Interesting Links: Sep 1, 2016

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are all about how the “security” or “law and order” agencies in the USA (and other western countries) have become addicted to uncontrollable growth- with openly voracious and cannibalistic behavior. One of the linked pieces also makes the point that such growth creates new vulnerabilities for the host society which are far worse than the problem this growth was supposed to solve.

Link 1: Former Anti-Terror FBI Employee now finds Himself a Target

As a FBI surveillance employee, Ray Tahir spent the last decade tailing Muslims in counterterrorism cases. Among the investigations whose surveillance Tahir led were those of the charity Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Texas and North Carolina’s Daniel Patrick Boyd, who with others was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to commit murder, maiming, and kidnapping overseas. Both FBI cases had their critics. The American Civil Liberties Union described the prosecution of Holy Land Foundation as “discriminatory enforcement of counterterrorism laws.” In the Boyd case, as in other informant-led FBI stings, there are questions about whether the men convicted would have done anything at all were it not for the FBI’s involvement. As the FBI targeted Muslims in the United States following the 9/11 attacks, Tahir was among the front-line employees who made some of these cases possible. Now, he alleges, he has become a target himself.

Link 2: Leaked Catalogue reveals a Vast Array of Military Spy Gear offered to U.S. Police

A Confidential, 120-page catalogue of spy equipment, originating from British defense firm Cobham and circulated to U.S. law enforcement, touts gear that can intercept wireless calls and text messages, locate people via their mobile phones, and jam cellular communications in a particular area. The catalogue was obtained by The Intercept as part of a large trove of documents originating within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where spokesperson Molly Best confirmed Cobham wares have been purchased but did not provide further information. The document provides a rare look at the wide range of electronic surveillance tactics used by police and militaries in the U.S. and abroad, offering equipment ranging from black boxes that can monitor an entire town’s cellular signals to microphones hidden in lighters and cameras hidden in trashcans. Markings date it to 2014. Cobham, recently cited among several major British firms exporting surveillance technology to oppressive regimes, has counted police in the United States among its clients, Cobham spokesperson Greg Caires confirmed.

Link 3: Hacking the US with only a Sound

Unlike the classic example of yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, this panic can be induced by anything that sounds/looks/feels like a threat rather than the claim of a specific threat (like “fire”). Nearly anything can set them off. Here’s three examples of that over the last two weeks (there have been many more): JFK Airport- Unfounded reports of gunfire led to an evacuation of terminals. Police march passengers out of the terminal with their hands up. Police speculate that it was started by load fans of the Rio Olympics. CrabTree Valley Mall (NC)- Unfounded reports of an active shooter leads to a panicked evacuation of the mall. LAX Airport- Unfounded reports of a shooter led to people storming the jetway doors and spilling out onto the tarmac, people barricading themselves into bathrooms in multiple terminals, and more.

This public reactiveness may become the new normal both here and in Europe. If so, we can expect people take advantage of it. Here’s how. All it takes is a single audio clip. Like this or this either near a public space or done remotely on a timed playback device is all it would take to ignite the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that leads to a large-scale evacuation. In fact, people are so reactive now, I suspect it wouldn’t even take a sound that is explicit, only something that sounds similar. Think about this for a moment. The ability to shut down a public space for hours: anytime (just walk in and play the sounds); remotely (low-cost playback device on timer/remote activation); or on a large-scale (thousands of people playing the sounds on their smart phones in public spaces simultaneously)

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    September 8, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Just some quick comments.
    1. This fella is now realising that turning in the people of his community as part of his job … eventually he becomes the “loose end” that needs to be straightened out as I’m sure there was less than a 100% prosecution rate … so he’ll conveniently fall under suspicion for the remaining %.

    2. Companies talk a good game about “not dealing with evildoers (except our own)”, yet the reality is money makes the world go round, not morals.

    3. Public reactiveness can make it easy for people with programmable smartphones to set them up in various places to “herd” people to where they serve the most use.

  2. P Ray
    November 13, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    One could come to believe child porn is legal, since the FBI has been running a child porn website in 2016. I think that’s the perfect cover for someone with an interest!
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/11/fbi-operated-23-tor-hidden-child-porn-sites-deployed-malware-from-them/
    IN A MIRROR, DARKLY —
    FBI seized 23 Tor-hidden child porn sites, deployed malware from them [Updated]
    Researcher: FBI was likely enabled to run half of all child porn sites on the servers.

    CYRUS FARIVAR – 11/11/2016, 9:00 PM

    Necessary disclaimer follows, just so we know FBI is keeping tabs on this kind of entertainment, so we won’t have to.

    UPDATE Sunday 12:41pm ET: We have clarified our original story and headline to more clearly and accurately reflect the fact that while the FBI did take over the 23 child porn sites in question, unlike the Playpen case, the agency does not appear to have actually operated them, or allowed them to continue to operate.

    This case, and the newly unsealed documents are part of an ongoing and still largely sealed case against users of Freedom Hosting, a Tor-hidden hosting company. American prosecutors say Freedom Hosting was run by Eric Eoin Marques, and Irish-American living in Ireland. (Marques has been ordered extradited from Ireland to the United States, but an appeal on that ruling is still pending.)

    Joseph Cox, a journalist, pointed out in a Medium post on Saturday that the “network investigative technique” (NIT) data was collected between August 3 and August 5, 2013 against the users of the child porn sites. As of August 4, all of the sites on Freedom Hosting began showing a fake error message to their users, but were actually deploying this NIT as a way to unmask users.

    The fact that this tactic was deployed seemingly against people seeking child porn and also against hundreds of TorMail users, who may not have committed any crimes, raises serious questions. This is what led Christopher Soghoian, a technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, to conclude, in an interview with Vice Motherboard: “while the warrant authorized hacking with a scalpel, the FBI delivered their malware to TorMail users with a grenade.”

    Ars regrets our misunderstanding of this case. Our original story follows.

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