Recently Apple has been involved in court battle after court battle, with the largest battle being the San Bernardino case against the FBI. In the case, the FBI are looking to use an 18th-century law, the All Writs Act, to get Apple to create some software that would let them get passed the passcode. In a similar case, a judge has just made a ruling, something that makes it look like Apple may win their legal battle against the FBI.
In the case, the Drug Enforcement Agency had seized an iPhone and were looking to use the All Writs Act to unlock the iPhone, an iPhone 5. Just like in the San Bernardino case, Apple objected and argued that there are nine cases (now eleven) where the government are looking to gain access to iPhones.
Judge Orenstein looked at previous court decision and found that under the rule of three the All Writs Act couldn’t be applied. One of the rules for applying the All Writs Act was if the person/group had a connection to the case. In this instance, the judge decided that Apple, who are a private party with no connection the criminal activity, couldn’t be made to perform work against their will by the All Writs Act.
Judge Orenstein also warned against the use of the All Writs Act to create a precedent that would mean that companies like Apple would have to fulfill the government wishes, something the FBI are not looking for.
This could be the case Apple need to finally say to the FBI that their rights, and their company, can’t be forced to work for a cause that they have no link to. Given Apple’s response relied heavily on their amendment rights, it will be interesting to see how the FBI responds to this ruling.
Eight months after Ulbricht’s conviction, his legal team argues that the actions of DEA agents Carl Force and Shaun Bridges, both found to be stealing bitcoins from Silk Road during their investigation, were not disclosed to the court during Ulbricht’s trial, nor was the investigation into the two agents made known to the defense team.
The 145-page appeal asks that the higher courts to expunge Ulbricht’s conviction for all seven charges – narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent IDs and engaging in continuing criminal enterprise – arguing that the court deliberately withheld information regarding the investigation into Force and Bridges.
“To a significant degree the extent, and in some respects the nature, of Force’s misconduct – as well as Bridge’s participation altogether – was hidden by the government from the defense (and the court) in this case until after the trial,” writes Lead attorney Joshua Dratel.
“The life sentence imposed on 30-year-old Ross Ulbricht [now 31] shocks the conscience,” Dratel adds, “and is therefore substantially unreasonable. Accordingly, Ulbricht should be re-sentenced before a different judge to avoid the irremediable taint from the improper factors the court considered.”
Leaked documents have revealed that US law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and DEA, and the US Army have been using an Italian-made spyware package to remotely control people’s computers, while also using it to monitor and record calls, e-mails, keystrokes, and visual information obtained from any connected webcams. The illuminatory documents, 400GB-worth, were dumped online by an anonymous hacker.
The malicious programs utilised were created by an Italian company called Hacking Team – notorious for its invasive surveillance technologies and considered an “Enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders – which has been pushing its wares to law enforcement and intelligence agencies across the US through practical demonstrations to a number of District Attorneys.
The documents show that the FBI has been using Hacking Team’s spyware since 2011, through its shadowy Remote Operations Unit, but has only rarely been cited in criminal court cases, one of which involved phishing a victim into clicking on a fake Associated Press article link. The FBI has also been found to develop its own spyware packages.
The DEA, after declining Hacking Team’s offer of spyware in 2011 on the grounds that it was “too controversial”, did purchase the malicious software in 2012, which it used in conjunction with Colombian law enforcement, with plans to expand its use across Latin America.
Though the US Army also purchased spyware from Hacking Team in 2011, for use out of Fort Meade, an internal e-mail included in the leaked documents admitted that “they purchased a system right before they got their budget cut…They were never given permission to pull an internet line to their office to install the system. (ridiculous but true!)”
In response to the revelations, Hacking Team spokesperson Eric Rabe said, “we do not disclose the names or locations of our clients” and “we cannot comment on the validity of documents purportedly from our company.”
Though the use of such software to spy on suspects could be legal in the US with the approval of a Judge, the kind of spyware developed by Hacking Team is considered highly unethical, and is akin to the human rights-infringing methods employed by the NSA during its PRISM program.
The head of the Baltimore task force that was investigating the Silk Road black market website has pled guilty to using the site to extort money, and even admitted to agreeing a $240k deal for the movie rights to his investigation with a major Hollywood studio. Carl Mark Force has admitted to charges of extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice – all conducted while he was investigating Silk Road – in front of US District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco.
Under the online pseudonym ‘Nob’, the government-sanctioned account through which the investigation was conducted, Force interacted with Dread Pirate Roberts, the username of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht, over Silk Road, during which he took bitcoin payments from Ulbricht that he did not declare to his superiors, instead diverting the funds into his personal accounts. Ulbricht was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this year for his involvement in Silk Road.
Force set up a second Silk Road account, ‘French Maid’, through which he accumulated around $100,000 in bitcoins by selling law enforcement “counter-intelligence”. A third account, ‘Death From Above’, was used, unsuccessfully, by Force for further extortion.
The court also found that Force was operating under two conflicts of interest, having agreed to sell the film rights to the Silk Road investigation to 20th Century Fox for $240,000 in 2014, unbeknownst to his bosses at the DEA, and using his company CoinMKT to confiscate money by using his law enforcement credentials. Force took $370,000 from a single user, depositing $37,000 in a DEA account and pocketing the rest.
Force will be sentenced in October.
Thank you Ars Technica for providing us with this information.
Since the inception of the Patriot Act, and amplified since the Snowden leak, the oft-repeated justification for intelligence services running mass surveillance programs is that it helps fight terrorism or, more hyperbolically, “would have prevented 9/11”, an idea extolled by such luminaries as former FBI head Robert Mueller and Senator Dianne Feinstein, people in a position to know such a thing. Turns out, they were wrong, because the DEA had been monitoring international phone calls en masse since as early as 1992, and it wasn’t enough to prevent the attacks on the World trade Center.
It was revealed back in January that the DEA had its own database of phone call metadata of practically all calls from inside the US to foreign countries. After digging through the data, Brad Heath of USA Today discovered that the records date back to 1992, meaning that the federal government did have access to the intelligence that Mueller, Feinstein, et al, bemoaned was hampering their ability to tackle terrorism.
The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA’s intelligence arm, was the government’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans’ privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago.
In the drug-trafficking operation, the N.S.A. has been helping the Drug Enforcement Administration in collecting the phone records showing patterns of calls between the United States, Latin America and other drug-producing regions. The program dates to the 1990s, according to several government officials, but it appears to have expanded in recent years.
Officials say the government has not listened to the communications, but has instead used phone numbers and e-mail addresses to analyze links between people in the United States and overseas. Senior Justice Department officials in the Bush and Clinton administrations signed off on the operation, which uses broad administrative subpoenas but does not require court approval to demand the records.
The report also revealed that telecoms companies handed over the data via a simple administrative subpoena, which bypasses the courts, and were scared off from appealing by the Department of Justice:
The DEA obtained those records using administrative subpoenas that allow the agency to collect records “relevant or material to” federal drug investigations. Officials acknowledged it was an expansive interpretation of that authority but one that was not likely to be challenged because unlike search warrants, DEA subpoenas do not require a judge’s approval. “We knew we were stretching the definition,” a former official involved in the process said.
Officials said a few telephone companies were reluctant to provide so much information, but none challenged the subpoenas in court. Those that hesitated received letters from the Justice Department urging them to comply.
After Sprint executives expressed reservations in 1998, for example, Warren, the head of the department’s drug section, responded with a letter telling the company that “the initiative has been determined to be legally appropriate” and that turning over the call data was “appropriate and required by law.” The letter said the data would be used by authorities “to focus scarce investigative resources by means of sophisticated pattern and link analysis.”
The data was then stored in a secret database, concealing all knowledge of it from judges and defence lawyers:
To keep the program secret, the DEA sought not to use the information as evidence in criminal prosecutions or in its justification for warrants or other searches. Instead, its Special Operations Division passed the data to field agents as tips to help them find new targets or focus existing investigations, a process approved by Justice Department lawyers. Many of those tips were classified because the DEA phone searches drew on other intelligence data.
That practice sparked a furor when the Reuters news agency reported in 2013 that the DEA trained agents to conceal the sources of those tips from judges and defense lawyers. Reuters said the tips were based on wiretaps, foreign intelligence and a DEA database of telephone calls gathered through routine subpoenas and search warrants.
As a result, “the government short-circuited any debate about the legality and wisdom of putting the call records of millions of innocent people in the hands of the DEA,” American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Patrick Toomey said.
A cynic could think that those in power are using the emotive issue of the 9/11 attacks as unimpeachable rationale for violating the privacy of the people they claim to protect. As the US enters the period during which the renewal of the draconian Patriot Act (section 215, specifically) is debated, it is vital that the ineffectiveness of these privacy-violating policies are publicised.
A device that tells if your drink has been injected with a noxious device, or spiked for short, has appeared on Indiegogo, aiming to rise about $100,000. Its name is pd.id (Personal Drink ID) and is said to have the size of a pack of gum, blinking red in just a few seconds if dipped into a drink which has a contaminant.
Its creator, J. Davids Wilson, said that the hardware uses the same tech as the US DEA, but shrunk down to a smaller than usual size. It works by analysing the sample taken from the drink, its density, resistance and temperature in order to determine if a foreign agent is present in it, such as rohypnol.
Once (and if most likely) the crowdfunding sum of $100,000 is raised, the team is said to bring the gear to the market in just six months. The starting price for the pd.id is said to be set at $75 per unit and yes, the device is reusable, so you won’t have to pay that sum after sampling every drink. The device, ridiculous as it may be, should be a nice addition to have when going on a night out in the club or parties. After drinking a few, you never know everyone’s thoughts around you. Just be sure not to lose the device in a drink.
Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information Image and video courtesy of Endgadget