A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Snitches Get Dents

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Is your vehicle a snitch? If you have a modern vehicle, especially one with Internet connectivity, the answer is almost certainly yes:

One of the more recent examples can be found in a 2014 warrant that allowed New York police to trace a vehicle by demanding the satellite radio and telematics provider SiriusXM provide location information. The warrant, originally filed in 2014 but only recently unsealed (and published below in full), asked SiriusXM “to activate and monitor as a tracking device the SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio installed on the Target Vehicle for a period of 10 days.” The target was a Toyota 4-Runner wrapped up in an alleged illegal gambling enterprise.

[…]

So it was that in December 2009 police asked GM to cough up OnStar data from a Chevrolet Tahoe rented by a suspected crack cocaine dealer Riley Dantzler. The cops who were after Dantzler had no idea what the car looked like or where it was, but with OnStar tracking they could follow him from Houston, Texas, to Ouchita Parish, Louisiana. OnStar’s tracking was accurate too, a court document revealing it was able to “identify that vehicle among the many that were on Interstate 20 that evening.” They stopped Dantzler and found cocaine, ecstasy and a gun inside.

[…]

In at least two cases, individuals unwittingly had their conversations listened in on by law enforcement. In 2001, OnStar competitor ATX Technologies (which later became part of Agero) was ordered to provide “roving interceptions” of a Mercedes Benz S430V. It initially complied with the order in November of that year to spy on audible communications for 30 days, but when the FBI asked for an extension in December, ATX declined, claiming it was overly burdensome. (The filing on the FBI’s attempt to find ATX in contempt of court is also published below).

As a quick aside, it should also be noted that the cell phone you carry around contains the hardware necessary to perform these same forms of surveillance. So don’t start bragging about the old vehicle you drive if you’re carrying around a cell phone.

There are two major problems here. The first problem is technological and the second is statism. There’s nothing wrong with adding more technological capabilities to a vehicle. However, much like the Internet of Things, automobile manufacturers have a terrible track record when it comes to computer security. For example, having a builtin communication system like OnStar isn’t bad in of itself but when it can be remotely activated a lot of security questions come into play.

The second problem is statism. Monitoring technologies that can be remotely activated are dangerous in general but become even more dangerous in the hands of the State. As this story demonstrated, the combination of remotely activated microphones and statism leads to men with guns kidnapping people (or possibly worse).

Everything in this story is just the tip of the iceberg though. As more technology is integrated into automobiles the State will also integrate itself more. I have no doubt that at some point a law will be passed that will require all automobiles to have a remotely activated kill switch. It’ll likely be proposed shortly after a high speed chase that ends in an officer getting killed and will be sold to the public as necessary for protecting the lives of our heroes in blue. As self-driving cars become more popular there will likely be a law passed that requires self-driving cars to have a remotely accessible autopilot mode so police can command a car to pull over for a stop or drive to the courthouse if somebody is missing their court date.

Everything that could be amazing will end up being shit because the State will decided to meddle. The State is why we can’t have nice things.

United States Postal Service Increasing its Surveillance

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The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced that photographing every piece of mail is no longer enough surveillance for its taste so it will be expanding its efforts:

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is expanding its presence online, targeting dark net drug dealers and their use of snail mail in distributing their goods across the country.

New job listings indicate that the USPIS, the law enforcement element of the national postal service, is seeking Investigative Analysts and Intelligence Specialists to lead operations to tackle cybercrime and black market websites, reports Motherboard.

“Candidates shall have demonstrated experience in using cyber intelligence tools and software tools to actively search and mine the publicly available Internet and the dark net/deep web,” the job duty section on one listing reads.

The analyst or intelligence researcher will aim to seek out “pattern of life” data “in an effort to determine physical attribution of an internet identity.” In other words, they’ll be in charge of digging through information that can be used to uncover the individuals behind online drug dealing networks.

Always be wary of a package delivery service that also has its own police force.

The government loves redundancy. What the USPS is working to accomplish is the same thing that the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and probably a dozen other federal agencies are already doing. Why is the USPS investing resources into a job that’s already being done by many other agencies? Why not hand the job of finding drug dealers over to the Drug Enforcement Agency? Because the State loves redundancy, especially when it comes to surveillance.

While this is a privacy concern it’s also an efficiency concern. Reproducing effort requires more resources. So even if you are one of those people who believes that paying taxes is righteous and good, you might want to ask why your tax dollars are being wasted on funding the exact same program a dozen times over.

The Army Selects Its Polymer Framed Striker Fired 9mm Pistol

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The United States Army has been slowly working towards replacing the Beretta M9 as its standard issue sidearm. Under the name Modular Handgun System the Army held a competition, and delayed it multiple times, to determine which pistol was the best for its needs. Yesterday the winner was announced. The M9 will be replaced with the Sig P320:

LAS VEGAS — The U.S. Army on Thursday awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the next service pistol based on the company’s P320 handgun.

Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.

I think that the hardest part about this competition was decided which of the 3 million polymer framed striker fired 9mm pistols (PFSF9) to go with. In the end the Army chose, as one of my friends said, the perfect government pistol. The P320 isn’t a bad pistol per se but it doesn’t really having anything that distinguishes itself from any other PFSF9 pistol. Its only unique feature is caliber modularity, which doesn’t seem like much of a selling point for an organization that standardizes on a caliber. So the Army chose a pistol that is adequate but not stellar, just like its predecessor.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

You Don’t Have Any Rights

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If you read the Bill of Rights; which really is a bill of temporary privileges, all of which appear to have expired; you might get the impression that you have some kind of right against self-incrimination. At least that’s what a plain reading of the Fifth Amendment would lead one to believe. But self-incrimination means whatever the man in the muumuu says it means. In Minnesota one of those muumuu clad men decided that being compelled to provide the cryptographic key that unlocks your phone isn’t protected under the Fifth Amendment:

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a judge’s order requiring a man to provide a fingerprint to unlock his cellphone was constitutional, a finding that is in line with similar rulings across the U.S.

What does this mean for us Minnesotans? It means that the first thing you should do in a police encounter is deauthorize your fingerprint reader. How do you do that? I’m not familiar enough with the various Android devices to know how they handle fingerprint readers. On the iPhone rebooting the phone will deauthorize the fingerprint reader until the password is entered. So iPhone users should hold down their home and lock buttons (or volume down and lock buttons if you’re using an iPhone 7) for a few seconds. That will cause the phone to reboot. If the phone is confiscated the fingerprint reader won’t unlock the phone so even if you’re compelled to press your finger against the sensor it won’t be an act of self-incrimination.

Why do I say deauthorize your fingerprint reader during a police encounter instead of disabled it entirely? Because disabling the fingerprint reader encourages most people to reduce their security by using a simple password or PIN to unlock their phone. And I understand that mentality. Phones are devices that get unlocked numerous times per day. Having to enter a complex password on a crappy touchscreen keyboard dozens of times per day isn’t appealing. Fingerprint readers offer a compromise. You can have a complex password but you only have to enter it after rebooting the phone or after not unlocking the phone for 48 hours. Otherwise you just press your finger to the reader to unlock your phone. So enabling the fingerprint reader is a feasible way to encourage people to use a strong password, which offers far better overall security (PINs can be brute forced with relative ease and Android’s unlock patterns aren’t all that much better).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Truth Hurts

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Donald Trump has promised to bring in a new wave of protectionism for American businesses. This news has been met with cheers from the small government advocates in the Republican Party. The democrats haven’t been cheering but only because Donald Trump is promising it. If Hillary Clinton had promised it they would be cheering but at least the cheering wouldn’t come immediately after claiming they’re for a small government.

Protectionism is almost always promised by people who blame foreign countries from a bad domestic economy and this case is no different. Trump and the republicans are claiming that China has been stealing American jobs. But Jack Ma, Chinese billionaire, sees things slightly differently:

Ma says blaming China for any economic issues in the U.S. is misguided. If America is looking to blame anyone, Ma said, it should blame itself.

“It’s not that other countries steal jobs from you guys,” Ma said. “It’s your strategy. Distribute the money and things in a proper way.”

He said the U.S. has wasted over $14 trillion in fighting wars over the past 30 years rather than investing in infrastructure at home.

While I disagree with his claim that the money was merely misappropriated, he’s entirely correct in saying that the $14 trillion spent in fighting wars was wasted.

Any economist who isn’t a complete moron, of which there are very few, knows that wars don’t produce wealth. Sure, it often looks like wars are good for the economy because jobs are created to feed the war machine but none of those jobs are productive. They exist to destroy wealth. Every piece of military machinery is build to be destroyed. Ammunition is expended. Tanks are either destroyed in combat or destroyed after they’ve been made obsolete by a new tank. Aircraft carriers that aren’t sunk by the enemy are sunk by the owners when they’re decommissioned to make way for the new fleet. Every building, road, and telephone pole destroyed in a war must be rebuilt afterwards. No actual wealth is created by war. Wealth is merely dumped into building expendable equipment or redoing work that was previously done. This is also why fourth generation warfare is so effective. One side spends pennies while the other spends trillions.

Instead of waging an endless war, the people of the United States could have been doing productive things. But the government chose warfare, the people rolled over and accepted warfare, and a huge amount of wealth has been diverted to unproductive endeavors, which has done nothing good for the economy. China isn’t taking American jobs, the United States government is destroying those jobs.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Where Criminals Get Their Guns

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Where do criminals get their guns? From other criminals:

Police are searching for the person who broke into an unmarked Ramsey County, Minn., sheriff’s car and stole an AR-15 rifle with a loaded magazine.

St. Louis Park police and the Ramsey County sheriff’s office are both very tight lipped about this unusual theft, executed Friday night by someone who seems to have known exactly what they were after and just how to steal it.

It amuses me that either the police or the author of this story saw fit to make the crime look more complex than it was. By “…someone who seems to have known exactly what they were after and just how to steal it.” the author means that the thief knew how to break open a car door and pry a firearm from a cheap locking mount. When criminals do that to a nongovernment car it’s usually referred to as a smash and grab. When criminals do that to a government car it’s referred to as an unusual theft executed by a highly cunning individual.

I know two people who have had firearms stolen from their vehicles (ironically, in both cases, the guns were in their vehicles because they had to enter a gun-free zone). In both cases the individuals did their due diligence to secure the gun but one can only do so much when it comes to securing something in an automobile. And in both cases the individuals called the police who showed up and spent most of their time giving a sermon about not leaving valuable items in plain site (which they hadn’t done). It amuses me that the police don’t appear to be giving themselves a stern talking to about leaving valuables in plain sight.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 19th, 2017 at 10:00 am

In Order to Save the Children We Must Damn the Children

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People love to bitch about the government indoctrination centers public education system. And with good cause. If you believe that the purpose of public schools is to educate children then you can’t help but admit that they’re doing an abysmal job. When I see people bitching about public schools I sometimes like to amuse myself by asking them what the solution is. Unless the person I’m asking is a libertarian the solutions proposed are almost always some variant of “We need to provide more funding to public schools!” While I find the idea of throwing even more money into the pit to fix a fundamental failure absurd, I at least understand why somebody might come to that conclusion. However, I came across a proposed solution that is so absurd that I can’t fathom how the proposer came up with it:

For Hannah-Jones, sending Najya to the neighborhood school was a moral issue. “It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

The only way to fix public schools is to damn every child to them!

This proposal is nothing less than collective punishment. Collective punishment is a statist belief that I find especially heinous. But in this case it’s more heinous than usual because the people being punished, children, had no involvement in creating the problem whatsoever. Why should every child be condemned to a poor education when it was adults that created the horrible public education system in the first place? If you’re going to punish somebody, why not punish those adults instead?

I consider myself an open minded person. But collective punishment and collective suicide, which is what dumbing down every child in the nation is, are two beliefs I cannot bring myself to even entertain.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Just a Few Bad Apples

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Chicago is an interesting case study. In addition to being proof that gun control laws don’t reduce gun violence, the city also manages to having increasing levels of violent crime at a time when violent crime as a whole is going down. But wait, there’s more! Not only is violence performed by nongovernmental entities up in Chicago, but violence performed by government entities is also up:

CHICAGO ― The Chicago Police Department regularly violates citizens’ civil rights, routinely fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct and poorly trained officers at all levels, according to a sweeping Justice Department probe of the nation’s second-largest police department.

The findings echo those of an April 2016 report released by Chicago’s then-new Police Accountability Task Force, which emphasized that the police department must face a “painful but necessary reckoning” that includes acknowledging its racist history and its consequent legacy of corruption and mistrust ― particularly between the department and the minority communities it polices.

What else could we expect from a police department that operates its own black sites?

Chicago may have the honors of being the first city with a police department that is so corrupt that even the Department of Justice can cover it up anymore. There’s also a good chance that it will enjoy the honors of being the second city to join Detroit in complete collapse.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Obama Finds Some Humanity

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Yesterday Barack Obama showed the world that he still has some humanity buried deep under his bloodlust. As is tradition for exiting presidents, Obama handed out a series of pardons and commuted sentences to chosen federal prisoners. Amongst his list was Chelsea Manning:

In one of his last moves in office, President Obama has commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army private who leaked a massive trove of military secrets to WikiLeaks.

The former intelligence analyst’s prison sentence has been shortened to expire on May 17, 2017, according to a statement from the White House.

And by “leaked a massive trove of military secrets” NPR means evidence of war crimes.

While I could spend an entire post criticizing Obama’s unwillingness to pardon Chelsea or commute her sentence sooner, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Public Private Data Cycle

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Just as the Austrian school of economics has a business cycle I have a data cycle. The Public Private Data Cycle (catchier web 3.0 buzzword compliant name coming later) states that all privately held data becomes government data with a subpoena and all government data becomes privately held data with a leak.

The Public Private Data Cycle is important to note whenever somebody discusses keeping data on individuals. For example, many libertarians don’t worry much about the data Facebook collects because Facebook is a private company. The very same people will flip out whenever the government wants to collect more data though. Likewise, many statists don’t worry much about the data the government collects because the government is a public entity. The very same people will flip out whenever Facebook wants to collect more data though. Both of these groups have a major misunderstanding about how data access works.

I’ve presented several cases on this blog illustrating how privately held data became government data with a subpoena. But what about government data becoming privately held data? The State of California recently provided us with such an example:

Our reader Tom emailed me after he had been notified by the state of California that his personal information had been compromised as a result of a California Public Records Act. Based on the limited information that we have at this time, it appears that names, the instructor’s date of birth, the instructor California driver’s license number and/or their California ID card number.

When Tom reached out to the CA DOJ he was informed that the entire list of firearms trainers in California had been released in the public records act request. The state of California is sending letters to those affected with the promise of 12 months or identity protection, but if you are a CA firearms instructor and haven’t seen a letter, might bee a good idea to call the DOJ to see if you were affected.

This wasn’t a case of a malicious hacker gaining access to California’s database. The state accidentally handed out this data in response to a public records request. Now that government held data about firearm instructors is privately held by an unknown party. Sure, the State of California said it ordered the recipient to destroy the data but as we all know once data has be accessed by an unauthorized party there’s no way to control it.

If data exists then the chances of it being accessed by an unauthorized party increases from zero. That’s why everybody should be wary of any attempt by anybody to collect more data on individuals.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am