Misadventures In Federal Law Enforcement

True to the tradition of wanton disregard for law in the Bush administration these past seven plus years, several Federal law enforcement agencies have been busy breaking laws they’re supposed to enforce. Several examples of Federal Law Enforcement run amok can be found below.

Surveillance Superhighway Leads To Quantico

Wired.com is reporting that a U.S. government office in Quantico, Virginia has direct high-speed access — a 45 megabit/second DS-3 line — to a major wireless carrier’s systems, exposing customers’ voice calls, data packets and physical movements to uncontrolled surveillance, according to a computer security consultant who says he worked for the carrier in late 2003.

Babak Pasdar, CTO of New Jersey-based IGXglobal told Wired that he thought it was alarming how the carrier ended up essentially giving a third party outside of their organization unfettered access to their environment. When Pasdar suggested putting access securiy controls around it, the carrier vehemently denied it. Pasdar wouldn’t name the wireless carrier.

Pasdar executed a seven page affidavit for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project in Washington, which circulated the document (PDF) along with other talking points to congressional staffers, currently working on legislation regarding retroactive immunity to phone companies.

Quantico, Virginia is home to a Marine base, and more importantly, it’s the center of the FBI’s electronic surveillance operations. For more information from the affidavit executed by Pasdar and what he found, read the article from Wired.com.

Crimes by Homeland Security Agents

Bribery. Drug trafficking. Migrant smuggling. Just a few of the things U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop. Instead, the Miami Herald reports that so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington issued an alert about the “disturbing events” and the “increase in the number of employee arrests.”

A memo, written by Thomas W. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noted that employees must behave professionally at all times — even when not on the job. A copy of the memo was obtained by the Miami Herald.

“It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law” Winkowski wrote in the memo. Winkowski’s memo also cites employee arrests involving domestic violence, DUI and drug possession.

Court records show Customs officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican border states have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses. More details can be found in the article from the Miami Herald.

DHS Goals, Mandates Go Unmet

Of course, as is the case in the corporate world, how a company is run reflects how well a company does. Not convinced? Look at how America has been doing under the last seven plus years of incompetent leadership in the White House.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff — known to some as ‘Mr. gut feeling,’ who, by the way, has citizenship in America and Israel — has headed the agency since ‘you’re doing a good job Brownie’ was fired after Hurricane Katrina.

The Washington Post reported how the Department of Homeland Security is straining as goals and mandates go unmet. As part of their ongoing illustrious endeavors of completely destroying America’s civil liberties and freedoms, and in the case of the ongoing failure of president Bush’s immigration policies, Chertoff vowed that the DHS would wrest “operational control” of the nation’s borders away from human and drug traffickers within five years by utilizing a ‘virtual fence.’ As usual, he was wrong.

Billions upon billions of dollars — at taxpayers expense — have been needlessly wasted by the DHS. Recently Chertoff threatened several states who didn’t cooperate with the flawed attempts at implementing a national ID program saying that residents of those states who didn’t participate in the illicit program wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Then there’s the matter of the No-Fly-List that currently contains over 917,000 names as well, but that’s another story.

The virtual fence fiasco isn’t the first major contractor-led technology effort to be ineffective, incomplete or too expensive to sustain. Other issues reported by the Post include explosive-detection “puffer devices” at airports, an entry-exit system to track foreign visitors using digital fingerprints and photographs, port scanning for all U.S. bound shipping containers from overseas, nuclear detection devices — purposely conducting flawed tests to mislead Congress about their effectiveness doesn’t help —  to name a few. More information can be found in the article from the Washington Post.

More FBI Privacy Violations

Recently the Associated Press reported that the FBI acknowledged it had improperly accessed Americans’ telephone records, credit reports and internet traffic in 2006 — the fourth year in a row of privacy abuses resulting from investigations alleged to be aimed at tracking terrorists and spies — caused in part by banks, telecoms and other private businesses giving the FBI more personal data than was requested after the use of the infamous National Security Letters (NSLs).

Following passage of the Patriot Act, National Security Letters were contrived by the self-appointed powers of the Bush administration to allow the FBI and other federal agencies to obtain — as noted by Glenn Greenwald of Salon News — all sorts of invasive information from entities such as those mentioned above as well as health care providers and such without any judicial warrants or oversight of any kind.

Also noted by Mr. Greenwald:

“Last year’s IG report documented thousands of cases where the FBI abused the extraordinary power of NSLs — the FBI made false statements to obtain the information, did so where the information had nothing to do with any pending investigations, obtained far more data than even The Patriot Act allows, etc. The Report emphasized that there were likely many more abuses it was unable to document because the FBI had failed to comply with Congressional record-keeping and reporting requirements (requirements which President Bush, in a signing statement issued when he signed the Patriot Act, declared he had no obligation to follow). The information about Americans obtained by the FBI through these NSLs is stored permanently on vast federal data bases which tens of thousands of people both in the public and private sector can access.

A new report to be released this week by the IG, as confirmed yesterday by FBI Director Robert Mueller, details that these abuses continued unabated throughout 2006 as well. It seems there are a few brand new lessons that we can perhaps draw from these revelations:

(1) If unchecked power is vested in government officials, they’re going to abuse that power;

(2) If government officials exercise power without real oversight from other branches, they’re going to break the law and then lie about it, falsely denying that they’re done so, insisting instead that they’re only using their powers to Protect Us;

(3) Allowing government officials to engage in surveillance on American citizens with no warrant requirement ensures that surveillance will be used for improper ends, against innocent Americans.”

Bush Lied About NSL Abuses

Unchecked spying powers — such as those requested by president Bush when whining about passage of the Protect America Act — which would give the government the ability to eavesdrop on telephone conversations and read emails of Americans without a warrant would only lead to more widespread abuse.

Bush keeps saying he won’t approve legislation without retroactive immunity — and has resorted to his usual use of terroristic propaganda using bogus television ad’s to try coercing those who oppose it — for the telecoms who ‘did their patriotic duty in aiding the government keep Americans safe from terrorists,’ despite the fact that the patriotic duty included millions of dollars paid for by those of us who pay their taxes and cost us a lot more in terms of our rights and privacy.

As recently as today, Bush again used fear tactics in his attempts to coerce Congress into passing illicit legislation he demands. Rest assured, if something happens again, Bush will first-hand intimate knowledge of it before it happens.

Despite evidence documenting extensive abuse of powers, Bush and his administration — with the help of some lawmakers such as Senator Arlen Specter — purposely lied, as usual, emphatically denying that there was any real abuse of NSLs.

An informative article written by Bruce Schneier titled ‘the myth of the ‘transparent society’ from Wired.com does an excellent job of explaining how you cannot evaluate the value of privacy and disclosure unless you account for the relative power levels of the discloser and the disclosee:

“If I disclose information to you, your power with respect to me increases. One way to address this power imbalance is for you to similarly disclose information to me. We both have less privacy, but the balance of power is maintained. But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with.”

Other Federal Law Enforcement Follies 

A few other items of interest in regards to the federal law enforcement follies involves the history of the Bush administration’s most dubious terror scares and the headlines they buried, how the FBI now has more than 100 task forces devoted exclusively to fighting terrorism — with a history of manufacturing ghosts and providing false information, or the CIA and their involvement in trafficking cocaine, drug laundering and involvement in starting/aiding wars in other countries. Given the CIA’s tactics in the past when it comes to finding patsies to take the blame for their actions, it’s no surprise that Canada rejected CIA evidence gathered by dubious means such as waterboarding in a case involving a suspected terrorist.

Despite the fact that government officials and Senators such as Arlen Specter deny any wrongdoing and continue assuring us that their powers are being exercised in secret for our own good to ‘protect’ us, or Senators like Jay Rockefeller who co-authored the illicit legislation that would give telecoms retroactive immunity — the only way to stop the abuses of vast surveillance powers may be to establish an independent checks and balances system utilizing ordinary citizens, especially since the courts have been hellbent on keeping the abuses mentioned above as well as numerous others conducted by our government officials covered up and kept secret.

The article by Mr. Greenwald does an excellent job of explaining lots of details, including how Capital Hill was peppered with retraction letters from the Justice Department in attempts to correct statements made in previous testimony and briefings after other lies were perpetuated by Senators, Justice officials and other members of the Bush Administration in regards to the NSLs when it was revealed that another report from the Inspector General was coming out. All the more reason NOT to grant retroactive immunity as demanded by the president.

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