FBI Violated Americans’ Privacy Rights in Data Search: Court

Some FBI electronic surveillance activities violated the constitutional privacy rights of Americans swept up in a controversial foreign intelligence program, a secretive surveillance court ruled. The ruling deals a rare rebuke to U.S. spying programs that have withstood legal challenge and review since they were dramatically expanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The opinion resulted in the FBI agreeing to apply new procedures, including recording how the database is searched to detect future compliance issues, reports the Wall Street Journal. The intelligence community disclosed Tuesday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last year found that FBI’s efforts to search data about Americans ensnared in a warrantless internet-surveillance program intended to target foreign suspects violated the law as well as the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. The issue was made public by the government only after it lost an appeal of the judgment before another secret court.

The court said that in at least a handful of cases, the FBI had been improperly searching a database of raw intelligence for information on Americans—raising concerns about oversight of the program, which operates in near total secrecy. The October 2018 court ruling identified improper searches of raw intelligence databases by the bureau in 2017 and 2018 that were deemed problematic in part because of their breadth. They involved queries related to thousands or tens of thousands of pieces of data, such as emails or telephone numbers. In one case, the FBI was using the intelligence information to vet its personnel and cooperating sources. Federal law requires that the database only be searched by the FBI as part of seeking evidence of a crime or for foreign-intelligence information. The opinion was written by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who serves on the FISA Court.

via The Crime Report https://ift.tt/2myW3Gx

October 9, 2019 at 08:22AM

FBI Agents Say Shutdown Compromises National Security

The organization representing FBI agents called for an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown, warning that the lapse in funds is unsustainable and could ultimately compromise national security, Politico reports. The FBI Agents Association, which represents nearly all active duty FBI agents, urged Congress to pass appropriations for the Department of Justice as soon as possible, noting that FBI agents, along with more than half a million other federal employees, are set to miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown. The group sent a letter arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”

The partial shutdown, now in its 21st day, shows no signs of ending anytime soon as negotiations between Democrats and the White House over the issue of funding for border security remain at an impasse. While House Democrats aim to pass individual spending bills that would reopen more of the government, Republicans have largely stood with President Trump in opposition to a piecemeal approach without concessions from Democrats. The letter from the FBI agent group undercuts Trump’s argument that large parts of the federal workforce support his push for border wall funds, even if it means the government shutdown persists. The agents warn that resources for FBI investigations are running thin. Financial uncertainty caused by the possibility of future shutdowns could affect the agency in the long run by deterring prospective agents from joining or causing current agents to seek employment in the private sector.

via The Crime Report http://bit.ly/2myW3Gx

January 11, 2019 at 07:41AM

FBI seizes domain Russia allegedly used to infect 500,000 consumer routers

The FBI has seized a key domain used to infect more than 500,000 home and small-office routers in a move that significantly frustrates a months long attack that agents say was carried out by the Russian government, The Daily Beast reported late Wednesday. The takedown stems from an investigation that started no later than last August and culminated in a court order issued Wedesday directing domain registrar Verisign to turn over control of ToKnowAll.com. An FBI affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast said the hacking group behind the attacks is known as Sofacy. The group, which is also known as Fancy Bear, Sednit, and Pawn Storm, is credited with a long list of attacks over the years, including the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee. As Ars reported earlier Wednesday, Cisco researchers said the malware that infected more than 500,000 routers in 54 countries was developed by an advanced nation and implied Russia was responsible, but didn’t definitively name the country.

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FBI Admits It Inflated Number of Supposedly Unhackable Devices

We’ve learned that the FBI has been misinforming Congress and the public as part of its call for backdoor access to encrypted devices. For months, the Bureau has claimed that encryption prevented it from legally searching the contents of nearly 7,800 devices in 2017, but today the Washington Post reports that the actual number is far lower due to “programming errors” by the FBI.

Frankly, we’re not surprised. FBI Director Christopher Wray and others argue that law enforcement needs some sort of backdoor “exceptional access” in order to deal with the increased adoption of encryption, particularly on mobile devices. And the 7,775 supposedly unhackable phones encountered by the FBI in 2017 have been central to Wray’s claim that their investigations are “Going Dark.” But the scope of this problem is called into doubt by services offered by third-party vendors like Cellebrite and Grayshift, which can reportedly bypass encryption on even the newest phones. The Bureau’s credibility on this issue was also undercut by a recent DOJ Office of the Inspector General report, which found that internal failures of communication caused the government to make false statements about its need for Apple to assist in unlocking a seized iPhone as part of the San Bernardino case.

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F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen

The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

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Sessions is reportedly mulling a recommendation to fire former FBI deputy director McCabe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly reviewing a recommendation to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe for authorizing bureau officials to speak to reporters and misleading investigators looking into the matter.

The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility reportedly made the recommendation in advance of McCabe’s planned retirement on Sunday. The New York Times broke the story, and the Washington Post and ABC News followed with reports. The stories are based on anonymous sources.

McCabe could lose his retirement benefits…

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