A new Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) signals analysis (SIGNIT) report on the Obama regimes 18 June assassination of award winning American journalistMichael Hastings states that two Los Angeles police detectives involved in the investigation were themselves targeted for death just one week later.
According to this report, Russian signal analysts monitoring CIA-NSA-FBI “encrypted electronic communication traffic” in the Los Angeles area on 25 June observed a “rapid spike” of “noise” occurring between 0415-0445 Hrs (4:15-4:45AM PSDT) within a 12 block radius of the Hastings “kill zone” identified as North Highland Avenue and Melrose.
At 0437 Hrs (4:37 AM PSDT), this report continues, these same signal analysts reported an “urgent rise” in Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) emergency radio traffic too.
A comparison of these two anomalous events, this report says, showed that the “common link” between them was theattempted assassination by ambush of two LAPD detectivesdriving into their Wilshire Division police station parking lot on Venice Boulevard, and which was less than 3 km from the Hastings “kill zone.”
In what LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck called “a blatant attempt to assassinate two of the people who protect this community,” US media sources report that the two detectives were ambushed by as an yet unidentified assassin who approached their vehicle and unleashed a volley of shots slightly injuring both of the detectives before making his escape.
Chief Beck further stated that the gunman had to know that only police officers could enter the station through that gate and, therefore, that the people in the car were officers. About 200 officers, aided by helicopters and dogs, searched for the gunman, described generally as a black man in his 30s with a mustache and goatee, dressed in black and wearing a black cap.
This GRU report, however, states that these two detectives, who worked undercover for the LAPD burglary task force, were two of the first officers on the scene of the Hastings assassination the week prior and were “obviously sent a message” by Obama regime forces about the dangers of revealing what they knew.
According to Kimberly Dvorak, the only mainstream US investigative reporter reporting on Hastings assassination, the Obama regimes actions to cover up this high-profile murder have been successful as to date, she recently reported on San Diego’s News 6 television report: “Despite the LAPD’s categorization of the Hasting fatal accident as a “no (evidence of) foul play,” LAPD continues to ignore FOIA (CPRA in Calif.) requests made by San Diego 6 News for the police report, 9/11 call, autopsy, bomb squad and toxicology reports, or make the Mercedes available for inspection…”
Dvorak, in her News 6 report, further stated: “Hastings’ friend and confidant SSgt. Joe Biggs disclosed a macabre twist in the award-winning journalist’s death in a suspicious single-car accident. According to SSgt. Biggs, “Michael Hastings’ body was returned to Vermont in an urn.” This revelation provides another wrinkle in the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) handling of a case they labeled “no foul play” only hours after the writer’s death.”
As to the unprecedented Obama regime action of cremating Hastings body without his family’s permission either being sought or granted, the InfoWars News Service further reports:
“A witness to the aftermath of the Michael Hastings accident on June 18 in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, California told Infowars Nightly News that the journalist’s body was not badly charred as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The LAPD and the Los Angeles County Coroner were “trying their best” to hide the body from the witness, who asked to remain anonymous, when it was pulled from the vehicle approximately three hours after the fire was extinguished, between 7:20 to 7:40 AM.
After the ferocity of the fire, the witness expected to see a body charred beyond recognition. “What I saw was the full body,” she told Infowars Nightly News, “with a completely burned face, up to say the shoulders. From the shoulders down I saw the whole body, completely intact, not burned in any way.”
She identified the body as a “white guy about 25 to 30… a white young guy… I saw full, white arms.”
This contradicts the official story. “The body was badly charred and identified only as ‘John Doe 117,’ law enforcement authorities told The Times. Coroner’s officials were attempting to match dental records to help make a positive identification, according to authorities,” the LA Times reported.”
As to why the Obama regime, and now the LAPD, are continuing to cover-up Hastings assassination can be readily viewed in this map [below/see video HERE] showing the sheer impossibility of this award winning reporter who was running for his life having been killed by his vehicle hitting a tree, especially in light of the fact the debris field extends for nearly 300 meters (100 yards) clearly indicating an explosive event.
“According to most recent investigative findings, it appears that Mr. Hastings made multiple contacts with sources directly associated with the illegal NSA domestic spying program, and either recently acquired materials and/or information about the extent of, the targets of, and the recipients of the information of domestic spying program.
It is speculated that the latter information was of particular concern to as yet unidentified individuals holding positions of authority within the U.S. Department of Defense and their subcontractors, as well as certain parties within the Executive branch of the United States government.
Investigation and research suggests that Mr. Hastings might have obtained, or arranged to obtain information pertaining to the role of a particular high-ranking officer within the U.S. military overseeing the domestic aspects of the NSA project.”
To if the American people themselves will demand that the assassins of Hastings be brought to justice, it remains highly doubtful as their propaganda news media and elite classes, as always, seek to hide this brutal crime away from public notice as they have done too many other times to count.
Weeks after the fiery death of investigative journalist Michael Hastings, who was probing abuses by the CIA and NSA and had recently informed others that he was being investigated by federal authorities, suspicions about his mysterious car crash are still swirling around the Internet. While police officially ruled the death an “accident,” serious questions are still surfacing — even in the establishment media and among prominent officials. Based on e-mails Hastings sent out shortly before he died about working on a “big story” and needing to go “off the radar,” it has become clear that he was worried, too.
Hastings, who wrote for Rolling Stone, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and other publications, was probably best known for his award-winning 2010 article “The Runaway General.” The piece helped bring down U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Despite his establishment credentials and what analysts called his “Democrat-friendly” reporting, Hastings had become extremely alarmed about the “surveillance state” and other troubling developments in recent months. His last published story: “Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans.”
When the Obama administration was exposed spying on journalists earlier this year, the investigative reporter blasted what he referred to as the president’s “war” on journalism. “The Obama administration has clearly declared war on the press. It has declared war on investigative journalists — our sources,” he said during a recent TV interview, blasting the administration’s lawless behavior, obsession with secrecy, and vicious persecution of whistleblowers. Beyond simple criticism, though, Hastings openly said it was time for journalists to fight back.
“I think the only recourse to this kind of behavior by the government is to say back to the government, ‘we declare war on you,’ and from this point forward, we should no longer — the media as a whole — cooperate in any manner with the government,” he continued. “We should withdraw all our cooperation and we should publish everything we know, because it’s a free press, it’s not a free-except-for-when-the-government-tells-me-to-do-it press, and we’ve been way too easygoing with these guys.”
Less than 24 hours before his death, Hastings made it crystal clear that he was concerned about his own well-being. In an e-mail sent to numerous contacts and his employer, for example, Hastings noted: “The Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates.’” He also said that if authorities show up, it “may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.” The subject line read: “FBI investigation re: NSA.” Perhaps most alarming of all, the e-mail concluded with this: “Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.”
While some friends and family members are reportedly too frightened to speak out, at least one recipient of the e-mail has gone public. Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who became friends with Hastings while the journalist was embedded with his unit in Afghanistan in 2008, told KTLA that the “very panicked” message “alarmed me very much.” According to Biggs, “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.”
Biggs has spoken to Fox News and other major media outlets as well, saying Hastings was working on “the biggest story yet” about the CIA and that Hastings’ wife vowed to “take down whoever did this.” Apparently Hastings “drove like a grandma.” In an extended interview with radio host Alex Jones, Biggs also said he knew Hastings was receiving “death threats” from military brass. The retired staff sergeant added that he was extremely suspicious about his friend’s death and vowed to do everything in his power to find out what happened.
Heavy-hitters from the government sector have expressed concerns, too. Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, for example, told The Huffington Post in late June that the deadly car crash was “consistent with a car cyber-attack.” Intelligence agencies for major powers — including the U.S. government — almost certainly know how to remotely seize control of a car, he added.
“What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag,” Clarke continued. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard…. So if there were a cyber-attack on the car — and I’m not saying there was — I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”
So far, the FBI has denied that it was investigating Hastings. However, on June 19, the day after the mysterious crash, WikiLeaks released what has been interpreted as a bomb-shell to some analysts monitoring the investigation. “Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him,” the whistleblowing organization said through its official Twitter account, sparking worldwide press coverage. The allegation has not been independently confirmed.
According to the official investigation of the crash, Hastings ran a red light and was driving over 100 miles per hour in his brand-new Mercedes in the early morning when he suddenly crashed into a tree, causing his car to burst into a bizarre fiery inferno. The engine was found more than 150 feet from the wreck. Local news outlets in California, meanwhile, are reporting that the police report is still not publicly available and that officials have been ordered not to comment on the case. The crash itself has also been ringing alarm bells among experts and analysts.
On San Diego 6 News, national security reporter Kimberly Dvorak, for example, recently took to the air and talked about her conversations with sources surrounding the crash after spending a day in Los Angeles investigating. Noting that the police report was not available, she said law enforcement and fire department officials refused to comment, with some saying they had been instructed not to say anything. “That kind of stands out; we look at the NSA, the government says if you have nothing to hide, don’t worry,” she said.
Military officials, meanwhile, told Dvorak that the fire was “extremely hot” and “not something we normally see,” the reporter continued. The fact that the engine was between 150 and 250 feet behind the car was also strange, according to university physics professors she spoke with — it should have been in front, if anything. Another interesting fact highlighted in the report: There were no skid marks at the accident scene.
Mercedes, she added, insists that their cars do not blow up. In fact, the company has a reputation for building some of the safest cars in the world, but Mercedes has not yet been contacted by authorities, according to a statement. Citing a 2010 study from a California university, Dvorak also noted that it is possible to “hack into the car system and operate the accelerator, the brakes, windshield wipers, light, steering,” and more using a simple iPad.
Car experts have also expressed skepticism about the official narrative. “I’m here to state that I’ve seen dozens of cars hit walls and stuff at high speeds and the number of them that I have observed to eject their powertrains and immediately catch massive fire is, um, ah, zero,” noted Jack Baruth, editor of The Truth About Cars. “Modern cars are very good at not catching fire in accidents. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is an evolutionary design from a company known for sweating the safety details over and above the Euro NCAP requirements, should be leading the pack in the not-catching-on-fire category.”
“Nor is the C-Class known for sudden veering out of control into trees and whatnot,” continued Baruth, who has a professional racing license as well. “Mr. Hastings’ aggressively Democrat-friendly storytelling has the Internet already considering the idea that his death was engineered somehow. I can’t say it’s totally unlikely. As noted above, the reported (and videotaped) behavior of the C250 was not in line with what we’d expect.”
It would not be the first time that a prominent journalist taking on the establishment has died under suspicious circumstances. Conservative-leaning alternative-media giant Andrew Breitbart, for example, promised to reveal information that would destroy the Obama machine. Shortly before the highly anticipated release, the 43-year-old died of “heart failure.” Two months later, the county coroner who conducted Breitbart’s autopsy was poisoned. Before that, investigative journalist Gary Webb, who exposed CIA cocaine trafficking, supposedly “committed suicide” with two bullets to the head after publicly expressing his concerns that he would be killed. The list could go on.
Of course, it is now common knowledge that the administration believes it can extra-judicially murder anyone — including Americans — whom Obama claims is a threat to the “Homeland.” No charges or trial are required, and indeed, the president has already openly murdered Americans like Anwar al Awlaki and his young son without even charging them with a crime — let alone securing a conviction by a jury in a court of law. Whether Hastings was murdered remains uncertain, but there is little doubt that the circumstances of his death were extremely suspicious.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at email@example.com.
In one of his final opinions as a Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case wrote that “The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” The Court’s 6-3 decision granted the Washington Post and New York Times permission to resume publishing a comprehensive and classified government history of the Vietnam War. The permission was granted over the “national security” objections of the Nixon administration. Black’s opinion stressed that the “press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”
The Pentagon Papers case revolved around the more traditional press debate regarding prior restraint: if and when the government has the right to stop news organizations from disseminating sensitive information. The Supreme Court’s landmark 1931 media ruling, Near v. Minnesota, declared that almost all forms of prior restraint were unconstitutional. One of the few exceptions included issues of national security.*
Of course, the recent Obama administration controversies surrounding freedom of the press revolve around national security and the intense prosecutorial efforts by the government to weed out leakers of classified information. Rather than trying to stop journalists from reporting national security news, federal law enforcement seems preoccupied with snooping around, in increasingly clandestine ways, and ensnaring reporters in criminal investigations.
Whether it was the Department of Justice’s wild overreach in seizing phone records of more than 20 separate telephone lines used by Associated Press editors and reporters, or the Department’s more focused, yet even more troubling, information grab of a Fox News reporter, the practice is wrong and shortsighted. It’s also un-American.
The Founding Fathers had the foresight to carve out extraordinary privileges and protections for the press, and for centuries they have endured. So why now turn our storied First Amendment into the Sort Of First Amendment or the When It’s Convenient First Amendment?
Imagine what international observers must be thinking as they watch the U.S. government, in the name of leak investigations, chisel away at one of America’s most famous contributions to the democratic way of life: Freedom of the press.
Yet it’s also important to note that despite some of the heated rhetoric in recent days, there’s little evidence that the federal government is waging some sort of all-out war on journalism (that it’s “spying” on reporters), or that it’s set out a dangerous new policy to “criminalize” the craft. And no, Fox News certainly hasn’t been “targeted” by the Obama administration, despite Fox’s plaintive cries of victimhood in recent days. (There’s certainly no evidence to back up Shepard Smith’s baseless on-air claim that the Department of Justice “went into” Fox News computer servers and “pulled things out.”)
First Amendment alarms bells went off when it was revealed that Fox News’ James Rosen had been described as “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in a 2010 FBI affidavit in support of warrant seeking permission to look through the reporter’s phone records as well as the contents of his Gmail account. The FBI was looking for correspondences with then-State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, charged with leaking classified information to Rosen about North Korea in 2009.
Those First Amendment alarm bells were justified.
The Rosen warrant request appears to be the first time (that we know of) that the government singled out a journalist as a possible criminal during a leak investigation. In other words, it was the first time law enforcement in court proceedings suggested it was a crime to publish, or to try to obtain, classified information. (It is not.) The FBI’s targets in the past had always focused on the leakers, not those receiving the leaks.
And in the past, when law enforcement wanted to obtain phone records or other personal communications from journalists, they were supposed to issue narrow subpoenas after exhausting all other investigative avenues. (And only after the Attorney General personally approved of the move.) Prosecutors also notified the media company in question about the subpoena, unless notification threatened the integrity of the investigation.
Prior to the Washington Post story being published on May 20, Rosen knew nothing of the search warrant or that it had been acted upon. And that’s why the alarm bells sounded, and with good reason. The idea that federal law enforcement can simply grab a reporter’s private communication without the reporter or his news employer ever being notified — and without them given a chance to persuade a judge the stop the action (i.e. judicial relief) — is wrong and it’s dangerous and in the Rosen case it was unacceptable.
But also note that Rosen being unaware the FBI grabbed his emails was, in weird way, reassuring. It’s reassuring because despite the alarming wording of the warrant request (“abettor and/or co-conspirator”), no charges were ever brought against Rosen, and according to the FBI none are expected to be forthcoming.
Despite the disturbing language used in the single FBI warrant request, reportedly approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Rosen case not does appear to reflect a larger policy shift within the Department of Justice to “criminalize” reporting. Plus, there’s recent evidence to suggest the DOJ has declined to take drastic steps against the press during a national security leak investigation.
On May 17, The Smoking Gun reported that FBI counterintelligence agents had overseen a lengthy leak investigation after The Smoking Gun published a classified, 12-page CIA report detailing the organizing activities of al-Qaeda members imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Smoking Gun learned:
The case remained open for three years and eight months, spanning the Bush and Obama administrations. It was formally closed in March 2010 when, after much internal debate, the Department of Justice’s Counterespionage Section declined to authorize a subpoena–sought by the FBI–compelling [The Smoking Gun’s] editor to testify before a grand jury about its source.
Faced with taking the extreme measure of forcing an editor to testify before a grand jury about the identify of a source, the DOJ declined, and instead closed down an unsuccessful leak investigation. If there really were a top-down administration attempt to “criminalize” national security reporting, wouldn’t that editor have been compelled to testify?
Right now though, that remains a small consolation.
In May of 1973, Shakur was in a car that was pulled over by police on the New Jersey highway. A shootout occurred, resulting in the deaths of her companion and fellow activist Zayd Malik Shakur and State Trooper Werner Foerster. Assata Shakur was wounded in the gunfight, having been shot twice. Accounts of what happened that night differ greatly — surviving Trooper James Harper (also wounded) claimed that Zayd Malik Shakur began firing when they asked him to step out of the vehicle whereas Assata Shakur attests that the police fired first, even after she had her hands in the air.
Shakur was convicted of Foerster’s murder and sentenced to a life in prison. In 1979, with the help of allies, she was able to escape from confinement and flee to Cuba where she still lives and calls herself a “20th century escaped slave.” Read more »
Filed under: Abusive Police, African-Americans, COINTELPRO, FBI, Political Prisoners, Racism,U.S., US Wars | Tagged: CIA, COINTELPRO, colonialism, escaped slave, ex-political prisoner, FBI,government repression, History of anti-imperialist/revolutionary movements, imperialism,International, internationalism, media, police, Political Prisoners, prisons, racial profiling, racism,slavery, solidarity, U.S., US Wars, war crimes, women | 1 Comment »
My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.
I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons. According to the report:
‘The FBI and the New York Police Department in particular, charged and accused Assata Shakur of participating in attacks on law enforcement personnel and widely circulated such charges and accusations among police agencies and units. The FBI and the NYPD further charged her as being a leader of the Black Liberation Army which the government and its respective agencies described as an organization engaged in the shooting of police officers. This description of the Black Liberation Army and the accusation of Assata Shakur’s relationship to it was widely circulated by government agents among police agencies and units. As a result of these activities by the government, Ms. Shakur became a hunted person; posters in police precincts and banks described her as being involved in serious criminal activities; she was highlighted on the FBI’s most wanted list; and to police at all levels she became a ‘shoot-to-kill’ target.”
I was falsely accused in six different “criminal cases” and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the “evidence” presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.
On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a “faulty tail light.” Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became “suspicious.” He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Foerster was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Foerster was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life. Read more »
Filed under: CIA, COINTELPRO, Colonialism, FBI, Government Repression, History of anti-imperialist/revolutionary movements, Imperialism, International, Internationalism, Media, Police,Political Prisoners, Political Prisoners, Prisons, Racial Profiling, Racism, Slavery, slavery,Solidarity, U.S., US Wars, WAR CRIMES, Women, Women | Tagged: escaped slave, ex-political prisoner, freedom fighter | 7 Comments »
The long-troubled military trials at Guantanamo Bay were hit by revelations earlier this year that a secret censor had the ability to cut off courtroom proceedings, and that there were listening devices disguised as smoke detectors in attorney-client meeting rooms.
Now, another potential instance of compromised confidentiality at the military commissions has emerged: Defense attorneys say somebody has accessed their email and servers.
“Defense emails have ended up being provided to the prosecution, material has disappeared off the defense server, and sometimes reappeared, in different formats, or with different names,” said Rick Kammen, a lawyer for Abd Al Rahim Al Nashiri, who is accused of plotting the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole.
The lawyers say they don’t know exactly who is accessing their communications. And it’s not yet clear whether the emails were intentionally grabbed or were scooped up mistakenly due to technical or procedural errors.
Either way, the lawyers are concerned.
In response to the apparent breaches, the military’s chief defense counsel ordered defense lawyers to stop using email for privileged or confidential communications.
“This follows on the heels of the seizure of over 500,000 e-mail containing attorney-client privileged communications as well as the loss of significant amount of defense work-product contained in shared folders,” Commander Walter Ruiz, one of the military defense counsels, said in an email.
The search of thousands of emails was revealed by the prosecution, attorneys say.
“The searches on their face looked to be fairly benign,” Kammen said. The defense emails turned up when prosecutors requested a search of prosecutors’ own emails. “The people who were doing the searches ended up providing all manner of defense material as well.” It’s not clear what department, agency, or office did the search.
It is not possible to corroborate the attorneys’ accounts because the full documents are undergoing security review, and are not yet public.
The Pentagon declined to comment, citing the ongoing trial.
In recent months, defense lawyers also realized that files were missing from their shared and personal servers. There is no evidence that the missing files are connected to the email searches.
“The main thing is that the integrity of the system as the whole is in very serious question,” said Commander Ruiz. The order to stop using servers and emails, “essentially cripples our ability to operate,” he said.
Hearings in Nashiri’s case were scheduled for next week, but in response to a motion from his lawyers, military judge James Pohlhas delayed the hearings for two months. Yesterday, lawyers for the 9/11 plotters also filed a motion regarding “Information Technology Corruption and Loss of Relevant Defense Files.”
These new concerns are the latest example of irregularities of military commissions overshadowing the actual facts of the cases brought before them. Pretrial hearings have been consumed by issues such as whether defendants can wear camouflage to court (they can), when mail can be read, and what exactly lawyers can discuss with or send their clients. The prosecution has also tried to prohibit “informational contraband,” including any material on “current political or military events in any country; historical perspectives or discussions on jihadist activities.” Copies of the 9/11 Commission Report and the memoirs of an FBI agent have been taken from defendants’ cells.
In cases before the commissions, defendants’ interactions with their attorneys are subject to strict controls. Orders aimed at protecting classified information govern most proceedings and lawyers have limited access to their clients. Defense lawyerspreviously had to get a security officer’s approval to use even mundane information from defendants. That requirement was loosened a bit, but details of the defendants’ time in CIA custody – including their own accounts of being tortured – are automatically classified.
There have been seven convictions under the military commissions. Another seven detainees are currently facing charges, and 24 others may yet be prosecuted. The government has deemed 46 detainees simply too dangerous to release but doesn’t plan to try them.
The Obama administration initially sought to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other alleged 9/11 plotters in federal court in Manhattan, but reversed its position after heated opposition from Congress and New York City officials.
Though President Obama has thus far failed to fulfill his pledge to close Guantanamo, no one has been brought to the prison under the Obama administration. In recent months, a string of terror suspects have been extradited from foreign countries to face charges in U.S. courts.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale disputed defense attorneys’ characterizations of the email and data breach described below, saying that none of the government prosecutors “saw the content of any privileged communications.”
The search was conducted by the Pentagon’s IT department. Breasseale said the reason prosecution ended up with defense emails at all was likely because a security officer “miscommunicated the search parameters.” As soon as one prosecutor “realized the search results included privileged material, the searches completely ceased, and, upon agreement of defense counsel … the IT department deleted all the search results from the two searches,” Breasseale said.
Statement emailed to reporters by Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale:
Perhaps the biggest myth in the current reporting is that US government prosecutors saw defense e-mails.
I can tell you unequivocally that NO prosecutor and no member of the privilege review team saw the content of any privileged communications. Only one prosecutor and only one member of the privilege review team each actually saw a single defense communication. To be clear: there were a series of searches for a particular piece of information in which both prosecution and defense took part. One prosecutor saw the email when reviewing results generated from the first search. The privilege-review attorney saw the email when reviewing the results generated from the second search. However, in both cases, they only saw the “To,” “From,” and “CC” lines, and the one prosecutor saw the opening salutation of the email (it was “team,” or some similar word) and saw NOTHING ELSE. As soon as that prosecutor realized the search results included privileged material, the searches completely ceased, and, upon agreement of defense counsel in Qosi, the IT department deleted all the search results from the two searches.
But more generally – though terrifically more importantly – the attorney-client privilege ranks among the oldest and most established evidentiary privileges known to our law, and we take this seriously. The fact that this arose from a defense-initiated petition, was promptly dealt with due to a PROSECUTION report, and that it is receiving appropriate focus to identify corrective measures, confirms that. All attorneys, including both our professional corps of defense and prosecuting attorneys, are duty-bound to safeguard privileged material. Attorneys are obligated to scrupulously avoid reviewing the other side’s privileged material. Specifically, the attorneys in the office of the chief prosecutor have demonstrated their respect for the attorney-client privilege and they diligently work to protect it.
In any complex litigation, privileged material sometimes accidentally ends up in the wrong place – from both ‘sides.’ For example, just last week, a member of the defense counsel mistakenly sent to a number of prosecutors an ex parte filing that was meant to be sent only to the court. Defense counsel notified the prosecution, and actions were immediately taken to protect the confidentiality of the filing. This sort of human error is unfortunate but not out of the ordinary in complex litigation in both civilian and military systems, and both sides work together to resolve any issues that arise.
Meanwhile, encryption–which is the recommended means of communication–would have precluded even this inadvertent and fully contained disclosure that involved no content.
So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to offer some point-for-point responses to some of the growing myths that are out there.
“[I]t was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution.”
“In the latest controversy, the prosecution gained access to about 540,000 emails from defense teams.”
— This is patently FALSE. **The Enterprise Information Technology Services Directorate (EITSD) did not turn over any of the those emails to any attorneys—prosecution or otherwise. IT has maintained possession of these emails and the prosecution attorneys do not have access to them. Because no one has reviewed these emails, we simply do not know whether any of the emails included any defense emails.
“Defense attorneys said military IT personnel unsuccessfully tried to refine their search parameters two more times—and in each case discovered more confidential material.”
— The court wanted communications between the prosecution and the defense regarding waiver of appellate review. The office of the Chief Prosecutor (OMC-P) asked their IT professional, he relayed to them that they had to go through OMC Security Department (now part of Washington Headquarters Services), and OMC Security relayed that they would have to contact the search technicians with OMC-P’s search request. OMC-P gave the search parameters to OMC Security (including the names of the relevant prosecutors and defense attorneys, identifying who was a prosecutor and who was a defense attorney), and OMC Security was supposed to properly communicate them to the search technicians. The representative from OMC-Security miscommunicated the search parameters, which we asses is the likely reason it caused OMC-P to receive the privileged communications which, again, were never read by the prosecutors.
— The IT search that generated 540,000 emails was the third search. Again: no one has reviewed these emails, so we do not know if they include confidential material. After the first search, prosecutors directed IT to deliver any search results to a privilege review team composed of attorneys from the DOD OGC who had no involvement in the Qosi case before the United States Court of Military Commission Review or the Cole and 9/11 trials. IT has deleted the search results from the first two searches.
— Finally, the Office of Military Commissions (OMC), in toto – including both defense and prosecution – suffered from a nearly catastrophic server ‘crash,’ that affected not only the main server, but both of its back-up servers. The server ‘crash,’ coupled with the satellite latency issues that exist between computers here in the US and those at Guantanamo Bay, have caused losses of indiscriminate data across the OMC spectrum. Of the nearly 400 gb of data originally ‘lost,’ there remain some 7 gb yet to be accounted for. To be sure, this data loss – which affects the whole of OMC – is indeed indiscriminate and appears to be mostly affecting updates to pre-existing documents and new documents that were saved to the server and not e-mailed.
**Breasseale’s statement originally said that, “no one knows from where this “540k” number comes and I would direct you to the defense counsel who allege this number.” In a follow-up, Breasseale corrected that to say that “the 540k number comes from one of the prosecution’s pleadings.
U.S. Attorney’s Office asks judge to toss motion to intervene in the case of detained hacktivist Barrett Brown
Journalist-turned-hacktivist Barrett Brown has been in a federal detention center since September, when FBI agents raided his apartment while he was engaged in an online chat. And he will remain there until at least September, when he’s due to stand trial for more than a dozen criminal charges, among them threatening an FBI agent, conspiring to release the personal information of a U.S. government employee, identity theft and releasing credit card information.
Brown, the not-a-spokesman for Anonymous and the subject of a D cover story in 2011, has now become an international story: A lengthy piece on the U.K. Guardian‘s website appeared on March 21 beneath the headline “The persecution of Barrett Brown – and how to fight it,” and insists Brown’s being punished by the government for trying to reveal “the secret relationships and projects between … intelligence firms and federal agencies.”
Aside from its myriad indictments, the federal government hasn’t said much about its case against Brown — or what it’s after. But according to a motion to intervene and quash subpoena filed yesterday, the government is attempting to get its hands on records related to domain name server Cloudflare — and, more specifically, those involving someone named Sebastiaan Provost, who, according to the motion, “built newsgathering websites for Mr. Brown.” Jason Flores-Williams, a New Mexico attorney, filed the motion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office promptly responded, asking the judge to dismiss the motion. Sarah Saldana’s office offers several reasons, among them Flores-Williams isn’t licensed to practice law in Texas and he
Flores-Williams is among a handful of activists attorneys who co-founded the Whistleblowers Defense League, whose creation was announced yesterday. Their website says the WBDL “stands with those brave souls willing to act against and expose the damaging corporate and political forces injuring our democracy.”
In a press release, WBDL co-founder and attorney Jay Leiderman, who has represented Brown in the past, says, “The internet is the new frontier for civil rights. This indictment of Barrett Brown, like Ai Weiwei, is an affront to democracy. We have to stop this government from criminalizing dissent in our society.”
Doug Morris, the public defender representing Brown, says it “appears the government is trying to get information from these folks, and they believe it’s related to Mr. Brown. That’s what it tells me.” And, for now, that’s all he knows about Flores-Williams’ motion. Morris also doesn’t want to comment on how his client is doing behind bars. For that information we must instead turn to Vice, which published an interview with Brown last week — shortly after Brown’s mother pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice by hiding computers for her son.
“I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it,” he insisted. When asked why not, he responded: “Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff. … I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that. They don’t have their [expletive] together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding … and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence so … I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.”
Brown, ruled competent last January to stand trial, was initially scheduled to go to trial in March. But his attorney asked the judge for the OK to put it off until September, which gave them more time for discovery.
“Every case is unique,” says Doug Morris. “If you have an illegal reentry case, that doesn’t take a long time. Felony possession of a handgun — did you have the gun or not? But if it’s computer-generated, there’s a lot of discovery, and it takes time.”
Brown remains behind bars because, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney’s September ruling, “Mr. Brown is a danger to the safety of the community and a risk of flight.”
Does Democracy and Justice still apply in the USA?
The federal trial against alleged computer criminal Barrett Brown has been delayed by six months. Now the activist once called the “spokesperson” of the Anonymous hacker movement will wait in prison for one full year before being tried.
Brown, 31, was scheduled to stand trial later this month for a slew of charges that have handed down in three separate indictments filed by the government since last September. Per the request of his attorneys, however, legal proceedings have been pushed back for six months, delaying the trial until September 2013.
Doug Morris, a public defender appointed to serve as Brown’s defense counsel, asked for an extension in order to evaluate the evidence against his client, the Associate Press reports. US District Judge Sam Lindsay obliged on Wednesday this week.
The AP adds that Brown’s trial for one indictment is now slated for September 3, 2013, with trials for his second and third indictments scheduled to start on Sept. 23. Brown was arrested on Sept. 12 last year and has been in law enforcement custody for the nearly six months since.
The AP describes Brown as having Brown “once served as de facto spokesman for Anonymous, a shadowy movement that has gotten attention for cyberattacks,” although he says he’s never represented himself as such. Although Brown has aligned himself with the Anonymous movement on several occasions in the past and have spoken broadly on matters relating to the group, he wrote from prison last year, “I am not and never have been the spokesman for Anonymous, nor its ‘public face’ or, worse, ‘self-proclaimed’ ‘face’ or ‘spokesperson’ or ‘leader.’”
Brown’s legal issues began last March when FBI agents raided his Dallas, Texas home with search warrants for computers that contained information pertaining to, among other things, the Anonymous collective, offshoot LulzSec and a number of private businesses that were investigated by both groups as well as Brown’s own Project PM, an independent think-tank he designed in part “to develop new methods by which to use the internet for positive change and to encourage others to adapt such methods.”
One day after the March 2012 raid, Brown wrote the FBI “fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did” when the feds raided his mother’s house shortly after the first incident. He also said that federal agents threatened both he and his mother with conspiracy to obstruct justice for the next few months, spawning Brown to lash out at the FBI in a series of YouTube videos and Twitter posts created in September 2012.
“I know what’s legal, I know what’s been done to me… And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith — who is a criminal,” claimed Brown in one of the clips uploaded to the Web. “That’s why Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids… How do you like them apples?”
Hours after that video was uploaded to the Web, a SWAT team raided Brown’s Dallas, Texas apartment and placed him in custody for nearly one month before he was charged with threatening a federal officer. Once behind bars, though, Brown’s legal issues escalated.
While in custody, the Justice Department unsealed two separate indictments against Brown: In December, Brown was charged with sharing an Internet hyperlink that contained over 5,000 credit card account numbers, the card holders’ identification information and the authentication features for the cards. One month later, Brown was charged with obstructing justice by “knowingly and corruptly conceal and attempt to conceal records, documents, and digital data contained on two laptop computers,” as he hinted at nearly one year earlier.
Attorney Jay Leiderman, who is not representing Brown in this case, wrote on his personal blog when the third indictment was unsealed that the hacktivist could face a century in prison if convicted on all counts.
“He is alleged to have made threatening YouTube videos aimed at the FBI agent that raided his home, he is alleged to have shared a link that contained credit card and access information, and he supposedly hid laptops when the FBI came-a-knocking. That’s right, that sorta stuff could cost you 100 years these days,” he wrote.
Brown is alleged to have shared a link to the credit card details in a chat room after seeing it posted in another. The trove of data contained within the link related to subscriber data pilfered by Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a private intelligence company hacked by Anonymous in December 2011. Thousands of emails obtained in that compromise were later given to the whistleblower website WikIleaks and have been subsequently published online.
Upon release of the credit card numbers, Brown disavowed the hack. He said, “Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm’s servers.”
Jeremy Hammond, a hacker and activist from Chicago, has been behind bars for over one year while awaiting trial for charges relating to the Stratfor hack. Federal proscutors say he spearheaded the hack as a member of the groups Anonymous and LulzSec. He stands to face the rest of his life in prison if convicted.e
Google Says the FBI Is Secretly Spying on Some of Its Customers
The terrorists apparently would win if Google told you the exact number of times the Federal Bureau of Investigation invoked a secret process to extract data about the media giant’s customers.
That’s why it is unlawful for any record-keeper to disclose it has received a so-called National Security Letter. But under a deal brokered with the President Barack Obama administration, Google on Tuesday published a “range” of times it received National Security Letters demanding it divulge account information to the authorities without warrants.
It was the first time a company has ever released data chronicling the volume of National Security Letter requests.
National Security Letters allow the government to get detailed information on Americans’ finances and communications without oversight from a judge. The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs and has even been reprimanded for abusing them. The NSLs are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and businesses like Google to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited and more as long as the FBI says the information is “relevant” to an investigation.
In each year from 2009 to 2012, Google said it received “0-999″ National Security Letters.
But in its talks with the authorities over releasing figures, Google said national security was on the mind of the Obama administration.
“You’ll notice that we’re reporting numerical ranges rather than exact numbers. This is to address concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies that releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations. We plan to update these figures annually,” Richard Salgado, a Google legal director, wrote in a blog post.
Salgado was not available for comment.
What makes the government’s position questionable is that it is required by Congress to disclose the number of times the bureau issues National Security Letters. In 2011, the year with the latest available figures, the FBI issued 16,511 National Security Letters pertaining to 7,201 different persons. (.pdf)
Google said the number of accounts connected to National Security letters ranged between “1000-1999″ for each of the reported years other than 2010. In that year, the range was “2000-2999.”
Google noted that the FBI may “obtain ‘the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records’ of a subscriber to a wire or electronic communications service. The FBI can’t use NSLs to obtain anything else from Google, such as Gmail content, search queries, YouTube videos or user IP addresses.”
Google often must disclose that data via other means, as described here.
Under the Patriot Act, Google or others who receive a NSL must disclose the sought-after information if the authorities say the request is “relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
National Security Letters are a powerful tool because they do not require court approval, and they come with a built-in gag order, preventing recipients from disclosing to anyone that they have even received an NSL. An FBI agent looking into a possible anti-terrorism case can self-issue an NSL to a credit bureau, ISP or phone company with only the sign-off of the special agent in charge of their office.
What’s more, the lack of court oversight raises the possibility for extensive abuse.
In 2007 a Justice Department Inspector General audit found that the FBI had indeed abused its authority and misused NSLs on many occasions. After 9/11, for example, the FBI paid multimillion-dollar contracts to AT&T and Verizon requiring the companies to station employees inside the FBI and to give these employees access to the telecom databases so they could immediately service FBI requests for telephone records. The IG found that the employees let FBI agents illegally look at customer records without paperwork and even wrote NSLs for the FBI.
That said, we should applaud Google for trying to be transparent on the issue, regardless of the Obama administration’s preposterous national-security concerns.
Hardball reports that John Guandolo, an anti Islam activist, thinks that the future head of the CIA is a secret Muslim.
“His conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counterintelligence operation against him to recruit him.”
The former FBI agent’s claims concerning Brennan are very similar to Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ award winning drama, where the lead character, a former prisoner of war converted to Islam while in captivity.
“That fact alone is not what is most disturbing,” Guandolo continued. “His conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counterintelligence operation against him to recruit him. The fact that foreign intelligence service operatives recruited Mr. Brennan when he was in a very sensitive and senior U.S. government position in a foreign country means that he either a traitor … [or] he has the inability to discern and understand how to walk in those kinds of environments, which makes him completely unfit to the be the director of Central Intelligence.”
Guandolo now works with the Strategic Engagement Group, who according to their website specializes in “unconstrained analysis in defense of America.”
In 2009, Guandolo resigned from the FBI after it was exposed that he had an affair with a key witness while he was investigating the corruption case of former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson.
The FBI has been adamant about withholding information about their plans to ensure the government can access any encrypted emails or messages sent over the Internet, but now a federal judge says the agency needs to come clean.
US District Judge Richard Seeborg took the side of the Electronic Frontier Foundation this week in a case that’s been disputed back and forth between Pennsylvania Avenue and Silicon Valley for years. Washington hopes to eventually roll out a program that will see that the FBI and other federal agencies are allowed backdoor access to any and all online communications. So far, though, they’ve managed to make much of the so-called “Going Dark” program a matter that’s shielded from interested parties, namely the EFF and other Internet activists. On Tuesday, Judge Seeborg agreed with the plaintiffs that the Justice Department has been not exactly accommodating with Freedom of Information Act paperwork filed by the San Francisco-based non-profit, and said the FBI and other federal agencies will have to go back and reassess those requests, ordering a “further review of the materials previously withheld.”
The EFF has on at least two occasions filed FOIA requests for info on the secretive surveillance blueprints the FBI has drafted, but the response have been scant at best. Judge Seeborg now rules that the DoJ will have to examine their annals once again for information, as their responses to the requests so far have been insincere.
“T]he Government is directed to conduct a further review of the materials previously withheld as non-responsive. In conducting such review, the presumption should be that information located on the same page, or in close proximity to undisputedly responsive material is likely to qualify as information that in ‘any sense sheds light on, amplifies, or enlarges upon’ the plainly responsive material, and that it should therefore be produced, absent an applicable exemption,” the judge ruled, according to court papers first spotted by CNet.
The two requests in particular that will have to be reassessed relate to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law that Judge Seeborg says was “designed to aid law enforcement efforts to conduct surveillance of digital telephone networks.” After nearly 20 years on the books, though, the EFF argues that law enforcement officers across the charts have wanted updated additions to the legislation, particularly because FBI Director Robert Mueller has told the US Senate as recently as September, “We must ensure that our ability to obtain communications pursuant to court order is not eroded,” because many companies “are not required to build or maintain intercept capabilities.”
We want to “be able to obtain those communications,” Mueller said during a May hearing on Capitol Hill. “What we’re looking at is some form of legislation that will assure that when we get the appropriate court order that those individuals — individual companies are served with that order do have the capability and the capacity to respond to that order.”
The EFF fears that the Justice Department is asking for amendments to the CALEA that
would “require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters, social networking websites, and “peer to peer” messaging services — to be technically capable of complying with wiretap orders, including being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.” What they actual are asking for remains up for debate, however, as those FOIA requests have been all but ignored.
When the Criminal Division of the DoJ decided to respond to the EFF, they said they found 8,425 pages of “potentially responsive information.” What they returned, however, was hardly that. “It ultimately released one page in full and 6 pages in part, and withheld 51 pages in full. DOJ also referred approximately 500 pages of potentially responsive information to other agencies for processing and possible production to plaintiff,” Judge Seeborg writes.
Both sides have been given 15 days by the judge to “meet and confer to negotiate a timetable for the FBI to complete” its revisions.
“It’s nice to have a court say the government can’t do that,” EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch tells CNet’s Declan McCullagh, adding that the judge’s ruling shows that the Justice Department now is required “to make an effort” to comply with the FOIA.
“If Broadwell (top) and Kelley were fighting the Taliban in bikinis, maybe we’d have some interest,” said CNN.
In nearly 30,000 pages of documents seized by the FBI, the words “war,” “Afghanistan,” and “U.S. Forces” come up repeatedly, alongside those of generals David Petraeus and Joe Allen, as well as Petraeus’ mistress Paula Broadwell and Florida socialite Jill Kelley.
While the allegations of illicit affairs and sexual flirtation continue to capture the headlines, many were angered that military leaders continued to take part in what was thought to be a long-dead conflict.
“I understand generals are entitled to sex, but the idea that they were getting a little ‘shooty-shooty bang-bang’ on the side is infuriating,” said Littleton, Co. resident Krystal Anderson. “I don’t think it necessarily hinders them from being generals, but surely the military code of conduct frowns on this sort of thing.”
Far from denying it, Pentagon officials today readily confirmed the existence of the Afghan war, insisting they have repeatedly tried to call the nation’s attention to the 11-year-old conflict, in which more than 50,000 civilians and coalition forces have been killed or wounded.
“Oh, that war,” said CNN producer Evan Dillard. “Yeah, we’ve got some archived footage of it somewhere, but it doesn’t really take precedence over images of Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley in tight, sleeveless tops.”
Aware of the newfound attention, the Pentagon said it has begun issuing status updates on the war using more sexual terminology to keep media interest. Its first update was released hours ago:
“The Afghan National Security Forces are growing stronger, larger, and more virile every day, and in the coming months, we expect these vigorous, swarthy men in uniform to seize the curvaceous mountain areas and eventually penetrate deeper into the hot, musky interior of the nation’s furtive regions.”
The Pentagon added that it has had numerous candid and revealing telephone and email exchanges with Afghan leaders, all of which are recorded and can be purchased discreetly from its web site, http://www.defense.gov/Afghanaughty.
If David H. Petraeus couldn’t keep his affair from prying eyes as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, then how is the average American to keep a secret?
In the past, a spymaster might have placed a flower pot with a red flag on his balcony or drawn a mark on page 20 of his mistress’s newspaper. Instead, Mr. Petraeus used Gmail. And he got caught.
Granted, most people don’t have the Federal Bureau of Investigation sifting through their personal e-mails, but privacy experts say people grossly underestimate how transparent their digital communications have become.
“What people don’t realize is that hacking and spying went mainstream a decade ago,” said Dan Kaminsky, an Internet security researcher. “They think hacking is some difficult thing. Meanwhile, everyone is reading everyone else’s e-mails — girlfriends are reading boyfriends’, bosses are reading employees’ — because it’s just so easy to do.”
Face it: no matter what you are trying to hide in your e-mail in-box or text message folder — be it an extramarital affair or company trade secrets — it is possible that someone will find out. If it involves criminal activity or litigation, the odds increase because the government has search and subpoena powers that can be used to get any and all information, whether it is stored on your computer or, as is more likely these days, stored in the cloud. And lawyers for the other side in a lawsuit can get reams of documents in court-sanctioned discovery.
Still determined? Thought so. You certainly are not alone, as there are legitimate reasons that people want to keep private all types of information and communications that are not suspicious (like the contents of your will, for example, or a chronic illness). In that case, here are your best shots at hiding the skeletons in your digital closet.
KNOW YOUR ADVERSARY. Technically speaking, the undoing of Mr. Petraeus was not the extramarital affair, per se, it was that he misunderstood the threat. He and his mistress/biographer, Paula Broadwell, may have thought the threat was their spouses snooping through their e-mails, not the F.B.I. looking through Google’s e-mail servers.
“Understanding the threat is always the most difficult part of security technology,” said Matthew Blaze, an associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania and a security and cryptography specialist. “If they believed the threat to be a government with the ability to get their login records from a service provider, not just their spouse, they might have acted differently.”
To hide their affair from their spouses, the two reportedly limited their digital communications to a shared Gmail account. They did not send e-mails, but saved messages to the draft folder instead, ostensibly to avoid a digital trail. It is unlikely either of their spouses would have seen it.
But neither took necessary steps to hide their computers’ I.P. addresses. According to published accounts of the affair, Ms. Broadwell exposed the subterfuge when she used the same computer to send harassing e-mails to a woman in Florida, Jill Kelley, who sent them to a friend at the F.B.I.
Authorities matched the digital trail from Ms. Kelley’s e-mails — some had been sent via hotel Wi-Fi networks — to hotel guest lists. In crosschecking lists of hotel guests, they arrived at Ms. Broadwell and her computer, which led them to more e-mail accounts, including the one she shared with Mr. Petraeus.
HIDE YOUR LOCATION The two could have masked their I.P. addresses using Tor, a popular privacy tool that allows anonymous Web browsing. They could have also used a virtual private network, which adds a layer of security to public Wi-Fi networks like the one in your hotel room.
By not doing so, Mr. Blaze said, “they made a fairly elementary mistake.” E-mail providers like Google and Yahoo keep login records, which reveal I.P. addresses, for 18 months, during which they can easily be subpoenaed. The Fourth Amendment requires the authorities to get a warrant from a judge to search physical property. Rules governing e-mail searches are far more lax: Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a warrant is not required for e-mails six months old or older. Even if e-mails are more recent, the federal government needs a search warrant only for “unopened” e-mail, according to the Department of Justice’s manual for electronic searches. The rest requires only a subpoena.
Google reported that United States law enforcement agencies requested data for 16,281 accounts from January to June of this year, and it complied in 90 percent of cases.
GO OFF THE RECORD At bare minimum, choose the “off the record” feature on Google Talk, Google’s instant messaging client, which ensures that nothing typed is saved or searchable in either person’s Gmail account.
ENCRYPT YOUR MESSAGES E-mail encryption services, like GPG, help protect digital secrets from eavesdroppers. Without an encryption key, any message stored in an in-box, or reached from the cloud, will look like gibberish. The intended recipient must get a key from the sender to read the message. The drawback is that managing those keys — which often involves writing them down — can be cumbersome. And ultimately, even though a message’s contents are unreadable, the frequency of communication is not. That is bound to arouse suspicions.
Wickr, a mobile app, performs a similar service for smartphones, encrypting video, photos and text and erasing deleted files for good. Typically, metadata for deleted files remains on a phone’s hard drive, where forensics specialists and skilled hackers can piece it back together. Wickr erases those files by writing gibberish over the metadata.
SET YOUR SELF-DESTRUCT TIMER Services like 10 Minute Mail allow users to open an e-mail address and send a message, and the address self-destructs 10 minutes later. Wickr also allows users to set a self-destruct timer for mobile communications so they can control how long a recipient can view a file before it disappears. But there is always the chance that your recipient captured screenshots.
DROP THE DRAFT FOLDER IDEA It may sound clever, but saving e-mails in a shared draft folder is no safer than transmitting them. Christopher Soghoian, a policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that this tactic had long been used by terrorists — Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Richard Reid, “the shoe bomber,” among them — and it doesn’t work. E-mails saved to the draft folder are still stored in the cloud. Even if they are deleted, e-mail service providers can be compelled to provide copies.
USE ONLY A DESIGNATED DEVICE Security experts suggest using a separate, designated device for sensitive communications. Of course, few things say philanderer, or meth dealer for that matter, like a second cellphone. (Watch “Breaking Bad.”)
GET AN ALIBI Then there is the obvious problem of having to explain to someone why you are carrying a pager or suddenly so knowledgeable about encryption technologies. “The sneakier you are, the weirder you look,” said Mr. Kaminsky.
DON’T MESS UP It is hard to pull off one of these steps, let alone all of them all the time. It takes just one mistake — forgetting to use Tor, leaving your encryption keys where someone can find them, connecting to an airport Wi-Fi just once — to ruin you.
“Robust tools for privacy and anonymity exist, but they are not integrated in a way that makes them easy to use,” Mr. Blaze warned. “We’ve all made the mistake of accidentally hitting ‘Reply All.’ Well, if you’re trying to hide your e-mails or account or I.P. address, there are a thousand other mistakes you can make.”
In the end, Mr. Kaminsky noted, if the F.B.I. is after your e-mails, it will find a way to read them. In that case, any attempt to stand in their way may just lull you into a false sense of security.
Some people think that if something is difficult to do, “it has security benefits, but that’s all fake — everything is logged,” said Mr. Kaminsky. “The reality is if you don’t want something to show up on the front page of The New York Times, then don’t say it.”