By Jesse Brown - Monday, January 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
When I spoke to Aaron Swartz in 2009, he had just learned that he’d been investigated by the FBI for “stealing” public court documents from a library and sharing them on the Internet. They had a file on him. They had staked out his mom’s house. He thought it was hilarious.
“The whole thing strikes me as ridiculous,” he said of his FBI file, which he had obtained through a Freedom of Information request. “Suspect lives on a heavily wooded dead-end street,” he read in a super-serious Dragnet voice, “making continued surveillance difficult.”
“Who are you,” I asked, “Jason Bourne?”
It was no joke. His brilliant PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) hack put him on the FBI’s radar and likely contributed to the persecution he suffered when he struck again. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
HALIFAX – The RCMP began investigating a Halifax navy intelligence officer who later pleaded…
HALIFAX – The RCMP began investigating a Halifax navy intelligence officer who later pleaded guilty to espionage after the FBI alerted them of a possible security breach, documents made public Thursday say.
Redacted versions of search warrants executed in the case of Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 41, were unsealed after the federal Crown consented to their release. The application to obtain the warrants was made by the CBC.
The warrants were used to obtain evidence against Delisle, who pleaded guilty last month to breach of trust and two charges of passing information to a foreign entity that could harm Canada’s interests.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
And not so much about the personal indiscretions of public figures
You know when scandals erupt in the media about teens “sexting,” cyberbullying, and sharing lewd photos on the Internet, and everybody asks, “Where are the parents?” Well, now we know the answer: they’re doing the exact same thing. Enter the David Petraeus affair, or Call of Booty, as video-game enthusiasts have labelled it: the most complicated military drama of all time, a soap opera on steroids, harder to parse than seasons four and five of Desperate Housewives combined. The FBI is currently compiling a timeline of their probe that revealed the beleaguered American spy boss’s extramarital affair; one they’ve probably had to update on the hour. (As you’re reading this, I’m sure new news will have already broken, this time involving Petraeus’s dog, or maybe a love child.) However, allow me to give you a brief rundown of the story, as it stands while I write this:
Beloved military leader and, until very recently, director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, resigned last Friday after he admitted to having an affair, reportedly with his biographer: 40-year-old married mother of two, Paula Broadwell. The FBI began its investigation of Broadwell in June, when Tampa Bay socialite Jill Kelley reported that she was receiving anonymous emails from an apparently jealous woman. The FBI allegedly traced the emails to Broadwell. Her online activity revealed that she was having an affair with Petraeus (it appears the two shared a Gmail account and conversed through unsent email drafts—a common practice among terrorists and teenagers alike.)
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 10:28 PM - 0 Comments
Is this a sex scandal, a security scandal, a new hybrid or none of the above? Anne Kingston explains.
We’re now into day five of the constantly unraveling, can’t-look-away-from, still-too-early-to-properly-identify-what-it-is mess triggered by CIA director David Petraeus’s surprise resignation on Friday, which arrived just in time to more than fill the post-election news vacuum. Yesterday brought a “shirtless FBI agent” and a ”psychologically unstable” twin, And new reports accuse Petraeus’s replacement in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, of sending between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of “potentially inappropriate” emails to another women enmeshed in the case.
And the questions are piling up: Why exactly did Petraeus resign? Did the U.S.’s top spy really think sex-mailing in the draft folder of an unprotected Gmail account wouldn’t be untraceable? What does an “unpaid social liaison” do? Did Petraeus break martial law? What does this all have to do, if anything, with Benghazi? And. most perplexingly: Why is Chuck Klosterman writing the New York Times‘ Ethicist column?
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
You probably heard about the DNSChanger malware, but you didn’t hear it from me.
Last weekend, thousands of newspapers gravely foretold of a coming digital doomsday that would be upon us in a matter of hours. Monday, July 9th was to be the day the Internet plunged into “blackout” darkness. It was a twist on the same paranoid soothsaying we’ve been hearing since the no-show Y2k bug. But this time it was really, really, really going to happen, since no lesser authority than the FBI had issued a warning saying so.
I don’t know about you, but I had a relaxing summer Monday, some of it spent online. The DNSChanger malware may indeed have inconvenienced some people, but for 99.99999% of us, yesterday was just another day on the Internet. Unsurprisingly, few news outlets publicized the absolute normalcy of life online yesterday.
The problem with virus and malware news stories is that they typically originate with press releases distributed by computer security companies like McAfee and Symantec, whose business models rely on keeping the world in a constant state of digital paranoia. Many newspapers simply re-write these releases and call them articles, but some go to the trouble of contacting an “Internet security expert” or two. Of course, Internet security experts also rely on keeping the world in a constant state of digital paranoia. Ask them at any time whether or not we should be afraid, and they will assure you that we should be very, very afraid.
It’s time for the media to grow up about computing. Technology plays too big a role in public life for news organizations to behave like bipolar lunatics, forever bouncing between uncritical praise for Apple’s Next Big Thing and untempered hysteria over the Next Big Threat.
There are indeed threats to the open Internet. Cyberwarfare, state surveillance, corporate control and censorship are among them. They are worthy of constant attention and regular coverage, and they rarely hinge on all-or-nothing, make-or-break doomsday scenarios.
Follow Jesse Brown on Twitter @jessebrown
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 5:21 PM - 9 Comments
Hasan Elahi, an academic and artist with no shady dealings to hide, found himself in an unfortunate position. Upon returning to the U.S. from an international flight nine years ago, he was held for questioning by government authorities. The questioning continued for six months. It seems Elahi had been confused with someone very sinister, someone connected to the Sept. 11 attacks. The long process of convincing federal law enforcement agents of his innocence was tense and frightening, but he did.
Sort of. After he was cleared, Elahi was still nervous about traveling. Was he on any lists? Had he been flagged for more scrutiny? Would he be watched?
He shared his worries with the FBI, who suggested that if he told them in advance about his travel plans, they would do their best to make sure he’d have clear passage. So he divulged his information to government officials–personal information that he had no obligation to share. It worked. So he shared more, and then more.
Today, Elahi shares everything. He exposes every minute detail about himself on his website. He tracks his whereabouts with the GPS data in his phone. He photographs every place he visits, every meal he eats and every men’s room he–you get it. There are 46,000 photos on his site. He dug into his own past, creating a log of every flight he’s ever taken. And the authorities have made use of his self-exposure; Elahi’s server logs reveal that his site has received visits from the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA., the National Reconnaissance Office and the Executive Office of the President.
Why does he do this? To make a point, in part, and also to make art. But mainly Elahi snitches on himself in the hope that he will be left alone. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, he wrote that, “in an era in which everything is archived and tracked, the best way to maintain privacy may be to give it up.”
Perhaps he’s onto something. Intelligence agencies like the FBI are in the business of uncovering the covered. If the data they seek is hidden in plain site, they are robbed of their primary purpose. All that’s left for them to do is making sense of the reams of data that’s been handed to them, a task that can prove very difficult.
It turns out that Big Brother has a very boring job–99.9 per cent of the time, our private data is irrelevant. Finding the needle in the haystack is a task many wish computers were better at. But identifying criminal relevance is a contextually sensitive activity at which humans beat computers every time.
That’s why true privacy may lie in voluntary exposure. The more of us who leak our lives, the harder it will be for authorities to watch any of us. As Elahi puts it, “if 300 million people started sending private information to federal agents, the government would need to hire as many as another 300 million people, possibly more, to keep up with the information.”
Of course, not all of us are conceptual artists like Elahi, with the time and skills needed to build a website with which to track ourselves. Thankfully, we have Facebook.
By Joanne Latimer - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
These days forensic artists need to be up on pop culture references
WANTED: one sketch artist for the Ontario Provincial Police. The force is hiring a forensic artist this fall, and job candidates need special forensic training and a portfolio of composite sketches. But an unofficial job qualification could go something like this: “should be familiar with actors, cartoons, prime-time television, sports stars, politicians, musicians and Google Images.”
“One witness asked me, ‘Do you know Beavis and Butt-Head? He looked like Beavis.’ I immediately knew to draw thin lips, a pointy nose and a furrowed brow. It was an excellent starting point,” said Det.-Const. Duncan Way, a forensic identification artist with the Barrie, Ont., police department who trained as a composite sketch artist at the prestigious FBI training centre in Quantico, Va. “Politicians are also popular references. I’ve had witnesses say, ‘He had a red face like John Turner’ or ‘buck teeth like Trudeau.’ ”
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 5:00 PM - 9 Comments
Sheriff Joe Arpaio is accused of punishing those who cross him
He enjoys his reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff,” but Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County is also one of the most investigated law enforcement ofﬁcials in the U.S. According to a local TV station in Phoenix, which is the county seat as well as Arizona’s capital, the FBI is probing allegations that Arpaio used his position to settle vendettas against anyone who challenged his authority.
One case involves County Supervisor Don Stapley, indicted on 118 charges of violating campaign ﬁnance laws last December. In September, three days after prosecutors requested the last of those charges be dropped, Arpaio had Stapley arrested again. The reason? According to defence lawyer Paul Charlton, Stapley “opposed the sheriff’s budget. When you cross this guy for legitimate reasons, you’re going to ﬁnd yourself under criminal investigation for completely illegitimate reasons.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 1:55 PM - 8 Comments
This recent story from the Washington Post is probably relevant to the discussion here.
When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.
The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads…
Abu Zubaida’s revelations triggered a series of alerts and sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms. The interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the man Abu Zubaida identified as heading an effort to explode a radiological “dirty bomb” in an American city. Padilla was held in a naval brig for 3 1/2 years on the allegation but was never charged in any such plot. Every other lead ultimately dissolved into smoke and shadow, according to high-ranking former U.S. officials with access to classified reports.
“We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms,” one former intelligence official said.
Despite the poor results, Bush White House officials and CIA leaders continued to insist that the harsh measures applied against Abu Zubaida and others produced useful intelligence that disrupted terrorist plots and saved American lives.
By Michael Friscolanti - Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Jailed after 9/11, he’s suing the U.S. government. But he’s left victims too.
Eight days after the World Trade Center crumbled from the New York skyline, a team of federal agents paid a visit to a small taxi-driving school in Manhattan. With smoke still billowing from the ruins of Ground Zero, the officers were searching for one specific student: a Canadian citizen named Shakir Baloch.
The FBI was anxious to know how the Toronto man, originally from Pakistan, entered the United States. They peppered him with pointed questions. Is your visa valid? Are you a devout Muslim? Do you recognize any of the men who hijacked those airplanes? Still suspicious after a four-hour interrogation, the agents escorted Baloch to a detention centre downtown. He spent that night—and the next seven months—behind bars. “I call it my death valley,” he says now, sitting in a crowded Scarborough coffee shop. “They were threatening to arrest my family and revoke my Canadian citizenship. I was very afraid.”