Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

They are coming for your drones

May 6, 2018

Last week at an industry conference, the FBI spun a fairy tale, one that was reported uncritically by the press, about criminal use of drones. Go read it (and note that two of the first three comments called shenanigans, so it’s not just me). Here’s my breakdown.

It seems this “criminal gang” got itself involved in a hostage situation, as criminal gangs are wont to do. Now, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing. Usually, it’s some lone idiot whose plans have gone horribly wrong.

The FBI was called in, and set up an “elevated OP” to monitor the situation. This OP evidently was not hidden well enough that the bad guys weren’t aware of it. Maybe it was the FBI flag that gave it away.

The bad guys then launched a swarm of drones, from an unspecified location, to fly around the observers’ heads, kindof like nesting starlings, distracting them and making them lose “situational awareness”.  The drones, by the way, had been “backpacked” in, in anticipation of the FBI arrival.

Finally, the drone video was uploaded to YouTube, so that all members of the gang could see what a distracted FBI agent looked like.

No further details are available, because the incident remains “law enforcement-sensitive”. Of course, the criminal gang knows when and where it happened, and it has YouTube videos of FBI agents swatting at drones, but the FBI can’t tell us citizens any more (like, just for e.g., why the FBI didn’t use its own drones).

One has to wonder what the true FBI motive is behind this story. My guess is that they want more control over civilian drones, and this fake news is just the start of a flood of reports about drones harassing law enforcement, disrupting cattle drives, and carrying off small children.




L’Affaire de Comey

May 11, 2017

I’ve been following some discussions on why the Democrats are riled up now about Comey being fired, when they were all for him being fired back in November. There’s a number of intertwined issues here, and we need to be sure our conclusions on one don’t color our approach to a different one.

1. The Clinton emails investigation and the associated announcement. Comey mishandled the whole thing, whether or not you believe Clinton did something actionable. He violated FBI guidelines — the decision, and the announcement, should have been left up to the DoJ.

2. The second email announcement. What had Democrats in a twist was the second announcement, a week before the election, that the FBI was investigating a second set of emails. This was not only a violation of guidelines, it was in direct contravention to advice given by DoJ.

According to Nate Silver at, this influenced the outcome. As far as I can tell, Silver is pretty much a ‘by the numbers’ statistician, who analyzes polling statistics. He is a liberal, but doesn’t let that influence his analysis.

By the time Comey came out (48hrs before the election) with a third announcement, that said ‘my bad, nothing new’, the damage had been done.

From that standpoint, what Comey should have been fired for was having the FBI take a political action that influenced an American election.

3. The Russia connection. I’m not sure there’s anything there, other than normal graft, but I am not at all sure. To a certain extent, it’s a stick the Democrats can use to beat the GOP. Just like Whitewater and Benghazi and the emails. The biggest pointer to malfeasance in office is the attempt at a coverup via the Comey firing.

4. The firing. If Trump didn’t like Comey’s actions over the emails, he should have fired him in January. Instead, he waited until the Russia investigation was well advanced, and Comey was asking for more money for it. The story the White House is supporting won’t stand up to scrutiny.

So what Comey shouldn’t have been fired for is continuing an investigation on external influence on an American election. And the Democrats are right to be upset about it.

BTW, here’s one line of thought on Trump’s mindset. It’s extracts from a 40 section tweet-storm (and example of a misuse of Twitter. You don’t pump out a thousand word essay 140 characters at a time).

Russia and the American election

December 13, 2016

I don’t know.

Intelligence analysts hate politics. Intelligence managers endure them. Intelligence executives exploit them. Today’s round of politicised Intelligence is about Russian attempts to influence the US election in support of Trump. On the one hand, you have CIA, an arrogant, but usually competent, agency mostly concerned with human source Intelligence, not computers, saying there’s a direct path back to Russian hackers (although not everyone agrees). On the other hand, you have the FBI, as incompetent a group of clowns as ever crawled out of a car, with special lack of smarts where computers are concerned, saying that they’re not so sure. Who we haven’t heard from yet is NSA, the agency charged with knowing about this kind of thing. On the other, other hand, Congress has gotten into the act, in a surprisingly bipartisan fashion.

I agree with Pat Lang, that there’s no way the FBI would be in cahoots with the Russians over this. However, given that the Republican who is the current Director of the FBI already did his best to influence the election for Trump, there’s no reason to assume that a pro-Trump stance isn’t continuing to influence their actions.

The documents in the case are the DNC emails published by Wikileaks. One side says the Russians were feeding them to Wikileaks editor Julian Assange. Assange had to be in the sway of the Russians, or why else just publish the DNC emails when it was likely the RNC could have been hacked as well? The other side says it was an internal DNC defector, and that’s why there’s no RNC data.  My take on this is that the US declared war on Julian Assange in 2010 and forced him to live in the Ecuadorian embassy for the last four years. He is striking back with the best weapons at his disposal, under the not-unreasonable assumption that a Trump presidency is the most harmful thing he could do.

Bottom line: this is a particularly egregious case of DC leak and counter-leak. There are even those who say this is another example of “both sides do it”.

The people who most indignantly condemned Trump’s questioning of Obama’s birth certificate as a scurrilous scheme to delegitimize his presidency, now seek to delegitimize Trump’s presidency. — Pat Buchanon

This kind of statement, even if it was a throwaway line in an article on a different topic, reveals a blatant disregard for reality. Statements by US government officials charged with responsibility for the topic are not to be confounded with the ravings of talk radio jockeys.

Right now, we, the people, have no idea where the truth lies, and we won’t, unless there are Congressional hearings, or another Snowden.

I Trust the NSA

July 24, 2013

It’s true. I used to work with those guys, and they’re scrupulous about obeying the law. That’s at the worker level.


I don’t trust the NSA leadership

I don’t trust the FBI.  At all.

I don’t trust the DoJ. At all.

I don’t trust the Senate. With a few, very few exceptions.

I don’t trust the House of Representatives. With a few exceptions.

I don’t trust the FISA Court

I don’t trust the Supreme Court

I don’t trust the TELCOs

I don’t trust the President, and I voted for him. Twice.

In general, I don’t trust the government.

All of the above have colluded and/or lied to the American people about programs and laws which even their creators have said have gone too far.

It’s time to change those laws. It’s time to dismantle those programs. It’s time for some pushback against the attacks on our civil rights, on our Constitutional rights.

President Obama says he wants an informed, open, deliberative process. He’s had four years to initiate that process, and he hasn’t done it. The only thing that makes him willing to do it now is the blunt approach. So let’s get blunt.

Slippery Slopes, Mission Creep, and NSA, Part 2

June 17, 2013

Mission creep, known in the software world as creeping featurism, reflects the tendency of any successful organization to add more tasks to its list, so as to become more important to the bureaucracy.

Sometimes agencies are smart enough to avoid it. For years, every time there was some sort of spectacular crime, the politicians first reaction was to make it a federal offense, and turn it over to the FBI. The FBI worked very hard to avoid these additional duties, partly because they never came with the resources needed to do them.

Of course, some organizations aren’t as smart as the FBI. DHS, for example, or its mini-me, TSA. They keep expanding the areas in which they are not contributing to American security or safety. DHS does this because it’s in its DNA. Think of it as the administrative equivalent of Katamari Damacy. TSA, of course, because fuck you.

Mission creep is bad enough, but there’s a more insidious flaw, probably best described as “we’ve got ’em, let’s launch ’em“. If you have a capability, and that capability is applicable in some way to the current situation, then there’s an almost overwhelming urge to use it. I’m of the opinion that “treating citizen organization X as if they were terrorists” comes from that. If you have a multimillion dollar “fusion center”, with people sitting around trying to figure out how to keep both thumbs warm, and Occupy X sets up camp in a nearby public park, of course you want to exercise your system by tracking them. Of course you want to show in your reports that you are on to every possible “threat”. Even as I typed this, a new story surfaced, about police using driver’s license photos as a permanent lineup.

As an aside, this is likely the cause of the upsurge in SWAT team deployments in support of the recovery of overdue library books (and I exaggerate only slightly). You have a highly trained, highly paid team of hair-trigger Rambo-wannabes just daring any terrorist to start something on their patch. But of course, there aren’t any terrorists. The overwhelming majority of plots broken up by the FBI have been arguably government entrapment of inept nebbishes. So, even if there’s no terrorists, there’s always drug busts of state-legal marijuana clinics. Or RIAA-targeted CD resale stores. Or various kinds of white-collar crime that can be labeled ‘cyber’, which is almost as bad as WMD and so deserve the SWAT treatment.

To get back on topic, in the last decade or so we’ve spent billions of dollars and millions of man-hours defending against a threat that is barely detectable, so that we can (as Snowden recently said) potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own police. When you have this kind of organization, and something occurs that can be made to be construed as falling within its purview — dissent, whistleblowing, unauthorized leaks — of course the powers that be will attempt to use it to their advantage and the detriment of Democracy. That’s what has people worried. In the back of everyone’s mind is the whispered voice “they came for my metadata, and I said nothing…”.

Quite naturally, everyone in power denies this possibility. It would not be allowed because, in the immortal words of a former President, “That, would be wrong“.

They Hate Us for Our Freedoms 10

May 2, 2012

A friend of mine made this comment on an earlier entry:

I have a loose knit hypothesis (aka notion) that the purpose of the TSA is not to stop terrorism directly but to increase the fear or irritation level (and thus volume and amount of discussion) so that everyone is worried about their relative or cor-worker, or that guy on the bus and report him. Which is one of the real symptoms of a police state–where we self-police out of fear as a by-product of irrational rhetoric.

One of the purposes of brainwashing is to break down the social ties that hold a group together. I used to have a tape (R2R) of a talk by one of the psychologists who dealt with returnees from NK prison camps after the Korean War, one of the people who developed the Code of Conduct. On it, he said that the returnees never talked to each other. “You could walk onto the ward at any time of the day or night and there was silence. They’d talk to the staff. They’d talk to us. They wouldn’t talk to each other”. This unwillingness to communicate within their own community of former POW camp inmates was a direct result of a long and skillful program on the part of the NK military, direct heirs of the Stalinist era. This was the true ‘brainwashing’, not some Manchurian Candidate project. The goal was to break down trust, to inhibit communication, to isolate each soldier within their own little shell. This made it possible to guard their POW camps with one tenth the number of guards that normal doctrine calls for.

Police states like this approach, (more…)