Espionage: FBI would rather prosecutors drop cases than disclose stingray details

Not only is the FBI actively attempting to stop the public from knowing about stingrays, it has also forced local law enforcement agencies to stay quiet even in court and during public hearings, too.

FBI would rather prosecutors drop cases than disclose stingray details
New documents released by NYCLU shed light on Erie County’s use of spying tool.
By Cyrus Farivar
Apr 7 2015
<http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/04/fbi-would-rather-prosecutors-drop-cases-than-disclose-stingray-details/>
Not only is the FBI actively attempting to stop the public from knowing about stingrays, it has also forced local law enforcement agencies to stay quiet even in court and during public hearings, too.
An FBI agreement, published for the first time in unredacted form on Tuesday, clearly demonstrates the full extent of the agency’s attempt to quash public disclosure of information about stingrays. The most egregious example of this is language showing that the FBI would rather have a criminal case be dropped to protect secrecy surrounding the stingray.
Relatively little is known about how, exactly, stingrays, known more generically as cell-site simulators, are used by law enforcement agencies nationwide, although new documents have recently been released showing how they have been purchased and used in some limited instances. Worse still, cops have lied to courts about their use. Not only can stingrays be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Typically, police deploy them without first obtaining a search warrant.
Ars previously published a redacted version of this document in February 2015, which had been acquired by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in December 2014. The fact that these two near-identical documents exist from the same year (2012) provides even more evidence that this language is boilerplate and likely exists in other agreements with other law enforcement agencies nationwide.
The new document, which was released Tuesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) in response to its March 2015 victory in a lawsuitfiled against the Erie County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) in Northwestern New York, includes this paragraph:
In order to ensure that such wireless collection equipment/technology continues to be available for use by the law enforcement community, the equipment/technology and any information related to its functions, operation and use shall be protected from potential compromise by precluding disclosure of this information to the public in any manner including but not limited to: press releases, in court documents, during judicial hearings, or during other public forums or proceedings.
In the version of the document previously obtained in Minnesota, the rest of the sentence after the phrase “limited to” was entirely redacted.
Mariko Hirose, a NYCLU staff attorney, told Ars that she has never seen an agreement like this before.
“This seems very broad in scope and undermines public safety and the workings of the criminal justice system,” she said.
Your tax dollars at work
The FBI letter also explicitly confirms a practice that some local prosecutors have engaged in previously, which is to drop criminal charges rather than disclose exactly how a stingray is being used. Last year, prosecutors in Baltimore did just that during a robbery trial—there, Baltimore Police Detective John L. Haley cited a non-disclosure agreement, and he declined to describe in detail how he obtained the location of the suspect.
The newly revealed sections state:
[snip]

Cops Need a Warrant to Grab Your Cell Tower Data, Florida Court Rules

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that obtaining cell phone location data to track a person’s location or movement in real time constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and therefore requires a court-ordered warrant.
But the way the ruling is written (.pdf), it would also cover the use of so-called “stingrays”—sophisticated technology law enforcement agencies use to locate and track people in the field without assistance from telecoms. Agencies around the country, including in Florida, have been using the technology to track suspects—sometimes without obtaining a court order, other times deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of the devices to track suspects, telling judges the information came from “confidential” sources rather than disclose their use of stingrays.
http://www.wired.com/2014/10/florida-court-requires-warrant-cell-tower-data/

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FBI Radio: Public Service or Self-Serving?
http://dailysignal.com/2014/09/02/fbi-radio-public-service-self-serving/
FBI radio began in 1965, according to the FBI. The first series was called “FBI Washington” and aired on ABC. In 1990, it was reformatted and renamed “FBI This Week.” Since then, more than 1,200 one-minute spots have aired.
Awesome-radio – a curated list of radio resources and information
https://github.com/kyleterry/awesome-radio
My exploration into CB radio. And radio in general. A curated list of awesome radio resources. Inspired by awesome-*. I recently pulled out my CB radio and installed it in my truck. This inspired me to create an open source repository of all the radio related resources I found helpful and my notes on the subject. This project is aimed at hackers who enjoy all aspects of radio communication. While a lot of this technology isn’t usable by citizens and is heavily regulated by the FCC, just knowing anything about it is special. I’ve been interested in learning the ins and outs of radio, as well as hearing stories, new and old.
Hackers Build a Skype That’s Not Controlled by Microsoft call;ed TOX
http://www.wired.com/2014/09/tox/
Android security mystery – ‘fake’ cellphone towers found in U.S.
http://www.welivesecurity.com/2014/08/28/android-security-2/
“What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of U.S. military bases.” says Goldsmith. “Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases? The point is: we don’t really know whose they are.” What has come as a surprise is how many “interceptors” are in active use in the U.S., and that their purpose remains mysterious.
The VME Dominator™ is a real time GSM A5.1 cell phone interceptor. It cannot be detected. It allows interception of voice and text. It also allows voice manipulation, up or down channel blocking, text intercept and modification, calling & sending text on behalf of the user, and directional finding of a user during random monitoring of calls. The VME Dominator is far superior to passive systems in being able to intervene and manipulate calls and sms, working with up to 4 base stations concurrently, and up to 20 users in the system at any one time.
Shenzhen trip report – visiting the world’s manufacturing ecosystem
http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2014/09/01/shenzhen-trip-r.html
While intellectual property seems to be mostly ignored, tradecraft and trade secrets seem to be shared selectively in a complex network of family, friends and trusted colleagues. This feels a lot like open source, but it’s not. The pivot from piracy to staking out intellectual property rights isn’t a new thing. The United States blatantly stole book copyright until it developed it’s own publishing very early in US history. The Japanese copied US auto companies until it found itself in a leadership position. It feels like Shenzhen is also at this critical point where a country/ecosystem goes from follower to leader.
Russian gas giant Gazprom’s CEO Alexei Miller , Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli attend a ceremony marking the welding of the first link of “The Power of Siberia” gas pipeline outside Yakutsk in eastern Siberia yesterday as construction of the US$20.8 billion pipeline that will bring gas from the country’s far east to China began. Work on the Chinese section is due to start 2015.
MICROSOFT Corp has been granted a 20-day deadline by a Chinese regulator to explain why it held back on its “not fully disclosed information” regarding Windows and Office suite sales.
Hong Kong’s Basic Law
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN0GV04A20140831
China’s rubber-stamp parliament is expected on Sunday to endorse the framework for Hong Kong’s first direct leadership election, due in 2017. But Beijing is likely to only allow two or three “patriotic” candidates, with no open nominations. That will anger pro-democracy activists who have threatened civil disobedience, potentially disrupting Hong Kong’s major financial hub.
China rules out full democracy for Hong Kong
http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=341720115
Pro-democracy activists take to the streets of Hong Kong after China rejects their demands for free elections.
Hong Kong police arrest 19 in pro-democracy scuffles
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN0GX06V20140902
Hong Kong police said on Tuesday they arrested 19 people during scuffles with pro-democracy activists prompted by China’s decision not to allow the Asian financial hub to choose its next leader.
Fast food workers plan biggest US strike to date over minimum wage
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/sep/01/fast-food-strike-minimum-wage-workers-protest
Workers from McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains to hold walkout protest on Thursday as battle to unionize escalates. America’s fast food workers are planning their biggest strike to date this Thursday, with a nationwide walkout in protest at low wages and poor healthcare.
Bank of America seeks to void verdict in $1.27 billion ‘Hustle’ case
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN0GS2OL20140828
Bank of America Corp on Thursday asked a federal judge to throw out a jury verdict finding it liable for fraud over defective mortgages sold by its Countrywide unit that resulted in a $1.27 billion penalty.
Several Swiss banks pull out of U.S. tax program:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN0GV09X20140831
At least 10 Swiss banks have withdrawn from a U.S. program aimed at settling a tax dispute between them and the United States, Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag said on Sunday, quoting unnamed sources.
Management dictating their own terms
http://randsinrepose.com/archives/the-wolf/
The Wolf: You’ve heard of the 10x engineer, but I am here to tell you about the Wolf. They are an engineer and they consistently exhibit the following characteristics:
Man builds 3D printed concrete castle in his own backyard
http://www.3ders.org/articles/20140826-minnesotan-world-first-3d-printed-concrete-castle-in-his-own-backyard.html
2.6m historic pictures posted online
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28976849
The Civil Rights Movement web site
http://www.crmvet.org/
continues to collect documents, stories, and biography of Civil Rights Movement workers. One document IS folklore. This leaflet hits every stereotype you’ve every heard of but, it IS  folklore from Birmingham AL
http://www.crmvet.org/docs/6106_bham_racist-leaflet.pdf
Our Use of Little Words Can, Uh, Reveal Hidden Interests
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/01/344043763/our-use-of-little-words-can-uh-reveal-hidden-interests
The Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count program that Pennebaker and his students built in the early 1990s has, like any computer program, an ability to peer into massive data sets and discern patterns that no human could ever hope to match. Specifically, what Pennebaker found was that when the language style of two people matched, when they used pronouns, prepositions, articles and so forth in similar ways at similar rates, they were much more likely to end up on a date.
Georgia State University Library releases Library Instruction Recorder plugin as Open Source
http://homer.gsu.edu/blogs/library/2014/08/29/georgia-state-university-library-releases-library-instruction-recorder-plugin-as-open-source/
As part of its commitment to the free culture movement, Georgia State University Library is pleased to announce the initial release of the Library Instruction Recorder (LIR). LIR is a free, open source WordPress plugin that allows librarians and library staff to record and report on library instruction sessions.
Recent research on leadership barriers for women working in tech
http://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/insane-double-standard-for-tech-women.html?cid=sf01002
BBC begins kids coding push with Bitesize and TV shows
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28984411
The BBC has published computer programming study guides, quizzes and other support materials on its Bitesize site to coincide with the new computing curriculum’s introduction in England. The broadcaster also revealed several programming-themed children’s TV shows will be broadcast in the autumn. The BBC described the move as an “early start” to a wider coding initiative planned for next year.
The Serif Readability Myth August 29, 2014 / Kas Thomas
http://author-zone.com/
I’ve been involved in publishing all my life, and like many others I’ve always accepted as axiomatic the notion that typefaces with serifs (such as Times-Roman) are, in general, are more readable than non-serif typefaces (e.g., Helvetica). It never occurred to me that there was any doubt about the matter whatsoever. Were the monks who invented serifs and other text ornamentations merely engaging in idle doodling? Weren’t they consciously intending to increase the legibility of the important documents they were transcribing?
How I Start: Go With Peter Bourgon
http://howistart.org/posts/go/1
Go is meant to be simple, but sometimes the conventions can be a little hard to grasp. I’d like to show you how I start all of my Go projects, and how to use Go’s idioms. Let’s build a backend service for a web app.
Download videos from YouTube (and mores sites)
https://rg3.github.io/youtube-dl/
youtube-dl is a small command-line program to download videos from YouTube.com and a few more sites. It requires the Python interpreter (2.6, 2.7, or 3.3+), and it is not platform specific. We also provide a Windows executable that includes Python. youtube-dl should work in your Unix box, in Windows or in Mac OS X. It is released to the public domain, which means you can modify it, redistribute it or use it however you like. You can also contact us on the irc channel #youtube-dl(webchat) on freenode.
Copyright © 2006-2014 Ricardo Garcia Gonzalez
Under the Microscope
[print edition title; the online title was “As Data Overflows Online, Researchers Grapple With Ethics”]
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/13/technology/the-boon-of-online-data-puts-social-science-in-a-quandary.html
Scholars are exhilarated by the prospect of tapping into the vast troves of personal data collected by Facebook, Google, Amazon and a host of start-ups, which they say could transform social science research. Once forced to conduct painstaking personal interviews with subjects, scientists can now sit at a screen and instantly play with the digital experiences of millions of Internet users. It’s the frontier of social science — experiments on people who may never even know they are subjects of study, let alone explicitly consent. “This is a new era,” said Jeffrey T. Hancock, a Cornell University professor of communication and information science. “I liken it a little bit to when chemistry got the microscope.”
Greenhouse gas fear over increased levels of meat eating
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29007758
Research from Cambridge and Aberdeen universities estimates greenhouse gases from food production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate. That will make it harder to meet global targets on limiting emissions. The study urges eating two portions of red meat and seven of poultry per week. However that call comes as the world’s cities are seeing a boom in burger restaurants. The research highlights that more and more people from around the world are adopting American-style diets, leading to a sizeable increase in meat and dairy consumption.
A Call for a Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/low-carb-vs-low-fat-diet.html
People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.
Saving America’s honeybees
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28983709
In the past 60 years the number of honeybee colonies has fallen from six million beehives in 1947, to just 2.5 million today, according to the White House. in June, President Obama launched a taskforce to protect the honeybee. The White House is investing $50m into research and action to stem the decline, improve habitats and promote better education around the issue.
Waking the Dead: Bringing Extinct Species Back to Life
http://longnow.org/revive/what-we-do/passenger-pigeon/
The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback This is the first project to revive an extinct animal using its museum-specimen DNA. Once it succeeds, the techniques will be applicable to hundreds of other extinct species.
Google ‘discourages’ old browser use
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29012038
For some the only way to get to the 2014 search page was to change their browser’s basic configuration to make Google think it was more up-to-date than it actually was. A Google engineer joined the discussion and explained that the change was not the result of a bug. “It’s working as intended,” said a Google staffer called “nealem”.
What Browser Am I Using?
http://whatbrowser.org/
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Obama’s Secret Attempt to Ban Cellphone Unlocking, While Claiming to Support It

By Derek Khanna
http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/11/18/tpp_wikileaks_white_house_claims_to_support_cellphone_unlocking_but_treaty.html
Last week, WikiLeaks made public a portion of a treaty that the White House has been secretly negotiating with other nations and 600 special interest lobbyists. The draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, which is on intellectual property, shows that HealthCare.gov isn’t the only tech topic on which the Obama administration has some serious explaining to do.
The White House claims that it supports copyright reform. It should be in favor of remaking the framework, because today’s copyright system is a mess: It grants protection that is too long (70 years or more), fair use is notoriously unclear and vague, and statutory damage laws create a massive deterrent to lawful creation. Economists and scholars argue that modern copyright, as opposed to constitutional copyright, greatly impedes innovation and content creation. But the TPP, which is being negotiated by 11 countries, would be a step in the completely wrong direction.
In its present state, treaty would expand copyright and effectively make real reform impossible. Worse, it would essentially disregard constitutional limitations on copyright and reject pillars like fair use, the first-sale doctrine, and having copyright be for “limited times.” The worst part: While the White House was publicly proclaiming its support of cellphone unlocking, it was secretly negotiating a treaty that would ban it.
Cellphone unlocking is the ability to take a phone and alter its settings so that it can be used on other carriers. Essentially this technology allows a consumer to bring her phone from one carrier to another when her contract expires (if technologies are compatible). In January, following appeals by AT&T/Verizon’s main trade association, the Librarian of Congress issued a ruling making unlocking a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $500,000 fine. This was a terrible idea: Economists and market participants have explained that this ruling would result in reduced competition in the industry, a decimated resale market, and restricted consumer rights. And indeed the impact has been devastating.
At the time, I spearheaded an unpaid national campaign to legalize unlocking, which included a White House “We the People” petition (I wrote a bit about our campaign here). Our petition reached 114,000 signatures, and the White House responded in favor of cellphone unlocking:
“The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones. … It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.”
The FCC came out in favor of our petition, as did numerous outside groups such as Freedomworks, Public Knowledge, R Street and the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Examiner. We were unable to find a single group, or Member of Congress, that was in favor of unlocking being a felony. But somehow, while a number of bills were introduced, none passed, and the one that had widespread support, H.R. 1892, never received a hearing or was brought up for a vote.
The leaked treaty draft shows that while the White House was championing restoring free market principles to phones, the U.S. proposed that the TPP lock in the process that allowed the Librarian of Congress to rule this technology as illegal through international law. This would make potential reforms like H.R. 1892 impossible.* It should be noted that Canada did submit an amendment proposal that could allow unlocking, but neither the United States nor any other country supported it.
But the TPP draft doesn’t stop there. It would ban numerous other technologies that have beneficial uses. In particular, the legislation would ensure that jailbreaking—which is installing a different operating system on your phone, tablet, or e-reader—is illegal. It’s already on precarious ground in the United States, but under TPP it would be illegal in all circumstances. What type of nation would arrest 23 million people for installing a different operating system on their own device?
This treaty is still being negotiated, so all of these issues could be addressed in the final text, but so far what has been made public demonstrates a massive and nearly unprecedented power grab by special interests rather than sound public policy considerations.
This treaty has long been shrouded in unprecedented secrecy. Congressional staff, press and general public weren’t allowed to read it; in many cases, even members of Congress were kept in the dark. Meanwhile, special interests were given full access. Now we know why: The White House didn’t want the public to know what was being negotiated in their name.
Correction, Nov 18, 2013: This blog post originally misstated effect of the U.S. proposal to TPP.
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http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/11/18/tpp_wikileaks_white_house_claims_to_support_cellphone_unlocking_but_treaty.html