June 2, 2015 archive
Jun 02 2015
Jun 02 2015
As revealed today by The Associated Press and CNN, the FBI has been operationg a secret fleet of planes and drones, kept off the offical books by a system of fake front companies.
While this was previously acknowledged in a DoJ IG report in 2012, the report was heavily redacted. These planes are equipped with both visual survielance tools and cell phone tower spoofers which, while the FBI claims are only used against specific investigations, but the very nature of how they operate (sucking down all cell phone communications in a specific tower area) means they are bulk collection tools.
Additionally these flights are much more numerous than previously indicated, with the AP reporting as many as 30 in 30 days over 11 states.
These flights are routinely conducted without a warrant and under a supposed system of internal review that the DoJ claims is a “state secret”, meaning of course without any regulation at all at the whim of whoever.
Does the FBI have a secret surveillance air force?
By Pamela Brown, CNN
2:17 PM ET, Tue June 2, 2015
The FBI uses a fleet of planes registered under fictitious companies in order to conduct warrantless surveillance during federal, state and local investigations. The surveillance is conducted without a court order, but with oversight from within the Department of Justice, according to a senior law enforcement official.
The agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states over a 30 day period, according to the AP review, and their report also said planes was masked by the existence of at least 13 fictitious companies.
The senior law enforcement official confirmed the existence of the fleet of planes to the CNN and said they are registered under fictitious companies because the FBI wants to be as discreet as possible.
“Anytime you mask your activity for operational or safety reasons you use a front company,” said the official. “You don’t want to put people on to what you’re doing – we know we’re going to need air aviation support for cases.”
The planes, which are equipped for electronic surveillance, are used both for FBI investigations and also at the request of state and local officials, according to the FBI. During recent Baltimore riots, for instance, the FBI used the surveillance aircraft at the request of the Baltimore Police Department.
According to the senior law enforcement official, the FBI does not need a court issued warrant to fly these surveillance planes because of rules established by the Department of Justice.
Report: FBI behind spy planes flying over US cities
June 2, 2015 10:39AM ET
The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology – all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.
The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific ongoing investigations.
U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services.
Even basic aspects of the program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The FBI has been careful not to reveal its surveillance flights in court documents.
(T)he planes can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over for prosecutions.
Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they are not making a call or are not in public.
“These are not your grandparents’ surveillance aircraft,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, calling the flights significant “if the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft.”
During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI’s fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia, most with Cessna 182T Skylane aircraft. These included parts of Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and Southern California.
Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a cell-site simulator – or StingRay, to use one of the product’s brand names. These can trick cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.
Officials say cellphone surveillance is rare, although the AP found in recent weeks FBI flights circling large buildings for extended periods where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signal collection. Those sites included Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Jun 02 2015
While the Senate failed to pass the USA Freedom Act during Sunday’s emergency session, it did get past a cloture vote to continue debate and consider amendments that could either weaken or strengthen the already inadequate reform of the controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act. So for the moment, the most egregious parts of the act which violate the Fourth Amendment have expired. So what next? There is no chance to renew the Patriot Act, as the Senate Republican leadership would prefer. Amending the US Freedom Act would necessitate the bill being returned to the House for another vote or hash out the details in a conference committee. None of this looks good for a resolution anytime soon, which is not entirely a bad thing.
McConnell introduced a handful of amendments Sunday evening on behalf of himself and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Paul and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also attempted to bring up amendments of their own, but they were blocked.
Paul’s opposition will push votes on both those amendments and the final bill back to Tuesday at the earliest, and potentially Wednesday.
The House would then either need to vote on the new bill or hash out the details in a conference committee.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) – an NSA critic – warned senators against adding amendments to the legislation that could potentially weaken the bill in the eyes of its supporters.
“On the House side, there’s not support for a more watered down version of the Freedom Act,” he said. “If they want to get something passed through the House, they need to make it better not worse.“
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald gave his reaction to the expiration of the act and the fear mongering that will ensue to Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman’
Transcript can be read here
The internecine GOP politics surrounding this are quite a maze since it involves not just Sen. Paul’s candidacy for president in 2016, but power fights between the House and Senate leaderships. Sen. McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are not exactly best of friends.
The game is now in the Senate and could mean the permanent end of Section 215. Let’s keep our fingers crossed they screw this up.
Jun 02 2015
I have 4 articles for you this morning!
First, a sad but needed project The Guardian is undertaking:
The Counted is a project by the Guardian – and you – working to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.
The database will combine Guardian reporting with verified crowdsourced information to build a more comprehensive record of such fatalities. The Counted is the most thorough public accounting for deadly use of force in the US, but it will operate as an imperfect work in progress – and will be updated by Guardian reporters and interactive journalists as frequently and as promptly as possible.
Jun 02 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
Click on image to enlarge
June 2 is the 153rd day of the year (154th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 212 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1962, Ray Charles takes country music to the top of the pop charts.
Ray Charles was one of the founding fathers of soul music-a style he helped create and popularize with a string of early 1950s hits on Atlantic Records like “I Got A Woman” and “What’d I Say.” This fact is well known to almost anyone who has ever heard of the man they called “the Genius,” but what is less well known-to younger fans especially-is the pivotal role that Charles played in shaping the course of a seemingly very different genre of popular music. In the words of his good friend and sometime collaborator, Willie Nelson, speaking before Charles’ death in 2004, Ray Charles the R&B legend “did more for country music than any other living human being.” The landmark album that earned Ray Charles that praise was Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which gave him his third #1 hit in “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which topped the U.S. pop charts on this day in 1962
Executives at ABC Records-the label that wooed Ray Charles from Atlantic with one of the richest deals of the era-were adamantly opposed to the idea that Charles brought to them in 1962: to re-record some of the best country songs of the previous 20 years in new arrangements that suited his style. As Charles told Rolling Stone magazine a decade later, ABC executives said, “You can’t do no country-western things….You’re gonna lose all your fans!” But Charles recognized the quality of songs like “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Don Gibson and “You Don’t Know Me,” by Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker, and the fact that his version of both of those country songs landed in the Top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts was vindication of Charles’s long-held belief that “There’s only two kinds of music as far as I’m concerned: good and bad.”
Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his Modern Sounds albums. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Frank Sinatra called Charles “the only true genius in show business.”
Rolling Stone ranked Charles number 10 on their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004, and number two on their November 2008 list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. In honoring Charles, Billy Joel noted: “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley. I don’t know if Ray was the architect of rock & roll, but he was certainly the first guy to do a lot of things . . . Who the hell ever put so many styles together and made it work?”
Jun 02 2015
Women’s World Cup starting soon. Just as with Basketball the ladies’ game is far more entertaining than the men’s pointless running about.
Sad when the only real Democrat isn’t
This week’s guests-
- Monday 6/1: Stanley McChrystal
- Tuesday 6/2: Bill de Blasio
- Wednesday 6/3: Melissa McCarthy
- Thursday 6/4: Steve Buscemi
Stanley McChrystal is just another failed Syraqistan General. What makes him particularly odious is his direct involvement in the Pat Tillman scandal. I can think of people with less demonstrated understanding of the Middle East and the United States military to put on the air, but not many of them. He should be rotting in Spandau with the rest of the war criminals. Yale students are wasting their trust funds if they listen to a single word he says because what is not a deliberate lie is an ignorant misunderstanding.
Special Matt Harvey web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.