The Intercept is set to publish a report today and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to better educate people about some of the policies and inner workings of our government that you do not traditionally get hear about in “the news.” More specifically, I am going to focus on some of the most recent “law enforcement tactics” implemented by the FBI under James Comey’s leadership.
Today’s article by Alex Emmons describes how another federal judge has ruled the FBI’s infamous Playpen Investigation illegal, and I say “another” specifically because this is not the first time a US court has reached this conclusion.
The controversy surrounds the fact that, for a number of weeks, the FBI owned and operated a child pornography website which it had acquired though a previous warrant. The only reason the FBI ran this site was to track and catch the people which used it, but according to in court testimony from the FBI’s defense attorney “more than 23,000 sexually explicit images and videos of children” were “downloaded directly from the government’s computers“ over the same time period the FBI ran the site.
This means the FBI knowingly distributed child pornography and in doing so, violated the same federal law’s they were trying to arrest people under. While everyone would like to see pedophiles arrested and taken off our streets, it is hard not to cringe at the tactics implemented by the FBI here. This is also a large part of the reason multiple courts have now called the FBI’s Playpen investigation “illegal” and have thrown evidence collected from it out of court.
The other half of the reason stems from how the FBI went about tracking/arresting visitors to the site. The FBI essentially took the original search warrant targeting the owner of the site and went on to use it for the remainder of the operation.
Though the search warrant originated in North Carolina, the FBI went on to arrest people all throughout the country. When the cases went to court, judges ruled it is “illegal” for the FBI to do this, said the FBI’s investigation “lacked jurisdiction” and the agency “grossly operated beyond the scope of their jurisdiction.” What the FBI did next in response to the court decisions might surprise you even more.
After their defeat in court, the FBI went to law makers and asked legislature to re-write the laws as the currently existed – to make their currently illegal searches legal in the future. Lets just be clear what they did here, rather than change their tactics or the way they perform police work to comply with US law, the FBI asked legislature to re-write laws they were breaking to conform to their police work.
The sad thing is that our government not only listened, but they actually complied. By December 1st 2016, the FBI will have the authority to treat the internet itself as one giant interconnected location. Anyone, anywhere, at any time browsing through the internet inside the United States can now be subjected to an FBI investigation under a blanket search warrant. If that pisses you off, you might not want to read the rest of this article.
Read more, how changes to Rule 41 on 12/01/16 forever changed to scope of government surveillance on the internet: https://bankruptmedia.com/2016/11/26/how-changes-to-rule-41-alter-the-landscape-of-government-mass-surveillance/
What other questionable activities has the FBI engaged in under Comey?
In addition to working with law makers to undermine internet privacy rights, the FBI has also worked with legislature and the court system to eliminate encryption rights. You might remember the FBI v Apple case in the national headlines a few months ago, this is exactly what I am referring to.
The news laws which have resulted from this case obligates citizens/corporations, under penalty of law, to unlock their computer or device upon request by the FBI. Put another way, these new laws actually criminalize people for using passwords – on anything.
Read more about the FBI’s War on Encryption and how it has gone on to effect different aspects of American society: https://bankruptmedia.com/2016/11/18/the-fbis-war-on-privacy-is-not-just-costing-citizens-their-rights-it-is-harming-the-american-economy-influencing-international-relations/
All of this aside, as previously reported by Bankrupt Medi4, the FBI is also now in court for violating the US Privacy Act by refusing to release the bio-meteric data the agency has collected on US citizens. US law mandates that any federal agency which has obtained the bio-metric data of a US citizen to inform that citizen about the data they have obtained.
However, the FBI does simply does not agree with this law, has refused to recognize it and is now in court because for failing to follow it. Just so you understand what has happened here, the nations top “law enforcement” agency – the FBI – is literally challenging their obligation to comply with federal laws. Seriously, you really can’t make this stuff up.
In defense of their position the FBI says it is blatantly violating US law not to conceal the data the US government has collected on its citizens, rather, it is doing so to make the country safe from future terrorism threats. So, just like their strategy in the Apple case, the FBI is playing the ‘terrorism card‘ in an attempt to get whatever it wants.
I really wish it stops there, but unfortunately the list goes on.
In April 2016 a leaked document exposed the FBI admitting to illegal activity. The memo specifically informs local police departments to recreate any evidence the FBI gives them obtained from “Stingrays.”
This is because the information the FBI gives to these police departments would be illegal for the police to bring to court directly – because the information was obtained illegally and without a warrant.
Stingray’s work by mimicking a cell phone tower and in doing so, intercepts and records all the transmissions within its signal radius. Once deployed, Stingrays literally pick up anything from a terrorist coordinating an attack to mother calling her nanny – and everything in between. Every piece of information is recorded and then downloaded to private, federal government servers for analysis.
It is obvious to see the problem here, with no obvious target in mind, once deployed, a Stingray “indirectly” spies on everyone. While the government claims they only do this to ‘keep an eye on bad guys’, every citizen gets caught in the net.
In July 2016, a federal judge ruled that Stingrays violate the 4th Amendment and are therefore unconstitutional. His dissertation reads “The Government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device.” Despite this success against government intrusion in court, there is no way to tell how many people were given to local police departments by the FBI, as targets/threats and arrested from this illegally obtained information over the years – prior to this July.
Read more, how the Patriot Act shredded the 4th Amendment of the Constitution in 2001: https://bankruptmedia.com/2016/11/27/op-ed-is-it-un-patriotic-to-call-the-patriot-act-or-mass-government-surveillance-in-general-unconstitutional-or-illegal/
In September 2016, The Intercept published the leaked operating manuals given to law enforcement officials, including information on how to operate Stingrays and the strategy/methodology they should use to targeting specific areas/people.
Additionally, on 9/15/2016, The Intercept separately reported how the FBI’s top watchdog agency approved the FBI’s to go undercover and openly lie about their identity to pose as members of the press. According to the report, “the Justice Department’s inspector general concludes that FBI agents can go undercover and impersonate journalists, as long as they sufficiently consult FBI headquarters.” James Comey also defended this position when he said “we do use deception at times to catch crooks, but we are acting responsibly and legally.”
These statements came in conclusion to an investigation started in 2007, in which an FBI agent lied about being a member of the Associated Press to smoke out information from a suspected criminal. Though it is not nearly as bad as the examples above, the incident has sparked outrage in the journalism community because one of the founding principles of journalism is to always protect your sources – to remain trusted/credible.
A recent poll by the Associated Press shows that just 6% of people trust the media and when law enforcement is allowed to lie about their credentials, posing as reporters to exploit potential sources, trust in the media and reporters will only continue to suffer.
There is also the added fear that whistle-blowers and leakers will become less likely to come forward with critical information knowing this in the future knowing. While leaked information is too “controversial” for some, it can change the world nonetheless and therefore must be protected.
For The Record
I do not want to be unfair to the FBI here, I understand it must be hard to do what they do for a living and the agency undoubtedly has to make some tough calls, but I also believe that to enforce the law and have any credibility in doing so, you must also abide by and operate within the law.
The fact of the matter is that under Comey’s leadership, the FBI has shown a blatant disregard for various US laws and is slowly turning the jurisdiction granted to law enforcement officials, at the federal and state levels, into the wild wild west.
It bothers me that more people are not aware of this and that actors at the highest level of our government are empowered to act without over-site and are not accountable to the same laws which govern the citizens. Remember, before becoming a police officer or FBI agent, every single one of these people is a US citizen first and foremost – no one is above the law regardless of the position you work at.