A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘1984 was a Warning not a Blueprint’ tag

Marijuana You Say? Case Dismissed!

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Do you remember the Dallas law enforcers that went to Botham Jean’s apartment to plant, err, find evidence to assassinate his character? This is probably going to come as a shock but they found something:

One of the warrants became a public record Thursday afternoon when it was returned to the judge who signed it. It was shortly after Jean’s funeral had ended. It listed several items found in Jean’s apartment, including a small amount of marijuana.

I can see the courtroom now. The officer’s defense attorney mentions that the search warrant resulted in the discovery of marijuana. The judge says, “Marijuana you say?” He then taps his gavel and says, “Case dismissed!”

Truth be told, the discovery of marijuana is irrelevant to the case at hand. Even if Officer Guyger was aware that Jean was in possession of cannabis, she had no warrant to enter the premise. Without a warrant or an invitation, which she never claimed to be given, she was in his dwelling unlawfully. But I’m sure the discovery of cannabis will give all of the boot lickers their much needed reason to defend Officer Guyger’s actions and that’s what the warrant was all about, assassinating Jean’s character.

Don’t Trust Snoops

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Software that allows family members to spy on one another is big business. But how far can you trust a company that specializes in enabling abusers to keep a constant eye on their victims? Not surprisingly, such companies can’t be trusted very much:

mSpy, the makers of a software-as-a-service product that claims to help more than a million paying customers spy on the mobile devices of their kids and partners, has leaked millions of sensitive records online, including passwords, call logs, text messages, contacts, notes and location data secretly collected from phones running the stealthy spyware.

Less than a week ago, security researcher Nitish Shah directed KrebsOnSecurity to an open database on the Web that allowed anyone to query up-to-the-minute mSpy records for both customer transactions at mSpy’s site and for mobile phone data collected by mSpy’s software. The database required no authentication.

Oops.

I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised by this. Companies that make software aimed at allowing family members to spy on one another already have, at least in my opinion, a pretty flexible moral framework. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the data collected by mSpy was stored in plaintext in order to make it easily accessible to other buyers.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Love It or Leave It… If You Can

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Love it or leave it is a common phrase used by nationalistic Americans who would rather tell people who criticize their beloved country to get the fuck out than acknowledge its imperfection. What these individuals don’t stop to consider is that getting out isn’t necessarily easy and it’s becoming more difficult everyday:

PHARR, Texas – On paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen.

His official U.S. birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.

But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.

As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship.

It’s pretty difficult to leave without a passport.

This is another sign of something that nationalists often fail to acknowledge, the United States is a police state. Controlling passports and other forms of travel papers has been a beloved strategy of tyrannical regimes to keep people from fleeing to greener pastures. The Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic were especially notorious for this. In fact in those two countries merely requesting official permission to leave could land you on a secret police watch list. Even if it didn’t, your chances of getting permission were slim unless your communist credentials were solid or you had some collateral (i.e. family members) to put up to ensure your return.

As the United States government continues to tighten the cuffs it has placed on the wrists of population, passport denials for citizens will become more frequent. This, of course, will be sold as necessary for national security but it will really be about stopping tax cattle from taking their wealth outside of the government’s power to steal it.

Living in the Freest Country on Earth

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A lot of people living here in the United States remain adamant that it is the freest country on Earth. Even those who don’t believe that it is the freest country on Earth are skittish about calling it a police state. However, I can’t think of any other term that describes the state of a nation where this kind of nonsense takes place:

Los Angeles will be the first US city to start equipping its subways with body scanners. But the Southern California metropolis isn’t using the bulky, slow-operating models that populate US airports: Instead, LA’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will deploy portable trunk-sized scanners that can survey people from 30 feet away at a rate of 2,000 individuals an hour.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. When the Transportation Security Administration installed body scanners at airports, there was a short period where people expressed outrage at the idea. After that short period almost everybody rolled over and accepted it. Now that practice is coming to subways in Los Angeles and I predict a similar result. There will be a short period of outrage but everybody will roll over like the good little slaves they are in short order. Then this system will come to trains (including municipal light rail) and buses and eventually you won’t be able to go anywhere without being subjected to a full body scan.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Being Treated Like a Criminal

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I didn’t make it to DEF CON this year but I’m beginning to think that it was for the best. If there’s one thing I hate it’s being falsely accused of a crime, which is what many hotel staffs are now in the practice of doing in Las Vegas:

Caesars began rolling out a new security policy in February that mandated room searches when staff had not had access to rooms for over 24 hours. Caesars has been mostly tolerant of the idiosyncratic behavior of the DEF CON community, but it’s not clear that the company prepared security staff for dealing with the sorts of things they would find in the rooms of DEF CON attendees. Soldering irons and other gear were seized, and some attendees reported being intimidated by security staff.

[…]

And since the searches came without any warning other than a knock, they led, in some cases, to frightening encounters for attendees who were in those rooms. Katie Moussouris—a bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure program pioneer at Microsoft, an advocate for security researchers, and now the founder and CEO of Luta Security—was confronted by two male members of hotel security as she returned to her room. When she went into the room to call the desk to verify who they were, they banged on the door and screamed at her to immediately open it.

Caesars wasn’t the only hotel reported to be doing this by DEF CON attendees. Hotels owned by MGM Resorts International were also searching rooms without cause.

I don’t do business with people who assume ill of me so I sure as the hell am not going to do business with Caesars or any hotel owned by MGM Resorts International unless this practice is stopped. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee this practice ceasing. Instead I see this practice becoming the norm for hotels. If we look at the recent history of the United States, this kind of behavior will, at most, cause a very minor and very temporary dip in business. After their initial outrage though, if even that much of a reaction occurs, the American people will roll over and accept this incursion into their private life just as they have accepted every other incursion. If you accuse an American of being a criminal without cause, they tend to get upset… unless you tell them that the reason you’re accusing them is because somebody else committed a crime, then they’ll totally understand that it’s for the “greater good” and roll over like the good dogs that they are.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 14th, 2018 at 10:00 am

You Live in a Police State

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When people think of police states they get an image of jackbooted thugs performing nightly raids in every neighborhood for the purpose of disappearing seemingly random citizens. Because of that image most people fail to recognize a real police state when they’re living in one. A real police state is far more subtle. It is a state where the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons:

If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.

[…]

Anyone who has recently traveled to Turkey can apparently be put on the list — as well as people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a terrorist watchlist (which contains more than a million names). The program is so slipshod that it has targeted at least one airline flight attendant and a federal law enforcement agent.

After a person makes the Quiet Skies list, a TSA air marshal team is placed on his next flight. Marshals receive “a file containing a photo and basic information” and carefully note whether the suspect’s “appearance was different from information provided” — such as whether he has “gained weight,” is “balding” or “graying,” has a beard or “visible tattoos” (bad news for Juggalo fans of the Insane Clown Posse). Marshals record and report any “significant derogatory information” on suspects.

The key to a police state is that just because the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons doesn’t mean it will choose to harass everybody or even a majority of people. Usually a police state will choose to harass only a small percentage of people, which allows the majority of people to believe that they don’t live in a police state because they’ve never been harassed.

The United States is a police state. The government has established a system of laws so complete that it is impossible not to be in violation of the law. Moreover, the government grants its agencies a great deal of free reign. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) can surveil any air traveler for any arbitrary reason, including them somehow being associated with one of a million individuals on a secret list, and there is no way to know what the result of that surveillance is because the TSA has long had the power to add people to secret lists of people who it has the right to harass. But since most air travelers won’t suffer consequences from this practice, they will continue to be oblivious to the fact that they live in a police state.

Dimwitted Sheep

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It is fortune for the United States government that it rules over such dimwitted and malleable sheep for if it wasn’t, it might suffer some kind of resistance whenever it inserted itself further into their everyday lives:

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

Fortunately for the United States government, this new infringement on its subject’s supposed rights will meet with at most a few days of people making statements about how outraged they are before they roll over like the docile domesticated animals they are.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 31st, 2018 at 10:30 am

It’s Good to Be the King

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It’s good to be the king. When you’re the king, you don’t have to put up with insults from your subjects:

When body-camera footage of an aggressive or abusive police officer goes viral, the response from law enforcement groups is often to caution that we shouldn’t judge the entire system based on actions of a few bad apples. That’s fair enough. But what does it say about the system when the cops gets away with their bad behavior? What if, despite video footage clearly showing that the cops are in the wrong, sheriffs and police chiefs cover for them, anyway? What if local prosecutors do, too? What if even mayors and city attorneys get into the act?

Adam Finley had such an interaction with a bad cop. He was roughed up, sworn at and handcuffed. When he tried to file a complaint, he was hit with criminal charges. The local police chief turned Finley’s wife against him, which (according to both Finley and her) eventually ended their marriage. The fact that video of the incident should have vindicated him didn’t seem to matter.

This is a really good story to read because it illustrates a lot of facts about modern law enforcement, the power of authority, and local government. Even though body camera footage clearly showed the officer was abusing his authority, Finley had his life ruined because the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer covered for him. This shouldn’t be surprisingly since all of the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer work for the same government as the law enforcer. But many people still make the mistake of believing that government oversight of law enforcement is an effective check against abuse when, in fact, government oversight of law enforcement is merely the government overseeing itself. Whenever you give an entity the power to oversee itself, it has a strong tendency to find that it did nothing wrong.

Propaganda is Not Reality

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A lot of people make the mistake of believing that the propaganda they’re being fed is truth. But propaganda is not reality. If one wants an example of this point, they need look no further than the propaganda being pumped out to support the drug war:

In the middle of May, a police officer in East Liverpool, Ohio, Chris Green, was responding to a traffic call when he realized that white powder had spilled inside the car he was investigating. He put on gloves to protect himself from what he would later learn was a formulation of fentanyl, a potent prescription opioid, as he handled the situation. Later, when he got back to the station, another officer pointed out some dust on the back of Green’s shirt. Green brushed it off, no gloves, without thinking. Soon after (some accounts state it was mere minutes, others clock it at an hour), he was unconscious.

“I was in total shock,” he told the local paper after the fact. “ ‘No way I’m overdosing,’ I thought.”

He would go on to receive four doses of naloxone, an emergency drug that counteracts an opioid overdose, before waking up.

An overdoes from merely touching fentanyl? That sounds like powerful and extremely dangerous stuff! Except for the fact that the story as told is bullshit:

Each of the medical and toxicology professionals I asked agreed that it’s implausible that one could overdose from brushing powder off a shirt. Skin cannot absorb even the strongest formulations of opioids efficiently or fast enough to exert such an effect. “Fentanyl, applied dry to the skin, will not be absorbed. There is a reason that the fentanyl patches took years [for pharmaceutical companies] to develop,” says my colleague Ed Boyer, M.D., Ph.D., a medical toxicologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

While fentanyl is dangerous due to its concentrated nature, it’s not so dangerous that touching a little bit of it with your skin will cause you to overdoes. Unfortunately, while most publications were happy as can be to publish the officer’s account of the incident, they didn’t bother doing any investigation (thus why the field is seldom referred to as investigative journalism these days) into whether or not the officer’s story was even plausible. Even when journalists aren’t intentionally publish propaganda, they often unintentionally publish it by mindlessly accepting whatever a government official says as fact and publishing it without any investigatory work.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 am

George Orwell Wasn’t Cynical Enough

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George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four either served as a dire warning or as a blueprint depending on what side of the state you occupy. The Party, the ruling body of Oceania, established a pervasive surveillance state. Helicopters flew around peeking into people’s windows, every home had a two way television that couldn’t be turned off and allowed government agents to snoop on you, children were encourage from a young age to rat out their parents if they did anything seditious, etc. However, as cynical as George Orwell’s vision of the future may have been, it wasn’t cynical enough:

In April, California investigators arrested Joseph James DeAngelo for some of the crimes committed by the elusive Golden State Killer (GSK), a man who is believed to have raped over 50 women and murdered at least 12 people between 1978 and 1986. Investigators tracked him down through an open-source ancestry site called GEDMatch, uploading the GSK’s DNA profile and matching it to relatives whose DNA profiles were also hosted on the website. Now, using those same techniques, a handful of other arrests have been made for unsolved cases, some going as far back as 1981.

The New York Times reports that GEDMatch has been used to track down suspects involved in a 1986 murder of a 12-year-old girl, a 1992 rape and murder of a 25-year-old schoolteacher, a 1981 murder of a Texas realtor and a double murder that took place in 1987. It was even used to identify a man who died by suicide in 2001 but had remained unnamed until now. Many of these suspects were found by CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist working with forensic consulting firm Parabon, who has previously helped adoptees find their biological relatives. “There are so many parallels,” she told the New York Times about the process of finding a suspect versus a relative.

Genetic databases are a boon for law enforcers. While most people are worried about the commercial databases like Ancestry.com and 23andMe, there is an open source genetics database called GEDMatch that, unlike the commercial products, doesn’t even require a warrant to access. What makes genetic databases even more frightening from a privacy standpoint is that you don’t have to submit your genetics. If a family member submits their genetics, that’s enough for law enforcers to identify you.

Since law enforcers are using this database to go after murderers, rapists, and other heinous individuals, it’s likely that many people will see this strategy as a positive thing. But government agencies have a tendency to expand their activities. While they’ll start using a new technology to identify legitimately terrible people, they quickly begin using the technology to go after people who broke the law but didn’t actually hurt anybody. The scary part about law enforcers using tools like GEDMatch is that they will eventually use it to go after everybody.