deliberately set about to achieve the suppression of publications deemed ‘objectionable’ and succeeded in its aim.”...
The same principle applies in this case. Dart did not directly threaten the companies with an investigation or prosecution. But by writing in his official capacity on Sheriff’s Department letterhead, requesting a “cease and desist,” invoking the legal obligations of “financial institutions” to cooperate with law enforcement, and requiring ongoing contact with the companies, among other things, it could reasonably be inferred that Dart brought the weight of his office to bear on his “request” that the companies stop their association with Backpage altogether. And even if it is true that Dart has no jurisdiction over the credit card companies, he could certainly refer an investigation to the appropriate authority.... Moreover, the credit card companies were not privy to Dart’s candid admission when they read the letters and acted accordingly.
Another potential distinguishing feature of Bantam Books is the clear finding in that case that the book distributed had not cooperated voluntarily with the Commission’s request to stop circulating certain titles. Here, Dart contends that any action by the credit card companies was wholly voluntary. But for purposes of a TRO, enough signs point in the other direction. These companies had worked with Backpage for more than a decade, and they terminated their relationships because of Dart’s letters. The Court cannot state as a matter of law that the letters were not a threat..... Whether Dart coerced the companies or simply educated them has not yet been definitively established, but given the timing of the withdrawals and the companies’ public statements, at the very least it is clear on this record that the companies did not act spontaneously.The court also notes -- as we've pointed out for years -- that there's no evidence (and certainly none presented by Dart) that shutting down Backpage would actually lead to a decline in prostitution and trafficking. It also makes the same point we've been making for years that Backpage appears to be a great tool for law enforcement to use to track down such lawbreaking:
The hardships clearly weigh more heavily on the plaintiff and its users. Backpage’s business is imperiled, and the users are in imminent jeopardy of losing a forum for protected (as well as unprotected) speech. Sheriff Dart has made no argument, and has provided no evidence, that prostitution, trafficking, and sexual exploitation of minors will be reduced significantly reduced by Backpage’s demise; indeed, it appears that an oft-used tool for identifying lawbreakers (by Dart and other law enforcement agencies) will be lost if Backpage were to fold.The judge also completely smacks down Dart's weird and nonsensical claim that the public is "better served" this way because Backpage has since made all of its ads free. But, the court notes -- how does that make sense, when in the same breath Dart has been arguing that he wants less access to Backpage?
As for the public interest, Dart contends that public interest is best served right now because “the public is able to use Backpage.com for free.” Curious as it is for Dart to equate the public interest with more access to Backpage.com, the argument is specious, for the record suggests that Backpage is in jeopardy of going under as a result of Dart’s tactics.So in the end, a temporary injunction is issued, and there will be a hearing later this week on a longer preliminary injunction. Of course, that alone won't necessarily mean that the credit card companies go back to working with Backpage, so the company may end up having to shut down even if it wins.
Mon, Jul 27th 2015 5:50am
Less than a year ago, Comcast was sued over its WiFi hotspot program, which essentially turned residential customers into hotspots for other Comcast customers or hotspot subscribers. Comcast used this to make a great deal of money off of its own residential customers. The problem was that Comcast didn't see the need to have customers opt-in to this program and was perfectly happy using customers' electricity and, in some cases, bandwidth to power the service. That and the fact that the opt-out settings on the router controls were given to bouts of amnesia made the company look pretty crappy, but, hey, you know, Comcast.
Well, now it appears that Cablevision will find itself fighting in court over the exact same thing. Paul Jensen, a Cablevision customer, has sued the company on grounds that it violated the CFAA, gained unjust enrichment, and trespassed.
Consequently, unsuspecting customers who used Cablevision as their internet service provider now had "outsiders" piggybacking off their home Wi-Fi networks once individuals were within the range of the signal emanating from their home. Jensen contends that Cablevision never asked for his consent to use his home network to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. Jensen also points out that Cablevision's customer contract never mentions the existence of the secondary network they are providing to the public when they leased a router to him.Why any company thought it could get away with something like this without legal blowback is completely beyond me, but why Cablevision thought it could skate after Comcast already faced legal action is a complete mystery.
Not only did Cablevision act without his authorization, Jenson further asserts the company's actions have compromised his internet speed, put him at greater security risk and increased his electricity costs.
This increased traffic also heightens the residential customer's security risk since strangers are connecting to the internet through the same wireless router, Jensen says. He says when he called Cablevision to request that they remedy the situation, he was told that the wireless router he paid Cablevision to use could not have the Optimum Wi-Fi Hotspot feature turned off.
"Cablevision configures the routers it leases to consumers so that the Optimum Wi-Fi Hotspot cannot be disabled. Thus, consumers wishing to opt out of broadcasting a secondary Wi-Fi network from their homes are left with no recourse other than to buy an entirely new wireless router, costing anywhere from $50 to $200." the complaint says.
Mon, Jul 27th 2015 3:51am
Video games are starting to get realistic. Like, crazy realistic. Between what graphics look like on the latest hardware to the unbelievable committment to authenticity many of the latest games have, it's starting to get hard to tell game footage apart from video footage. So hard, in fact, that it appears the pro-Russian groups had an "oopsie!" moment while trying to accuse America of arming Ukrainian rebels with Stinger missiles.
A video from Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists...shows the rebels storming an underground compound and dusting off a wooden case with a "US army" inscription, where a the MANPADS Stinger 92 surface-to-air missile is stored.Here's a screenshot from the video, showing the Stinger missile in question.
The most significant mistake is found in the inscription on the Stinger weapon itself, which reads "tracking rainer" instead of "tracking trainer". Video games blogger Anton Logvinov noted on his website that the same typo occurs in the EA first-person shooter game Battlefield 3, leading him to believe that the Stinger 'discovered' in Lugansk is likely fake.Russian propaganda: so good it very nearly fooled a video game blogger! We will, as always, welcome our friends from the Putin internet propaganda brigade in our comments section.
We've got a double winner this week, with John Fenderson taking both first and second place for insightful with two comments from our post pointing out that, regardless of what you think about Kim Dotcom's guilt, you should be concerned about the government stealing his assets. First, John expressed a thought I've had several times myself:
Here's the funny thing: I originally believed that DotCom was probably guilty as hell, but everything the US government has said and done about this case has changed my mind and convinced me that he's probably innocent.
Next, he added another underline to the general absurdity of asset forfeiture court cases:
That it is even possible to file a court case against inanimate objects is a strong indication that the legal system is not just broken, but fundamentally corrupt and insane and is not worthy of any amount of respect.
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on the eye-opening revelations about the MPAA's conspiracy to run an anti-google smear campaign. One anonymous commenter made a connection to something else we talk about here:
It sounds like this is an actual case of a felony interference with a business model, except the charges would properly be called collusion, conspiracy, fraud, bribery, and corruption.
Next, we've got a response to General Wesley Clark's evocation of WW2 internment camps in a discussion about domestic radicalism. Even setting aside the obvious awfulness of that suggestion, there's another issue which is that Clark, like most people born after the war, seems to be forgetting or ignoring that the emergence of Naziism and its impact on America was a lot messier than we like to believe in hindsight, as Coyne Tibbets thoroughly points out:
General Wesley Clark: "They do have an ideology. In World War II if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn't say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war."
Actually, no, there were quite a few you didn't. Cases in point: William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, Standard Oil of New Jersy, Ford Motor and Henry Ford, International Telephone and Telegraph, Allen Dulles, Prescott Bush, and IBM.
Today, we have HSBC, caught laundering money for drug lords and terrorists; you didn't put any of them in camps, either.
Given those examples, I have to say, General Clark, that your ideas are pretty radical. Maybe we should lock you up in one of those camps.
Over on the funny side, it appears we have a winner to Karl's request for a new title to grant Comcast's David Cohen, since he seems to object to the accurate label of "lobbyist". Mike's suggestion wasn't just the top-voted comment on that post, it won funniest comment of the week overall:
Why not a spoonerism?
In second place for funny, we've got a response to a story everyone was talking about this week: the demonstration of how easily (and intensely) hackable modern cars can be. Chris ODonnell felt an entrepreneurial urge:
Note to self: Start used car business, market them as "secure."
For editor's choice on the funny side, we'll start by highlighting one of the anonymous runners-up for David Cohen's new title:
It isn't that I lobby
I just acquired the hobby
Of working hard to influence them all
It's not because they paid me
And no, nobody made me,
It's just that I'm at Comcast's beck and call
A lobbyist I'm not
That's simply Tommy rot
Your writing isn't funny
I hand out LOADS of money
To anyone who'll scream that they agree
It's not influence I'm buying
(Although I'm really trying!)
It's the only way that they'll be friends with me
A lobbyist NO WAY
I simply preach for pay!
That's all for this week, folks!
Five Years Ago
The copyright world was still full of activity this week in 2010. A bizarre lawsuit against Scribd, claiming the company's copyright filters were themselves infringing, was dropped; a Dutch court ruled (again) that the Pirate Bay must block Dutch users, while the Swedish Pirate Party launched the Pirate ISP; US Copyright Group filed more lawsuits in its copyright shakedown campaign, while more porn companies were getting in on the same game and Perfect 10 was trying its own brand of copyright insanity in Canada and RightHaven was ramping up its own now-infamous trolling. The entertainment industry was still trying (and failing) to make DRM not suck, the BSA was using totally made-up stats to try to change African copyright laws, Homeland Security was still aggressively conflating copyright infringement with counterfeiting, and IP Czar Victoria Espinel was playing the "blame China" card.
On the flipside, Deutsche Bank was suggesting it's time to rethink copyright and the Telegraph in the UK was suggesting record labels should give all their music away as free MP3s. RapidShare was vindicated by a German court, while an appeals court in the US was explaining to some documentary filmmakers that you can't copyright facts. And since it's admittedly fun to see copyright abuse fail, we got two entertaining stories when the designer leading the charge for fashion copyright was caught copying designs, and a Canadian copyright lawsuit seeking $27-million in damages ended with an award of $500.
There was a big non-copyright victory too: the Senate passed its bill against "libel tourism", moving towards protecting Americans from a particularly pernicious infringement on their free speech.
Ten Years Ago
Five years before that, this week in 2005 we met the first US piracy czar. Ringtone sellers were freaking out about online "shoplifters" while a fear of piracy was preventing the creation of Harry Potter e-books (and spurring the creation of homebrew versions). The Associated Press was happily misrepresenting BitTorrent while the RIAA and MPAA were trying to get California schools to do their dirty work. Up in Canada, the National Gallery was demonstrating that it did not understand the public domain, while film festival organizers in Edinburgh were adopting Hollywood-style bans on mobile phones. The stupidity and inefficacy of all these things was unimportant: the entertainment industry just believes what it wants to believe.
Apparently in 2005, you could still take a stance against mobile phones as a whole, on the basis that they could be used as terrorism tools — though a quick look at how much teens and young adults loved their phones should have put that to bed as a realistic position. Of course, far more popular was concern over violence and sex in video games, the hype of which led Grand Theft Auto to get bumped up from an M rating to "Adults Only".
Fifteen Years Ago
Silicon Valley was still in a state of flux this week in 2000. People noted that VCs were hit by the dot-com bubble in their own way alongside entrepreneurs, people were making wildly different predictions about the future of Webvan (turns out the dark ones were correct), and Steve Ballmer was suggesting dot-coms are still overvalued and overfunded (with perhaps not entirely pure motives).
In a surprising shift in the 2000-internet landscape, CNET bought ZDNET for $1.6-billion (only $0.2-billion less than CBS would buy it for eight years later), and some wondered how this would impact the journalism. Online advertising, at least, appeared to be working and the wireless web was slowly but surely starting to make some sense. The phenomenon of texting was still fresh, as were sneaky phishing scams.
Also, I'd entirely forgotten about the existence of this machine, but it was this week in 2000 that Apple introduced the G4 Cube. It was an utter flop, and Macworld has a great look at the still-ongoing debate about why.
One-Hundred And Eighty-Six Years Ago
Before there were typewriters, there were "typographers" — the cumbersome forerunners that date all the way back to the early 19th century. Though the details of the first known example — an 1808 Italian machine — are mostly lost, it was on July 23rd, 1829 that the first American "typographer" machine was granted a patent. It was invented by William Austin Burt, and would later come to be retroactively known as a typewriter as that word gained popularity.
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Jul 25th 2015 9:00am
GoPro cameras were a revolution in the world of video, enabling a level of high-action photography with a low-cost, out-of-the-box solution. In general, there's a growing number of rugged outdoor devices for capturing video, pictures and sound — but there's still a stumbling block for people who venture to the corners of the earth with their cameras in tow. This week, we're looking at the Gnarbox, which could be the final piece of the puzzle for outdoor action photographers.
What's the one stumbling block I mentioned? Simple: dealing with all your footage. A day out with a GoPro at full resolution generates gigabytes of video, leaving you with two main options, neither of them great. You can carry a bunch of backup memory cards for the camera, or you can add a laptop to your travelling kit — largely negating the ability to just toss a bunch of extremely rugged gear in your bag without fear of damage (or requiring the purchase of a rugged outdoor laptop — something far rarer and more expensive than a camera).
Gnarbox is the new third option: a tiny, heavy-duty device that's halfway to being a full-fledged computer. It has 128gb of internal storage, so you can quickly load it up with the day's footage (by USB or with the built-in SD card reader), but that's just the beginning: it also has its own GPU and CPU, and serves as a WiFi hotspot to create a local network. This means that once you've got the footage loaded up, you can wirelessly connect to the Gnarbox with your smartphone, control it via the app, and actually start editing and sharing videos — even full-resolution 4K ones. Not only does this eliminate the problem of dealing with all your footage and clearing off your camera for the next day's adventure, it also makes it easy to rapidly share the videos you are creating without needing to wait until you reach a computer-equipped home base.
The (Not Actually) Bad
In many of these Awesome Stuff posts, I've bemoaned the fact that otherwise-cool devices are so often limited by the choice to make them exclusively smartphone-controlled. But the Gnarbox is a different case: its entire purpose is to replace more robust computers in situations where they aren't ideal, and to bring a level of video editing capability to your phone that was formerly the exclusive realm of higher-power devices. So, for once, I have no complaints about the fact that it requires the use of an Android or iOS app, since if you're near a desktop or laptop then you don't have any need for it to begin with. That's the right reason to build a smartphone-only device: not because you want to lock people in to your proprietary app or you want to block power-users from getting into the nuts and bolts of your product, but in order to bring a new capability to smartphones that they didn't have before. Editing 128gb of 4k footage certainly qualifies.
If any of this has piqued your interest, now is the time to go check out the Gnarbox, because there are some pretty great deals for Kickstarter backers. Even the projected retail price of $250 is attractive for such a device, but the Kickstarter rewards knock 40% off that price and let you order one for only $150, two for only $279, or a big pack of ten for only $100 a pop. But be warned, these are all limited quantities, and not just for the early bird prices but for the device itself — the initial Kickstarter run of 1000 Gnarboxes is already down to less than 200, so there doesn't seem to be much time left.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 24th 2015 7:39pm
Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed.In other words, Jim Hood and the MPAA were out and out planning a coordinated media attack on Google using the editorial properties that supposedly claim to have editorial independence from the business side. Notice that with the WSJ piece, they flat out admit that the editorial will be based on the ideas that "we" have developed. If you work for the WSJ, your editorial independence just got shot down. Remember when CBS stepped in and interfered editorially with CNET for giving an award to Dish at the same time that CBS was in a legal fight over that same device? That resulted in reporters quitting.
Following the media blitz, you want Bill Guidera and Rick Smotkin to work with the PR firm to identify a lawyer specializing in SEC matters to work with a stockholder. This lawyer should be able to the [sic] identify the appropriate regulatory filing to be made against Google.As Google notes in its legal filing about this email, the "plan" states that if this effort fails, then the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. As Google points out, this makes it pretty clear (1) that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and (2) that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works. It's pretty damning:
The document thus shows that the CID was not the foundation of a legitimate investigation—rather, it was a “final step” that would be issued only “if necessary” to further pressure Google to capitulate to the demands of AG Hood and his supporters.The court has yet to rule on what else Hollywood needs to turn over, but just from what's coming out already, serious questions are being raised (1) about Jim Hood and his office and what they were up to as well as (2) the editorial independence of the media arms of the MPAA studios, including both NBCUniversal ("the Today Show") and NewsCorp. (the Wall Street Journal).
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Jul 24th 2015 6:25pm
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report on the DEA's use of confidential informants has been published. (We're still an unknown amount of time away for his report on the agency's use of administrative subpoenas.) And it's still incomplete. Horowitz has been fighting the FBI and DEA every step of the way, as both agencies have proven not only unwilling to turn over needed documents, but thoroughly resistant to DOJ intervention or threats against their collective wallets.
The opening of the OIG report gives some insight into the months of DEA interference and recalcitrance.
Our audit work thus far has been seriously delayed by numerous instances of uncooperativeness from the DEA, including attempts to prohibit the OIG’s observation of confidential source file reviews and delays, for months at a time, in providing the OIG with requested confidential source information and documentation. In each instance, the matters were resolved only after the Inspector General elevated them to the DEA Administrator. As a result, over 1 year after we initiated this review, the OIG only has been able to conduct a limited review of the DEA’s Confidential Source Program.This makes the concluding sentences of this same paragraph seem particularly hopeless.
Nevertheless, we have uncovered several significant issues related to the DEA’s management of its Confidential Source Program that we believe require the prompt attention of DOJ and DEA leadership, as identified in this report. We will continue to audit the DEA’s Confidential Source Program to more fully assess the DEA’s management and oversight of its confidential sources.If you can't get the DEA to turn over existing documents, it's highly unlikely Horowitz's recommendations will be implemented with any expedience. The DEA has already shown complete disdain for its oversight. Putting this in print won't change that.
The DEA’s differing policies have resulted in DEA personnel being able to use high-risk individuals as confidential sources without the level of review as would otherwise be required by the AG Guidelines for high-level and privileged or media-affiliated sources. These categories include individuals who are part of drug trafficking organization leadership, as well as individuals who are lawyers, doctors, or journalists. The AG Guidelines provide a special approval distinction for these individuals because the use of them as confidential sources poses an increased risk to the public and DEA and creates potential legal implications for DOJ. The exemption of the DEA from these requirements results in a relative lack of DEA and DOJ oversight…And what has this lack of oversight led to? All sorts of fun stuff. The DEA has shown little interest in thoroughly reviewing its informants' "conduct authorization." By failing to stay current on what informants can commit what criminal acts, illegal activities are occurring with the implicit approval of the agency -- whether or not they contribute to ongoing investigations.
In some cases, the DEA continued to use, for up to 6 years without any DOJ intervention, individuals who were involved in unauthorized illegal activities and who were under investigation by federal entities.While committing criminal acts in the service of the Drug War, these sources were also availing themselves of additional taxpayer funds -- again without proper oversight -- in the form of federal benefits.
We estimated that, in just the 1-year period from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014, the DEA paid 17 confidential sources or their dependents FECA benefits totaling approximately $1.034 million.The DEA's oversight-dodging is more than just its ad hoc meshing of pertinent rules. It also involves using a completely different categorization process for its informants. Certain informants working with other federal agencies are designated "high level" and must be directly approved by the DOJ and US Attorney's Office. The DEA avoids this outside approval process by using its own rubric, which doesn't contain the "high level" designation and appears to have very flexible sitpulations. This includes policies pertaining to informants whose communications may fall under the heading of "privileged."
Other DEA headquarters’ officials acknowledged that Special Agents are permitted to establish as a confidential source a privileged or media-affiliated status individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to obtain information not related to the source’s employment. In these cases, the DEA’s legal staff would review the proposed utilization of the privileged or media-affiliated individual to ensure there is not a breach of privilege. However, this requirement and process is not included in the DEA Special Agents Manual section on confidential sources. Thus, the DEA solely relies on the discretion and judgment of its special agents to identify occupations that necessitate additional review and seek that from DEA legal staff.The agency's approval of Otherwise Illegal Activities is similarly flawed, again allowing the agency to avoid oversight. (As well as any perception of the DEA as a competent, well-run crime-fighting machine.) For a drug-targeting agency, it certainly takes a very hands-off approach to drug-related activity.
[T]he DEA Special Agents Manual section on sensitive activities explicitly excludes drug buys and other routine confidential source activities, and the DEA Special Agents Manual section on confidential sources does not provide detail on the process for using confidential sources to perform illegal acts such as drug buys, does not require SAC approval for larger drug deals, and does not reach smaller ones…This lackadaisical approach is likely costing the DEA drug busts. Because it shows almost no interest in policing approved criminal activity, it could find itself struggling when attempting to prosecute former informants or their conspirators.
These inadequate DEA policies and procedures related to OIA greatly increase the risk to the DEA, the U.S. government, and the public from the involvement of DEA confidential sources in OIA. DEA confidential sources could engage in illegal activity that has not been adequately considered, or become involved in additional illegal activities beyond those that have been considered with the mistaken belief that they are doing so with the authorization of the DEA.
The DEA submitted and DOL accepted a claim for a confidential source who was presumably killed overseas in 1991. However, according to the file, there were no witnesses to the confidential source’s death and the source’s body had not been recovered.In addition, the DOL considered anything the DEA forwarded to it to be perfectly accurate, resulting in "disabled" confidential sources drawing paychecks from both the DEA and the DOL for years at a time.
The DEA submitted and DOL accepted a claim for a confidential source who was shot and injured at home in 2002. However, the file indicates that there were no witnesses to the shooting and the file contained no evidence of a link between the shooting and the individual’s status as a DEA source.
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|12:48||Judge Says Government Can Continue To Refuse To Acknowledge Certain Drone Strike Documents (12)|
|12:43||Daily Deal: The Quicklock (8)|
|11:47||Geniuses Representing Universal Pictures Ask Google To Delist 127.0.0.1 For Piracy (68)|
|10:43||Your Tax Dollars At Work: 1,000-Page Funding Bill Dropped On Senate Floor One Hour Before Vote (18)|
|09:35||FCC Commissioner O'Rielly: Nobody Takes Me Seriously After Voting Down Every Consumer-Friendly FCC Policy This Year (14)|
|08:28||NJ Legislators Want To Ban Drone Photography Of 'Critical Infrastructure' (31)|
|06:21||Cable Industry Still Proudly Thinks Cord Cutting Is A Media-Manufactured Crisis (37)|
|04:09||Aussie Study: Infringers Spend More On Content Than Non-Infringers (37)|
|01:06||Australia Ploughing Ahead With TPP Negotiations Even Though It Has Never Checked If Any Previous Trade Agreement Was Beneficial (19)|
|21:04||NYC Mayor De Blasio Realizes His Plan To Kneecap Uber Was A Disaster, Backs Down (33)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Artificial Intelligence Is Here To Help Us... (13)|
|15:19||Judge Orders CIA To Pay $400,000 In Legal Fees To FOIA Requester It Jerked Around For More Than A Decade (20)|
|13:51||Car Hack Demonstrates Why Security Researchers Shouldn't Have To Worry About Copyright In Exposing Weaknesses (39)|