Congressional Black Caucus Hits FBI Report on ‘Extremists

The FBI defends an internal intelligence report warning of black “extremists.” The bureau says,“Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and other criminal acts.”

An FBI report on the rise of black “extremists” is provoking fears of a return to federal practices during the civil rights movement, when the bureau spied on activist groups without evidence they had broken laws, the Associated Press reports. The FBI said it doesn’t target specific groups. It called the report is one of many its intelligence analysts produce to make law enforcement aware of emerging trends. The report says “black identity extremists” are increasingly targeting law enforcement after police killings of black men, especially since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. The report describes cases in which “extremists” had “acted in retaliation for perceived past police brutality incidents.” It said such violence was likely to continue. Black leaders and activists were outraged after Foreign Policy disclosed the report. The Congressional Black Caucus told FBI Director Christopher Wray that the report “conflates black political activists with dangerous domestic terrorist organizations” and would further erode the frayed relationship between police and minority communities.

The FBI issued a similar bulletin warning of retaliatory violence by “black separatist extremists” in March 2016. Black voters, who overwhelmingly opposed Donald Trump, are suspicious of his administration, which has been criticized as insensitive on racial issues. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was unable to answer questions about the report or its origins during a congressional hearing last week. The FBI said it cannot open an investigation based solely on a person’s race or exercise of free speech rights. “Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and other criminal acts,” the FBI said. “Furthermore, the FBI does not and will not police ideology. When an individual takes violent action based on belief or ideology and breaks the law, the FBI will enforce the rule of law.”

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Round 2: Were Trump’s Prints on Skinnier FBI Report?

FiveThirtyEight noticed that the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Report, the first released under the Trump administration, was missing 70 percent of the data tables that were included in past editions. The feds fired back, alleging a “false narrative” and claiming that plans to “streamline” the report date to 2010. FiveThirtyEight’s data sleuths are not convinced.

The FBI pushed back when FiveThirtyEight published an article last month revealing that the bureau’s accounting of 2016 national crime data–the first under the Trump administration–was missing almost 70 percent of the data tables that had been included in past. The FBI said removal of the tables was not out of the ordinary. But FiveThirtyEight says the bureau’s claim doesn’t add up. The yearly report is considered the gold standard of crime-trend tracking and is used by law enforcement, researchers, journalists and the general public. Changes to the structure of the report typically go through the Advisory Policy Board (APB), which manages and reviews operational issues for a number of FBI programs. But this change was not reviewed by the APB. One former FBI employee said the decision not to consult with the APB was “shocking.”

The FBI took issue with FiveThirtyEight’s reporting, which Department of Justice spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle called “a false narrative.” A month after the data was released, the agency posted a statement on the data tables noting that a plan to “streamline” the annual Uniform Crime Report had been in the works since 2010. But state-level UCR managers were not informed of it until late 2016. And the FBI had not publicly included the removal of data tables as part of those improvements until the statement it released following the FiveThirtyEight story. Instead, the FBI’s past statements said the agency aimed only to make data available more quickly and to improve digital features to allow users to access more data more easily.

from https://thecrimereport.org

US Spy Agency Shudders After Devastating Cyber Attack

The National Security Agency, target of a shocking cyber attack about 18 months ago, continues to deal with fallout from an intelligence breach regarded as a security debacle of historic proportion.

More than a year after one of the worst security debacles ever to befall American intelligence, the National Security Agency has been shaken to the core by a cyber attack that deeply infiltrated the country’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency, reports the New York Times. The hack came to light in August 2016 when the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries, began making public disclosures of highly classified information. Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures have been catastrophic for the NSA, calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world’s leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own.

Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the FBI, officials still do not know whether the NSA is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both. Three employees have been arrested since 2015 for taking classified files, but there is fear that one or more leakers may still be in place. And there is broad agreement that the damage from the Shadow Brokers already far exceeds the harm to American intelligence done by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who fled with four laptops of classified material in 2013. The Shadow Brokers have gone a giant step beyond Snowden by releasing the computer coding for cyberweapons created at huge expense to American taxpayers. Those weapons have now been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Lack of Funding Blamed for Vast Federal Gun Record Gaps

Millions of records are missing from databases that might disqualify gun purchases based on criminal convictions or mental problems. Experts say these systemic breakdowns have lingered for decades because officials decided they were too costly and time-consuming to fix.

The FBI’s background-check system is missing millions of records of criminal convictions, mental illness diagnoses and other flags that would keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands, says the Washington Post. Experts say government agencies responsible for maintaining such records have long failed to forward them into federal databases used for gun background checks — systemic breakdowns that have lingered for decades as officials decided they were too costly and time-consuming to fix. The FBI said it doesn’t know the scope of the problem, but the NRA says about 7 million records are absent from the system, based on a 2013 report by the nonprofit National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. That report determined that “at least 25 percent of felony convictions . . . are not available” to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the FBI.

Experts who study the data say that estimate can be misleading, because felons often have multiple convictions, so if one is missed, others may still alert authorities to individuals who cannot legally buy a gun. The government funded a four-year effort beginning in 2008 to try to estimate how many records existed of people who should be barred under federal law from buying a gun but aren’t flagged in the FBI system. That effort was abandoned in 2012 because of the cost. The NRA argues that the government should focus not on gun control but on making its current background-check system fully functional. “The shortcomings of the system have been identified. There just seems to be a lack of will to address them,’’ said Louis Dekmar, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas Shooter: Number of Accurate Criminal Records Is Staggeringly Low

Observations “According to the Department of Justice, the number of these records that are actually uploaded is staggeringly low…” ”Even the FBI acknowledges that its NCIC database is limited, noting that it contains only about 50 to 55 percent of all available criminal records…” Devin Kelley’s violent past went undocumented. He’s not the only one. […]

Observations “According to the Department of Justice, the number of these records that are actually uploaded is staggeringly low…” ”Even the FBI acknowledges that its NCIC database is limited, noting that it contains only about 50 to 55 percent of all available criminal records…” Devin Kelley’s violent past went undocumented. He’s not the only one. […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Murder and the Security of WhatsApp

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist whose anti-corruption investigations exposed powerful people. She was murdered in October by a car bomb. Galizia used WhatsApp to communicate securely with her sources. Now that she is dead, the Maltese police want to break into her phone or the app, and find out who those sources were. One journalist reports: Part of…

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist whose anti-corruption investigations exposed powerful people. She was murdered in October by a car bomb.

Galizia used WhatsApp to communicate securely with her sources. Now that she is dead, the Maltese police want to break into her phone or the app, and find out who those sources were.

One journalist reports:

Part of Daphne's destroyed smart phone was elevated from the scene.

Investigators say that Caruana Galizia had not taken her laptop with her on that particular trip. If she had done so, the forensic experts would have found evidence on the ground.

Her mobile phone is also being examined, as can be seen from her WhatsApp profile, which has registered activity since the murder. But it is understood that the data is safe.

Sources close to the newsroom said that as part of the investigation her sim card has been cloned. This is done with the help of mobile service providers in similar cases. Asked if her WhatsApp messages or any other messages that were stored in her phone will be retrieved, the source said that since the messaging application is encrypted, the messages cannot be seen. Therefore it is unlikely that any data can be retrieved.

I am less optimistic than that reporter. The FBI is providing "specific assistance." The article doesn't explain that, but I would not be surprised if they were helping crack the phone.

It will be interesting to see if WhatsApp's security survives this. My guess is that it depends on how much of the phone was recovered from the bombed car.

EDITED TO ADD (11/7): The court-appointed IT expert on the case has a criminal record in the UK for theft and forgery.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

FBI Cut Crime Data In Annual Report for 2016

The annual FBI “Crime in the United States: report for 2016 contains about 70 percent fewer data tables than the 2015 version did, a removal that could affect analysts’ understanding of crime trends, reports FiveThirtyEight.com.

The FBI’s 2016 Crime in the United States report, the first annual compilation released in the Trump administration, contains about 70 percent fewer data tables than the 2015 version did, a removal that could affect analysts’ understanding of crime trends, reports FiveThirtyEight.com. The change comes after consecutive years in which violent crime rose nationally. It limits access to high-quality crime data that could help inform solutions. Published under the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the report contains national data on homicides, violent crimes, arrests, clearances and police employment. Among the data missing from the 2016 report is information on arrests, the circumstances of homicides (such as the relationships between victims and perpetrators), and the only national estimate of annual gang murders. The FBI said the UCR program had “streamlined the 2016 edition.” Changes to the report typically go through a body called the FBI’s Advisory Policy Board (APB). This time they did not.

The FBI attributed the changes to “the number of times a user actually viewed the tables on the internet.” “To me it’s shocking that they made these decisions to publish that many fewer tables and they didn’t make the decision with the APB,” said James Nolan, who worked at the UCR for five years and now teaches at West Virginia University. In the last year, the UCR received 3,045,789 visitors. The removal of data means there is less available on a perennial focus of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions: violent crime. The data missing is mostly about arrests and homicides. There were 51 tables of arrest data in the 2015 report, and there are only seven in the 2016 report. Data about clearance rates was covered in four tables in 2015 but just one in 2016. The expanded offense data, such as the type of weapon used or the location of crimes, went from 23 tables in 2015 to 6 in 2016.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Critics Say FBI Surveils Blacks as ‘Terrorists’

The ACLU says “protesters are increasingly being labeled as terrorism threats.” The FBI has warned that “black identity extremists” will engage in “ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity” against police.

The FBI counterterrorism division’s identification of a new movement it calls “black identity extremists” is the latest addition to the broadening list of protesters and dissidents the agency puts in the “domestic terrorism” umbrella, McClatchy Newspapers reports. National security experts say the designation doesn’t describe a movement at all,  let alone a terrorism threat; rather, it’s a label that allows the FBI to conduct surveillance on “basically anyone who’s black and politically active,” contends Michael German, who worked on domestic terrorism at the FBI before leaving in 2004. Critics are concerned that minorities and environmental protesters are being targeted. American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi said there’s concern that “abusive and unjustified investigations” by the FBI are on the rise. “We are worried that protesters are increasingly being labeled as terrorism threats,” Shamsi said.

Shamsi cited a broad definition of domestic terrorism in the Patriot Act as a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the U.S. that is “dangerous to human life” and appears to be intended to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” The FBI report that focused on black identity extremists, which was leaked to Foreign Policy in October, had interest groups wondering if the designation has been used to target members of Black Lives Matter. The report predicted it is “very likely” that black identity extremists would engage in “ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity” against police within the next year. There has been no spike in law enforcement deaths in recent years.

from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Increases Its Anti-Encryption Rhetoric

Earlier this month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech warning that a world with encryption is a world without law — or something like that. The EFF’s Kurt Opsahl takes it apart pretty thoroughly. Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said much the same thing. This is an idea that will not die….

Earlier this month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech warning that a world with encryption is a world without law -- or something like that. The EFF's Kurt Opsahl takes it apart pretty thoroughly.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said much the same thing.

This is an idea that will not die.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

The Kennedy Files: Strippers, Tipsters, and Schemers

Among the documents was an FBI memo describing a meeting in which Cuban exiles tried to set a price on the heads of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “It was felt that the $150,000.00 to assassinate Fidel Castro…was too high,” the memo noted. They settled on more modest sums: $100,000 for Fidel and $20,000 each for Raul and Che.

Journalists are poring over more than 2,800 records related to the John F. Kennedy assassination that were released Thursday evening. Federal authorities bowed to pressure from the CIA, FBI and other agencies to delay disclosing some of the most sensitive documents for another six months. Even so, says the Washington Post, the thousands of pages published online by the National Archives describe decades of spies and surveillance, informants and assassination plots. The paper offered thumbnails of “some of the wildest things” its journalists found. Among them: A 1964 FBI memo describes a meeting in which Cuban exiles tried to set a price on the heads of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “It was felt that the $150,000.00 to assassinate Fidel Castro…was too high,” the memo noted. At a subsequent meeting, they settled on more modest sums: $100,000 for Fidel, $20,000 for Raul and $20,000 for Che.

A 1960 FBI memo described a “high-priced Hollywood call girl” who was approached by Fred Otash, a well known Los Angeles private investigator, seeking information about sex parties involving then Sen. John F. Kennedy, his brother-in-law actor Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. “She told the agents that she was unaware of any indiscretions,” the memo said. An FBI file contains information on the bureau’s attempt to locate a stripper known as “Kitty.” According to the file, a stripper known as Candy Cane said Kitty had been an associate of Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who killed Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963. In an internal FBI report from May 1964, an informant told the FBI that the Ku Klux Klan said it “had documented proof that President Johnson was formerly a member of the Klan in Texas during the early days of his political career.”  The “documented proof” was not provided.

from https://thecrimereport.org