Friday, May 19, 2017

Last Call For One Cell To Another

Federal investigators are using a cellphone snooping device designed for counter-terrorism to hunt undocumented immigrants amid President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, according to federal court records obtained by The Detroit News. 
An unsealed federal search warrant affidavit obtained by The News is the first public acknowledgment that agents are using secret devices that masquerade as a cell tower to find people who entered the U.S. illegally, privacy and civil liberty experts said. 
The secret device was used in March by a team of FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Metro Detroit to find Rudy Carcamo-Carranza, 23, a twice-deported restaurant worker from El Salvador whose only brushes with the law involve drunken driving allegations and a hit-and-run crash
The use of the cell tower simulator comes amid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown and attempt to temporarily ban travel from six Muslim-majority nations.
The cell-site simulator device, known as a Hailstorm or Stingray, tricks nearby phones into providing location data and can interrupt cellular service of all devices within the targeted location. Federal investigators are required to obtain a judge’s approval to use the device.

“While the warrant does ensure a modicum of judicial oversight, it is troubling to see the government using invasive surveillance technology on the streets of America to grease the wheels of the Trump administration’s deportation machine,” said Nathan Wessler, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “This is the first warrant I have seen specifically showing ICE’s use of a cell-site simulator in an immigration enforcement operation.”

It's the first warrant.  It will not, of course, be the last.  And the next generation of cell phone tower spoofing devices, called Hailstorm, are easily portable.

The Hailstorm technology from Florida-based defense contractor Harris Corp. is believed to be an upgrade of Stingray. Cell-site simulators, in general, are suitcase-sized contraptions that can be installed in cars or planes to track nearby phones. 
Harris sells the device to police agencies and requires them to sign nondisclosure statements. Oakland County, like other agencies, obtained Hailstorm using money from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. 
Homeland Security also lets local law enforcement agencies pay for the devices using terrorism prevention grants. 
Michigan State Police has owned the device for about a decade, according to documents obtained by The News. The equipment, originally designed for military and intelligence agencies, was upgraded in 2013, and an internal memo indicates it was used three years ago on 128 cases ranging from homicide to burglary and fraud, but not terrorism. 
Federal investigators, meanwhile, were not required to obtain a search warrant to use the device until September 2015. That’s when the Justice Department implemented a new policy requiring a judge’s approval. 
Under the Justice Department policy, all data from targeted cellphones must be deleted immediately after the device is located. Under the policy, Stingrays cannot be used to collect emails, texts, contacts or images during an investigation. 
There is no similar policy governing local law-enforcement agencies in most states, said Shahid Buttar, director of grassroots advocacy for the nonprofit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. The group is committed to defending civil liberties and privacy in the digital age.

How long before that 2015 DoJ directive requiring a warrant to use Hailstorm vanishes thanks to Jeff Sessions?  How long before that becomes standard practice for ICE raids?

Yeah, I know that Obama came up short on tech and civil liberties sometimes, but this stuff in the hands of Trump should terrify everybody.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

It's Friday news dump time while Trump is winging his way to Saudi Arabia this afternoon, and both the NY Times and Washington Post are ending the week of Trump/Russia stories with a bang.

So far we know that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn are under investigation for ties to Russia, but what about anyone currently in the Trump regime being under investigation?  The Washington Post says "you'd better believe it."

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter. 
The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official. 
The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said. 
The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 
Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Cabinet members Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

So which one of these folks is under investigation?  I'm hoping it's Sessions, but it makes a lot more sense if it's Kushner or Tillerson, both of whom have direct business ties to Russian interests.

Meanwhile, the NY Times comes in this afternoon with this blockbuster that not only did Trump blab classified info to the Russians, he blabbed his secret master plan to fire Comey to end the investigation into his visiting friends as well.

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting. 
I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.” 
The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing. 
The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.

Apparently the fact that Trump fired Comey to try to stop the FBI probe into Russian collusion really was the worst-kept secret in the world last week.

So at this point we have yet another account of Trump's true intent in firing James Comey was to stop the FBI's investigation into Trump's Russia ties, and we know that somebody currently in Trump's inner circle is a key subject in that investigation.

We'll find out who that individual (or individuals!) are pretty soon would be my guess.

Drip drip drip comrade Don.

The FOX And The Hounds (And The Turtle)

As I pointed out yesterday, FOX News Channel founder and serial assaulter of women Roger Ailes died yesterday from a fall in the home at age 77, and while Ailes was definitely one of the primary assholes responsible for the Age of Trump, he's also one of those responsible for the Age of Mitch as Ailes was the man who gave McConnell his first Senate win with this now famous campaign ad.

In September 1984, McConnell, then the Jefferson County judge-executive, the top elected official in Kentucky's most populous county, was polling 40 points behind his opponent, Democratic Sen. Dee Huddleston. That is, until he hired Ailes.

In his autobiography last year, McConnell called it "one of the smartest moves I made."

"I was happy he agreed to do it. I sure needed help." McConnell wrote in "The Long Game."

The arrangement gave birth to one of the most successful political ads of all time.

Ailes and McConnell needed to find a way to exploit Huddleston's biggest weakness: his tendency to not show up for work.

One night while watching TV, Ailes saw a dog food commercial and got an idea.

They hired an actor named Snarfy to play a Kentucky farmer and found some bloodhounds, prized as hunting dogs in Kentucky.

In the ad, Snarfy and the dogs go off in search of Huddleston in places where he was giving paid speeches instead of casting votes in the Senate. Snarfy and the dogs searched city streets, by the pool and on the beach for Kentucky's missing senator.

"Our job was to find Dee Huddleston and get him back to work," the narrator said.

The ad closed with a pitch to "switch to Mitch" as one of the dogs barked twice.

Kentuckians loved it.

"On the trail, people began to approach me, to shake my hand and comment on how funny they'd found the ad," McConnell wrote in his autobiography. "This momentum was just what I needed."

That November, as Ronald Reagan coasted to a landslide presidential victory, McConnell won his first Senate term by 5,000 votes.

Ailes told McConnell he'd never seen anyone come from that far behind and win.

"I think it can be argued that if not for Roger Ailes, the political history of Kentucky and the United States would be a lot different," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and a veteran journalist.

Indeed, how different would things be right now if McConnell had lost that race in 1984 and he had stayed out of politics, and Ailes's credibility as a political operator had been shot to hell?

We'll never know, but man, it was just 5,000 votes.  Our country has hinged on fewer than that in many a contest.


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