by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 10th 2015 4:12am
by Tim Cushing
Mon, May 11th 2015 10:35am
from the retweet-if-you-think-terrorism-should-be-stopped dept
Al-Qaida has been replaced by ISIS at the focal point of counterterrorism efforts. When legislators talk about fighting terrorism, they talk about taking on ISIS. ISIS, like any other organization out there, has used social media platforms to spread its message. Whether or not its efforts have been more successful than previous like-minded organizations hasn't really been quantified, but for sheer shock value, it has every other terrorist outfit beat.
Because images and recordings of its atrocities have spread through the internet with amazing speed and ease, it's tempting to view ISIS as a group of digital natives -- people whose entire life has been filled with some sort of internet outlet for sociable sharing. The group seems to contain much sought after viral power, but that's likely due to its audience spending an increasing amount of time viewing the world through a browser, rather than through nightly news reports and morning papers.
The perception is the truth and a few US senators are seeking to counteract ISIS's viral power by utilizing the same playing fields. This may be a good idea, but it's also providing for some inadvertent hilarity as legislators put two and two together and get Voice of America: Buzzfeed edition.
“There’s an obvious piece of legislation that we need to start working on,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said during a Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Jihad 2.0“.This doesn't bode well. The average member of America's governing bodies may generally find the use of the adjective "fancy" to still be perfectly normal, but the internet battlefield they're wishing to enter has never combined the words "fancy" and "meme" before. Booker's youth puts him in shouting distance of digital natives, but his clumsy phrasing could not have separated him further from the hearts and minds he's wishing to conquer.
“Let’s face it: We invented the Internet. We invented the social network sites. We’ve got Hollywood. We’ve got the capabilities… to blow these guys out of the water from the standpoint of communications.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., backed his colleague’s appeal. “Look at their fancy memes compared to what we’re not doing,” Booker said, displaying examples of jihadist online postings.
Booker does raise valid points, though. There is some value in deploying counterpropaganda using the same communications channels. He later lamented the "millions" being spent on tools of dubious effectiveness, like Voice of America.
There are ways to deter potential ISIS sympathizers and recruits, but the US is engaged in roughly none of them. A constant military presence that alternated between surges and drone strikes isn't likely to result in fence-sitters opting for the American way. What's worse is the FBI's ongoing Grow Your Own Terrorist!™ program, which has succeeded in saving the world from a collection of "terrorists" whose only criminal act was playing along with undercover agents' suggestions in exchange for the occasional self-esteem boost. As a result of these so-called sting operations, those who could actually use help in dissuading friends or family members from being swayed by ISIS's message are instead keeping their concerns to themselves.
[National security expert Peter Bergen] noted that Muslim families who see a son or daughter radicalizing online are deterred from reporting the matter to the FBI out of fear that he or she will be thrown in jail for more than a decade.When the purchase of plane tickets to certain nations is construed as "providing material support" for terrorism, there's something wrong with the system.
This isn't meant to be a total and preemptive condemnation of potential US efforts to engage ISIS on the digital battlefield. The problem is that the government is the entity least likely to do this effectively, seeing as it's largely unused to deploying anything with subtlety or agility. That it's calling on Hollywood to help it with its counterterrorism efforts is also a bit concerning, considering it conjures up images of Uncle Sam running a propaganda mill out of a studio backlot. Not only will this do little to sway potential ISIS sympathizers, but it's also apt to turn more citizens against their government, even if they agree that ISIS is a worthwhile target.
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Apr 27th 2015 3:48am
Senior Police Officer Suggests Companies Allowing People To Use Strong Crypto Are 'Friendly To Terrorists'
from the just-stop-whining dept
Last November, we ran through the list of senior law enforcement officers on both sides of the Atlantic who all came out with suspiciously similar whines about how strong crypto was turning the internet into a "dark and ungoverned" place. Judging by this story in Reuters, others want to join the choir:
Some technology and communication firms are helping militants avoid detection by developing systems that are "friendly to terrorists", Britain's top anti-terrorism police officer said on Tuesday.
That remark comes from Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who is the UK's National Policing Lead for Counter-Terrorism, replacing Cressida Dick. Here's the problem according to Rowley:
"Some of the acceleration of technology, whether it's communications or other spheres, can be set up in different ways," Rowley told a conference in London.
"Set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them" obviously means using strong crypto; "set up in a way which doesn't do that" therefore means with compromised crypto. Like his colleagues, Rowley too blames the current mistrust between the intelligence agencies and computer companies on Edward Snowden:
"It can be set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them ... and creates challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Or it can be set up in a way which doesn't do that."
"Snowden has created an environment where some technology companies are less comfortable working with law reinforcement and intelligence agencies and the bad guys are better informed," Rowley told Reuters after his speech.
Well, no, actually. That "environment" has been created by the NSA and GCHQ working together to break into the main online services, and undermine key aspects of digital technology, with no thought for the collateral damage that ruining internet security might cause for the world. Rowley is also quoted as saying:
"We all love the benefit of the internet and all the rest of it, but we need [technology companies'] support in making sure that they're doing everything possible to stop their technology being exploited by terrorists. I'm saying that needs to be front and centre of their thinking and for some it is and some it isn't."
The technology is not being "exploited" by terrorists, it's being used by them, just as they use telephones or microwaves or washing machines. That's what those devices are there for. The idea that trying to make broken internet technologies should be "front and center" of technology companies' thinking bespeaks a complete contempt for their users.
This constant refrain about how awful strong crypto is, and how we must break it, is simply the intelligence services implicitly admitting that they find the idea of doing their job in a free society, where people are able to keep some messages private, too hard, so they would be really grateful if technology companies could just fall in line and make life easier by destroying privacy for everyone.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 13th 2015 7:58am
from the look-at-that... dept
What he hadn't realized was that when the incident happened last year with Booker and his Facebook page, there was actually news coverage about it, with the FBI actually saying that they had investigated and Booker was no threat at all:
The alert, which was sourced to “an FBI agent,” stated it was distributed to “inform and protect officers who may encounter this individual or others exhibiting the same aspirations.”The reporter who wrote that above now works at the Intercept and has revealed more details, including the FBI's Situational Information Report after it had interviewed Booker a year ago. It notes that not only had Booker checked himself into a mental health facility a month earlier, but also that he basically had no way of carrying out any threat:
Four days later, on Tuesday, the FBI downplayed the "routine" alert, saying it was not actively searching for Booker. The agency said it did not believe he posed an "imminent threat," despite the original alert's invocation of the Fort Hood shooting, where an Army psychologist killed 13 and wounded more than 30 on a Texas military base in 2009.
“We have interviewed this individual,” an FBI spokesman said. “There is not a manhunt and there never was one. There is no imminent threat to public safety, nor should the public be concerned that this threat exists from an individual at large."
BOOKER does not have access to a vehicle or other form of transportation at this time, nor is there evidence he possess firearms.It appears that Booker only became a real threat... once two FBI informants showed up and created the plot for him.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 3rd 2015 4:04am
FBI Uncovers Another Of Its Own Plots, Senator Feinstein Responds By Saying We Should Censor The Internet
from the say-what-now? dept
Still, politicians never leave an opportunity like this unexploited, and so in jumps Senator Dianne Feinstein, arguing that the only proper way to deal with this is to, of course... censor the internet:
I am particularly struck that the alleged bombers made use of online bombmaking guides like the Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire Magazine. These documents are not, in my view, protected by the First Amendment and should be removed from the Internet.For what it's worth, Dianne Feinstein's "view" is wrong. The Anarchist Cookbook is very much protected by the First Amendment. While the book is banned in other countries, who don't have the equivalent of the First Amendment, it's perfectly legal in the US. The FBI/DOJ has extensively investigated the Anarchist's Cookbook in particular over the years, and as far back as 1997 directly told Senator Feinstein that she could not ban it. This is from the DOJ back in 1997:
Senator Feinstein introduced legislation during the last Congress in an attempt to fill this gap. The Department of Justice agrees that it would be appropriate and beneficial to adopt further legislation to address this problem directly, if that can be accomplished in a manner that does not impermissibly restrict the wholly legitimate publication and teaching of such information, or otherwise violate the First Amendment.And yet, Feinstein's first response to the FBI uncovering yet another of its own plots is to go back to trying to censoring the internet in direct violation of the First Amendment? Yikes.
The First Amendment would impose substantial constraints on any attempt to proscribe indiscriminately the dissemination of bombmaking information. The government generally may not, except in rare circumstances, punish persons either for advocating lawless action or for disseminating truthful information -- including information that would be dangerous if used -- that such persons have obtained lawfully.
Oh, and even worse... in keeping with the fact that this plot was actually created by the FBI itself, guess where the two "terrorist wannabes" got the Anarchist Cookbook? From the undercover FBI agent! From the criminal complaint itself [pdf]:
On or about Novermber 2, 2014, the UC [Undercover Officer] met with VELNTZAS and SIDDIQUI. When VELENTZAS was reading a book called "Chemistry: The Central Science," the UC asked how this book was going to benefit them. VELENTZAS stated that they could practice at her house, but could not leave any residue. The UC stated that practicing at the house was not a good idea because the people living in the apartment below VELENTZAS might hear loud noises, referring to noises from explosions. VELENTZAS said she could always tell her neighbors that she dropped some bookshelves. The UC and VELENTZAS then discussed the fact that the UC had downloaded The Anarchist Cookbook. VELENTZAS suggested the UC print out the parts of the book that they would need. During the conversation, the UC stated, "We read chemistry books with breakfast. Like, who does that?" VELENTZAS responded, "People who want to make history."The complaint also lists many other books and magazines and web pages that the various people read throughout, and later has one of the wannabe terrorists thanking the undercover agent for introducing The Anarchist's Cookbook to her.
As for the other document that Feinstein wants to censor, Inspire is Al Qaeda's magazine. And, again, reading through the complaint you see that it was actually the undercover agent who brought the magazine. The wannabe terrorist did ask the undercover agent to get it, and eventually it was the undercover agent who actually got it. Velentzas keeps asking the undercover agent to find a copy of Inspire, over and over again in the complaint until eventually the agent complies:
On or about December 24, 2014, the UC visited VELENTZAS and brought the Spring 2014 issue of Inspire magazine, as previously requested by VELENTZAS.In other words, in neither case did the would be terrorists get the "bad" material from the internet. In both cases it came from the undercover FBI agent.
Meanwhile, it seems like the only real result of this ridiculous statement will be for Feinstein to drive ever more awareness to the old Anarchist's Cookbook, so yet another generation of teenagers can discover it and think they've found something totally cool online.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Mar 30th 2015 3:45pm
from the thanks-for-the-exploitable-tech,-US-citizens! dept
Two things remain certain in life: death... and law enforcement agencies using license plate readers obtained with Homeland Security grants for purposes not even remotely related to securing the homeland.
Here's how Newport News, Virginia's police department obtained its automatic license plate readers:
Grant money from a terrorism prevention program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management provided the funding for automatic license plate readers for several Hampton Roads agencies, including Newport News, Suffolk, Norfolk, Williamsburg, James City County, York-Poquoson and Isle of Wight, said Laura Southard, public outreach coordinator for the state's emergency management department.And here's what it's doing with them:
Hampton Roads law enforcement departments received $869,000 in 2009, $357,000 in 2010 and $143,000 in 2011 for license plate readers, Southard said.
Delinquent taxpayers in Newport News could have their vehicles impounded if new cameras snap a photo of their license plates around town.The terms "terrorism" and "drug enforcement" were likely thrown around during the application process, but the end result is the city viewing law enforcement technology as just another revenue generator. A "hit" from the ALPR will result in the vehicle being towed within three days if the delinquent taxes aren't paid off or a payment plan set up.
In an attempt to claim the nearly $4 million in delinquent personal property taxes owed, the city will soon begin using license plate scanners to find vehicles on which more than $200 in personal property taxes are owed.
The cameras will be mounted to the backs of six sheriff's department cruisers to automatically read license plate numbers. Those numbers will be cross-searched with a database updated daily of all the license plates in the city with more than $200 in personal property taxes owed, Treasurer Marty Eubank said.
While the city has every right to pursue delinquent taxes, it has no business re-purposing federally-purchased law enforcement technology to do so. Citizens concerned about ALPR databases housing millions of non-hit records have always been assured that this technology will be used to fight the baddest of the bad: drug dealers, terrorists, auto thieves, kidnappers, etc. But now it's being used to collect back taxes -- hardly the sort of thing Homeland Security funds should be used for.
Things get even more petty a little down the road in Hampton, Virginia. While Newport News' enforcement efforts don't kick in unless more than $200 is owed, Hampton is all about the Lincolns.
Hampton has one camera mounted to a city minivan, not a police vehicle, which is driven around town every week day, said Dave Ellis, field compliance supervisor in the Hampton Treasurer's Office. When field investigators find a vehicle with a license plate for which more than $5 in property taxes is owed, they first place a warning sticker on the vehicle telling the owner to make contact with the city. If there is no response from the owner after about a week, the investigators go back and remove the license plates or put on a wheel lock, Ellis said.Hampton's tax-collecting ALPRs were first deployed in 2008. It's left unclear how the usually "law enforcement-only" technology ended up in the city's hands, but most likely a Memorandum of Understanding allowed the transfer of the plate readers. To date, $1.4 million in federal funds have been dispersed to pay for law enforcement's ALPRs -- and now some of them are being used to track down $5 property tax deadbeats.
Isle of Wight doesn't even bother doing its own tax collection efforts. According to the article, this is outsourced to a private company with its own plate readers, meaning there's next to zero accountability. Turning a city job private keeps records related to tax collection efforts a little further away from curious constituents and their Freedom of Information requests.
Not that the Hampton Roads law enforcement network is too concerned about overstepping its bounds or potentially violating constitutional rights. As was covered here late last year, these same law enforcement agencies have built their own phone record database -- filled with data obtained from subpoenas, warrants and court orders -- which is shared between the multiple agencies with no apparent oversight.
Once you get past the re-purposing of federal funds for local tax collection, you arrive at the question of cost effectiveness. Hampton sends its city vehicle out every weekday to troll for plates. On top of the paycheck handed out to the driver(s), there's fuel and vehicle wear-and-tear costs to be considered, along with whatever's being paid to maintain the technology and its database. And yet, it seems satisfied to have collected $60,000 in unpaid taxes last year -- seemingly "break even" at best.
The bottom line is this: if you want to use ALPRs to catch delinquent taxpayers, then be upfront about this and use local funds to purchase the equipment. Don't simply use the technology because it's there. Using federally-funded plate readers is basically asking the rest of the US to fund your local tax collection efforts. And just like when law enforcement deploys these readers, there should be explicit, public information about how the data is collected, retained and destroyed. Sure, law enforcement agencies have been less than open about these factors, but at least they have the (poor) excuse that there are means and methods to protect. The cities doing this don't have anything to protect -- at least nothing that would (supposedly) threaten public safety if it were made known.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Mar 30th 2015 2:39pm
Many FBI Agents Find Racial Profiling Useless, But Those Up Top Feel It's Just A Failure To Get Everyone On Board
from the Assistant-Regional-Director-of-First/Fourth-Amendment-Violations dept
The recently-released 9/11 Commission's review of FBI tactics in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks seems to suggest the agency should perform even more racial profiling than it already does. As Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake points out, the language in the report places a lot of emphasis on "domain awareness" and pre-crime policing.
Documents the American Civil Liberties Union have been able to obtain show [PDF] that “FBI analysts make judgments based on crude stereotypes about the types of crimes different racial and ethnic groups commit, which they then use to justify collecting demographic data to map where people with that racial or ethnic makeup live.” The FBI uses “domain analysis” to target American Muslims and Islamic institutions.The similarities between this suggested course of action and the NYPD's infamous "Demographics Unit" (led by a former CIA official) are notable. Both involve questionable tactics like declaring entire mosques "terrorist organizations" simply because attendees followed the same religion as the 9/11 attackers. Notably, the FBI found the NYPD's tactics so thoroughly violated the rights of those being surveilled that it refused to access any of the intelligence gathered by the Demographics Unit. That decision ultimately cost the FBI nothing in terms of usable intel. Despite years of rights violations and round-the-clock surveillance, the NYPD's special unit was never instrumental in preventing attacks or producing significant arrests.
Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel notes that the FBI's analysis of the 9/11 Commission's reports indicates a significant percentage of FBI agents found racial profiling and pre-crime "investigations" to be a waste of time.
According to one anecdote, 20% of analysts (not even Field Agents!) understand the point of this. And even in offices where they do understand, the Field Agents won’t do their part by going and filling in the blanks analysts identify.
The "blanks" are contained in CSCCs (Central Strategic Coordinating Components), linked to field offices' "domain awareness" programs. But one-fifth of agents refused to comply with this directive -- not because 20% of FBI agents are necessarily against racial profiling (documents obtained by the ACLU show otherwise) -- but because the tactic just doesn't work.
Call me crazy. But maybe the people responding to actual crimes believe they learn enough in that process — and are plenty busy enough trying to catch criminals — that they don’t see the point of racially profiling people like NYPD does? Maybe they believe the ongoing threats are where the past ones have been, and there’s no need to spend their time investigating where there aren’t crimes in case there ever are in the future?Doing investigative work like investigators, rather than like surveillance dragnets? That's probably crazy enough to work. Not that the FBI has any desire to dial back its requests for encryption backdoors and unfettered access to electronic communications, but those actually out in the field seem to know what works and what doesn't. And a constant APB for anyone fitting the "Muslim/Male" description isn't exactly helpful.
Of course, those at the top -- the ones finding this to be a credible way to fight terrorism -- see this 20% as outliers who have failed to "get on the bus." And in a mixture of the worst parts of bureaucracy and corporate culture, they've responded with "do more of what isn't productive, only faster and harder."
Yet rather than analyzing whether this concept serves any purpose whatsoever, it instead says, “it’s corporate policy, no one is doing it well, so it needs to improve.”There's a lesson here, but those writing the review aren't comprehending it. (Wheeler notes that many of those interviewed for the report aren't actually FBI agents, but rather representatives of other intelligence agencies, like the CIA.) To catch terrorists, you need smarter investigative work, not work that involves blanket surveillance and the rote filling in of blanks. The NYPD should know this, considering its failure to catch plots later uncovered by the FBI, but it doesn't. Despite the disbandment of the "Demographics Unit," it still clings to the belief that mass surveillance beats real police work any day of the week. The FBI has figured this out -- or at least a percentage of its agents have -- but that's not going to be enough to persuade those calling for more of everything to dial back their efforts a bit.
The FBI can be smart, but it's apparently hampered by upper management with an obvious fondness for bad ideas that simultaneously expand the agency's power. If it is how it looks, the real aim of the agency heads is more power, not fewer terrorist attacks.
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Mar 27th 2015 8:18am
from the waving-through-felons-while-patting-down-toddler dept
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) received a whistleblower disclosure alleging a sufficiently notorious convicted felon was improperly cleared for TSA Pre✓ screening, creating a significant aviation security breach. The disclosure identified this event as a possible error in the TSA Secure Flight program since the traveler’s boarding pass contained a TSA Pre✓ indicator and encrypted barcode.The good news (such as it were) is that the TSA did not grant the unnamed felon/terrorist PreCheck approval through its laborious and intrusive application process. It also didn't wave him/her through because lines were backing up at the normal checkpoints. (This is called "Managed Inclusion" by the TSA, but it more resembles "For the Hell of It" in practice…) That ends the good news.
It did, however, use its "risk assessment rules" to determine the terrorist/felon to be of no threat. This might be encouraging news for former felons/domestic terrorists, perhaps signaling that government agencies may ultimately forgive some criminal acts and not subject former felons to additional security harassment in perpetuity. Then again, this may just be the TSA's excuse for waving someone with questionable PreCheck clearance through security because a checkmark -- and its own internal bureaucracy -- told it to.
We also determined the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) followed standard operating procedures, but did not feel empowered to redirect the traveler from TSA Pre✓ screening to standard lane screening.The OIG recommends more "empowerment" for rank-and-file. Good luck with that. If officers don't feel empowered, it's because management has shown them that questioning the (broken and wildly inconsistent) system isn't an option. Neither is doing any independent thinking. When this officer attempted to push it up the line, he/she ran into a pretty predictable response.
[T]he TSO knew of the traveler's TSA Pre✓disqualifying criminal convictions. The TSO followed the standard operating procedures and reported this to the supervisory TSO who then directed the TSO to take no further action and allow the traveler through the TSA Pre✓ lane. As a result, TSA does not have an incident report for this event.One of the TSA's Behavioral Detection Officers (highly-trained in the art of the mental coin toss) was also contacted by the concerned officer. And, again, no further action was taken/recommended.
In the end, a felon/terrorist boarded a plane because the TSA's bureaucratic process can't handle contradictory variables. The PreCheck approval said "yes," but the previous convictions said PreCheck approval should never have happened. The TSA deferred to the obviously incorrect checkmark on the boarding pass. And now we have the punchline to the joke that starts, "A murderer with explosives experience walks into a PreCheck lane…"
The OIG's mostly-redacted recommendation criticizing the TSA's over-reliance on fallible pre-screening processes was mostly ignored by the agency.
TSA officials did not concur with Recommendation 1. In its response, TSA said that with respect to individuals who may pose an elevated security risk to commercial aviation, theU.S. Government's approach to domestic aviation security relies heavily on the TSDB and its Selectee List and No Fly List subcomponents. TSA said, had the intelligence or national law enforcement communities felt that this traveler posed an elevated risk to commercial aviation, they would have nominated the traveler to one of these lists and prevented the traveler from being designated as lower-risk.To which the OIG responded, "Well, that 's obviously not working because this traveler should have been automatically denied PreCheck approval."
We consider TSA's actions nonresponsive to the intent of Recommendation 1, which is unresolved and open. TSA said it relies on the U.S. Government watchlisting process to identify individuals that represent an elevated risk to commercial aviation. However, not all non-watchlisted passengers are lower-risk and eligible for TSA Pre✓. For example, TSA has established disqualifying criteria, in addition to the watchlisting process, for an applicant seeking TSA Pre✓ Application Program membership. TSA will deny membership to an applicant convicted of any of the 28 disqualifying criminal offenses or not a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. Even though the traveler is not watchlisted, the traveler would be permanently ineligible for TSA Pre✓.And yet, a convicted murderer has been PreCheck approved. The TSA wants to blame the rest of the government. The OIG just wants someone to use common sense, rather than never questioning a boarding pass. The OIG has a good point. The TSA claims it's shifting to a smarter, more responsive travel security, like the PreCheck program and its many Behavioral Detection Officers. But when a situation involving both arose, it left the thinking to its brainstem -- unwavering faith in databases and policy -- rather than making any move indicative of higher thought processes.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 18th 2015 10:37am
from the liberte?-egalite? dept
You are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.
"I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.Except... it already appears that France is really just censoring websites with messages it doesn't like. In that first batch was a site called "islamic-news.info." The owner of that site not only notes that he was never first contacted to "remove" whatever material was deemed terrorist supporting (as required by the law), but that nothing in what he had posted was supporting terrorism. He has written a public statement posted on the French news site Numerama, in which he makes it clear that he's a one-man operation, and that he's been doing everything based on a 50 euro/month hosting plan, and that he doesn't support ISIS or Al Qaeda at all. His site is opinionated, but mostly just against current Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. In fact, he notes that he specifically avoided topics that might be misinterpreted to suggest that he supported terrorists. He did not share ISIS propaganda or similar content. He even points out how he denounced a Syrian fighter who argued for attacks on Europe, saying that such things would reflect poorly on Muslims in Europe.
"I make a distinction between freedom of expression and the spread of messages that serve to glorify terrorism. These hate messages are a crime."
But, with no judicial review, no due process at all, the French government declared the site to be a terrorist supporter and now it's gone.
All that talk about France and free speech quickly fade into nothing. As Glenn Greenwald, at the Intercept, points out in response to all of this, blatant government censorship is far more damaging than terrorist attacks (while also noting that governments around the globe are moving in similar directions):
In sum, far more damage has been inflicted historically by efforts to censor and criminalize political ideas than by the kind of “terrorism” these governments are invoking to justify these censorship powers.France's "motto" is supposedly Liberté, égalité, fraternité. I have difficulty seeing how blatantly censoring websites you disagree with, without any sort of due process, fits with any of those three ideals.
And whatever else may be true, few things are more inimical to, or threatening of, Internet freedom than allowing functionaries inside governments to unilaterally block websites from functioning on the ground that the ideas those sites advocate are objectionable or “dangerous.” That’s every bit as true when the censors are in Paris, London, and Ottawa, and Washington as when they are in Tehran, Moscow or Beijing.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Mar 17th 2015 2:51pm
from the SAFER-THAN-EVER dept
When over 90% of the funding, idea generation, transportation and motivation comes from those saving us from terrorism, we have reason to be worried. While the FBI performs its predatory handcrafting of "extremists," the real terrorists -- who don't need someone else to provide weapons, money and motivation -- are still going about the business of terrorism.
This isn't to say that all, or even a majority, of the FBI's anti-terrorist resources are devoted to digging a hole and filling it back up. But a portion of it is, and that portion is squandered completely. And these numbers, gathered by The Intercept, put the squandered portion at nearly 50% of the total.
Informant-led sting operations are central to the FBI’s counterterrorism program. Of 508 defendants prosecuted in federal terrorism-related cases in the decade after 9/11, 243 were involved with an FBI informant, while 158 were the targets of sting operations.The (supposed) terrorist in this case -- who was 25 years old when FBI agents dressed him up as a terrorist (having provided the weapons and bomb-making material) and recorded a so-called "martyrdom video" written and directed by undercover agents -- was broke and apparently unable to aspire to anything, much less a series of bombings culminating in death-by-suicide-vest.
The agents referred to Sami Osmakac as a "retarded fool" without a "pot to piss in." According to The Intercept's in-depth report, Osmakac couldn't have financed his own glorious Muslim "revenge." He couldn't even afford to replace the dead battery in his '94 Honda. He had no money, no social life and no wheels. And yet, the FBI portrayed him as capable of doing the following:
After recording this video in a rundown Days Inn in Tampa, Florida, Osmakac prepared to deliver what he thought was a car bomb to a popular Irish bar. According to the government, Osmakac was a dangerous, lone-wolf terrorist who would have bombed the Tampa bar, then headed to a local casino where he would have taken hostages, before finally detonating his suicide vest once police arrived.And yet, when it came down to it, the FBI had to supply everything, including a ride.
The FBI provided all of the weapons seen in Osmakac’s martyrdom video. The bureau also gave Osmakac the car bomb he allegedly planned to detonate, and even money for a taxi so he could get to where the FBI needed him to go.To the government, Osmakac was a dangerous "lone wolf." To several psychiatrists and psychologists, he was a "very disturbed" young man. To the agents actually on the case, he was a joke -- a small-minded wannabe with minimal aspirations and "pipe dreams." The audio captured after the "martyrdom video" -- which was never meant for public consumption -- contains plenty of mockery from his FBI handlers.
“When he was putting stuff on, he acted like he was nervous,” one of the speakers tells Amir. “He kept backing away …”Because Osmakac couldn't be counted on to follow through with the FBI's conceived plan, agents had to go on the offensive. They forced $500 into Osmakac's hands to use as a down payment on weapons. To the DOJ, the money that was hesitantly accepted was an indicator of Osmakac's willingness to kill for his ideology. But the FBI couldn't do it directly, or it would be open to claims of entrapment. Instead, it laundered it through a confidential informant -- who was also Osmakac's employer and who was paying the would-be terrorist out of his FBI paycheck.
“Yeah,” Amir agrees.
“He looked nervous on the camera,” someone else adds.
“Yeah, he got excited. I think he got excited when he saw the stuff,” Amir says, referring to the weapons that were laid out on the hotel bed.
“Oh, yeah, you could tell,” yet another person chimes in. “He was all like, like a, like a six-year-old in a toy store.”
Then, the FBI helped Osmakac load up a vehicle with pretend bombs and real weapons and pounced as soon as the task was completed. To be sure, Osmakac was a disturbed man with dreams of becoming a devout Muslim in another country, but he was also professionally diagnosed with schizophrenia -- something that certainly would have made him appear unhinged and potentially dangerous.
But would he have turned terrorist without the FBI's extensive help? That's a bit harder to answer, especially since the FBI kind of took a lot of the uncertainty out of the equation. Rather than simply surveil a possible threat, it stepped in to push him in a direction he'd only talked about -- and even then, in mostly delusional terms. But this is what passes for "investigation" with the FBI: sting operations, overactive informants and undercover agents, and no small amount of self-congratulatory backpatting when all the work is done.