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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "surveillance"

Detroit joins the fight over facial recognition software

Westlake Legal Group FaceRecognition Detroit joins the fight over facial recognition software The Blog surveillance facial recognition DETROIT cameras baltimore

For some time now, the police in Detroit, Michigan have been expanding a program named Project Green Light. It’s a series of cameras, now numbering nearly 600, installed around various businesses in the city. They initially focused primarily on 24/7 businesses that attracted a lot of crime, like gas stations and liquor stores. But now it’s expanded to cover significant portions of the city. The cameras are tied into a facial recognition program which is used when trying to identify perpetrators of violent crimes.

This, of course, has people angry. Because for some reason, many people don’t seem to want to make it any easier for the police to catch violent criminals if it means that the authorities might be “spying” on them. (NBC News)

Detroit police officials say they’re only using facial recognition technology to identify suspects in violent crimes — not to spy on ordinary citizens. But, in a city that is about 80 percent black, with a sizable population of Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American immigrants, critics have blasted the police for using technology that has been shown to be more likely to misidentify people with dark skin, without fully explaining it to the public.

“What happens when this software misidentifies one single person that doesn’t have the resources for a good legal defense?” asked Willie Burton, an elected member of Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners, a civilian body that oversees the police department. “Detroit is the poorest, blackest city in America. It should be the last city where we start implementing facial recognition.”

In what is hopefully a sign of things to come, Detroit’s Chief of Police is standing up to these objections and putting forth some common sense. First, they are not tracking everyone who comes in and out of a gas station or liquor store. And when a crime is reported, nobody is being arrested based solely on a facial recognition match. Human beings verify the identity of the person before any warrant is issued.

Detroit police Chief James Craig is alarmed by what he calls “hysteria” over tools he believes are making one of the nation’s most dangerous cities safer. He says trained police analysts verify the identity of suspects before they’re arrested, so computer misidentification isn’t an issue. And he warns that if lawmakers stop police from using the technology, Detroiters will suffer — specifically the victims of violent crimes.

“It would be tragic,” he said. “This is about safety. This is about the victims. This is about identifying violent suspects. This is not about Big Brother and taking that man who just left that store and we got facial recognition running and say, ‘Oh, that’s Mr. Jones who was arrested six years ago.’ We don’t do that. That’s absolutely wrong.”

Yes, it’s true that facial recognition software still has a ways to go before it’s completely reliable. It’s also a fact that most of the programs have a harder time correctly identifying persons of color and women. (You can read a pretty good analysis of why the software encounters these problems at CNET.) But as the Detroit Police Chief points out, nobody gets arrested based solely on the results of the facial recognition analysis. An actual officer looks at the photograph of the person identified and is able to tell whether the machine has made a mistake or not.

The way that people are working so diligently to stifle facial recognition for law enforcement is incredibly frustrating. It’s as bad as Baltimore turning down a free set of surveillance planes because people objected to video of public streets being recorded. Detroit may not be quite as bad as Chicago or Baltimore, but they have a serious violent crime problem. The police are using new technology to try to get a grip on this and make the streets safer. Why are these activists fighting so hard to make life easier for criminals?

The post Detroit joins the fight over facial recognition software appeared first on Hot Air.

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Baltimore abandons surveillance plane because things are going so well

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A couple of years ago, the city of Baltimore launched a pilot program (no pun intended) that involved having a private contractor fly a surveillance plane over the city almost constantly, recording high-resolution video of the activity on the streets. It was surprisingly successful, resulting in police being able to retrace the movements of people engaged in shootings and other crimes back to their homes or to their post-crime destinations.

The public wasn’t initially informed of the program and when word leaked out there were complaints from the usual digital privacy advocates. The program was eventually terminated. This year, however, the company operating the program, Persistent Surveillance Systems, was back offering to start things up again. The new mayor didn’t have any objections, so the Police Commissioner met with them. He emerged from the meeting with a one-sentence response. No thanks, we’ll pass. (CBS Baltimore)

Baltimore’s police commissioner will not support flying a surveillance plane over the city again.
After meeting Monday with Ross McNutt, the founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems, the police department issued a one-sentence statement: “The commissioner learned a lot today about the surveillance plane program and still has no plans to bring it back.”

McNutt says the Greater Baltimore Committee set up the meeting.

The BPD statement echoes comments from spokesman Matt Jablow in an email last week that, “The commissioner has no plans whatsoever to bring back the surveillance plane,” he wrote.

Here’s a couple of things you might not know about the program that the Police Commissioner is turning his nose up at. First of all, it’s completely free to the taxpayers. The first time it was done, a pair of Texas philanthropists, John and Laura Arnold, paid for the entire thing. They also offered money to hire extra police officers and funding for a committee to provide oversight of the program.

They already offered to cover the full cost again for three years. And they would have provided three planes, not just one. They were rebuffed.

Baltimore’s murder rate remains off the charts, logging hundreds more homicides than even New York City, which is fifteen times as large. The vast majority of those killings are attributable to gang violence. The planes, with both normal daylight and nighttime infrared capabilities, are well suited to tracking gang violence on the streets. But the city is going to rebuff this offer of a free solution to some of their worst problems because they’re worried about the police filming what goes on in public?

People have been demanding answers to the skyrocketing murder rate in Baltimore as well as other troubled cities like Chicago. Now someone comes along and offers to make a gift that’s been proven effective to the city out of their own pockets, and they’re told to stay away? I’m quickly running out of sympathy for the city of Baltimore. They’ve got a violent crime rate that makes some war zones look safe and if they can’t take yes for an answer when a free solution comes along, perhaps they deserve their fate.

The post Baltimore abandons surveillance plane because things are going so well appeared first on Hot Air.

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NY Post: There’s no surveillance video of Epstein’s death

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We’re never gonna know.

Well … maybe not “never.” Cameras aren’t trained on inmates’ cells at MCC, per the Post, but they are trained on the hallways. If someone entered Epstein’s cell block to do him harm, his likeness should be on the footage somewhere.

Unless the Clintons perfected an invisibility cloak and gave it to their team of international assassins, in which case all bets are off.

There’s no surveillance video of the incident in which Jeffrey Epstein apparently hanged himself in a federal lockup in Lower Manhattan, law enforcement officials told The Post on Sunday.

Although there are cameras in the 9 South wing where the convicted pedophile was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, they are trained on the areas outside the cells and not inside, according to sources familiar with the setup there.

Jazz already noted in an earlier post that the overworked guards on duty at MCC didn’t follow protocol by checking his cell every 30 minutes, as is required for inmates in the Special Housing Unit. But it wasn’t just one scheduled check that they missed; WaPo’s sources claim that “several” hours passed between look-ins on Epstein. Nor was that the only breach of protocol:

After he was removed from suicide watch at the end of July, Mr. Epstein had been downgraded to “special observation status,” which mandated guards check on him every 30 minutes and also required him to have a cellmate, a person familiar with the matter said.

Yet in the hours leading up to his death, it appears he had no cellmate and wasn’t receiving the required check, the person said. The cellmate had apparently left, possibly for a court appearance or another appointment, and was not quickly replaced as required by protocol, the person said.

Without both breaches of protocol, Epstein might be alive. If the guards had checked at the appointed time, they might have interrupted whatever was happening in his cell despite the fact that he had no cellmate. If he had had a cellmate, the cellmate might have alerted guards to a suicide attempt despite the fact that they weren’t checking on him at appointed times. Everything had to go right, or rather wrong, for Epstein to end up dead. Go figure.

This tweet on Saturday from a respected reporter at the Washington Post grabbed my eye:

Epstein’s representatives were sufficiently concerned that they had their own forensic pathologist attend the autopsy to observe. The coroner’s conclusion: Inconclusive, for the moment.

Barbara Sampson, New York City’s chief medical examiner, said her office conducted an autopsy Sunday but had not yet reached a determination on cause of death “pending further information.” The medical examiner also allowed Michael Baden, a private pathologist, to observe the autopsy at the request of Epstein’s representatives, Sampson said.

Conspiracy theorizing on social media this weekend was rampant, up to and including the president of the United States — although, actually, that’s par for the course for both Twitter and for Trump. The only cohort that seems skeptical of foul play is … people who actually know how the federal prison system works. Defense attorney “Caroline Court” is the latest criminal lawyer to make the case that this outcome just isn’t that surprising for an institution like MCC:

The MCC has been notoriously understaffed for some time now. Inmates have reported that they have been locked in their cells all weekend because of staff shortages, and, as I tweeted, even weekend legal visits are sometimes canceled for the same reason.

Because of the short staff issues, corrections officers at the MCC often work double shifts. Was the corrections officer covering the SHU that morning in the middle of a double and perhaps fell asleep?…

I’ll add that mental health treatment in a jail setting is often woefully inadequate. So for someone who has experience with how bad it can be, it simply does not surprise me that this happened.

Complaints about guards at MCC being spread too thin are nothing new, added law prof John Pfaff:

Complaints about guards dehumanizing inmates in federal prison, even to the point of gambling on their suicide odds, also aren’t unheard of, he added. Ken White, a former assistant U.S. Attorney turned criminal defense lawyer, made all of those same points over the weekend when Epstein conspiracy mania was in full flower, stressing that you simply can’t bet against the callousness and incompetence of administrators and staff as an explanation when catastrophe results at a federal prison. To which all I’d say is this: Wouldn’t the guards have thought to give Epstein extra attention purely for the sake of keeping heat off themselves in case he turned up dead? White scoffed at that theory in his weekend thread, claiming that only “gullible dipsh*ts” would believe that law enforcement might suffer consequences for a death on their shift, but most inmate deaths don’t draw an angry statement from the Attorney General in the immediate aftermath and white-hot media attention to the circumstances of their negligence. The guards must have anticipated how suspicious Epstein dying in their care would look and how irate the public would be. He was no ordinary prisoner. They got caught napping anyway. Why?

The post NY Post: There’s no surveillance video of Epstein’s death appeared first on Hot Air.

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China uses a surveillance app to search the phones of tourists entering the country

Westlake Legal Group Chinese-app China uses a surveillance app to search the phones of tourists entering the country Xinjiang The Blog surveillance China

A joint investigation by several news organizations has uncovered another sign of China’s use of technology to expand its authoritarian control over the western province of Xinjiang. People coming across the border from Kyrgyzstan (see map below), including western tourists, are having their phones confiscated and searched. From the Guardian:

Border guards are taking their phones and secretly installing an app that extracts emails, texts and contacts, as well as information about the handset itself…

Analysis by the Guardian, academics and cybersecurity experts suggests the app, designed by a Chinese company, searches Android phones against a huge list of content that the authorities view as problematic…

It appears with the default Android icon and the words 蜂采 (Fēng cǎi); the term has no direct English translation, but relates to bees collecting honey.

The Guardian spoke to a traveller who had crossed the border to Xinjiang this year with an Android phone and was disturbed to see the app installed on his phone.

He said he had been asked to hand over his phone at the checkpoint, and it had been taken into a separate room. He and all the other travellers at that checkpoint had also been asked to hand their pin numbers to the officials, and had waited about an hour to have their phones returned.

At no point were they told what was being done to the phones.

There are apparently two different procedures depending on which brand of phone you have. iPhones are plugged into a machine which can upload data from the phones. Android phones have an app installed which does the same job. The border guards searching the phones are apparently supposed to delete the app after using it but not all do. The current investigation began after a German tourist found the app and took it to Süddeutsche Zeitung. That app was then analyzed and a small portion of the searches it was carrying out were identified. From Vice:

Included in the app’s code are hashes for over 73,000 different files the malware scans for. Ordinarily, it is difficult to determine what specific files these hashes relate to, but the reporting team and researchers managed to uncover the inputs of around 1,300 of them. This was done by searching for connected files on the file search engine Virus Total. Citizen Lab identified the hashes in the VirusTotal database, and researchers from the Bochum team later downloaded some of the files from VirusTotal. The reporting team also found other copies online, and verified what sort of material the app was scanning for.

Many of the files that are scanned for contain clearly extremist content, such as the so-called Islamic State’s publication Rumiyah. But the app also scans for parts of the Quran, PDFs related to the Dalai Lama, and a music file from Japanese metal band Unholy Grave (the band has a song called “Taiwan: Another China.”)

Last week, Allahpundit wrote about a BBC report on the Chinese re-education centers in Xinjiang. These camps really are something straight out of the novel 1984 with people kept as prisoners at least 6-days a week and forced to chant communist party slogans until they get their minds right. We never see, of course, what happens to people who aren’t sufficiently upbeat about being sent to the camps but reports suggest it involves isolation and food deprivation. If you want to eat, support the party. That’s how things work in Democratic socialist Venezuela too.

Finally, this map shows the Xinjiang province along with some of the re-education camps set up for the region’s Muslim population:

The post China uses a surveillance app to search the phones of tourists entering the country appeared first on Hot Air.

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Big Government and Big Tech Are Partnering to Track Us Everywhere

George Orwell was a brilliant individual.  A man of incredible insight – and foresight.

In his unfathomably predictive novel 1984, Orwell warns of Big Brother:

“(O)stensibly the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling party Ingsoc wields total power ‘for its own sake’ over the inhabitants.

“In the society that Orwell describes, every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens.…The people are constantly reminded of this by the slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’: a maxim that is ubiquitously on display.

“In modern culture, the term ‘Big Brother’ has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.”

As brilliant as Orwell was, something continuously struck me as incorrect as I read 1984.

Orwell’s government – was extraordinarily competent in its totalitarian imposition of technological power.

In Reality – no government in the history of man has ever been even remotely close to that competent.

For Orwell’s Big Brother dystopia to become Reality – Big Government would need private sector help.

Enter private sector Big Tech.

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Big Tech has delivered much of the technology Orwell envisioned.  As but one of many examples – Orwell’s telescreens:

“(D)evices that operate as televisions, security cameras, and microphones….(T)elescreens are used by the ruling Party in the totalitarian fictional State of Oceania to keep its subjects under constant surveillance, thus eliminating the chance of secret conspiracies against Oceania.”

We’re already all the way there – via Big Tech.

How Google and Amazon Are ‘Spying’ on You:

“The study found that digital assistants (Google Home and Amazon Echo) can be ‘awake’ even when users think they aren’t listening….

“(T)he devices listen all the time they are turned on – and Amazon has envisioned Alexa using that information to build profiles on anyone in the room….

“Amazon filed a patent application for an algorithm that would let future versions of the device identify statements of interest, such as ‘I love skiing’, enabling the speaker to be monitored based on their interests and targeted for related advertising.

“A Google patent application describes using a future release of it smart Home system to monitor and control everything from screen time and hygiene habits, to meal and travel schedules and other activities.

“The devices are envisioned as part of a surveillance web in the home to chart a families’ patterns….”

Why Google’s Spying on User Data Is Worse than the NSA’s

Is Amazon Spying on Users Through Alexa? Thousands of Employees Listen to Conversations

Amazon-Owned Ring Has Reportedly Been Spying on Customer Camera Feeds

Microsoft Windows 10 Is Spying on Almost Everything You Do

Yes, Webcams Can Spy on You

Eleven Insanely Creepy Ways Facebook Is Spying on You Right Now

This is ALL insanely creepy.

Big Tech is…insanely big.

Microsoft (Market Cap: $1.1 trillion)

Amazon (Market Cap: $942 billion)

Google (Market Cap: $775 billion)

Facebook (Market Cap: $550 billion)

These four spying companies – are currently worth a combined $3.7 trillion.  Our nation’s entire economy – is $19.4 trillion.

Which mans these four companies – all by themselves – are worth 19% of the United States.

But it’s Big Tech doing the spying – not Big Government.

Anyone who looks at Big Tech’s all-encompassing spying ability and thinks Big Government is capable of doing anything remotely similar – hasn’t paid attention to the past 10,000 years of human history.

The ONLY way Big Government can impose Big Brother – is to partner with Big Tech.

Uh oh.

The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance

Tech Companies Concede to Surveillance Program

Four High-Tech Ways the Federal Government Is Spying on Private Citizens:

“Right now, the government is tracking the movements of private citizens by GPS, reading private citizens’ emails, and possibly even reading what you’re saying on Facebook.”

Big Tech once offered at least token resistance to Big Government’s demands – at least after being outed for acquiescing to Big Government’s demands.

Facebook, Amazon, Google Call for Government Surveillance Reform:

“It first gained attention after the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Congress is in the process of weighing reforms for the program. It must vote to renew Section 702 before the end of the year, otherwise it will expire.

“The letter, addressed to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asks Congress to consider several reforms to the program to ensure greater transparency and privacy protections.”

We can now officially refer to those – as the Good Old Days.

Why would Big Tech fight Big Government – when they can get paid to join them?

And the Big Government-Big Tech surveillance state – is getting closer and closer to home.

In fact – just outside…and inside it.

Amazon’s Helping Police Build a Surveillance Network with Ring Doorbells:

“Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products.

“While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested….

“(T)he sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants….(C)ritics have pointed out the retail giant’s (other) ventures with law enforcement, like offering facial recognition tools….

“More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don’t have cameras — on suburban doorsteps….

“‘What we have here is a perfect marriage between law enforcement and one of the world’s biggest companies creating conditions for a society that few people would want to be a part of,’ said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.”

That’s the outside of your home.  Here’s the in….

The Government Just Admitted It Will Use Smart Home Devices for Spying:

“If you want evidence that US intelligence agencies aren’t losing surveillance abilities because of the rising use of encryption by tech companies, look no further than the testimony…by the (then) director of national intelligence, James Clapper….

“Clapper made clear that the internet of things – the many devices like thermostats, cameras and other appliances that are increasingly connected to the internet – are providing ample opportunity for intelligence agencies to spy on targets, and possibly the masses. And it’s a danger that many consumers who buy these products may be wholly unaware of….

“Privacy advocates have known about the potential for government to exploit the internet of things for years. Law enforcement agencies have taken notice too, increasingly serving court orders on companies for data they keep that citizens might not even know they are transmitting. Police have already been asking Google-owned company Dropcam for footage from cameras inside people’s homes meant to keep an eye on their kids.”

Orwell got the tech right – just not Big Government’s ability to create it for totalitarian ends.

Freedom has allowed for the free markets – that allowed the rise of the private sector Big Tech Orwell thought Big Government would produce.

And now Big Tech and Big Government are partnering – to end that freedom.

Well…for we plebeians, anyway.

I’m sure Big Tech and Big Government will be just fine.

The post Big Government and Big Tech Are Partnering to Track Us Everywhere appeared first on RedState.

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Did FBI know Steele dossier was “inaccurate” before seeking FISA warrant?

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Does a memo from a State Department official amount to a smoking gun for FBI malfeasance in its dealings with the FISA court? John Solomon makes the case at The Hill that the FBI had reason to believe that Christopher Steele’s dossier was at the least inaccurate before seeking a counterespionage surveillance warrant on Carter Page. Just how inaccurate might be at issue, however:

Newly unearthed memos show a high-ranking government official who met with Steele in October 2016 determined some of the Donald Trump dirt that Steele was simultaneously digging up for the FBI and for Hillary Clinton’s campaign was inaccurate, and likely leaked to the media.

The concerns were flagged in a typed memo and in handwritten notes taken by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec on Oct. 11, 2016.

Her observations were recorded exactly 10 days before the FBI used Steele and his infamous dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s contacts with Russia in search of a now debunked collusion theory.

In Solomon’s view, this shows that the FBI’s testimony to the FISA court is “fraying faster than a $5 souvenir T-shirt bought at a tourist trap.” Solomon, who has pursued the FISA angle aggressively for months, rests this argument on Kavalec’s somewhat skeptical observations after meeting with Steele personally and getting briefed on his intel. In the meeting, Steele regales Kavalec with tales of connections between Donald Trump and the Kremlin with Paul Manafort as the go-between.

Much of this ended up being shown as baseless in the Mueller report, which curiously avoided talking much about Steele or his “intelligence.” The only references to Steele’s dossier are in relation to reactions to it by Trump and the people around him, and media publication of its details. It very notably provides no substantial predicate for any of Mueller’s findings and plays no role in his conclusions on Russian interference in the election.

That’s in retrospect, however. Is it fair to impose retroactive judgment on the FBI for their concern over Steele’s input? Solomon points to a red flag Kavalec discovered in real time on Steele’s findings:

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That looks pretty sloppy, especially for an intelligence expert. How tough would it have been for Steele to confirm the existence of the consulate that supposedly funded a major operation targeting an American election? Also, the hacking scandal broke in mid-June 2016, almost precisely in the center of Kalugin’s stay, but the hacking operation predated Kalugin’s entry into the US. The phishing attack that cracked open John Podesta’s e-mail took place in March 2016, before Kalugin’s arrival.

Some of that might not have been fully known to the FBI at the time, however, although the non-existence of a Russian consulate in Miami should have been. The hacking network was not “in the U.S” but in Russia, a point that the FBI probably should have known at that point.  As the indictment from Robert Mueller indicates, Unit 26165 was located in Moscow, not Miami or anywhere in the US:

9. Defendant VIKTOR BORISOVICH NETYKSHO (Нетыкшо Виктор Борисович) was the Russian military officer in command of Unit 26165, located at 20 Komsomolskiy Prospekt, Moscow, Russia. Unit 26165 had primary responsibility for hacking the DCCC and DNC, as well as the email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign.

10. Defendant BORIS ALEKSEYEVICH ANTONOV (Антонов Борис Алексеевич) was a Major in the Russian military assigned to Unit 26165. ANTONOV oversaw a department within Unit 26165 dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental, and non-governmental organizations with spearphishing emails and other computer intrusion activity. ANTONOV held the title “Head of Department.” In or around 2016, ANTONOV supervised other co-conspirators who targeted the DCCC, DNC, and individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign.

11. Defendant DMITRIY SERGEYEVICH BADIN (Бадин Дмитрий Сергеевич) was a Russian military officer assigned to Unit 26165 who held the title “Assistant Head of Department.” In or around 2016, BADIN, along withANTONOV, supervised other co-conspirators who targeted the DCCC, DNC, and individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign.

The release of the documents went through Unit 74455, which was also located in Moscow:

18. Defendant ALEKSANDR VLADIMIROVICH OSADCHUK (Осадчук Александр Владимирович) was a Colonel in the Russian military and the commanding officer of Unit 74455. Unit 74455 was located at 22 Kirova Street, Khimki, Moscow, a building referred to within the GRU as the “Tower.” Unit 74455 assisted in the release of stolen documents through the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas, the promotion of those releases, and the publication of anti-Clinton content on social media accounts operated by the GRU.

19. Defendant ALEKSEY ALEKSANDROVICH POTEMKIN (Потемкин Алексей Александрович) was an officer in the Russian military assigned to Unit 74455. POTEMKIN was a supervisor in a department within Unit 74455 responsible for the administration of computer infrastructure used in cyber operations. Infrastructure and social media accounts administered by POTEMKIN’s department were used, among other things, to assist in the release of stolen documents through the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas.

If there wasn’t a hacking network in the US, then there would be no reason to run a paymaster operation out of a Russian consulate, in Miami or anywhere else. How much of that was known by the FBI at the time of Kavalec’s memo will be interesting to discover. At any rate, Solomon argues, the Russian-consulate error should have been enough to discount Steele’s dossier, at least in terms of getting a FISA warrant:

It is important to note that the FBI swore on Oct. 21, 2016, to the FISA judges that Steele’s “reporting has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings” and the FBI has determined him to be “reliable” and was “unaware of any derogatory information pertaining” to their informant, who simultaneously worked for Fusion GPS, the firm paid by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign to find Russian dirt on Trump.

That’s a pretty remarkable declaration in Footnote 5 on Page 15 of the FISA application, since Kavalec apparently needed just a single encounter with Steele at State to find one of his key claims about Trump-Russia collusion was blatantly false.

Solomon calls it a “lie” later too, but there wouldn’t be much point in lying about something so easily checked. It was blatantly wrong, and extremely sloppy on Steele’s part for not checking basic facts. Did that negate all of the other information in the dossier? Intelligence work is not so cut-and-dried. The trick is to find the truth in an avalanche of speculation and rumor. In October 2016, the FBI might still have worried that Steele was casting his net too far and inaccurately but that he still might have snagged some real intelligence.

However, Solomon’s correct on one thing — a FISA surveillance warrant is supposed to be based on near-bulletproof conclusions that a US person is operating as a foreign agent. According to Kavalec’s notes, Steele only says that “Carter Paige [sic] is involved” in Manafort’s back-channel connection efforts and held “two secret meetings” with Rosneft chair Igor Sechin. Sechin never got mentioned at all in Mueller’s indictment and ends up as nothing more than a footnote in Mueller’s report, and Kavalec’s notes don’t indicate why this would be a big deal. At least based on Kavalec’s notes of Steele’s brief, Manafort looked more likely to be a Russian agent than Page. And yet the FBI never sought a FISA warrant on Manafort … to the best of our knowledge, anyway.

It’s all very curious, no matter how one cuts it.

The post Did FBI know Steele dossier was “inaccurate” before seeking FISA warrant? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Chris Wray: I don’t personally have evidence of illegal surveillance into any political campaigns

Westlake Legal Group chris-wray-i-dont-personally-have-evidence-of-illegal-surveillance-into-any-political-campaigns Chris Wray: I don’t personally have evidence of illegal surveillance into any political campaigns wray turk Trump The Blog surveillance spying russiagate Russia halper Federal Bureau of Investigation christopher chris 2016

Westlake Legal Group w Chris Wray: I don’t personally have evidence of illegal surveillance into any political campaigns wray turk Trump The Blog surveillance spying russiagate Russia halper Federal Bureau of Investigation christopher chris 2016

What odds can I get in Vegas that the eventual IG report about this will find that (a) nothing illegal happened in 2016 but (b) having one party’s presidential nominee investigated by a DOJ run by the other party is “problematic,” to put it mildly, and creates an appearance of impropriety that undermines public confidence in the justice system?

Double or nothing that it comes with a recommendation for Congress to establish new guidelines for how the Department should handle counterintelligence probes that involve political campaigns in the future.

Anyway, an interesting answer here by Chris Wray at this morning’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to a question about “spying” on the Trump campaign in 2016. The bottom line in his response — no, he hasn’t seen evidence of illegal surveillance — doesn’t quite capture the tenor of his full reply.

“Thank you,” said [Jeanne] Shaheen. “Do you believe, Director Wray, that the FBI and its agents spied into the 2016 presidential campaign operation?”

“Well again, I want to be careful how I answer that question here, because there is an ongoing Inspector General investigation,” said Wray. “I have my own thoughts based on the limited information I’ve seen so far, but I don’t think it would be right or appropriate for me to share those at this stage, because I really do think it’s important for everybody to respect the independent Inspector General’s investigation, which I think this question start — this line of questioning starts to implicate, and I think it’s very important for everybody to have full confidence in his review.”

When Shaheen followed up by asking him if he had evidence of illegal surveillance, he responded with “I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort.” The fact that he was willing to say he “personally” didn’t have info but was unwilling to state his opinion on whether there was any FBI spying seems notable to me, as if Wray has reason to believe that something untoward happened but doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of it. Did word trickle down to him somehow about the IG’s preliminary findings? Remember that Barr famously seemed credulous about “spying” too when he testified last month.

Wray’s predecessor was asked recently about last week’s bombshell NYT report claiming that an undercover female operative met George Papadopoulos in 2016 to feel him out about campaign connections to Russia. Was that spying, Comey was asked? He was less placid than Wray in answering:

“Really? What would you have the FBI do? We discover in the middle of June of 2016 that the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to mess with this democracy to interfere in the election. We’re focused on that and at the end of July we learn that a Trump campaign adviser — two months earlier, before any of this was public — had talked to a Russian representative about the fact that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton and wanted to arrange to share it with the Trump campaign,” Comey said…

“What should the FBI do when it gets that information? It should investigate to figure out whether any Americans are hooked up with this massive interference effort. And that’s what we did.” Comey said.

How many more undercover agents were used to sting members of Trump’s campaign, wondered Byron York in a column today. That’s a key question for the IG report: Did the FBI adjust its counterintelligence protocols in any way in light of the political sensitivity of surveilling a presidential campaign or did it treat Team Trump as any other outfit whom it suspected might be mixed up with Russia? Should it have adjusted those protocols and given the campaign special treatment that any other organization wouldn’t have received? Was there any political pressure from higher-ups in the Obama administration to launch the investigation or use tactics that the FBI was reluctant to use?

If there was and this was all essentially a political sting on Trump, why didn’t Obama make a bigger deal of Russian interference before Election Day, hoping that Hillary might benefit?

You’ll find Wray here more uncomfortable with the term “spying” than Barr was during his own testimony, which I understand. “Spying” typically refers to surveillance that’s unlawful and/or conducted by the enemy. Never in my lifetime of watching true-crime shows have I heard police surveillance of the bad guy described as “spying,” even when it involves wiretaps. “Spying” is what you say when you want to emphasize that surveillance is improper. Barr obviously knows that yet made a point of using that word before quickly retreating when he was called on it, insisting that he has no knowledge of impropriety at this point. Again, was that because he got some sort of preview from the IG’s office that the FBI broke the law in surveilling Team Trump or was he just spinning for POTUS by recycling his narrative that all surveillance of his campaign was bad and therefore “spying”?

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Comey on Barr’s comments: I’ve never thought of court-ordered surveillance by the FBI as “spying”

Westlake Legal Group comey-on-barrs-comments-ive-never-thought-of-court-ordered-surveillance-by-the-fbi-as-spying Comey on Barr’s comments: I’ve never thought of court-ordered surveillance by the FBI as “spying” The Blog surveillance russiagate Russia ordered Justice doj department court comey barr

Westlake Legal Group jc Comey on Barr’s comments: I’ve never thought of court-ordered surveillance by the FBI as “spying” The Blog surveillance russiagate Russia ordered Justice doj department court comey barr

People are dragging him for this because (a) dragging Comey has become one of America’s most enjoyable (and bipartisan) political pastimes and (b) it’s almost self-parody that a former FBI director wouldn’t regard his own agency’s surveillance tactics as “spying.” Spying is what the bad guys do, see. Go figure that a successor to J. Edgar Hoover is more sanguine about his own outfit’s intrusions into people’s privacy.

But he has a point about the weirdness of Barr’s testimony a few days ago. The term “spying” does come loaded with certain assumptions, foremost that the surveillance to which it refers is unlawful. Espionage is a crime punishable by death, after all. To accuse the feds of “spying,” as Barr did, was to imply that the investigation into Team Trump’s connections with Russia was illicit — which was strange because in the same breath Barr made a point of saying that he had no reason to believe that.

I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was predicated — adequately predicated,” Barr testified. “I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that. I think it’s my obligation. Congress is usually very concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane.”

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal,” Barr added, an apparent reference to GOP allegations that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor former Trump 2016 campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

However, later in the hearing, Barr clarified he hasn’t proven there was any wrongdoing. “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred, I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all,” he said.

The Russiagate probe was improper, he suggests, before scrambling to make clear that he has no firm reason to believe that. No wonder Russiagate true believers thought he was pandering to his boss there, trying to casually delegitimize the investigation while covering his ass by clarifying that he wasn’t doing that. “A person who has discussed the matter with Mr. Barr said that he did not mean to imply that the [surveillance] measures had been improper,” notes the Times, but that’s hard to believe given his emphasis during testimony that “spying” on the campaign was a “big deal.” Clearly he meant to insinuate that misconduct had occurred. And then he chickened out.

Maybe he knows what the IG’s investigation has uncovered about of Russiagate’s origins and isn’t prepared to talk about it yet. Ed was right to note earlier how surprising it is in hindsight that the feds had enough on Carter Page to get a FISA warrant but ultimately not enough to indict him for anything. Between that and the many dubious elements of the Steele dossier, Barr can make a case that the probe was, if not quite unlawful, at least ill-advised and poorly founded. Although you know what Comey will say: The reason we have FISA (in theory at least) is to empower the judiciary to prevent the feds from launching ill-advised, poorly founded counterintelligence investigations. In this case a FISA judge reviewed the FBI’s application and signed off on a warrant. If Barr wants to blow up Russiagate retroactively, it won’t be enough to nuke Comey and Strzok and even Rod Rosenstein, who approved applications for surveillance. He’ll need to nuke the judgment of the FISA court, too.

And he’ll need to contend with this point:

Comey’s point at its most basic is that we allow police to conduct surveillance with court oversight because sometimes there really are bad guys — spies, even — who need to be stopped. That’s what he claims happened with Russiagate. Barr seems to think, although he won’t clearly say so, that this was more of a partisan operation by Obama’s administration to keep tabs on Trump’s campaign. That’s the difference between “surveillance” and “spying.” We’ll see what the IG says.

The post Comey on Barr’s comments: I’ve never thought of court-ordered surveillance by the FBI as “spying” appeared first on Hot Air.

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