WSJ Reporter: We’ve Confirmed the Worst – US Intel Truly Was Spying on Trump Camp

by Cillian Zeal

 

A Wednesday piece by The New York Times which details the FBI’s investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign may have revealed more than intended, at least if a Wall Street Journal reporter who has covered the surveillance previously is correct. 

The Journal’s Kimberley Strassel has written about the investigation in the past. In a piece last week, she posited that the FBI may have used a mole in the Trump campaign, particularly given the Department of Justice’s reluctance to turn over information about the informant to congressional investigators.

The Times piece revealed more details about the Trump campaign surveillance operation — called “Crossfire Hurricane” in reference to the Rolling Stones song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” — and just how extensive it was. While the tenor of the article, which was written by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos, is overwhelmingly favorable to the FBI and dismisses any claims that the surveillance was politically motivated ,(“I never saw anything that resembled a witch hunt or suggested that the bureau’s approach to the investigation was politically driven,” one DOJ official is quoted as saying) there were a few things buried deep in there that specifically caught Strassel’s attention.

In a tweetstorm Wednesday evening, Strassel noted key problems in The Times’ narrative, particularly when the story appeared and significant facts that they glossed over. 

Strassel first argued that the article was a calculated leak of sorts in an effort to get out ahead of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and the information that he’s gathering and releasing regarding the FBI’s sources on the Trump investigation. 

1. So a few important points on that new NYT "Hurricane Crossfire" piece. A story that, BTW, all of us following this knew had to be coming. This is DOJ/FBI leakers' attempt to get in front of the facts Nunes is forcing out, to make it not sound so bad. Don't buy it. It's bad.

However, she says it proves what Trump was claiming all along: namely, that his campaign was being spied upon. 

Biggest takeaway: Govt "sources" admit that, indeed, the Obama DOJ and FBI spied on the Trump campaign. Spied. (Tho NYT kindly calls spy an "informant.") NYT slips in confirmation far down in story, and makes it out like it isn't a big deal. It is a very big deal.

— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) May 17, 2018

The story briefly mentions that “one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. That has become a politically contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.”  However, if that informant met several times with two low-level Trump campaign officials, one wonders just what his role — if any — in the Trump campaign might have been. It seems somewhat unlikely that a random individual outside the campaign would have had the opportunity to meet with both George Papadopoulos and Carter Page without some suspicion being aroused if the informant didn’t have extremely close ties to the campaign.


This Is Not A Mosquito! Look closely.

by Staff

 

Small airborne drones modeled after birds, mosquitos and other insect types are in the planning stage, a new age of surveillance devices that can hide in plain sight for crowd control, tracking criminal suspects and surveilling political protests.  As early as 2008 military engineers were already experimenting with the design of insect size drones which can fly and spy on enemies without human risk. 

The military wants smarter UAVs capable of navigating interior spaces autonomously, i.e. without GPS or remote control.  There is strong interest in developing small drones capable of spying virtually anywhere.  "The picture shown in the story is not a real robot mosquito drone, but simply one such proposed ‘prototype’ that may become reality in future, and perhaps they will also be able to take photographs and DNA samples of people. But as of now, these are only speculations, and not facts in practical."

Is this a mosquito? No. It's a proposed insect spy drone for urban areas, already in production, funded by the US Government. It is planned for remote controll and  equipped with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID tracking nanotechnology on your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it in your home. Given their propensity to request macro-sized drones for surveillance, one is left with little doubt that police and military may look into these gadgets next.  (And to think we were worried about West Nile virus!)
 
And now you know why our government has requested the law be changed to allow drone surveillance in the United States.


The National Defense Authrization Act (NDAA) permits the President to authorize the killing of a citizen anywhere in the world.  There is little oversight or laws governing the use of drones, how much less protection would there be for drones you can't readily see?. The ithreat to individual liberty is significant if such devices ever enter into mass production.

If histtory is any indication,, the term 'enemies' will ultimately be defined to include unwarranted surveiilance of all who resist the totatlitarian reach of the state.


Beware - Web Spying Companies Recording all User Keystrokes

by Allen Williams


A few weeks ago, I decided to have a look at one of the web visitor data recording companies out there to see what kind of information they could collect.. Motherboard reports that a Princeton study revealed that over 400 companies (so far) record your every keystroke and them transmit it to a third party website.  

Typical companies providing this service are FullStory, SessionCam, SmartLookUserReplay, etc.  I opted to try SmartLook simply because the ’geniuses’ at Webnode provided a convenient widget to insert their tracking code.

It just isn’t enough today that American Intelligence agencies are spying on everyone with their Prism software, but they are partnering with major business and social media like the CIA’s 600 million contract with Amazon .com  for cloud access.  We already know that Facebook and until recently Twitter provide information to the CIA.  The bad news here is that all purchases through Amazon are retained on their cloud servers and the CIA will have access.  You can be certain that any cloud service that your application communicates with will be available to the intelligence services as well as a host of unknown third parties because the data is NOT encrypted.

It’s far better to get the ‘mark’ to provide personalized data on him or herself to the tracking recorder thinking that he’s browsing anonymously or at least ignored  but “…many of these companies have dashboards where clients can playback the recordings they collect.   Yandex, Hotjar, and Smartlook’s dashboards run non-encrypted HTTP pages, rather than much more secure, encrypted HTTPS pages.”  The biggest liability is that once the data is removed from your site all control is lost, virtually anyone could have access to this data and you’d never know.

I was curious to find out just what could be collected by SmartLook.  However, I was surprised to find that the actual service is quite haphazard.  Either SmartLook is developing their recording software ‘on the fly’ as the saying goes or you really don’t get much on the ‘free’ side.  But upgrading the service means you’re paying to have your readers spied on.

Fortunately, the SmartLook collected data is not totally accurate or reliable.  Primarily because the staff is not well organized, knowledgeable or well versed in English.  After adding their code to The Patriot’s header and getting nothing, I contacted SmartLook support where a woman named Sofie informed me by email that  “In one case Only in webnode premium you can add code directly to the HTML header of the whole website.  In webnode free, you need to install the code in all pages you wish to track.”   Anyone, who is remotely conscious or understands the language, knows that free websites don’t have custom registered URLs as we do, ergo, we are a premium user!   So this individual is likely responding with canned phrases from the company’s data forum without any understanding of what was conveyed because they can’t communicate beyond an elementary level in English.

In another case, two different users known to me personally, one residing in Kansas and the other in Ohio accessed our site but showed the same IP address in the data collection set.  Upon questioning one of the support staff as to how this could happen, I was told that “The only explanation is that it was the same person and the two different names appeared because you have wrong code settings.”  The company’s help link indicates that if you want to track a particular user, you have to type their email address directly into the tracking code and they give an example case. The SmarLook tracking code is ‘paste-in’ and Webnode provides the widget access so unless you can’t type an address within the two apostrophe markers, you can’t have wrong code settings unless either SmartLook or Webnode made them.  

Individual email identification is no better as I have seen a whole day of data collection of 6 or more people with the same email but different IP addresses. Guess the user has multiple identities so he or she switches every couple of hours throughout the day.  The responses I’ve received from their support staff are disingenuous and you can’t really trust their assessments.

After some dickering back and forth with their support personnel to get things working the way SmartLook advertised,  I indeed found that I could watch a visitor enter our site and view virtually everything he or she clicked on.  This kind of information can and will be abused down the road and It's already happening as "The CBS report suggests in no uncertain terms that the personal information pertaining to millions of Americans collected by one of the World’s largest ad agencies is sold to the CIA." 

Smartlook claimed their software only retained three days worth of data but that’s because I wasn’t paying them to collect it.  Data was collected from approximately Nov 3rd to Nov 24th obviously more than 3 days. There was no data collected beyond Nov 24th, 2017 by their system even though I still had their code installed on the site for several more days.  At first, I thought it was yet another glitch but when nothing more was recorded, I removed the code.  On Nov. 27th, all archived data subsequently disappeared from the SmartLook control panel or at least was interred somewhere where I couldn’t access it.  You can be reasonably certain that it’s still archived there even if I no longer have access to it.

UPDATE  12/12/17 Why Have you Stopped Using SmartLook?

Hi,

I have noticed you removed our code from your website. Can you tell me why did you stop using Smartlook? Just pick a letter:

A) Smartlook doesn't record my website properly
B) I don’t have time to watch the recordings / I find no added value in Smartlook
C) I just removed Smartlook temporarily - plan to use it again
D) I am missing feature X (please fill in)
E) Neither of those, let me tell you why...

I will be glad for any feedback, even if it's negative.


Best regards,


Vladimir Sandera
cofounder, optimist
Smartlook


I received this correspondence from one of the SmartLook co-founders in early December after removing their code from our header.  Why was this an issue? Could it be that they wanted me to leave the code installed to keep recording visitor data whether or not I chose to use it?


Update 1/24/2018

 “We're excited to tell you we're migrating all our data to more powerful cloud service (AWS)! Your account included. The process is time-intensive, but we're working hard to complete the migration by the end of next week.

While the long-term benefits will be great, we wanted to let you know you might experience a few bumps and minor interruptions along the way. (Might.)

The good news:

  • AWS provides us with more safety, stability, and speed
  • Your data will be better serviced and stored securely
  • Smartlook features will run faster
  • This migration is a lot of work, and we appreciate your patience during the next few days while we finish up”

Your Smartlook Team

Long term benefits for whom? This move simply presents more opportunities for data to be accessed by more persons unknown as it’s unlikely that Smarlook’s new AWS storage is any more secure than Yahoo who experienced a major hack. 

I recommend readers give serious consideration to a good AD blocker:  “If you want to block session replay scripts, popular ad-blocking tool AdBlock Plus will now protect you against all of the ones documented in the Princeton study.


Mueller’s Witch Hunt Finds Nothing on Trump, But Look Which Obama Truth Surfaced

by V Saxena

 

Though special counsel Robert Mueller has thus far uncovered zero evidence that President Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, a far more shocking revelation regarding former President Barack Obama has made its way to the surface.

“US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe,” CNN revealed in a bombshell scoop last week.

Obama administration investigators also reportedly wiretapped Trump advisers Carter Page, Michael Flynn and others.  While it remains unclear how this information was unearthed, CNN’s sources claim Mueller’s team “has been provided details of these communications.”

But the more pressing point are the implications of this discovery.  “If these reports are accurate, it means U.S. intelligence agencies secretly surveilled at least a half dozen Trump associates,” veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson explained in a column for The Hill. “And those are just the ones we know about.”

In other words, “(i)t looks like Obama did spy on Trump, just as he apparently did to me,” she added, referencing an allegation she made several years back that Obama’s Justice Department had attempted to hack into her personal and work computers in 2013.  What remains unknown is whether any of this sketchy behavior was actually legal.  Attkisson noted, however, that even if these hacks and wiretaps were legal, that doesn’t take away from the shadiness of it all.

The truth is, the revelation shows Obama and his administration were actively engaged in surveillance of American citizens that would have been unthinkable not all that long ago.  As Attkisson writes: “It seems that government monitoring of journalists, members of Congress and political enemies — under multiple administrations — has become more common than anyone would have imagined two decades ago … So has the unmasking of sensitive and highly protected names by political officials.”


Agreed.


From targeting conservative organizations via the IRS to trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for abortifacients, the Obama administration waged a relentless assault on the American people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties. 

Will Mueller look into this new information and act accordingly, though? Considering his decision to line his team with leftists, I think the answer is likely a resounding “no.”

 

Please share this story on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think.


OP's Reich adds License Plate Scanner To Tighten Citizen Surveillance

by Jennifer Lynch and Peter Bibring

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called "automated license plate readers," or ALPRs, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.

Automated License Plate Recording System

Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when the data are put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And according to recent research reported in Nature, it's possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial data points (location plus time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifiers.

To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPRs, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Southern California asked the LAPD and LA Sheriff's Department for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012.

After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to these data, both to show just how many data the agencies are collecting and to show how revealing they can be.

Automated license plate readers are often touted as an easy way to find stolen cars -- the system checks a scanned plate against a database of stolen or wanted cars and can instantly identify a hit, allowing officers to set up a sting to recover the car and catch the thief. But even when there's no match in the database and no reason to think a car is stolen or involved in a crime, police keep the data.

According to the LA Weekly, the LAPD and LASD together already have collected more than 160 million "data points" (license plates plus time, date, and exact location) in the greater LA area -- that's more than 20 hits for each of the more than 7 million vehicles registered in LA County. That's a ton of data, but it's not all -- law enforcement officers also have access to private databases containing hundreds of millions of plates and their coordinates collected by "repo" men.

Law enforcement agencies claim that ALPR systems are no different from an officer recording license plate, time and location information by hand. They also argue the data don't warrant any privacy protections because we drive our cars around in public. However, as five justices of the Supreme Court recognized last year in U.S. v. Jones, a case involving GPS tracking, the ease of data collection and the low cost of data storage make technological surveillance solutions such as GPS or ALPR very different from techniques used in the past.

Police are open about their desire to record the movements of every car in case it might one day prove valuable. In 2008, LAPD police Chief Charlie Beck (then the agency's chief of detectives) told GovTech magazine that ALPRs have "unlimited potential" as an investigative tool. "It's always going to be great for the black-and-white to be driving down the street and find stolen cars rolling around... But the real value comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles -- where they've been and what they've been doing -- and tie that to crimes that have occurred or that will occur." But amassing data on the movements of law-abiding residents poses a real threat to privacy, while the benefit to public safety is speculative, at best.

In light of privacy concerns, states including Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have limited the use of ALPRs, and New Hampshire has banned them outright. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a report recognizing that "recording driving habits" could raise First Amendment concerns because cameras could record "vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests."

But even if ALPRs are permitted, there are still common-sense limits that can allow the public safety benefits of ALPRs while preventing the wholesale tracking of every resident's movements. Police can, and should, treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information -- they should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime, and should get a warrant to keep it any longer. They should limit who can access it and who they can share it with. And they should put oversight in place to ensure these limits are followed.

Unfortunately, efforts to impose reasonable limits on ALPR tracking in California have failed so far. Last year, legislation that would have limited private and law enforcement retention of ALPR data to 60 days -- a limit currently in effect for the California Highway Patrol -- and restricted sharing between law enforcement and private companies failed after vigorous opposition from law enforcement. In California, law enforcement agencies remain free to set their own policies on the use and retention of ALPR data, or to have no policy at all.

Some have asked why we would seek public disclosure of the actual license plate data collected by the police -- location-based data that we think is private. But we asked specifically for a narrow slice of data -- just a week's worth -- to demonstrate how invasive the technology is. Having the data will allow us to see how frequently some plates have been scanned; where and when, specifically, the cops are scanning plates; and just how many plates can be collected in a large metropolitan area over the course of a single week. Actual data will reveal whether ALPRs are deployed primarily in particular areas of Los Angeles and whether some communities might, therefore, be much more heavily tracked than others. If these data are too private to give a week's worth to the public to help inform us how the technology is being used, then isn't it too private to let the police amass years' worth of data without a warrant?

After the Boston Marathon bombings, many have argued that the government should take advantage of surveillance technology to collect more data, rather than less. But we should not so readily give up the very freedoms that terrorists seek to destroy. We should recognize just how revealing ALPR data are and not be afraid to push our police and legislators for sensible limits to protect our basic right to privacy.


{Editor Note: Automated License Plate Recorders are merely the precursor ro CCTV which is already in use in many U.S. cities. However, a recent Australian court decision casts doubt as to their real purpose which doesn't appear to be crime.  "A local resident opposed to the introduction of CCTV cameras succesfully proved that public surveillance carried out by his city council not only broke Australia’s privacy laws, but also did nothing to prevent crime – the supposed reason for its installation."}


Daniel Solove, author of Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, believes these arguments, and many like them, are flawed. They are based on mistaken views about what it means to protect privacy and the costs and benefits of doing so.

Terrorist attacks, while horrific, claim far fewer lives each year than suicide in the U.S. Nearly 30,000 Americans take their own lives each year. According to The Guardian, 3,467 American lives have been lost in terrorist attacks since 1970; 3,003 of those were in 2001.  A version of this article was originally posted here.