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Westlake Legal Group > Federal Bureau of Investigation

Justice Dept. Investigating Years-Old Leaks and Appears Focused on Comey

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-comey-facebookJumbo Justice Dept. Investigating Years-Old Leaks and Appears Focused on Comey Washington Post United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Presidential Election of 2016 Newspapers News and News Media New York Times Netherlands Liu, Jessie Kong Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Comey, James B Classified Information and State Secrets

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors in Washington are investigating a years-old leak of classified information about a Russian intelligence document, and they appear to be focusing on whether the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey illegally provided details to reporters, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The case is the second time the Justice Department has investigated leaks potentially involving Mr. Comey, a frequent target of President Trump, who has repeatedly called him a “leaker.” Mr. Trump recently suggested without evidence that Mr. Comey should be prosecuted for “unlawful conduct” and spend years in prison.

The timing of the investigation could raise questions about whether it was motivated at least in part by politics. Prosecutors and F.B.I. agents typically investigate leaks of classified information around the time they appear in the news media, not years later. And the inquiry is the latest politically sensitive matter undertaken by the United States attorney’s office in Washington, which is also conducting an investigation of Mr. Comey’s former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, that has been plagued by problems.

Law enforcement officials are scrutinizing at least two news articles about the F.B.I. and Mr. Comey, published in The New York Times and The Washington Post in 2017, that mentioned the Russian government document, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Hackers working for Dutch intelligence officials obtained the document and provided it to the F.B.I., and both its existence and the collection of it were highly classified secrets, the people said.

The document played a key role in Mr. Comey’s decision to sideline the Justice Department and announce in July 2016 that the F.B.I. would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face charges in her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state.

The investigation into the leaks began in recent months, the people said, but it is not clear whether prosecutors have impaneled a grand jury or how many witnesses they have interviewed. What prompted the inquiry is also unclear, but the Russian document was mentioned in a book published last fall, “Deep State: Trump, the F.B.I., and the Rule of Law” by James B. Stewart, a Times reporter.

A lawyer for Mr. Comey declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Washington.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly pressured the Justice Department to investigate his perceived enemies. In 2018, he told the White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, to prosecute Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey. Mr. McGahn refused, telling the president that he did not have the authority to order investigations and that doing so could prompt abuse-of-power accusations. Mr. Trump had also discussed the appointment of a second special counsel to conduct the investigations he sought.

Previously, federal prosecutors in New York scrutinized Mr. Comey after his personal lawyer and friend, Daniel C. Richman, provided the contents of a memo about Mr. Comey’s interactions with Mr. Trump to a Times reporter at Mr. Comey’s request. Though officials retroactively determined that the memo contained classified information, prosecutors declined to charge Mr. Comey with illegally disclosing the material. The Justice Department’s inspector general, who had examined Mr. Comey’s conduct and referred his findings to prosecutors in New York, concluded that Mr. Comey violated F.B.I. policy.

The latest investigation involves material that Dutch intelligence operatives siphoned off Russian computers and provided to the United States government. The information included a Russian analysis of what appeared to be an email exchange during the 2016 presidential campaign between Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida who was also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee at the time, and Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, a democracy-promoting organization whose founder, George Soros, has long been a target of the far right.

In the email, Ms. Wasserman Schultz suggested that then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch would make sure that Mrs. Clinton would not be prosecuted in the email case. Both Ms. Wasserman Schultz and Mr. Benardo have denied being in contact, suggesting the document was meant to be Russian disinformation.

That document was one of the key factors that drove Mr. Comey to hold a news conference in July 2016 announcing that investigators would recommend no charges against Mrs. Clinton. Typically, senior Justice Department officials would decide how to proceed in such a high-profile case, but Mr. Comey was concerned that if Ms. Lynch played a central role in deciding whether to charge Mrs. Clinton, Russia could leak the email.

Whether the document was fake remains an open question. But American officials at the time did not believe that Ms. Lynch would hinder the Clinton email investigation, and neither Ms. Wasserman Schultz nor Mr. Benardo had any inside information about it. Still, if the Russians had released the information after the inquiry was closed, it could have tainted the outcome, hurt public confidence in the Justice Department and sowed discord.

Prosecutors are also looking at whether Mr. Richman might have played a role in providing the information to reporters about the Russia document and how it figured into Mr. Comey’s rationale about the news conference, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Comey hired Mr. Richman at one point to consult for the F.B.I. about encryption and other complex legal issues, and investigators have expressed interest in how he operated.

Mr. Richman was quoted in the April 2017 article in The Times that revealed the document’s existence. A month later, The Post named Ms. Wasserman Schultz and Mr. Benardo as subjects of the document in a detailed article. A lawyer for Mr. Richman declined to comment.

Typically, prosecutors would decline to open investigations into older leaks of classified information because the passage of time makes such cases much harder to pursue as the memories of witnesses fade. Also, the initial leaks can generate more leaks as more officials feel comfortable discussing the information with journalists because it has become public.

Multiple news stories about the classified disclosures also make it harder to determine whether one person was speaking to reporters or several people, according to former law enforcement officials. And the larger the universe of government officials who have been briefed on classified information, the more difficult it is to find the leaker, former officials said. In this case, lawmakers were briefed on the Russian document in addition to executive branch officials.

In inquiries where investigators determine that a leak is coming from members of Congress or their staff, political sensitivities make those cases difficult to investigate. Most of the time, former officials said, such inquiries are dead on arrival.

Additionally, investigators could also decline to open an investigation into an older leak because it might further harm national security if the information once again made headlines, as in this inquiry.

“Leak cases are incredibly difficult to prosecute,” said Brian J. Fleming, a former lawyer with the Justice Department who worked on many such cases in his work on national security issues. “They are very challenging to present to a jury both as an evidentiary matter and in terms of presenting a compelling, coherent narrative. That is a big reason so few leak cases get charged and even fewer ever go to trial.”

Still, if a government agency is determined to hunt down the source of a leak, as the C.I.A. was in the case of Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer who was convicted of leaking details about an anti-Iran operation to a Times reporter, Justice Department officials generally will pursue the case aggressively.

Federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia have embraced politically fraught cases under the United States attorney, Jessie K. Liu, an ambitious prosecutor who has angled for bigger jobs in the Trump administration.

She aggressively pushed for the prosecution of Mr. McCabe on suspicion of lying to investigators about sensitive law enforcement information provided to a reporter. Mr. McCabe was accused of misleading investigators conducting an administrative review, not a criminal inquiry; typically, such cases are not referred for prosecution.

The relatively straightforward case against Mr. McCabe has dragged on for more than 20 months. Prosecutors have refused to tell Mr. McCabe’s lawyers whether they intend to bring charges.

Ms. Liu’s office also charged Gregory B. Craig, a onetime White House counsel in the Obama administration, after prosecutors in New York passed on the case. Mr. Craig was charged with lying to the F.B.I. about his work for the Ukrainian government, but a jury last year quickly acquitted him, handing Ms. Liu an embarrassing defeat.

Mr. Trump nominated Ms. Liu last month to be the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes. He had previously tapped her to be the No. 3 spot in the Justice Department, but she withdrew from consideration after Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, raised concerns about her conservative credentials.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

Mr. Alshamrani warned on last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that “the countdown has begun” and posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist social media messages, some within hours of attacking the base, Mr. Barr said. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Mr. Barr said.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

Mr. Barr focused attention on the Justice Department’s fight on advanced encryption and other digital security measures by taking aim at Apple, which has long touted security as a major feature of its phones. In 2014, Apple started building encryption into iPhones that can be unlocked only with the device’s password or a fingerprint reader, and said that it cannot bypass the security.

The technology has frustrated law enforcement officials, who accuse Apple of providing a safe haven for criminals. Justice Department officials said that they need access to Mr. Alshamrani’s phones to see data and messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had discussed his plans with others at the base and whether he was acting alone or with help.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. But it will not back down from its unequivocal support of encryption that is impossible to crack, people close to the company said.

Apple has argued that obtaining data from phones themselves would require it to build a backdoor, which it said would set a dangerous precedent for user privacy and cybersecurity. Cracking one phone would compromise the security of all Apple devices, company executives have warned, saying that if it were to develop a way to crack into one phone, law enforcement officials would demand they use it repeatedly.

Mr. Barr indicated that he is ready for a sharp fight. “We don’t want to get into a world where we have to spend months and even years exhausting efforts when lives are in the balance,” he said. “We should be able to get in when we have a warrant that establishes that criminal activity is underway.”

The confrontation echoed the legal standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I. in its efforts to search his device, setting off a fight over whether privacy enabled by impossible-to-crack encryption harmed public safety.

The San Bernardino dispute was resolved when the F.B.I. found a private company to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. Tensions between the two sides, however, remained, and Apple worked to ensure that neither the government nor private contractors could open its phones.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_148837677_1d3236be-faea-495e-826d-044bcd487a4b-articleLarge Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces San Bernardino, Calif, Shooting (2015) Privacy Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting (2019) mass shootings Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Computer Security Barr, William P Apple Inc Alshamrani, Mohammed Saeed

An Apple billboard displayed the company’s stance on privacy in Las Vegas this month.Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Justice Department officials have long pushed for a legislative solution to the problem of “going dark,” law enforcement’s term for how increasingly secure phones have made it harder to solve crimes, and the Pensacola investigation gives them a prominent chance to make their case. Mr. Barr said that Trump administration officials have again begun discussing a legislative fix.

But the F.B.I. has been bruised by Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that former officials plotted to undercut his presidency and by a major inspector general’s report last month that revealed serious errors with aspects of the Russia investigation. A broad bipartisan consensus among lawmakers allowing the bureau to broaden its surveillance authorities is most likely elusive, though some lawmakers singled out Apple for its refusal to change its stance.

“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to shield criminals and terrorists from lawful efforts to solve crimes and protect our citizens,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said in a statement. “Apple has a notorious history of siding with terrorists over law enforcement. I hope in this case they’ll change course and actually work with the F.B.I.”

Apple typically complies with court orders to turn over information on its servers and has given investigators materials from Mr. Alshamrani’s iCloud account but said that it would turn over only the data it had, implying that it would not work to unlock the phones.

Investigators secured a court order within a day of the shooting allowing them to search the phones, Mr. Barr said. He turned up the pressure on Apple a week after the F.B.I.’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, asked the company for help searching Mr. Alshamrani’s iPhones.

Officials said that the F.B.I. is still trying to access the phones on its own and approached Apple only after asking other government agencies, foreign governments and third-party technology vendors for help, to no avail.

The devices were older models: an iPhone 7 with a fingerprint reader and an iPhone 5, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Justice Department officials said that investigators have yet to make a final determination about whether Mr. Alshamrani conspired with others. They said that Saudi government was offering “unprecedented” cooperation but that “we need to get into those phones.”

Mr. Barr and other law enforcement officials described a 15-minute shootout before security officers shot Mr. Alshamrani to death. During the firefight, Mr. Alshamrani paused at one point to shoot one of his phones once, Mr. Barr said, adding that his other phone was also damaged but that the F.B.I. was able to repair them well enough to be searched.

Mr. Alshamrani also shot at photographs of President Trump and one of his predecessors, Mr. Bowdich said. A person familiar with the investigation identified the unnamed president as George W. Bush.

His weapon was lawfully purchased in Florida under an exemption that allows nonimmigrant visa holders to purchase firearms if they have a valid hunting license or permit, officials said.

Law enforcement officials have continued to discuss Mr. Alshamrani’s phones with Apple, they said.

“We’re not trying to weaken encryption, to be clear,” David Bowdich, the deputy director of the F.B.I., said at the news conference, noting that the issue has come up with thousands of devices that investigators want to see in other cases.

“We talk about this on a daily basis,” he said. Mr. Bowdich was the bureau’s top agent overseeing the San Bernardino investigation and was part of the effort to push Apple to crack into the phone in that case.

But much has also changed for Apple in the years since Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, excoriated the Obama administration publicly and privately in 2014 for attacking strong encryption. Obama officials who were upset by Apple’s stance on privacy, along with its decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and make its products almost exclusively in China, aired those grievances quietly.

Now Apple is fighting the Trump administration, and President Trump has shown far more willingness to publicly criticize companies and public figures. When he recently claimed falsely that Apple had opened a manufacturing plant in Texas at his behest, the company remained silent rather than correct him.

At the same time, Apple has financially benefited more under Mr. Trump than under President Barack Obama. It reaped a windfall from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and Mr. Trump said he might shield Apple from the country’s tariff war with China.

He had said last month that finding a way for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted technology was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

Mr. Alshamrani, who was killed at the scene of the attack, came to the United States in 2017 and soon started strike-fighter training in Florida. Investigators believe he may have been influenced by extremists as early as 2015.

Mr. Barr also refuted reports that other Saudi trainees had known of and recorded video of the shooting. Mr. Alshamrani arrived at the scene by himself and others in the area began recording the commotion only after he had opened fire, Mr. Barr said. They and other Saudi cadets cooperated with the inquiry, he added.

Jack Nicas contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

Mr. Alshamrani warned on last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that “the countdown has begun” and posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist social media messages, some within hours of attacking the base, Mr. Barr said. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Mr. Barr said.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

Mr. Barr focused attention on the Justice Department’s fight on advanced encryption and other digital security measures by taking aim at Apple, which has long touted security as a major feature of its phones. In 2014, Apple started building encryption into iPhones that can be unlocked only with the device’s password or a fingerprint reader, and said that it cannot bypass the security.

The technology has frustrated law enforcement officials, who accuse Apple of providing a safe haven for criminals. Justice Department officials said that they need access to Mr. Alshamrani’s phones to see data and messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had discussed his plans with others at the base and whether he was acting alone or with help.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. But it will not back down from its unequivocal support of encryption that is impossible to crack, people close to the company said.

Apple has argued that obtaining data from phones themselves would require it to build a backdoor, which it said would set a dangerous precedent for user privacy and cybersecurity. Cracking one phone would compromise the security of all Apple devices, company executives have warned, saying that if it were to develop a way to crack into one phone, law enforcement officials would demand they use it repeatedly.

Mr. Barr indicated that he is ready for a sharp fight. “We don’t want to get into a world where we have to spend months and even years exhausting efforts when lives are in the balance,” he said. “We should be able to get in when we have a warrant that establishes that criminal activity is underway.”

The confrontation echoed the legal standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I. in its efforts to search his device, setting off a fight over whether privacy enabled by impossible-to-crack encryption harmed public safety.

The San Bernardino dispute was resolved when the F.B.I. found a private company to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. Tensions between the two sides, however, remained, and Apple worked to ensure that neither the government nor private contractors could open its phones.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_148837677_1d3236be-faea-495e-826d-044bcd487a4b-articleLarge Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces San Bernardino, Calif, Shooting (2015) Privacy Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting (2019) mass shootings Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Computer Security Barr, William P Apple Inc Alshamrani, Mohammed Saeed

An Apple billboard displayed the company’s stance on privacy in Las Vegas this month.Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Justice Department officials have long pushed for a legislative solution to the problem of “going dark,” law enforcement’s term for how increasingly secure phones have made it harder to solve crimes, and the Pensacola investigation gives them a prominent chance to make their case. Mr. Barr said that Trump administration officials have again begun discussing a legislative fix.

But the F.B.I. has been bruised by Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that former officials plotted to undercut his presidency and by a major inspector general’s report last month that revealed serious errors with aspects of the Russia investigation. A broad bipartisan consensus among lawmakers allowing the bureau to broaden its surveillance authorities is most likely elusive, though some lawmakers singled out Apple for its refusal to change its stance.

“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to shield criminals and terrorists from lawful efforts to solve crimes and protect our citizens,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said in a statement. “Apple has a notorious history of siding with terrorists over law enforcement. I hope in this case they’ll change course and actually work with the F.B.I.”

Apple typically complies with court orders to turn over information on its servers and has given investigators materials from Mr. Alshamrani’s iCloud account but said that it would turn over only the data it had, implying that it would not work to unlock the phones.

Investigators secured a court order within a day of the shooting allowing them to search the phones, Mr. Barr said. He turned up the pressure on Apple a week after the F.B.I.’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, asked the company for help searching Mr. Alshamrani’s iPhones.

Officials said that the F.B.I. is still trying to access the phones on its own and approached Apple only after asking other government agencies, foreign governments and third-party technology vendors for help, to no avail.

The devices were older models: an iPhone 7 with a fingerprint reader and an iPhone 5, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Justice Department officials said that investigators have yet to make a final determination about whether Mr. Alshamrani conspired with others. They said that Saudi government was offering “unprecedented” cooperation but that “we need to get into those phones.”

Mr. Barr and other law enforcement officials described a 15-minute shootout before security officers shot Mr. Alshamrani to death. During the firefight, Mr. Alshamrani paused at one point to shoot one of his phones once, Mr. Barr said, adding that his other phone was also damaged but that the F.B.I. was able to repair them well enough to be searched.

Mr. Alshamrani also shot at photographs of President Trump and one of his predecessors, Mr. Bowdich said. A person familiar with the investigation identified the unnamed president as George W. Bush.

His weapon was lawfully purchased in Florida under an exemption that allows nonimmigrant visa holders to purchase firearms if they have a valid hunting license or permit, officials said.

Law enforcement officials have continued to discuss Mr. Alshamrani’s phones with Apple, they said.

“We’re not trying to weaken encryption, to be clear,” David Bowdich, the deputy director of the F.B.I., said at the news conference, noting that the issue has come up with thousands of devices that investigators want to see in other cases.

“We talk about this on a daily basis,” he said. Mr. Bowdich was the bureau’s top agent overseeing the San Bernardino investigation and was part of the effort to push Apple to crack into the phone in that case.

But much has also changed for Apple in the years since Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, excoriated the Obama administration publicly and privately in 2014 for attacking strong encryption. Obama officials who were upset by Apple’s stance on privacy, along with its decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and make its products almost exclusively in China, aired those grievances quietly.

Now Apple is fighting the Trump administration, and President Trump has shown far more willingness to publicly criticize companies and public figures. When he recently claimed falsely that Apple had opened a manufacturing plant in Texas at his behest, the company remained silent rather than correct him.

At the same time, Apple has financially benefited more under Mr. Trump than under President Barack Obama. It reaped a windfall from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and Mr. Trump said he might shield Apple from the country’s tariff war with China.

He had said last month that finding a way for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted technology was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

Mr. Alshamrani, who was killed at the scene of the attack, came to the United States in 2017 and soon started strike-fighter training in Florida. Investigators believe he may have been influenced by extremists as early as 2015.

Mr. Barr also refuted reports that other Saudi trainees had known of and recorded video of the shooting. Mr. Alshamrani arrived at the scene by himself and others in the area began recording the commotion only after he had opened fire, Mr. Barr said. They and other Saudi cadets cooperated with the inquiry, he added.

Jack Nicas contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock iPhones of Pensacola Gunman

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-justice-sub-facebookJumbo Barr Asks Apple to Unlock iPhones of Pensacola Gunman United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces San Bernardino, Calif, Shooting (2015) Privacy Naval Air Station Pensacola Shooting (2019) mass shootings Justice Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Computer Security Apple Inc

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on Apple and other technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple has provided no “substantive assistance.”

Apple has given investigators materials from the iCloud account of the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi air force training with the American military, who killed three sailors and wounded eight others on Dec. 6. But the company has refused to help the F.B.I. open the phones themselves, which would undermine its claims that its phones are secure.

Justice Department officials said that they need access to Mr. Alshamrani’s phones to see messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to determine whether he had discussed his plans with others at the base and whether he was acting alone or with help.

“The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Mr. Barr said, citing a message that Mr. Alshamrani posted on last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks warning that “the countdown has begun.” He also visited the 9/11 memorial in New York over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mr. Alshamrani also posted anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist messages on social media, including just two hours before he attacked the base, Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr turned up the pressure on Apple a week after the F.B.I.’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, asked the company for help searching Mr. Alshamrani’s iPhones. Apple said that it would turn over only the data it had, implying that it would not work to unlock the phones and hand over the private data on them.

Apple’s stance set the company on a collision course with a Justice Department that has grown increasingly critical of encryption that makes it impossible for law enforcement to search devices or wiretap phone calls.

The confrontation echoed the legal standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman who killed 14 people in a terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I. in its efforts to search his device, setting off a fight over whether privacy that was enabled by impossible-to-crack encryption harmed public safety.

As in the investigation into the Pensacola shooting, the San Bernardino gunman, Syed Rizwan Farook, was also dead and no longer had a right to privacy. In both cases, law enforcement officials worked to piece together a clear motive and any ties to extremist groups.

The San Bernardino dispute was resolved when the F.B.I. found a private company to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. Tensions between the two sides, however, remained; and Apple worked to ensure that neither the government nor private contractors could open its phones.

Mr. Alshamrani’s phones are also of interest because he tried to destroy them at some point before he began firing, according to a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Justice Department officials have long pushed for a legislative solution to the problem of “going dark,” law enforcement’s term for how increasingly secure phones have made it harder to solve crimes, and the Pensacola investigation gives them a prominent chance to make their case.

But the F.B.I. has been bruised by Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that former officials plotted to undercut his presidency and by a major inspector general’s report last month that revealed serious errors with aspects of the Russia investigation. A broad bipartisan consensus among lawmakers allowing the bureau to broaden its surveillance authorities is most likely elusive.

But much has also changed for Apple in the years since Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, excoriated the Obama administration publicly and privately in 2014 for attacking strong encryption. Obama officials who were upset by Apple’s stance on privacy, along with its decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and make its products almost exclusively in China, aired those grievances quietly.

Now Apple is fighting the Trump administration, and President Trump has shown far more willingness to publicly criticize companies and public figures. When he recently claimed falsely that Apple had opened a manufacturing plant in Texas at his behest, the company stayed remained silent rather than correct him.

At the same time, Apple has financially benefited more under Mr. Trump than under President Barack Obama. It reaped a windfall from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and Mr. Trump said he might shield Apple from the country’s tariff war with China.

Even so, people close to the company say that Apple will not back down from its unequivocal support of encryption that is impossible to crack.

Mr. Barr indicated on Monday that he is ready for a sharp fight.

He had said last month that finding a way for law enforcement to gain access to encrypted technology was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”

Mr. Alshamrani, who was killed at the scene of the attack, came to the United States in 2017 and soon started strike-fighter training in Florida. Investigators believe he may have been influenced by extremists as early as 2015.

The investigation into the shooting also found that some Saudi students training with the American military in Pensacola had ties to extremist movements while others possessed pornography, which is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. About a dozen trainees will be sent back to Saudi Arabia as a result.

Investigators have not found evidence to suggest that any of those students knew about Mr. Alshamrani’s contact with extremist groups or his mass shooting plan.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-durham-1-facebookJumbo Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case United States Politics and Government United States Attorneys Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Organized Crime Legal Profession Justice Department Horowitz, Michael E Federal Bureau of Investigation Durham, John H Connecticut Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — Whether investigating charges of torture by the C.I.A., rolling up an organized crime network or prosecuting crooked government officials, John H. Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry, burnished his reputation for impartiality over the years by keeping his mouth closed about his work.

At the height of the Boston mob prosecution that made his name, he not only rebuffed a local newspaper’s interview request, but he also told his office not to release his résumé or photo.

That wall of silence cracked this month when Mr. Durham, serving in the most politically charged role of his career, released an extraordinary statement questioning one key element of an overlapping investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz had found that the F.B.I. acted appropriately in opening the inquiry in 2016 into whether the Trump campaign wittingly or unwittingly helped Russia influence the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor. In response, Mr. Durham, whose report is not expected to be complete for months, released a caveat-laden rebuttal: “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened.”

The statement seemed to support comments made half an hour earlier by Mr. Barr, who assailed what he called “an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign,” based “on the thinnest of suspicions.” Mr. Durham’s decision to go public in such a politically polarized environment surprised people who have worked with him. They found it out of character for him to intervene in such a high-profile way in an open case.

“It’s fair to characterize what John did as unusual in terms of his past practice and I don’t know what the rationale was,” said Kevin J. O’Connor, a former United States attorney for Connecticut who supervised Mr. Durham for several years in the early 2000s. “But I know John well enough to know that he did it because he — not the A.G. or anyone else — thought he had an obligation to.”

Others have been less willing to give Mr. Durham the benefit of the doubt, and it is clear he has placed his reputation for impartiality on the line by accepting this latest assignment.

Mr. Durham’s decision to speak out seemed to supply political fuel to Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia inquiry as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” At a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., the day after Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham issued their statements, Mr. Trump called F.B.I. agents involved in the Russia inquiry “scum.”

“I look forward to Bull Durham’s report — that’s the one I look forward to,” added Mr. Trump, who appointed Mr. Durham as the United States attorney for Connecticut in 2017.

The inspector general’s report makes no substantive reference to Mr. Durham’s investigation. But before the report’s release, Mr. Durham got into a sharp dispute with Mr. Horowitz’s team over a footnote in a draft of the report that seemed to imply that Mr. Durham agreed with all of Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions, which he did not, according to people familiar with the matter. The footnote did not appear in the final version of the report.

A former Justice Department investigator who knows both Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham, a Republican, said that while the men were aware of each other’s professional reputations, they are in no way close. Mr. Barr, who was unfamiliar with Mr. Durham’s recent work, made quiet inquiries before appointing him to lead the investigation, this person said.

The potential explosiveness of Mr. Durham’s mission was further underscored by the disclosure that he was examining the role of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Mr. Durham is known in New England’s close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his own cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others’.

Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington — under Republicans and Democrats alike — needs someone to handle sensitive tasks.

Mr. O’Connor, who was associate attorney general in 2008, was among those who recommended Mr. Durham lead an inquiry into the C.I.A.’s destruction in 2005 of videotapes depicting the torture of two operatives of Al Qaeda.

That investigation, started under an administration that had supported the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, continued into the Obama administration, which brought a very different agenda to the issue. After President Barack Obama took office, Mr. Durham’s brief was expanded to include a criminal investigation into the C.I.A.’s role in the deaths of two detainees in overseas locations, based on allegations of mistreatment by their interrogators.

Mr. Durham completed the torture investigation in 2012. The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., declined to prosecute anyone, saying that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

John A. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s former acting general counsel, was questioned for more than eight hours in the investigation.

Mr. Durham “didn’t personally question me but he did the agency people who had contemporaneous knowledge of the plan to destroy the tapes, and he was very tough with them,” Mr. Rizzo, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2009, said in an interview.

Despite the political uproar at the time, “there were no leaks and he certainly didn’t issue any public statements,” Mr. Rizzo recalled. “I just don’t see him bending to political pressure, so I was surprised he made a statement here.”

Those who know him portray Mr. Durham as the consummate straight arrow who is unlikely to have bowed to pressure from Mr. Barr or anyone else in his current assignment. Mr. Durham declined to be interviewed for this article.

“He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox,” said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Mr. Durham is so by the book, he once asked Mr. Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the I.R.S. “If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they’re mistaken.”

Last year, Mr. Durham, a staunch Catholic, delivered rare public remarks at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Conn.

The topic was his prosecution of John Connolly Jr., an F.B.I. agent jailed for racketeering, obstruction of justice and murder stemming from his collaboration with Boston’s notorious Winter Hill gang, led by James (Whitey) Bulger, an F.B.I. informant.

In a preface to his presentation, Mr. Durham said, “It is as important for the system for prosecutors to protect the secrecy of proceedings, not because we want them to be secret, but because we’re not always right.” He added: “Maybe accusations that are lodged against somebody are untrue. And again, we can destroy the person or persons if that information gets out.”

Mr. Durham was born in Uxbridge, Mass., and received his law degree at the University of Connecticut in 1975. After a stint providing free legal advice to the Crow Indian tribe as part of what is now AmeriCorps, he worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Connecticut until 1982, when he began a 35-year career as an assistant United States attorney, serving in a range of roles leading organized crime and public corruption prosecutions.

He won 119 convictions from 1983 to 1989, including against associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Patriarca crime families, and provided evidence instrumental in convicting the Gambino boss John Gotti in New York.

In 1989, fishermen found the body of William (The Wild Guy) Grasso, the Patriarca state boss from New Haven, dead of a gunshot wound in weeds near the Connecticut River.

Mr. Durham, who colleagues said “could hear grass grow” on surveillance recordings, led a prosecution that linked mobsters in Connecticut and Rhode Island, even unveiling the first recorded mob-induction ceremony. Mr. Durham secured a raft of racketeering convictions against men linked to Mr. Grasso’s murder, gutting the Providence-based Patriarca mob. His doggedness, even after a note with his home address on it was found in a mobster-occupied Hartford jail cell, earned him the nickname “Bull.”

In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Mr. Durham to lead an investigation into corrupt links, rumored for years, between F.B.I. agents and their criminal informants in Boston. Prosecutions of Mr. Bulger and his accomplice Stephen (the Rifleman) Flemmi uncovered a relationship with F.B.I. agents, a retired Massachusetts state trooper and others, in which the mobsters exchanged cases of wine, a stolen two-carat diamond ring, and money for “the keys to the kingdom of all organized crime information in Boston,” Mr. Durham told the college audience last year.

In late 2000, he uncovered government memos indicating that F.B.I. officials were involved in framing four men for the 1965 murder of a mobster, to protect a hit man who was one of the bureau’s informants, a scheme likely known to the bureau’s director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Durham alerted defense lawyers. Two of the four men had died in prison, but the surviving two were released, and the government paid a $100 million civil judgment in the case.

Mr. Durham and his team worked amid speculation that the Justice Department would pull the plug on what was becoming a deeply embarrassing prosecution. In 2000, a colleague told The Boston Herald that Mr. Durham would rather “pull an Archibald Cox” and resign than submit to pressure.

In a Washington Post op-ed this month, Mr. Holder cautioned Mr. Durham, whom he said he has been proud to know for at least a decade, about his statement. “Anyone in Durham’s shoes would do well to remember that, in dealing with this administration, many reputations have been irrevocably lost,” he wrote.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-durham-1-facebookJumbo Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case United States Politics and Government United States Attorneys Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Organized Crime Legal Profession Justice Department Horowitz, Michael E Federal Bureau of Investigation Durham, John H Connecticut Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — Whether investigating charges of torture by the C.I.A., rolling up an organized crime network or prosecuting crooked government officials, John H. Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry, burnished his reputation for impartiality over the years by keeping his mouth closed about his work.

At the height of the Boston mob prosecution that made his name, he not only rebuffed a local newspaper’s interview request, but he also told his office not to release his résumé or photo.

That wall of silence cracked this month when Mr. Durham, serving in the most politically charged role of his career, released an extraordinary statement questioning one key element of an overlapping investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz had found that the F.B.I. acted appropriately in opening the inquiry in 2016 into whether the Trump campaign wittingly or unwittingly helped Russia influence the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor. In response, Mr. Durham, whose report is not expected to be complete for months, released a caveat-laden rebuttal: “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened.”

The statement seemed to support comments made half an hour earlier by Mr. Barr, who assailed what he called “an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign,” based “on the thinnest of suspicions.” Mr. Durham’s decision to go public in such a politically polarized environment surprised people who have worked with him. They found it out of character for him to intervene in such a high-profile way in an open case.

“It’s fair to characterize what John did as unusual in terms of his past practice and I don’t know what the rationale was,” said Kevin J. O’Connor, a former United States attorney for Connecticut who supervised Mr. Durham for several years in the early 2000s. “But I know John well enough to know that he did it because he — not the A.G. or anyone else — thought he had an obligation to.”

Others have been less willing to give Mr. Durham the benefit of the doubt, and it is clear he has placed his reputation for impartiality on the line by accepting this latest assignment.

Mr. Durham’s decision to speak out seemed to supply political fuel to Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia inquiry as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” At a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., the day after Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham issued their statements, Mr. Trump called F.B.I. agents involved in the Russia inquiry “scum.”

“I look forward to Bull Durham’s report — that’s the one I look forward to,” added Mr. Trump, who appointed Mr. Durham as the United States attorney for Connecticut in 2017.

The inspector general’s report makes no substantive reference to Mr. Durham’s investigation. But before the report’s release, Mr. Durham got into a sharp dispute with Mr. Horowitz’s team over a footnote in a draft of the report that seemed to imply that Mr. Durham agreed with all of Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions, which he did not, according to people familiar with the matter. The footnote did not appear in the final version of the report.

A former Justice Department investigator who knows both Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham, a Republican, said that while the men were aware of each other’s professional reputations, they are in no way close. Mr. Barr, who was unfamiliar with Mr. Durham’s recent work, made quiet inquiries before appointing him to lead the investigation, this person said.

The potential explosiveness of Mr. Durham’s mission was further underscored by the disclosure that he was examining the role of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Mr. Durham is known in New England’s close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his own cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others’.

Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington — under Republicans and Democrats alike — needs someone to handle sensitive tasks.

Mr. O’Connor, who was associate attorney general in 2008, was among those who recommended Mr. Durham lead an inquiry into the C.I.A.’s destruction in 2005 of videotapes depicting the torture of two operatives of Al Qaeda.

That investigation, started under an administration that had supported the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, continued into the Obama administration, which brought a very different agenda to the issue. After President Barack Obama took office, Mr. Durham’s brief was expanded to include a criminal investigation into the C.I.A.’s role in the deaths of two detainees in overseas locations, based on allegations of mistreatment by their interrogators.

Mr. Durham completed the torture investigation in 2012. The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., declined to prosecute anyone, saying that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

John A. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s former acting general counsel, was questioned for more than eight hours in the investigation.

Mr. Durham “didn’t personally question me but he did the agency people who had contemporaneous knowledge of the plan to destroy the tapes, and he was very tough with them,” Mr. Rizzo, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2009, said in an interview.

Despite the political uproar at the time, “there were no leaks and he certainly didn’t issue any public statements,” Mr. Rizzo recalled. “I just don’t see him bending to political pressure, so I was surprised he made a statement here.”

Those who know him portray Mr. Durham as the consummate straight arrow who is unlikely to have bowed to pressure from Mr. Barr or anyone else in his current assignment. Mr. Durham declined to be interviewed for this article.

“He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox,” said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Mr. Durham is so by the book, he once asked Mr. Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the I.R.S. “If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they’re mistaken.”

Last year, Mr. Durham, a staunch Catholic, delivered rare public remarks at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Conn.

The topic was his prosecution of John Connolly Jr., an F.B.I. agent jailed for racketeering, obstruction of justice and murder stemming from his collaboration with Boston’s notorious Winter Hill gang, led by James (Whitey) Bulger, an F.B.I. informant.

In a preface to his presentation, Mr. Durham said, “It is as important for the system for prosecutors to protect the secrecy of proceedings, not because we want them to be secret, but because we’re not always right.” He added: “Maybe accusations that are lodged against somebody are untrue. And again, we can destroy the person or persons if that information gets out.”

Mr. Durham was born in Uxbridge, Mass., and received his law degree at the University of Connecticut in 1975. After a stint providing free legal advice to the Crow Indian tribe as part of what is now AmeriCorps, he worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Connecticut until 1982, when he began a 35-year career as an assistant United States attorney, serving in a range of roles leading organized crime and public corruption prosecutions.

He won 119 convictions from 1983 to 1989, including against associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Patriarca crime families, and provided evidence instrumental in convicting the Gambino boss John Gotti in New York.

In 1989, fishermen found the body of William (The Wild Guy) Grasso, the Patriarca state boss from New Haven, dead of a gunshot wound in weeds near the Connecticut River.

Mr. Durham, who colleagues said “could hear grass grow” on surveillance recordings, led a prosecution that linked mobsters in Connecticut and Rhode Island, even unveiling the first recorded mob-induction ceremony. Mr. Durham secured a raft of racketeering convictions against men linked to Mr. Grasso’s murder, gutting the Providence-based Patriarca mob. His doggedness, even after a note with his home address on it was found in a mobster-occupied Hartford jail cell, earned him the nickname “Bull.”

In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Mr. Durham to lead an investigation into corrupt links, rumored for years, between F.B.I. agents and their criminal informants in Boston. Prosecutions of Mr. Bulger and his accomplice Stephen (the Rifleman) Flemmi uncovered a relationship with F.B.I. agents, a retired Massachusetts state trooper and others, in which the mobsters exchanged cases of wine, a stolen two-carat diamond ring, and money for “the keys to the kingdom of all organized crime information in Boston,” Mr. Durham told the college audience last year.

In late 2000, he uncovered government memos indicating that F.B.I. officials were involved in framing four men for the 1965 murder of a mobster, to protect a hit man who was one of the bureau’s informants, a scheme likely known to the bureau’s director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Durham alerted defense lawyers. Two of the four men had died in prison, but the surviving two were released, and the government paid a $100 million civil judgment in the case.

Mr. Durham and his team worked amid speculation that the Justice Department would pull the plug on what was becoming a deeply embarrassing prosecution. In 2000, a colleague told The Boston Herald that Mr. Durham would rather “pull an Archibald Cox” and resign than submit to pressure.

In a Washington Post op-ed this month, Mr. Holder cautioned Mr. Durham, whom he said he has been proud to know for at least a decade, about joining Mr. Barr in disputing the inspector general’s findings. “Anyone in Durham’s shoes would do well to remember that, in dealing with this administration, many reputations have been irrevocably lost,” he wrote.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

It Seemed Like a Popular Chat App. It’s Secretly a Spy Tool.

Westlake Legal Group 22DC-spy5-facebookJumbo It Seemed Like a Popular Chat App. It’s Secretly a Spy Tool. United Arab Emirates Surveillance of Citizens by Government Social Media Privacy Politics and Government National Security Agency Mobile Applications Middle East Instant Messaging Google Play Google Inc Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Data-Mining and Database Marketing Dark Matter LLC Cyberwarfare and Defense Computers and the Internet Computer Security Classified Information and State Secrets Apple Inc Android (Operating System)

WASHINGTON — It is billed as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text message with friends and family, even in a country that has restricted popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype.

But the service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.

ToTok, introduced only months ago, was downloaded millions of times from the Apple and Google app stores by users throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. While the majority of its users are in the Emirates, ToTok surged to become one of the most downloaded social apps in the United States last week, according to app rankings and App Annie, a research firm.

ToTok amounts to the latest escalation in a digital arms race among wealthy authoritarian governments, interviews with current and former American foreign officials and a forensic investigation showed. The governments are pursuing more effective and convenient methods to spy on foreign adversaries, criminal and terrorist networks, journalists and critics — efforts that have ensnared people all over the world in their surveillance nets.

Persian Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar previously turned to private firms — including Israeli and American contractors — to hack rivals and, increasingly, their own citizens. The development of ToTok, experts said, showed that the governments can cut out the intermediary to spy directly on their targets, who voluntarily, if unwittingly, hand over their information.

A technical analysis and interviews with computer security experts showed that the firm behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely a front company affiliated with DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm where Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives work. DarkMatter is under F.B.I. investigation, according to former employees and law enforcement officials, for possible cybercrimes. The American intelligence assessment and the technical analysis also linked ToTok to Pax AI, an Abu Dhabi-based data mining firm that appears to be tied to DarkMatter.

Pax AI’s headquarters operate from the same Abu Dhabi building as the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency, which until recently was where DarkMatter was based.

The U.A.E. is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against Iran and a close counterterrorism partner. Its ruling family promotes the country as an example of a modern, moderate Arab nation, but it has also been at the forefront of using surveillance technology to crack down on internal dissent — including hacking Western journalists, emptying the banking accounts of critics, and holding human rights activists in prolonged solitary confinement over Facebook posts.

The government blocks specific functions of apps like WhatsApp and Skype, a reality that has made ToTok particularly appealing in the country. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, recently promoted ToTok in advertisements.

Spokesmen for the C.I.A. and the Emirati government declined to comment. Calls to a phone number for Breej Holding rang unanswered, and Pax employees did not respond to emails and messages. An F.B.I. spokeswoman said that “while the F.B.I. does not comment on specific apps, we always want to make sure to make users aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that these mechanisms can pose.”

When The Times initially contacted Apple and Google representatives with questions about ToTok’s connection to the Emirati government, they said they would investigate. On Thursday, Google removed the app from its Play store after determining ToTok violated unspecified policies. Apple removed ToTok from its App Store on Friday and was still researching the app, a spokesman said. ToTok users who already downloaded the app will still be able to use it until they remove it from their phones.

It was unclear when American intelligence services first determined that ToTok was a tool of Emirati intelligence, but one person familiar with the assessment said that American officials have warned some allies about its dangers. It is not clear whether American officials have confronted their counterparts in the Emirati government about the app. One digital security expert in the Middle East, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss powerful hacking tools, said that senior Emirati officials told him that ToTok was indeed an app developed to track its users in the Emirates and beyond.

ToTok appears to have been relatively easy to develop, according to a forensic analysis performed for The Times by Patrick Wardle, a former National Security Agency hacker who works as a private security researcher. It appears to be a copy of a Chinese messaging app offering free video calls, YeeCall, slightly customized for English and Arabic audiences.

ToTok is a cleverly designed tool for mass surveillance, according to the technical analysis and interviews, in that it functions much like the myriad other Apple and Android apps that track users’ location and contacts.

On the surface, ToTok tracks users’ location by offering an accurate weather forecast. It hunts for new contacts any time a user opens the app, under the pretense that it is helping connect with their friends, much like how Instagram flags Facebook friends. It has access to users’ microphones, cameras, calendar and other phone data. Even its name is an apparent play on the popular Chinese app TikTok.

Though billed as “fast and secure,” ToTok makes no claim of end-to-end encryption, like WhatsApp, Signal or Skype. The only hint that the app discloses user data is buried in the privacy policy: “We may share your personal data with group companies.”

So instead of paying hackers to gain access to a target’s phone — the going rate is up to $2.5 million for a hacking tool that can remotely access Android phones, according to recent price lists — ToTok gave the Emirati government a way to persuade millions of users to hand over their most personal information for free.

“There is a beauty in this approach,” said Mr. Wardle, now a security researcher at Jamf, a software company. “You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to willingly download this app to their phone. By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?”

In an intelligence-gathering operation, Mr. Wardle said, ToTok would be Phase 1. Much like the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program — which was quietly shut down this year — ToTok allows intelligence analysts to analyze users’ calls and contacts in search of patterns, though its collection is far more invasive. It is unclear whether ToTok allows the Emiratis to record video or audio calls of its users.

Each day, billions of people freely forgo privacy for the convenience of using apps on their phones. The Privacy Project by the Times’s Opinion section published an investigation last week revealing how app makers and third parties track the minute-by-minute movements of mobile phone users.

Private companies collected that data for targeted marketing. In ToTok’s case — according to current and former officials and digital crumbs the developers left behind — much of the information is funneled to intelligence analysts working on behalf the Emirati state.

In recent months, semiofficial state publications began promoting ToTok as the free app long sought by Emiratis. This month, users of a messaging service in the Emirates requiring paid subscriptions, Botim, received an alert telling users to switch to ToTok — which it called a “free, fast and secure” messaging app. Accompanying the message was a link to install it.

The marketing seems to have paid off.

In reviews, Emiratis expressed gratitude to ToTok’s developers for finally bringing them a free messaging app. “Blessings! Your app is the best App so far that has enable me and my family to stay connected!!!” one wrote. “Kudos,” another wrote. “Finally, an app that works in the UAE!”

ToTok’s popularity extended beyond the Emirates. According to recent Google Play rankings, it was among the top 50 free apps in Saudi Arabia, Britain, India, Sweden and other countries. Some analysts said it was particularly popular in the Middle East because — at least on the surface — it was unaffiliated with a large, powerful nation.

Though the app is a tool for the Emirati government, the exact relationship between the firms behind it is murky. Pax employees are made up of European, Asian and Emirati data scientists, and the company is run by Andrew Jackson, an Irish data scientist who previously worked at Palantir, a Silicon Valley firm that works with the Pentagon and American spy agencies.

Its affiliate company, DarkMatter, is in effect an arm of the Emirati government. Its operations have included hacking government ministries in Iran, Qatar and Turkey; executives of FIFA, the world soccer organization; journalists and dissidents.

Last month, the Emirati government announced that DarkMatter would combine with two dozen other companies to create a defense conglomerate focused on repelling cyberattacks.

The F.B.I. is investigating American employees of DarkMatter for possible cybercrimes, according to people familiar with the investigation. The inquiry intensified after former National Security Agency hackers working for the company grew concerned about its activities and contacted the bureau. Reuters first reported the program they worked on, Project Raven.

At Pax, data scientists openly brag about their work on LinkedIn. One who listed his title as “data science team lead” said he had created a “message intelligence platform” that reads billions of messages to answer four questions: “who you are, what you do, how do you think, and what is your relationship with others.”

“With the answers to these four questions, we know everything about one person,” wrote the data scientist, Jingyan Wang.

Other Pax employees describe their experience creating tools that can search government data sets for faces from billions of video feeds and pinpoint Arabic dialects from transcribed video messages.

None mention an affiliation with ToTok.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, Nicole Perlroth from San Francisco and Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv. Adam Goldman contributed reporting from Washington, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.

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Many Facial-Recognition Systems Are Biased, Says U.S. Study

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The majority of commercial facial-recognition systems exhibit bias, according to a study from a federal agency released on Thursday, underscoring questions about a technology increasingly used by police departments and federal agencies to identify suspected criminals.

The systems falsely identified African-American and Asian faces 10 times to 100 times more than Caucasian faces, the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported on Thursday. Among a database of photos used by law enforcement agencies in the United States, the highest error rates came in identifying Native Americans, the study found.

The technology also had more difficulty identifying women than men and elderly people more than middle-aged people.

“One false match can lead to missed flights, lengthy interrogations, watchlist placements, tense police encounters, false arrests or worse,” Jay Stanley, a policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Government agencies including the F.B.I., Customs and Border Protection and local law enforcement must immediately halt the deployment of this dystopian technology.”

The federal report confirms earlier studies from M.I.T. that reported that facial-recognition systems from some large tech companies had much lower accuracy rates in identifying the female and darker-skinned faces than white male faces.

“While some biometric researchers and vendors have attempted to claim algorithmic bias is not an issue or has been overcome, this study provides a comprehensive rebuttal,” Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the M.I.T. Media Lab who led one of the facial studies, said in an email. “We must safeguard the public interest and halt the proliferation of face surveillance.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology tested 189 facial-recognition algorithms from 99 developers, representing the majority of commercial developers. They included systems from Microsoft, biometric technology companies like Cognitec, and Megvii, an artificial intelligence company in China.

The agency did not test systems from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google because they did not submit their algorithms for the federal study.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Court Orders F.B.I. to Fix National Security Wiretaps After Damning Report

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165689457_68b5fa1d-845f-4bda-96be-4db849961c9b-facebookJumbo Court Orders F.B.I. to Fix National Security Wiretaps After Damning Report Wiretapping and Other Eavesdropping Devices and Methods United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Surveillance of Citizens by Government Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Page, Carter Justice Department Inspectors General Horowitz, Michael E Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Collyer, Rosemary M

WASHINGTON — A secretive federal court accused the F.B.I. on Tuesday of misleading it about the factual basis for wiretapping a former Trump campaign adviser and ordered the bureau to propose changes in how investigators seek permission for some national security surveillance.

In an extraordinary public order, the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Rosemary M. Collyer, gave the F.B.I. a Jan. 10 deadline to come up with a proposal. It was the first public response from the court to the scathing findings released last week by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general about the wiretapping of the former Trump adviser, Carter Page, as part of the Russia investigation.

“The frequency with which representations made by F.B.I. personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other F.B.I. applications is reliable,” Judge Collyer wrote.

The court “expects the government to provide complete and accurate information in every filing,” she added.

While the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, debunked the claims by President Trump and his allies that senior F.B.I. officials were part of a political conspiracy, his investigation also exposed a litany of errors and inaccuracies by which case agents cherry-picked the evidence about Mr. Page as they sought permission to eavesdrop on his calls and emails.

The order specifies no particular reforms for the bureau’s policies for seeking permission to wiretap people under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But it indicated that the court will weigh in on whether the F.B.I.’s proposals are sufficient.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week about the report’s findings, the chairman of the panel, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, addressed the FISA court directly, telling the judges that they needed to take steps to preserve political support for the national security surveillance system.

“The FISA system, to survive, has to be reformed,” Mr. Graham said. “To the FISA court: We’re looking to you to take corrective action. If you take corrective action, that will give us some confidence that you should stick around. If you don’t, it’s going to be hurtful to the future of the court, and I think all of us are now thinking differently about checks and balances in that regard.”

Mr. Horowitz suggested several changes. He recommended that the F.B.I. overhaul the forms used to ask the Justice Department to submit a FISA request or renewal to ensure they identify any information that cuts against suspicions about a target; surface any reasons to be skeptical about an informant whose information is included; and require agents and supervisors to reverify factual assertions repeated from prior applications when they seek renewals.

In a statement issued when the report was released, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, said he accepted Mr. Horowitz’s findings and embraced the need to make changes. He said he was ordering “concrete changes” to ensure that that FISA process was “more stringent and less susceptible to mistake or inaccuracy.”

Among the other ideas floated by reform proponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union: appointing a third party to critique the government’s cases for wiretapping people, at least in sensitive investigations, or allowing defense lawyers with security clearances to see the government’s evidence presented to the FISA court on those rare occasions when it is used to prosecute a suspect.

Mr. Horowitz has already begun an audit of other, unrelated FISA applications to see whether there is a broader pattern of problems in how the F.B.I. is portraying the evidence about suspects. Another possibility for reform is that going forward, the bureau’s general counsel could oversee recurring audits of a random sampling of FISA applications, so that case agents will always have to take into account that someone may later second-guess their work.

In his report, Mr. Horowitz scrutinized the four applications that the Justice Department submitted between October 2016 and June 2017 to wiretap Mr. Page, whom F.B.I. agents suspected might be a conduit between the Trump campaign and Russia during its covert operation to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.

The review uncovered a deeply dysfunctional and flawed process riddled with inaccuracies and material omissions. Investigators highlighted facts that made Mr. Page look suspicious while failing to mention potentially exculpatory ones, and when they sought to renew the wiretap, they failed to correct earlier statements whose credibility had since come under serious question, the report found.

Justice Department lawyers who deal directly with the FISA court passed that misleading portrait onto the judges. While Mr. Horowitz’s findings placed most of the direct blame on a handful of case agents and their supervisors who worked directly with the raw evidence, his report also blamed senior officials for permitting a culture in which such actions could happen.

The report said Mr. Horowitz’s investigators had found no evidence that political bias against Mr. Trump was behind the problems — as opposed to apolitical confirmation bias, gross incompetence or negligence. But the inspector general said the explanation the F.B.I. offered — that the agents had been busy with other aspects of the Russia investigation, and the Page FISA was a minor part of those responsibilities — was unsatisfactory.

Congress enacted FISA in 1978 to regulate the government’s use of domestic surveillance for national-security investigations — those aimed at monitoring suspected spies and terrorists — as opposed to ordinary criminal cases. The law sets up a special court, made up of 11 sitting district court judges who are selected to serve staggered terms by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and decide whether the evidence shows a target is probably a foreign agent.

In 2018, government records show, the court only fully denied one of 1,080 final applications submitted under FISA to conduct electronic surveillance. However, the court also demanded unspecified modifications to 119 of those applications before approving them. There were 1,833 targets of FISA orders, including 232 Americans, that year.

National-security wiretaps are more secretive than ordinary criminal ones. When criminal wiretap orders end, their targets are usually notified that their privacy has been invaded. But the targets of FISA orders are usually not told that their phone calls and emails have been monitored, or that their homes or businesses have been searched.

And when people are prosecuted for crimes based on evidence derived from ordinary criminal wiretaps, the defendants and their lawyers are usually allowed to see what the government told judges about them to win approval for that surveillance, giving them the opportunity to argue that investigators made mistakes and the evidence should be suppressed.

But defense lawyers, even those with security clearances, are not shown FISA applications for their clients. As a result, there is no prospect of second-guessing in an adversarial court setting to keep F.B.I. agents scrupulous about how they portray the evidence when seeking to persuade FISA judges to sign off on putting a target under surveillance.

In the absence of that disciplining factor, the Justice Department and F.B.I. have developed internal procedures that are supposed to make sure that the evidence presented in FISA applications is accurate and includes any facts that might undercut the government’s case. But that system failed in the Page wiretaps, Mr. Horowitz’s report showed.

At the Senate hearing, one of the rare areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats was the need for change to the FISA system. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has unsuccessfully proposed legislation to tighten restrictions on national-security surveillance in the past, said he welcomed the moment.

“I hope my Republican colleagues who have been so vocal and vehement about the dangers of potential FISA abuses will join me in looking forward and reform of that court,” Mr. Blumenthal said, adding: “I hope that we can come together on a bipartisan basis to reform the FISA process.”

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Court Orders F.B.I. to Fix National Security Wiretaps After Damning Report

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165689457_68b5fa1d-845f-4bda-96be-4db849961c9b-facebookJumbo Court Orders F.B.I. to Fix National Security Wiretaps After Damning Report Wiretapping and Other Eavesdropping Devices and Methods United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Surveillance of Citizens by Government Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Page, Carter Justice Department Inspectors General Horowitz, Michael E Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Collyer, Rosemary M

WASHINGTON — A secretive federal court accused the F.B.I. on Tuesday of misleading it about the factual basis for wiretapping a former Trump campaign adviser and ordered the bureau to propose changes in how investigators seek permission for some national security surveillance.

In an extraordinary public order, the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Rosemary M. Collyer, gave the F.B.I. a Jan. 10 deadline to come up with a proposal. It was the first public response from the court to the scathing findings released last week by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general about the wiretapping of the former Trump adviser, Carter Page, as part of the Russia investigation.

“The frequency with which representations made by F.B.I. personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other F.B.I. applications is reliable,” Judge Collyer wrote.

The court “expects the government to provide complete and accurate information in every filing,” she added.

While the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, debunked the claims by President Trump and his allies that senior F.B.I. officials were part of a political conspiracy, his investigation also exposed a litany of errors and inaccuracies by which case agents cherry-picked the evidence about Mr. Page as they sought permission to eavesdrop on his calls and emails.

The order specifies no particular reforms for the bureau’s policies for seeking permission to wiretap people under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But it indicated that the court will weigh in on whether the F.B.I.’s proposals are sufficient.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week about the report’s findings, the chairman of the panel, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, addressed the FISA court directly, telling the judges that they needed to take steps to preserve political support for the national security surveillance system.

“The FISA system, to survive, has to be reformed,” Mr. Graham said. “To the FISA court: We’re looking to you to take corrective action. If you take corrective action, that will give us some confidence that you should stick around. If you don’t, it’s going to be hurtful to the future of the court, and I think all of us are now thinking differently about checks and balances in that regard.”

Mr. Horowitz suggested several changes. He recommended that the F.B.I. overhaul the forms used to ask the Justice Department to submit a FISA request or renewal to ensure they identify any information that cuts against suspicions about a target; surface any reasons to be skeptical about an informant whose information is included; and require agents and supervisors to reverify factual assertions repeated from prior applications when they seek renewals.

In a statement issued when the report was released, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, said he accepted Mr. Horowitz’s findings and embraced the need to make changes. He said he was ordering “concrete changes” to ensure that that FISA process was “more stringent and less susceptible to mistake or inaccuracy.”

Among the other ideas floated by reform proponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union: appointing a third party to critique the government’s cases for wiretapping people, at least in sensitive investigations, or allowing defense lawyers with security clearances to see the government’s evidence presented to the FISA court on those rare occasions when it is used to prosecute a suspect.

Mr. Horowitz has already begun an audit of other, unrelated FISA applications to see whether there is a broader pattern of problems in how the F.B.I. is portraying the evidence about suspects. Another possibility for reform is that going forward, the bureau’s general counsel could oversee recurring audits of a random sampling of FISA applications, so that case agents will always have to take into account that someone may later second-guess their work.

In his report, Mr. Horowitz scrutinized the four applications that the Justice Department submitted between October 2016 and June 2017 to wiretap Mr. Page, whom F.B.I. agents suspected might be a conduit between the Trump campaign and Russia during its covert operation to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.

The review uncovered a deeply dysfunctional and flawed process riddled with inaccuracies and material omissions. Investigators highlighted facts that made Mr. Page look suspicious while failing to mention potentially exculpatory ones, and when they sought to renew the wiretap, they failed to correct earlier statements whose credibility had since come under serious question, the report found.

Justice Department lawyers who deal directly with the FISA court passed that misleading portrait onto the judges. While Mr. Horowitz’s findings placed most of the direct blame on a handful of case agents and their supervisors who worked directly with the raw evidence, his report also blamed senior officials for permitting a culture in which such actions could happen.

The report said Mr. Horowitz’s investigators had found no evidence that political bias against Mr. Trump was behind the problems — as opposed to apolitical confirmation bias, gross incompetence or negligence. But the inspector general said the explanation the F.B.I. offered — that the agents had been busy with other aspects of the Russia investigation, and the Page FISA was a minor part of those responsibilities — was unsatisfactory.

Congress enacted FISA in 1978 to regulate the government’s use of domestic surveillance for national-security investigations — those aimed at monitoring suspected spies and terrorists — as opposed to ordinary criminal cases. The law sets up a special court, made up of 11 sitting district court judges who are selected to serve staggered terms by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and decide whether the evidence shows a target is probably a foreign agent.

In 2018, government records show, the court only fully denied one of 1,080 final applications submitted under FISA to conduct electronic surveillance. However, the court also demanded unspecified modifications to 119 of those applications before approving them. There were 1,833 targets of FISA orders, including 232 Americans, that year.

National-security wiretaps are more secretive than ordinary criminal ones. When criminal wiretap orders end, their targets are usually notified that their privacy has been invaded. But the targets of FISA orders are usually not told that their phone calls and emails have been monitored, or that their homes or businesses have been searched.

And when people are prosecuted for crimes based on evidence derived from ordinary criminal wiretaps, the defendants and their lawyers are usually allowed to see what the government told judges about them to win approval for that surveillance, giving them the opportunity to argue that investigators made mistakes and the evidence should be suppressed.

But defense lawyers, even those with security clearances, are not shown FISA applications for their clients. As a result, there is no prospect of second-guessing in an adversarial court setting to keep F.B.I. agents scrupulous about how they portray the evidence when seeking to persuade FISA judges to sign off on putting a target under surveillance.

In the absence of that disciplining factor, the Justice Department and F.B.I. have developed internal procedures that are supposed to make sure that the evidence presented in FISA applications is accurate and includes any facts that might undercut the government’s case. But that system failed in the Page wiretaps, Mr. Horowitz’s report showed.

At the Senate hearing, one of the rare areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats was the need for change to the FISA system. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has unsuccessfully proposed legislation to tighten restrictions on national-security surveillance in the past, said he welcomed the moment.

“I hope my Republican colleagues who have been so vocal and vehement about the dangers of potential FISA abuses will join me in looking forward and reform of that court,” Mr. Blumenthal said, adding: “I hope that we can come together on a bipartisan basis to reform the FISA process.”

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com