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FBI Creates Fake Bomb Story and Attributes it to AP, Post-Snowden Leaker, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/30/2014

October 30, 2014
American Civil Liberties Union chief technologist Christopher Soghoian tweets the link to the phony documents.

American Civil Liberties Union chief technologist Christopher Soghoian tweets the link to documents on the phony story.

In 2007 the FBI created a fake story on bomb threats made at a Seattle-area high school, attributed it to the Associated Press (AP), and then sent it in a private MySpace message to the student suspected of making the threats against the school. “By clicking on the link, the suspect unwittingly downloaded a piece of malware, a computer bug that enabled agents to identify his Internet protocol address.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained hundreds of pages of documents on the story through the FOIA, and the AP has since issued a statement saying that the FBI’s actions “violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility.” This revelation comes on the heels of reports that a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent impersonated a young woman on Facebook, posted racy photos of her and pictures of her underage son and niece on the social media site, all as part of a drug investigation.

The FBI recently searched a Northern Virginia home in connection to a “second leaker” who leaked classified information on the government’s terror watch list to the news media. The leaked information appeared in an August 5 Intercept article, which cites classified government documents on the National Counterterrorism Center’s databases that “provides a statistical breakdown of the types of people whose names and personal information appear on two government data networks listing people with supposed connections to militants.” The documents shows, among other things, “that 47,000 people — including 800 Americans — were on the government’s no-fly list, while an additional 16,000 — including 1,200 Americans — were on the ‘selectee’ list; they are permitted to travel through American airspace but receive extra scrutiny at security checkpoints.”

Postal workers in Virginia. Photo: Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

Postal workers in Virginia. Photo: Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

A recent United States Postal Service Inspector General audit reveals the agency approved 50,000 requests from law enforcement and its own inspectors to monitor Americans’ mail service last year. Though the postal service’s program, called “mail covers,” has played an important, if largely unnoticed, surveillance role since 9/11, the numbers are higher than expected. Combined with documents the New York Times obtained under the FOIA, the audit depicts a generally lax attitude towards the program’s oversight, and “that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.”

Dutch prosecutors investigating the crash of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine this July are still waiting for the promised US intelligence reports on the incident, which killed 298 people. The US previously asserted it had intelligence on the crash, and “said its satellite imagery proved it was shot down with a ground-to-air missile by Russian-backed rebels.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigator who led the 2012 internal investigation of the Secret Service’s prostitution scandal has resigned amid his own prostitution scandal. Investigator David Nieland, who “has been at the center of a dispute over whether the Obama administration tried to cover up the involvement of a volunteer member of a White House advance team in the scandal that resulted in the firing of eight Secret Service agents who were on assignment in Cartagena, Colombia,” was recently identified by his local sheriff’s department as having visited a building under surveillance as part of a prostitution sting. When sheriff deputies stopped him afterwards, Nieland said his visit was part of a DHS undercover human trafficking investigation. DHS contacted the sheriff’s office after learning Nieland had been stopped by police, when they were informed by the sheriff’s office that Nieland had been identified by one of the prostitutes under surveillance as having paid for sex. Nieland resigned from his post in August citing health problems.

Undated image obtained by the AP shows the cover sheet of a slide presentation prepared by Russell Richardson, who was the science adviser to the Army Intelligence and Security Command.

Undated image obtained by the AP shows the cover sheet of a slide presentation prepared by Russell Richardson, who was the science adviser to the Army Intelligence and Security Command.

A recent AP expose argued the revolving door between the military and defense companies participating in the Army’s $5 billion Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) “perpetuates a culture of failure.” DCGS was “conceived a decade ago as a way to link the military’s disparate sensors and databases, allowing troops to process and integrate intelligence from electronic intercepts, overhead imagery, spy reports and other sources.” Instead, however, the system has largely failed to make data accessible to those working in the field, and was described as “crash-prone, unwieldy and ‘not survivable,’ in the words of one memorable 2012 testing report.” Defense contracting companies have made millions off the program, however, and the military continues to amply fund the system.

The British Archive has declassified the first page of a paramount Able Archer 83 report in response to Archive FOIA Coordinator Nate Jones’ FOI request, but withheld the remainder of “The Detection of Soviet Preparations for War Against NATO,” leaving key questions about the nuclear war scare – at least for now – unanswered. Jones has already appealed the denial in hopes to unseal information “on the specific ‘unprecedented’ Soviet reaction to a NATO command post nuclear release exercise that utilized ‘new nuclear weapons release procedures’ at the height of the Era of Renewed Confrontation.”

Declassified CIA and FBI documents obtained through the FOIA and other sources show that the US government relied more on Nazis as Cold War spies than previously thought, working with as many as 1,000 Nazis, including one former SS official the CIA recruited as a spy in the 1950s despite knowing he was probably guilty of “minor war crimes.” The effort to declassify these documents was led by “Richard Breitman, a Holocaust scholar at American University who was on a government-appointed team that declassified war-crime records.”

nytleakWith these recent declassifications in mind, today’s #tbt document pick is the DOJ’s Office of Special Investigations 2006 candid history of the US government’s Nazi-hunting (and Nazi-protecting) – the leaked version, that is. In 2010 the Department of Justice used the b(5) “withhold it because you want to” FOIA exemption to censor dozens of pages of the history “to such a self-defeating extent that former officials leaked the entire document to the New York Times.” The Archive had submitted a FOIA request for the history in November 2009, only to be denied by the Justice Department on grounds that the document – although completed in 2006 and never revised since then – was only a draft and was “predecisional” and therefore withholdable under the b(5) exemption. Only after the Archive filed its lawsuit did the Justice Department begin to “process” the document for release –though ultimately making the document incomprehensible with the extensive misapplication of b(5). Fortunately, a Department of Justice employee leaked a copy of this history to the public.

Happy FOIA-ing!

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