Monthly Archives: March 2019

Microsoft announces Windows Defender ATP for Mac

Microsoft’s Windows Defender ATP coming soon to Mac

Microsoft has announced the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) enterprise platform for macOS. However, Windows Defender ATP is now called Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for Mac, which offers full antivirus and threat protection along with the ability to launch full, quick, and custom scans.

“Today, we’re announcing our advances in cross-platform next-generation protection and endpoint detection and response coverage with a new Microsoft solution for Mac. Core components of our unified endpoint security platform, including the new Threat & Vulnerability Management also announced today, will now be available for Mac devices,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

“We’ve been working closely with industry partners to enable Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) customers to protect their non-Windows devices while keeping a centralized “single pane of glass” experience. Now we are going a step further by adding our own solution to the options, starting with a limited preview today.”

According to Microsoft, “the user interface brings a similar experience to what customers have today on Windows 10 devices.” The antivirus software is compatible with devices running macOS Mojave, macOS High Sierra, and macOS Sierra.

During the limited preview period, Microsoft Defender ATP for Mac will allow end users to review and perform configuration of their protection, including:

  • Running scans, including full, quick, and custom path scans (we recommend quick scans in nearly all scenarios)
    • Reviewing detected threats
    • Taking actions on threats, including quarantine, remove, or allow
    • Disabling or enabling real-time protection, cloud-delivered protection, and automatic sample submission
    • Adding exclusions for files and paths
    • Managing notifications when threats are found
    • Manually checking for security intelligence updates

Further, Microsoft has also installed the AutoUpdate software to ensure that the app remains up to date on macOS and is properly connected to the Cloud.

Currently, the Defender ATP for Mac is only available as a limited preview for Microsoft’s business customers so that they can test the antivirus protection in setups that include both Windows and Mac machines.

Mac customers can apply for Microsoft Defender ATP preview here.

Source: Microsoft

The post Microsoft announces Windows Defender ATP for Mac appeared first on TechWorm.

Violent Far-Right Extremists Are Rarely Prosecuted as Terrorists

On a narrow street in Charlottesville, Virginia, James Alex Fields Jr. pressed the accelerator of his gray Dodge Challenger. Dozens of people were walking in front of him. They had come to protest Fields and hundreds of other white supremacists who’d descended on this pleasant Southern college town for the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017.

“Our streets!” the protesters chanted in response to the white supremacists. “Our streets!”

When some protesters realized the gray car wasn’t stopping, they screamed. Then came the scrapes and thuds and finally a crash as Fields barreled into the crowd, sending people into the air and diving for safety, before the Dodge slammed into the back of another car.

“Holy shit!” one of the protesters said. “That Nazi just drove into people. Oh my God! We need paramedics right now!”

Fields then shifted the car into reverse and backed out toward the main road, the front bumper scraping the pavement and the engine squealing.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville resident, was killed in the attack. At least 19 others were hurt.

Fields, a 20-year-old from Ohio who had been open about his racist views since high school, had marched in Virginia with the white supremacist group Vanguard America. He was charged in Virginia state court with murder and in federal court with hate crimes. He was not charged as a terrorist, despite then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions having initially described the Charlottesville attack as meeting “the definition of domestic terrorism.”

In announcing Fields’s federal indictment 10 months later, however, Sessions avoided using the word “terrorism” altogether, saying instead that the Justice Department remains “resolute that hateful ideologies will not have the last word and that their adherents will not get away with violent crimes against those they target.”

An Intercept analysis of federal prosecutions since 9/11 found that the Justice Department has routinely declined to bring terrorism charges against right-wing extremists even when their alleged crimes meet the legal definition of domestic terrorism: ideologically motivated acts that are harmful to human life and intended to intimidate civilians, influence policy, or change government conduct.

If Fields had been a Muslim aligned with an international terrorist group, the Justice Department almost certainly would have handled his case differently. According to The Intercept’s review, 268 right-wing extremists prosecuted in federal court since 9/11 were allegedly involved in crimes that appear to meet the legal definition of domestic terrorism. Yet the Justice Department applied anti-terrorism laws against only 34 of them, compared to more than 500 alleged international terrorists.

 

The FBI has acknowledged that federal prosecutors charge many violent domestic extremists with crimes other than terrorism, saying that simpler charges are often more effective in such cases. But the consequences of treating domestic and international terrorism differently are broad and deep. Terrorism charges carry stiffer penalties and often serve as an official statement about the severity of the offense.

“Terrorism is considered the most important kind of crime,” said Jesse Norris, a criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia. “It’s not a crime against some; it’s a crime against all. When you put people and crimes in that category, it places more importance on them. People take these crimes more seriously. That’s why it’s a problem that we have this double standard in classifying international terrorism violence as terrorism and domestic terrorism violence as not terrorism.”

Take the case of Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant, who drove a rented Home Depot truck through a bike lane in Lower Manhattan nearly three months after the Charlottesville attack, killing eight people. Saipov, who was injured in the assault, was so proud of his militant allegiances that he asked federal agents if he could display the Islamic State’s black flag in his hospital room.

Saipov’s crime was almost identical to Fields’s, but Sessions called his attack “a calculated act of terrorism in the heart of one of our great cities.” He was charged in federal court with murder and providing material support to ISIS.

Both Saipov and Fields grabbed the nation’s attention. Both were extremists who allegedly turned vehicles into deadly weapons. But because one was motivated by a foreign extremist ideology and the other by a domestic one, federal prosecutors treated one as a terrorist and the other as a crazy white guy filled with rage.

As a string of deadly attacks and plots by alleged domestic terrorists have made headlines in recent months, there is some evidence that federal prosecutors and law enforcement may be changing their approach. Officials have repeatedly used the term “domestic terrorist” to describe Christopher Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant and self-described white nationalist arrested last month for allegedly plotting to kill politicians and journalists, though they have yet to charge him with a terrorism offense. And current and former Justice Department officials have begun talking more openly about domestic terrorism as a pressing concern.

Nevertheless, a significant disparity remains in how these two types of ideologically motivated violence are handled, one rooted in the highly politicized way that U.S. laws and Justice Department officials define acts of terrorism. Terrorism has always been a political construct — there’s even a cliché for this — but its legal definition in the United States dates back only to 1986, when the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act made terrorist attacks against U.S. diplomats or citizens traveling abroad a crime.

In the 1990s, the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act made acts of terrorism committed within the United States, including those inspired by domestic ideologies, federal offenses. Before these laws, there was no crime of terrorism under the U.S. penal code, and it was only after the 9/11 attacks that anti-terrorism laws came to be widely used in federal criminal prosecutions. Such laws have raised critical questions among legal scholars and civil libertarians about whether the inherent difficulty in defining terrorism essentially guarantees prosecutorial abuse.

Domestic terrorism suspects enjoy basic legal protections denied to those accused of ties to international terrorism.

The U.S. State Department provides a broad framework — and the political cover that goes with it — for federal prosecutors to bring charges against alleged international terrorists. In those cases, charging someone with terrorism is relatively simple. The State Department administers a list of designated foreign terrorist organizations; anyone caught supporting one of these groups can be charged with terrorism-related crimes.

Domestic terrorism suspects enjoy basic legal protections denied to those accused of ties to international terrorism. Because of First Amendment concerns that a list of domestic terrorist groups would unconstitutionally criminalize unpopular ideas and ideologies, there is no such list, making the abusive types of prosecutions used to target alleged international terrorists more difficult to pursue against domestic actors. But prosecutors still have plenty of legal tools at their disposal to go after alleged domestic extremists.

Among them is an expansive law against providing material support to terrorists, which has two provisions. One outlaws nearly any kind of support to organizations on the list of State Department-designated foreign terrorist groups, and has been widely and controversially used by prosecutors to tar even nonviolent political or charitable activity with the international terrorism brush.

“The material support regime as a general matter is extremely broad, and we have concerns about its overbreadth and vagueness,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “A disturbingly high number of material support prosecutions, including abusive sting operations, are against people who don’t actually have a tie to a terrorist or extremist group or haven’t actually committed a violent act or even attempted to commit a violent act.”

But the other provision of the material support law allows the Justice Department to prosecute suspects for their role in supporting about 50 proscribed offenses, including bombing government buildings, murdering government employees, using weapons of mass destruction, and hostage taking. The material support law does have some practical limitations concerning domestic extremists. Attacks not involving a bomb or radiological device — such as Dylann Roof’s mass shooting in South Carolina or Fields’s car attack in Virginia — require the killing or attempted killing of a U.S. government employee or the destruction of U.S. government property for the material support law to be applicable. There are no such legal requirements under material support when the attacker is affiliated with or inspired by an international terrorist organization.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26 - President George Bush delivers speech before signing Patriot Act Anti-Terrorism Bill at the White House. Shown next to Bush,  Vice President Dick Cheney, shown in background (L-R) Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and CIA Director George Tenet. (Photo by Rich Lipski/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President George W. Bush delivers a speech before signing the Patriot Act at the White House on Oct. 26, 2001. Behind Bush are Vice President Dick Cheney, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and CIA Director George Tenet.

Photo: Rich Lipski/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Terrorism by the Numbers

Hundreds of prosecutions of Muslims on terrorism charges in the wake of the 9/11 attacks have created the perception that international terrorism is a significantly graver and more persistent threat in the United States than right-wing domestic extremism. But whether one is more serious than the other is the subject of ongoing debate. Some studies by academics, think tanks, civil rights groups, and news organizations have suggested that right-wing terrorism poses the greater threat. A 2017 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office on terrorist violence from September 12, 2001 through December 31, 2016 found that while slightly more people have been killed by Muslim extremists than by their right-wing counterparts, right-wing extremists were responsible for three times as many violent acts. Research by the Anti-Defamation League on 573 “extremist-related fatalities” from 2002 to 2018 found that 80 percent of the victims were killed by right-wing extremists.

“It all depends on how you count,” Norris said.

But one thing is clear: By almost exclusively charging international extremists as terrorists, the Justice Department inflates the perceived threat of those actors, compared to those with right-wing domestic ideologies. The press has reinforced this notion; a recent University of Alabama study found that terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists receive 357 percent more media coverage than attacks committed by non-Muslims.

The double standard has had powerful consequences for how the FBI allocates counterterrorism resources, leading invariably to international threats being prioritized over domestic ones.

This double standard has had powerful consequences for how the FBI and other law enforcement agencies allocate counterterrorism resources, leading invariably to international threats being prioritized over domestic ones. While no public government report quantifies the number of domestic extremists arrested by federal, state, and local authorities, Justice Department officials have fastidiously maintained a list of international terrorism prosecutions since 9/11. That list has been released periodically, in 20102014, and 2015, and the data is often used to bolster political initiatives, as happened last year when the Trump administration apparently manipulated it in an attempt to justify its so-called Muslim ban.

So who are the right-wing domestic terrorists in the United States? The current system has left that to individual federal prosecutors to decide. After a Donald Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to Democratic Party leaders and critics of the president in October, and in the wake of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, these charging decisions seem more critical than ever.

“We clearly have domestic terrorist groups in the United States. We just don’t call them terrorist groups,” said Brendan R. McGuire, a former prosecutor who served as the terrorism chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. “Generally speaking, there continue to be challenges within the government to applying the terrorism label to purely domestic conduct. We’re just much more experienced and comfortable with exporting that label, with seeing terrorism as something that comes only from the outside.”

In this Oct. 27, 2018 photo, Rabbi Eli Wilansky lights a candle after a mass shooting at Tree of Life  Synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Robert Bowers, the suspect in Saturday's mass shooting, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday. (Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

On Oct. 27, 2018, Rabbi Eli Wilansky lights a candle after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Photo: Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

Vague Guidelines, Underused Laws

What makes a white supremacist’s attack on a group of minorities terrorism, rather than, say, a hate crime? When an anti-abortion zealot plants a bomb at a women’s clinic, should he be charged with using weapons of mass destruction or with a lesser explosives charge?

Terrorism is subjective. In the eyes of federal prosecutors, an American-born ISIS sympathizer who has never met another ISIS supporter, for example, is a terrorist as long as he commits an act of violence and credits the terrorist organization. A white supremacist who consorts with other white supremacists and bombs a mosque could be a terrorist, but more often is only charged with possessing and using explosives. That accusation may describe the facts of the alleged crime, but it doesn’t instantly conjure the sense of collective peril implied by a charge of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.

“Like so much of the counterterrorism discourse, it’s based on these feelings that we have about how things happen, rather than data,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. “Back in the ’90s, terrorism was usually used as a rhetorical device. If I wanted to say this kind of violence was extremely bad, I’d say it’s terrorism. But it had no meaning in the courtroom, where we’re charging murder or conspiracy or whatever we’re charging. By bringing a pejorative term like ‘terrorism’ into the court, you’re politicizing the prosecution.”

“By bringing a pejorative term like ‘terrorism’ into the court, you’re politicizing the prosecution.”

Internal Justice Department guidelines are so vague that prosecutors often come up with their own criteria to determine whether to file a terrorism-related charge in domestic extremism cases, former federal prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. said. While Hockeimer was at the Justice Department, he and his colleagues developed their own set of rules to determine when to charge a suspect with a terrorism offense, basing decisions in part on who and how many people were targeted in an attack, even though the law doesn’t contain specific references to either. “You have to ask yourself: Is the attack aimed at causing a high-volume loss of life? Or is it targeting a particular area in order to kill one or two people?” Hockeimer said. “You have to look at what the ultimate result of it was.”

FBI and Justice Department officials have used the recent resurgence of far-right extremism to make the case for a new domestic terrorism law, in an echo of what occurred after the 9/11 attacks, when members of Congress demanded new laws to combat Al Qaeda and approved the Patriot Act, which created and expanded a host of anti-terrorism laws and government surveillance powers. But is an aggressive new law needed, when prosecutors already have powerful and controversial anti-terrorism laws at their disposal – laws that they have only rarely chosen to use against right-wing extremists?

Among the relatively few right-wing defendants to face weapons of mass destruction charges since 9/11 was anti-government extremist Jerry Drake Varnell. An FBI agent posing as a fellow anti-government extremist provided Varnell with a van loaded with a fake bomb. Varnell then tried to detonate the bomb next to a bank in Oklahoma City. He was charged with and convicted of several offenses, including attempting to use weapons of mass destruction — a charge that is almost universally applied to Muslims caught in counterterrorism stings similar to his.

But Varnell is one of only 24 right-wing extremists since 9/11 to face a weapons of mass destruction charge. Prosecutors more often bring less serious charges against violent right-wing actors like Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy, who bombed an NAACP office in Colorado and was charged with firearms violations and being a felon in possession of firearms, or, more recently, Paul M. Rosenfeld, who was convicted of an explosives charge for plotting to detonate a homemade bomb on the National Mall on Election Day 2018 to raise awareness about “sortition,” a political theory that advocates the random selection of government officials over their election.

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo, Colorado Springs, Colo., police officers investigate the scene of an explosion at a building in Colorado Springs that houses a barber shop and the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Christian Murdock, File

On Jan. 6, 2015, police officers investigate the scene of an explosion at a building in Colorado Springs, Colo., that housed a barber shop and the local chapter of the NAACP.

Photo: Christian Murdock/The Colorado Springs Gazette via AP

The infrequent and lower-profile use of anti-terrorism laws in right-wing cases has set the stage for claims that new laws are needed to combat domestic terrorists. Thomas E. Brzozowski, a former FBI official who is now the Justice Department’s Domestic Terrorism Counsel, has argued that current laws limit prosecutors’ ability to charge and describe domestic terrorists. “In many instances, the government is going to be constrained, to a certain degree, from stepping in front of a podium and saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’re revealing domestic terrorism here,” Brzozowski said at an event hosted by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism in January.

Brzozowski has been joined by a chorus of current and former Justice Department and FBI officials. Last month, Thomas T. Cullen, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia who is prosecuting Fields, the Charlottesville attacker, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times calling for a domestic terrorism law. In 2017, Thomas F. O’Connor, a counterterrorism agent in Washington, D.C., who is also the president of the FBI Agents Association, the union that represents the bureau’s more than 13,000 agents, made a similar case in The Hill. Because there are no penalties attached to the legal definition of domestic terrorism, O’Connor reasoned, “‘domestic terrorism’ is not a crime in and of itself under federal law.”

“The answer is that a new law is not necessary to take on the scourge of white supremacist violence. The government already has the tools necessary to take on this threat.”

But Cullen’s and O’Connor’s arguments are flawed. The crime of “international terrorism” doesn’t exist either, yet hundreds of people with alleged links to foreign groups have been charged under anti-terrorism laws. In addition to material support — which the Patriot Act expanded and for which it increased the maximum punishment from 10 years to 15 years, or life in prison if the crime results in death — statutes available to prosecute domestic and international terrorists include a law that prohibits the use of “weapons of mass destruction” — including everything from a nuclear weapon to a pressure-cooker explosive or a pipe bomb — and another that defines attacks on mass transit systems as terrorism.

Even when prosecutors decline to charge defendants with terrorism-related offenses, they have an opportunity to ask for a so-called terrorism adjustment at sentencing that results in longer prison terms if a judge agrees that the crime meets the definition of domestic terrorism. But prosecutors have only asked for such enhancements in a handful of right-wing cases, according to The Intercept’s analysis. One was the case of Wayde Lynn Kurt, a white supremacist in Washington state who was convicted by a jury in 2011 of firearms violations. Recordings he had made indicated that he was planning a terrorist attack called the “final solution,” which included a plot to kill then-President Barack Obama.

“It’s important to emphasize that whenever you see a terrorism-related legislative proposal, you have to ask, ‘Is it necessary? How will it be used against the very minority groups that we need and want to protect and who have historically and wrongly been FBI targets and still largely are?’” said Shamsi of the ACLU. “The answer is that a new law is not necessary to take on the scourge of white supremacist violence. The government already has the tools necessary to take on this threat.”

Since stepping down shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Mary B. McCord, a former top official in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, has been making a public argument similar to those of Brzozowski, Cullen, and O’Connor. McCord has written that while state and federal laws can provide significant punishment for domestic terrorists — including life sentences and the death penalty — “they fail to equate it under federal law, as it deserves to be equated, with the actions of ISIS-inspired terrorists who engage in violence in pursuit of their equally insidious goals.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.-MAY 10: Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord is moving on from the Department of Justice after 25 years. As head of the National Security Division, she oversaw a variety of investigations ranging from the potential Trump-Russian ties to counter terrorism, cyber and export control crimes. She was photographed in the courtyard of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, photographed in the courtyard of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on May 10, 2017.

Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Asked why she supports the creation of a new domestic terrorism law when prosecutors could use laws already on the books, such as the one that prohibits providing material support to terrorists, McCord, who as head of the National Security Division was responsible for authorizing terrorism charges nationwide, told The Intercept during a phone interview that the material support law requires “an international component.”

In fact, the material support provision that is focused on terrorists generally, and includes the approximately 50 proscribed offenses, has been used against domestic extremists — but only three times. In the only such case since 9/11, Eric J. Feight, a New York man, was charged with and convicted of material support for helping a white supremacist build a radiological “death ray” for use against Muslims.

The material support charge against Feight was approved when McCord was second-in-command at the National Security Division. When asked about it, she said the case “was tied to international terrorism.” Told that this was untrue, McCord asked for 15 minutes to review Feight’s prosecution, then called back to acknowledge that she had been mistaken. In hindsight, she said, maybe the Justice Department could use the material support law more aggressively against domestic extremists. “Certainly, if I were still at the Department of Justice, and I saw a person who was contributing material support to one of these enumerated offenses, I would definitely approve charging that,” McCord said, “including in situations that have no nexus to international terrorism.”

Although a small case history exists of prosecuting domestic extremists under material support and other anti-terrorism laws, officials at the Justice Department wring their hands over whether to use such laws in cases of domestic terrorism and generally avoid public discussions about the use of anti-terrorism laws against domestic extremists, more than a dozen current and former prosecutors told The Intercept. Instead, they suggest that new and even more powerful laws are needed to pursue right-wing extremists.

A Lack of Transparency

The U.S. government does not track acts of domestic terrorism or related federal prosecutions in any systematic way, leaving the Justice Department with few tools to determine whether domestic extremist threats are on the rise at a time when white supremacists have been emboldened by Trump’s nationalistic, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last October that “domestic extremist movements collectively pose a steady threat of violence and economic harm to the United States.” A year earlier, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wray described the threat of domestic terrorism as “very, very serious” and “something that we spend a lot of our time focused on.” He has declined in congressional testimony to say how many agents are working on the problem but mentioned in 2017 that “about 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations as we speak.” The FBI also declined requests from The Intercept to provide the number of agents assigned to such cases, stating, “While we cannot comment specifically on this breakdown, the FBI’s top priority remains protecting the United States from terrorist attacks — both international and domestic.”

Yet in fiscal year 2009, the most recent year for which such data has been made public, just 335 of the bureau’s more than 13,000 agents were assigned to domestic terrorism. By contrast, international terrorism is the FBI’s top priority, with thousands of agents devoted to it.

This frame grab from video provided by WPLG-TV shows FBI agents escorting Cesar Sayoc, in sleeveless shirt, in Miramar, Fla., on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. Sayoc is an amateur body builder and former male stripper, a loner with a long arrest record who showed little interest in politics until Donald Trump came along. On Friday, he was identified by authorities as the Florida man who put pipe bombs in small manila envelopes, affixed six stamps and sent them to some of Donald Trump's most prominent critics. (WPLG-TV via AP)

This screenshot from video provided by WPLG-TV shows FBI agents escorting Cesar Sayoc, in the sleeveless shirt, in Miramar, Fla., on Oct. 26, 2018.

Photo: WPLG-TV via AP

False Positives

One man’s nutjob can be a federal prosecutor’s domestic terrorist. The Justice Department’s internal case management system reveals how subjective, and sometimes ridiculous, it can be to try to define acts of terrorism.

Federal prosecutors nationwide use an internal system called the Legal Information Office Network System, or LIONS, which stores data about cases. The data is only released publicly in the aggregate, but as part of its review of federal prosecutions, The Intercept, working with another database maintained by federal court administrators, unmasked 752 cases that prosecutors have designated as involving an alleged domestic terrorist, accounting for approximately half the cases in LIONS that were coded as domestic terrorism.

The data suggests that, while the Justice Department follows a very narrow definition of domestic terrorism publicly and when bringing criminal charges, prosecutors take an expansive and at times comically inconsistent view of it internally, labeling hundreds of cases as involving domestic terrorism even when the facts do not support the designation.

While the Justice Department follows a very narrow definition of domestic terrorism publicly, prosecutors take an expansive and at times comically inconsistent view of it internally.

Of those cases, only 15 appeared to meet the federal statutory definition of domestic terrorism, which requires that violence be motivated by a domestic ideology. A handful of cases involved violent acts that may have met the definition of domestic terrorism, but nothing in the case files suggested an ideological motivation. Others related to international terrorism, involving defendants accused of supporting Hamas, the Colombian guerrilla group FARC, ISIS, and others.

But the vast majority — more than 700 cases — involved incidents that don’t appear to match the legal definition of terrorism at all, such as a Connecticut man making menacing phone calls and sending a threatening letter to ESPN sportscasters over a personal grievance. Prosecutors designated an Alabama man’s case as domestic terrorism after he fired rifle rounds into an energy facility, even though there was no indication that the shooting was ideologically motivated. In another case marked as domestic terrorism, a West Virginia man firebombed a mobile home using a Molotov cocktail in exchange for $400 and some Oxycontin.

The Growing Threat

The FBI logged 176 domestic terrorism arrests between September 2016 and September 2017, according to Wray’s 2017 Senate testimony. That number is significantly higher than media reports and Justice Department and local police announcements during that period suggest. When The Intercept asked under the Freedom of Information Act for any documents or communications to support Wray’s number, the FBI responded that it could find no records to support the director’s statement. Then, earlier this month, law enforcement sources provided “approximate” numbers to the Washington Post, suggesting that in 2017 and 2018, the FBI conducted more investigations of domestic terrorists than international ones. The claim appeared to signal a reversal of priorities at the FBI, but could not be vetted, as the source material for the number wasn’t provided to the Post.

It’s impossible to know from publicly available information and the leaked aggregate numbers that the Post reported how effective the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been at thwarting right-wing extremists before they transform their hate into violence. But what is clear is that a significant number of violent extremists are slipping through the FBI’s dragnet.

Among the domestic terrorists the FBI recently missed was a 56-year-old strip club DJ who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and once posted a video selfie from a Trump rally in Florida. A prolific Twitter user, Cesar Sayoc posted far-right conspiracy theories and sent threatening messages to Trump’s opponents, including one to former Vice President Joe Biden with a photo of an alligator that had eaten a man.

The FBI was unaware of Sayoc until October 2018, when more than a dozen pipe bombs began to arrive at the homes and offices of Democratic Party leaders and Trump critics. Two of the bombs, one addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan and the other to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, were mailed to CNN. None detonated, though all contained explosive material and in some cases shards of glass to maximize injury. A fingerprint on an envelope matched one Sayoc had provided following an earlier arrest in Florida, where, over the previous two decades, he’d been charged with theft and threatening to bomb the local power company in an attack that he said would be “worse than September 11.”

MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  In this file picture from 2017, Cesar Sayoc (far right in red hat) is seen as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. Mr. Sayoc was arrested on allegations that he was the person who mailed pipe bomb devices that targeted critics of President Donald Trump and have been recovered in New York, Washington D.C., California and South Florida, all with the return address of Debbie Wassermann-Schultz's office.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Cesar Sayoc, far right, at a rally for President Donald Trump at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Fla., on Feb. 18, 2017.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images; Illustration: The Intercept

Sayoc was initially charged in U.S. District Court with mailing explosives, making threats, and assaulting federal officers. He was not charged as a terrorist, though his alleged crimes appeared to meet the U.S. statutory definition of domestic terrorism. Sessions, then the attorney general, instead referred to Sayoc as “a partisan” who had committed “political violence.”

But soon after prosecutors filed the indictment, amid unprecedented media coverage and public debate about the scourge of right-wing domestic terrorism, the Justice Department’s language began to change. In a filing supporting Sayoc’s extradition from Florida to New York, where he faces criminal charges, federal prosecutors described his offenses as “a domestic terrorist attack targeting at least 15 victims” waged as part of a “terror campaign.”

On November 9, 2018, two weeks after Sayoc’s arrest and three days after an election gave Democrats, including some Sayoc had targeted, a majority in the House of Representatives, federal prosecutors in New York issued a new indictment, filing 30 charges against Sayoc, including five that alleged he used weapons of mass destruction — an anti-terrorism charge that has been applied against 79 international terrorists since 9/11 but just 23 other right-wing extremists during the same time period.

Sayoc pleaded guilty on Thursday to 65 charges, including 35 newly filed counts. He faces the possibility of life in prison — a harsh sentence that sends a message about how seriously our society takes the crime he committed. What’s unusual is that this standard is being applied to someone who can’t be cast as an agent of an international terrorist group.

So far, that isn’t the case for Hasson, the Coast Guard lieutenant living in Maryland who put together a cache of firearms and steroids and a target list of journalists and prominent Democrats. A self-described white nationalist, Hasson allegedly plotted an attack that he hoped would spark a race war.

“The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing last month.

Although those prosecutors announced after Hasson’s arrest that they were considering the addition of terrorism-related charges, they haven’t filed any. Hasson faces charges of firearms and drug violations.

He’s like many right-wing extremists in the United States: labeled a terrorist, but not prosecuted as one.

The post Violent Far-Right Extremists Are Rarely Prosecuted as Terrorists appeared first on The Intercept.

The Domestic Terrorism Law the Justice Department Forgot

Glendon Scott Crawford was a mechanic at General Electric in Schenectady, New York. A tall, slender, middle-aged man with rectangular eyeglasses, he was married with three children. By appearances, he was an unremarkable middle-class American.

But beneath Crawford’s vanilla exterior lurked a white supremacist angry about President Barack Obama’s election and contemptuous of upstate New York’s sizable Muslim community. And he had ambitious plans to transform his hatred into violence.

He wanted to build a “death ray,” a portable, remote-controlled radiological weapon made from medical equipment and off-the-shelf electronics. He’d load the weapon into a van with tinted windows, drive it to a nearby mosque, scurry away to a safe distance, and switch it on remotely using a smartphone. Anyone in its path would be radiated and left to die a slow, mysterious death. He even had a pithy nickname for his weapon: “Hiroshima on a light switch.”

Crawford’s killing machine was never built. He was convicted at trial in August 2015 of attempting to use a radiological dispersal device and a weapon of mass destruction. He is serving 30 years in prison.

His case is remarkable not so much for its absurdity — federal agents admitted that his imagined weapon was likely impossible to make — but for how prosecutors handled it. Crawford’s co-defendant, an engineer named Eric J. Feight who had agreed to build the weapon’s remote control, pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism — the first and only time federal prosecutors have used the material support law against a domestic extremist since 9/11, according to a review of federal prosecutions by The Intercept.

Eric Feight arrives for his sentencing at the James T. Foley Federal Courthouse, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Albany, N.Y.  Feight, who admitted helping build what he thought was a mobile X-ray device to kill Muslims, has been sentenced to eight years in prison. (Skip Dickstein/The Albany Times Union via AP)  TROY, SCHENECTADY; SARATOGA SPRINGS; ALBANY OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Eric J. Feight arrives for his sentencing at the James T. Foley Federal Courthouse on Dec. 16, 2015, in Albany, N.Y.

Photo: Skip Dickstein/The Albany Times Union via AP

The material support law is prosecutors’ tool of choice for hauling international terrorists into federal court — more than 400 international terrorism defendants have faced material support charges since 9/11. But the Justice Department has been reluctant to use this expansive and powerful law, which allows defendants to be prosecuted for providing minimal, and at times, inconsequential, support to a violent plot, against domestic terrorists.

The rarity of such charges has helped drive a false narrative that domestic terrorism is not punishable under existing anti-terrorism laws. “Why is there no criminal statute for domestic terrorism?” CBS News asked in October 2017. “Americans Are Surprised Domestic Terrorism Isn’t A Federal Crime,” HuffPost declared last April.

Graphic: Moiz Syed/The Intercept

In fact, the government has ample room to go after domestic terrorism under existing laws. The material support law has two parts. The first can be applied to anyone who commits or assists with a terrorist attack, including one rooted in a domestic ideology, so long as the crime involves one of about 50 proscribed offenses, including bombing government buildings, murdering government employees, using weapons of mass destruction, and hostage taking. The second and more controversial allows the Justice Department to prosecute anyone supporting or working with a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization, however minor their role in an attack or plot, including even unwitting targets of FBI undercover stings who never were in contact with actual terrorists. Civil libertarians have for two decades criticized the material support law, but primarily for the abuses possible in the more expansive provision for international terrorists. The more limited provision for domestic terrorism is harder for prosecutors to abuse.

Although the part of the material support law that can be used against domestic extremists is limited in some important ways — mass shootings not involving the death of government employees are notably absent from the list of offenses eligible for material support charges — Feight’s conviction in the “death ray” plot shows that domestic extremists can in many cases be prosecuted using the same aggressive laws that federal prosecutors wield against international terrorists. But the Justice Department has been reluctant to use that authority against white supremacists and followers of other domestic ideologies.

This double standard has little to do with existing laws. Instead, it is a result of decisions within the Justice Department, which since 9/11 has prioritized international terrorism prosecutions at the expense of domestic ones.

“After 9/11, the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s resources were directed to international terrorism. The prosecutions against domestic terrorists suffered,” said Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., a former federal prosecutor who served on the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force in the 1990s. “I follow the domestic terrorism cases, and I sometimes wonder why prosecutors aren’t going after more significant statutes with these guys, using the anti-terrorism laws. On one hand, I suspect the average person thinks of terrorism in the international sense, and to some degree, the Justice Department has come to think of terrorism in that way as well.”

A law enforcement officer escorts Floyd Ray Looker, self-proclaimed head of the Mountaineer Militia, into the federal courthouse in Wheeling, W. Va., for his second trial Wednesday, Aug. 13, 1997. Looker pleaded guilty Wednesday to selling copies of blueprints of the FBI's fingerprint complex to what he believed was a terrorist group that planned to blow the center up. Looker actually sold the copies for $50,000 to an undercover FBI agent posing as a middleman for the terrorists. (AP Photo/Gary Tramontina)

A law enforcement officer escorts Floyd Raymond Looker, the self-proclaimed head of the Mountaineer Militia, into the federal courthouse in Wheeling, W.V., for his second trial on Aug. 13, 1997.

Photo: Gary Tramontina/AP

A Domestic Anti-Terrorism Law

Among the first known instances of the material support law being used against domestic extremists came in 1996, when federal prosecutors charged seven men with assembling explosives and plotting to blow up an FBI building. Prosecutors filed material support charges against two of the seven men, Floyd Raymond Looker and James R. Rogers. Looker, the leader of a group known as the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia, and Rogers, a lieutenant in a local fire department who provided blueprints of the FBI building, pleaded guilty.

Five years later, in February 2001, federal prosecutors brought material support charges against Connor Cash, an environmental activist accused of being a leader of the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group that had claimed responsibility for arsons and vandalism throughout the United States. The Justice Department alleged that Cash had assisted in the arson of five homes under construction on Long Island, as well as an unsuccessful plot to burn down a duck farm and release the animals. A jury acquitted Cash of all counts in May 2004.

“I suspect the average person thinks of terrorism in the international sense, and to some degree, the Justice Department has come to think of terrorism in that way as well.”

After the 9/11 attacks, when federal prosecutors began to turn to the material support law as the statute of choice in prosecuting international terrorists, the Justice Department created the National Security Division, which absorbed the counterterrorism and counterespionage sections and created a powerful bureaucratic node responsible for national security prosecutions. Under a policy created at the time, and still in effect today, all terrorism-related charges — including material support and the use of weapons of mass destruction — must be approved by the National Security Division. After the policy took effect, the Justice Department’s tentative experiments with using the material support law against domestic terrorists hit a wall.

In the years immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department and the FBI reoriented to focus significant resources on international terrorism threats, with the prevention of another terrorist attack from Al Qaeda or other groups as the top priority for both agencies. White supremacists, right-wing extremists, and other domestic terrorists were not a pressing concern. “If you took yourself back to 2006, when the National Security Division was first started, the country was still in the throes of responses to 9/11,” said Mary B. McCord, the Justice Department’s acting assistant attorney general for national security from 2016 to 2017 and a principal deputy assistant attorney general for its National Security Division from 2014 to 2016.

McCord and other former federal prosecutors maintain that the Justice Department has always taken domestic terrorism seriously. But in the years since 9/11, the difference between how domestic and international terrorists are prosecuted and punished has been striking.

In this Nov. 30, 2011 photo, William Keebler appears in camouflage in Vernon, Utah. Keebler, a Utah militia group leader with ties to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy,  has been arrested and charged with attempting to blow up a rural, federally-owned cabin in Arizona, federal authorities said Thursday, June 23, 2016. (Al Hartmann /The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

William Keebler appears in camouflage in Vernon, Utah, on Nov. 30, 2011.

Photo: Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

The case of William “Bill” Keebler is an example. He came to the FBI’s attention after spending two weeks in Nevada during the 2014 armed standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters. Keebler helped organize Bundy’s supporters by posting on social media and YouTube under the handle “Th3Hunt3r.” After returning home to Utah, Keebler started organizing a militia of his own, recruiting like-minded people on Facebook and at local gun shows. “We are now being taken by a rogue government,” he wrote in a May 2014 Facebook post.

Keebler called his militia the Patriots Defense Force. FBI informants who joined the group told federal agents that members were preparing for future standoffs with the government, operations to rob drug dealers at the U.S.-Mexico border, and violent attacks targeting Muslims. The FBI then inserted two undercover agents into Keebler’s militia. One agent told Keebler that he had experience with explosives.

Because Keebler had tried to bomb a government building, the material support law could have applied. Instead, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge federal prosecutors had chosen.

By June 2016, the Patriots Defense Force had eight members, including two FBI undercover agents and a government informant. Members of the militia had talked about killing Muslims, and Keebler and the undercover agents drove to a mosque to consider it as a target. But Keebler was most interested in an attack on the Bureau of Land Management. He and one of the FBI agents concocted a plot to bomb a cabin in Utah used by the bureau. The FBI built the bomb, which was fake, and Keebler planted it in the cabin. The bomb simply fizzled, as designed, and in July 2016, Keebler was charged with attempting to damage federal property with an explosive device. Despite a federal prosecutor describing Keebler as a “would-be terrorist,” the militia leader did not face terrorism-related charges.

Because Keebler had tried to bomb a government building, the material support law could have applied and with it, a possible 15-year prison sentence. Instead, Keebler spent two years in prison while his case was pending, and after pleading guilty to the lesser charge federal prosecutors had chosen, he was sentenced to time served and three years of probation. Prosecutors did not ask for a “terrorism enhancement” at sentencing — a request that, if approved by the judge, could have resulted in a more significant sentence. Keebler, now on probation in Utah, declined to comment for this article.

By contrast, federal prosecutors charged Nicholas Young, a 36-year-old Muslim police officer in Washington, D.C., with material support when he sent a $245 gift card to a man he believed was with the Islamic State. The gift card recipient was in fact an FBI informant. Young was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Last month, an appeals court vacated his convictions on two charges of attempting to obstruct justice, but upheld his conviction for material support. Young will be re-sentenced soon, but his original 15-year term was in line with those of the more than 400 other Muslim terrorism defendants convicted of material support.

A law enforcement officer walks on the street outside the home of Nicholas Young, a Washington Metro Transit Officer, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, in Fairfax, Va., Young was arrested at Metro's headquarters in Washington and charged with a single count of attempting to provided material support to a terrorist group. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A law enforcement officer walks on the street outside the home of Nicholas Young on Aug. 3, 2016, in Fairfax, Va.

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Current federal prosecutors, including Thomas E. Brzozowski, the Justice Department’s counsel for domestic terrorism, declined to comment for this article. In an interview with The Intercept, McCord said that in retrospect, she and other prosecutors had underutilized the material support law for prosecuting and punishing domestic terrorists.

“I’ve been a cheerleader for the fact that, hey, this is the same stuff — extremism is extremism,” McCord said. “The white supremacist extremism we’re seeing right now, they’ve taken the playbook from the foreign terrorist organizations in terms of who they’re trying to recruit and who can be easily drawn to feel like they’re working for something bigger than themselves. To me, the parallels are very close.”

Despite the material support law being used predominantly against Muslim extremists during her tenure at the Justice Department, McCord said religion was never a factor in charging decisions. “I think, frankly, because of 9/11 and Al Qaeda and ISIS and Islamic extremism, we have been overly focused on those threats,” McCord said. “But I would be a happy to call a domestic terrorist a domestic terrorist. I will shout it from the rooftops.”

The “Death Ray” Case

The only case in which federal prosecutors have brought material support charges against domestic terrorists since 9/11 began with a phone call.

Crawford, the New York man who tried to build a “death ray,” needed help financing the construction of his weapon. In July 2012, he called a Ku Klux Klan hotline in North Carolina operated by Chris Barker, an imperial wizard in a KKK group called Loyal White Knights. Crawford reportedly left a message saying that he had explosives that he wanted to detonate in New York or New Jersey.

Barker was facing state firearms charges in North Carolina. He and his lawyer took the voicemail to the FBI, offering up Crawford in exchange for leniency on the firearms charges. The FBI then enlisted Barker as an informant and set up an elaborate sting.

Barker invited Crawford to come to North Carolina to discuss his plans. In a hotel room, Crawford met with Barker, a heavyset man with a goatee and ears slightly too large for his head, and two FBI undercover agents. One agent was pretending to be a Klansman, while the other was posing as a wealthy, like-minded businessperson looking to finance an attack.

Crawford met with an FBI informant and undercover agents in a North Carolina hotel room, where he asked for money to help build a “death ray” to target Muslims in upstate New York. Video: FBI

“Now I don’t know how close you guys have been watching, but you might have noticed that for the last 20 years or so, and especially during this administration, all the fashionable ethnic groups really can do no wrong, OK?” Crawford said, according to video from an FBI camera that had been hidden in the hotel room. “You know, we got Black Panthers committing felonies. That don’t matter — Eric Holder’s not going to prosecute his people. Mexicans — illegal Mexicans get to come in and do whatever they want. They rape, maim, and pillage. They turn ’em loose. They got, like, Jessie Jackass and Al Charlatan kicking up the Justice for Trayvon mobs. And it never ends, OK? Hate crimes, OK? This is all — white Christians just need not apply. White Christians need not apply for law-abiding protection or anything like that. And then you’ve got CAIR, OK? The Council on American-Islamic Relations, OK? We can do no right. We’re convicted in the press before we do anything, OK?”

Crawford then described his plan to create a “death ray” to target Muslims. He said he already had an accomplice, Feight, whom he called his “software guy”; he just needed money.

“This could kill whole cities in a night, silently,” Crawford said of his proposed weapon.

“If you had it in the parking lot of, say, your local mosque, or just outside of it, and pointed in the given direction, you would be able to — it would reach from here to the mosque?” an undercover FBI agent asked.

“Easily,” Crawford said.

“Then what happens? You shut it off, that’s it? No more radiation?”

“Then you come and get the truck. You drive it up, you park it, you point it. You’d be totally anonymous. You’d be untraceable. It would be weeks before anyone had any inkling anything was wrong, and they’d probably drop dead in their beds.”

“It’s almost too good to be true,” one of the agents said.

“I think the potential is considerable,” Crawford added. “Just make sure you’re nowhere near this thing when it goes off, OK? Like curvature-of-the-earth distance, OK?”

“But if it’s working from a smartphone, I can call it from —” one of the agents said.

“Anywhere,” Crawford answered, finishing the sentence. “You could call it from home.”

The FBI agents agreed to support Crawford’s “death ray,” and in November 2012, they traveled to upstate New York to meet with him and his “software guy.” Feight, who had curly hair and a mustache, had worked as an engineer for more than two decades and was the father of three girls.

For their meeting, Crawford came up with code names. He was “Dmitri.” Feight was “Yoda.” The undercover agents were “Robin Hood” and “Daddy Warbucks.” The “death ray” was “the Baby.” They even had a code phrase for killing Muslims: “sterilizing medical waste.”

Because Feight was only building the remote control, the FBI undercover agents needed to be sure that he knew the remote was for a weapon. Using the code words, they questioned Feight about what exactly he was building. Feight wasn’t under any illusions. “I started seeing how things, the direction things were going and then certainly after the elections,” Feight told the agents, referring to Obama’s election in 2008. “It’s like, well, OK, you know [what] that old saying is, right? You know, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” He added a moment later: “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

Crawford and Feight began building their device. On the afternoon of June 18, 2013, in a warehouse the FBI had wired with cameras, one of the undercover agents watched as Crawford worked on the purported “death ray.” Wearing gloves and holding a screwdriver, Crawford leaned against the power supply, which was encased in a large, black metal box. “You’re actually transforming energy from electrical energy to ionizing radiation,” he explained to the agent.

Less than a minute later, an FBI SWAT team carrying assault rifles kicked in the door. “FBI! Get down! Get down!” they shouted. Crawford raised his hands in shock. An agent then forced Crawford onto his belly and handcuffed him.

FBI agents raided a warehouse, where they’d installed hidden cameras, as Crawford attempted to build his “death ray.” An undercover agent, whose face is blurred, talked to Crawford as he assembled the device. Video: FBI

Federal prosecutors first charged Crawford with providing material support, but later dropped that charge in favor of allegations that he’d conspired to use a radiological dispersal device and a weapon of mass destruction. Feight, who was arrested later, was charged with providing material support.

Crawford was convicted at trial and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. Feight pleaded guilty and received a little more than eight years; he is due to be released next year.

On December 19, 2016, when Crawford was sentenced, McCord was the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the National Security Division. “Glendon Scott Crawford is an extremist who planned to use a radiological dispersal device to target unsuspecting Muslim Americans with lethal doses of radiation,” she said in a Justice Department statement at the time. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism, and we will continue to pursue justice against anyone who seeks to perpetrate attacks against Americans on our soil.”

Notably, as is still customary for Justice Department officials discussing domestic extremists, McCord did not label Crawford a terrorist. She missed an ideal opportunity to shout it from the rooftops.

Asked about this recently, McCord explained that she had probably been leery of using the word “terrorist” to avoid prejudicing a jury. It’s a concern that federal prosecutors never seem to show for international terrorism defendants.

“Glendon Scott Crawford is a domestic terrorist,” McCord said, “and I should have called him that.”

The post The Domestic Terrorism Law the Justice Department Forgot appeared first on The Intercept.

How a Movement That Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorism Threat

Joe Dibee’s 12 years on the lam came to an end last August, when Cuban authorities detained the 50-year-old environmental activist during a layover in Havana and turned him over to the United States.

More than a decade earlier, police and FBI agents had arrested a dozen of Dibee’s associates in the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front within the span of a few months. They were charged with conspiring to burn down factories that slaughtered animals for meat, timber mills that disrupted sensitive ecosystems, government facilities that penned wild horses, and a ski resort perched on a pristine mountaintop. Dibee, a former Microsoft software tester known for his ingenuity, had slipped away in the midst of it all.

While the arsons, which never hurt or killed anyone, largely took place in the late 1990s, the wave of arrests known as the “Green Scare” came in the post-9/11 era, when terrorism was the FBI’s prevailing obsession. The fur and biomedical industries had spent years lobbying the Justice Department and lawmakers to go after eco-activists, who had damaged their property, held audacious demonstrations decrying their business activities, and cost them millions of dollars. When the planes hit the twin towers, industry groups seized on the opportunity to push legislation, and federal law enforcement ramped up pursuit of radical activists in the name of counterterrorism.

FBI-Officials-at-Domestic-Extremism-Press-Conference-1553118338

Michael B. Ward of the FBI’s counterterrorism division speaks at a press conference on Nov. 19, 2008, about a reward for the capture of four Operation Backfire fugitives. With Ward is Portland Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daniel Nielsen.

Photo: FBI

So-called eco-terrorism became the Justice Department’s No. 1 domestic terror concern — “over the likes of white supremacists, militias, and anti-abortion groups,” as one senator pointed out at the time. Operation Backfire, which sent Dibee running, was the climax of the crackdown. “There was money, there was administrative support, there was management support,” said Jane Quimby, a retired FBI agent who worked on Backfire. The results were “an affirmation that given the resources that you need, and the support that you need, you can really make these things work.”

In 2009, when a Department of Homeland Security intelligence report raised alarms about the rising threat of right-wing extremist violence, it provoked a very different response. After outcry from conservative groups, DHS backtracked on the report and later disbanded the domestic terrorism unit that produced it.

Daryl Johnson, a former domestic terrorism analyst at DHS, says there’s a reason law enforcement took a less aggressive approach to right-wing white supremacists and anti-government attackers. In the case of the eco-extremists, the government had a powerful ally: industry. “You don’t have a bunch of companies coming forward saying I wish you’d do something about these right-wing extremists,” said Johnson, who left his position in 2010, after his warnings about right-wing violence were dismissed. “If enough people lobbied congresspeople about white nationalists and how it’s affecting their business activity, then I’m sure you’ll get legislation.”

Now, in the wake of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer by white supremacist James Alex Fields, past and current Justice Department officials have argued that a new domestic terrorism statute is necessary to better respond to far-right violence.

But law enforcement and federal prosecutors already have powerful counterterrorism authorities at their disposal, and their history of using them to go after radical activists who committed property crimes suggests that any new crackdown is likely to sweep up far more than domestic extremists who pose a lethal threat.

No new law was required to treat eco-saboteurs as terrorists in the wake of 9/11. Of 70 federal prosecutions of radical environmentalists and animal rights activists identified by The Intercept, 52 did not result in charges under anti-terrorism laws. Yet the defendants were repeatedly called terrorists by the Justice Department in public statements and internal communications. The designation opened up additional resources and gave the government powerful leverage in the form of terrorism sentencing enhancements, which prosecutors sought in more than 20 cases.

Meanwhile, in the remaining 18 cases, prosecutors applied an anti-terrorism law written with the help of industry that was designed exclusively to target animal rights activists. Six cases involved activists releasing mink and vandalizing fur facilities, and six involved individuals accused of encouraging radical acts like sabotage but not participating in any themselves. Four of the cases involved activists protesting outside researchers’ homes and were dismissed because the allegations were too vague.

The story of how years of corporate lobbying ended with Dibee in cuffs contains lessons for those considering how to handle the surge in right-wing violence, as well as for a new generation of environmental activists again facing accusations of eco-terrorism.

dibee-poster-1553116689

The “wanted” poster for Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, displayed during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, 2008.

Photo: FBI

Industry Intelligence-Gathering

Joe Dibee grew up camping in the spectacular forests, mountains, and coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest. His parents, members of Syria’s Catholic minority, had immigrated to the U.S. before he was born, settling into Seattle’s middle class. His mother worked at the public library and his father was a finance professor at Seattle University, where Dibee would eventually study civil engineering and general science. Dibee came of age just as law enforcement in the U.S. was beginning to take notice of the budding animal rights movement.

In 1977, when he was 9 years old, a group called the Undersea Railroad released two dolphins from a University of Hawaii marine laboratory — the first known animal liberation in U.S. history. A countermovement was rapidly launched, led by organizations like the National Association for Biomedical Research, which lobbies for the use of live animals in scientific research.

NABR and other industry groups were way ahead of law enforcement in gathering intelligence on the animal rights movement, and federal agents were happy to make use of the information. In March 1987, for example, FBI agents met with NABR about four chimpanzees that had been abducted from a research laboratory. The group “maintains a large intelligence file on the activities of most of the significant animal rights groups in the world,” an agent noted after the meeting, and “furnished the FBI with many documents which deal with these groups as well as outline their significant activities dating back to 1976.”

The FBI’s account of the meeting is included in documents obtained via public records requests by Ryan Shapiro, executive director of the transparency organization Property of the People. The documents show that throughout the 1990s, the FBI and Justice Department collaborated with a range of industry groups including Americans for Medical Progress, the Fur Commission, the National Board of Fur Farm Organizations, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, and the American Feed Industry Association.

In 1987, the National Association for Biomedical Research supplied the FBI with documents about the activities of animal rights groups going back more than a decade, according to an FBI memo provided to The Intercept by Property of the People. The transparency organization redacted the names of activists who did not grant permission to be identified, to protect their privacy.

In 1987, an animal diagnostics laboratory under construction at the University of California, Davis was burned to the ground — the first U.S. arson claimed by ALF. It was meant “to retaliate in the name of thousands of animals tortured each year in campus labs,” a communique from the saboteurs said.

A month after the arson, a Justice Department public information officer sent a letter to the Fur Retailers Information Council, whose members had also been targeted by the Animal Liberation Front. “I encourage you to send to me any evidence you have indicating criminal activity committed by animal rights activists,” the official wrote. “I am happy to be of assistance to the Fur Retailers Information Council.”

In response, the industry group worked with the Justice Department to create “a directory of some 200 animal rights and animal welfare organizations operating in North America which provides office addresses, names of officers and spokespersons, and a diary of incidents,” according to an October 1988 letter from the council.

The Fur Retailers Information Council worked with the Justice Department to create a directory of 200 animal rights and animal welfare organizations, according to a 1988 letter from the organization.

“We would occasionally contact the [FBI] to ensure they were aware of a threat or action involving animal extremism. We also sent FBI officials occasional alerts about animal rights actions or threats that might be considered illegal,” said Jim Newman, a spokesperson for Americans for Medical Progress, a nonprofit funded by the biomedical industry to foster support for animal research. “There was no concerted effort in place.” The other groups did not respond to requests for comment, and a spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment.

In some cases, corporations went beyond intelligence sharing to actively ferreting out activists they viewed as threats. One of the strangest efforts involved Leon Hirsch, a manufacturer of surgical staples whose sales demonstrations involved cutting open live beagles and stapling them back together. His company, United States Surgical Corporation, paid a security firm called Perceptions International to infiltrate the animal rights movement.

Mary Lou Sapone, the firm’s undercover agent, befriended a troubled activist named Fran Trutt, who was subsequently accused of planting a pipe bomb at the headquarters of the surgical corporation in an attempt to murder Hirsch. But Trutt was on the phone with Sapone throughout the day before the alleged murder attempt, and another undercover operative working for the company actually drove her to the crime scene and gave her money for the pipe bomb. Trutt pleaded no contest to attempted murder charges. Despite industry’s role in manufacturing the incident, it would later be presented in a key report to Congress as the only “confirmed case” of an animal rights activist using an incendiary device “with intent of harming an individual.”

Industry groups also lobbied for federal legislation that would heighten penalties for activist tactics. “The DOJ has advised that there is significant special interest pressure on Congress to pass legislation which would protect animal and health research property, facilities and personnel from attacks,” according to a 1990 FBI memo.

Two years later, Congress enacted the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which created a new crime of “animal enterprise terrorism.” The law was aimed at anyone who physically disrupted or conspired to disrupt an animal enterprise by intentionally damaging or causing the loss of its property. It created a legal pathway to imprison a broad range of saboteurs and their allies.

But the AEPA didn’t lead to the kind of crackdown the biomedical and fur lobbyists sought. The law was used only once before the turn of the century, in the prosecution of two activists who released mink from Wisconsin fur farms. And although the FBI charged a few individuals for eco-arsons throughout the 1990s, it would be the next generation of saboteurs — Dibee’s generation — that would bear the brunt of the government’s crackdown on eco-radicals.

Radical Tactics Reach Their Peak

By the late 1990s, Dibee was known within activist circles, regularly participating in spectacular demonstrations designed to draw attention to moneymaking activity built on animal and ecological suffering.

At the Warner Creek occupation in 1995, activists blockaded a logging road to prevent a timber company from accessing Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. The occupation lasted for nearly a year, thanks in part to 28-year-old Dibee, who designed a “bipod” structure, a precariously rigged platform between two tall poles where activists perched, complicating police efforts to remove them. The federal government, which managed the national forest land, put the company’s timber harvest on hold, as well as 150 other timber sales.

In the summer of 1997, Dibee was involved in another dramatic action, this time to protest the overfishing of pollock in the Bering Sea and the harm it was causing the endangered Steller sea lion. Seven Greenpeace activists planned to dangle from ropes off Seattle’s Aurora Bridge, more than 200 feet above Lake Union, in an effort to block four giant American Seafoods trawlers from entering Puget Sound. A skilled climber, Dibee was to position himself underneath the bridge, maneuvering along its metal support structure to assist the other climbers as needed.

Seven Greenpeace demonstrators slowly make their way up ropes Monday, Aug. 18, 1997, toward the deck of Seattle's Aurora Bridge after being suspended for two days to protest factory trawler fishing. The seven, plus another who had been under the bridge deck monitoring the lines, were placed under arrest on charges of reckless endangerment. The five women and two men rappelled over the side of the bridge Saturday morning and strung ropes in an attempt to block two trawlers attempting to depart Lake Union on their way to pollock fishing grounds in the Bering Sea. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seven Greenpeace demonstrators make their way up ropes toward the deck of Seattle’s Aurora Bridge on Aug. 18, 1997, after being suspended for two days to protest factory fishing.

Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP

As the action kicked off, police confiscated critical gear, leaving the activists with nothing to protect the nylon webbing keeping them aloft from abrading and tearing against the sharp edges of the bridge beams. Determined that the action should move forward, Dibee stripped off his clothing to use as buffer material. He would spend nearly two days half-naked above the windy channel, fighting hypothermia.

“There was a lot of this macho ‘me big eco-warrior’ thing, where the guys just wanted to be rock stars,” said Helga Kahr, an activist and friend of Dibee’s. But despite his willingness to take risks, she added, “Joe was not like that.” He sewed specialized backpacks for fellow activists, trained friends in computer encryption, and donated money to whatever corner of the movement needed it.

Few of his comrades were aware, however, that Dibee was also involved in the controversial eco-radical underground. In July 1997, the Associated Press published an investigation revealing that 90 percent of the horses rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program ended up in slaughterhouses. Among the buyers named in the article was the Cavel West slaughterhouse. According to court filings, Dibee and four other animal rights activists came up with a plot to strike back.

The activists surrounded the Cavel West facility in Redmond, Oregon, and planted incendiary devices fueled by so-called vegan jello — a mixture of soap and petroleum. They timed them to go off at an hour when they believed the facility would be empty, then fled, stopping to dump their clothing in a hole, which they covered with acid and filled with dirt. An anonymous communique attributed the action to the Animal Liberation Front and the Equine and Zebra Liberation Front. The facility burned to the ground and did not reopen.

The fur and biomedical industries “dramatically increased their efforts to convince the FBI and the DOJ to treat animal rights and environmental protesters as terrorists.”

During the same period, other activists burned down a Forest Service ranger station, set SUVs on fire, and toppled an 80-foot high-voltage transmission tower. The attacks and demonstrations were costly. In response, the fur and biomedical industries “dramatically increased their efforts to convince the FBI and the DOJ to treat animal rights and environmental protesters as terrorists,” said Shapiro of Property of the People. “This was the true genesis of the Green Scare.”

It wasn’t just about arson. Patti Strand, a Dalmatian breeder and co-founder of the National Animal Interest Alliance, which works to “promote responsible animal ownership and use, and to oppose animal rights extremism,” said that after she published her 1998 book on animal extremism she was targeted by radical activists. They put dead animals and garter snakes in her mailbox. “I received letters that included information about my son, who was 11 at the time — what path he was taking to school and that they liked his new green jacket,” she said. When others who had been targeted reached out to Strand with their stories — “If their fences were cut, if there were lawsuits that were going on, if they had started to receive death threats or things that were intimidating” — she would pass along the details to the FBI.

By April 1998, the anti-environmental lobbying campaign was again bearing fruit. The Justice Department held a conference on animal rights terrorism and invited the executive director of the Fur Commission “to address the attendees with her perception of the animal rights terrorism trends, and recommended investigative aids,” according to an FBI summary of the event. Along with federal prosecutors, the attendees included officials from the FBI, the Justice Department’s terrorism and violent crime section, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

The Justice Department held a conference on animal rights terrorism in 1998, inviting the director of the Fur Commission to speak, according to an FBI memo.

Later that year, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Acts of Ecoterrorism by Radical Environmental Organizations.” U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, who had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the forestry industry, described an activist stunt in which a large tree stump was dumped in the middle of his Northern California office. “My office was quite literally assaulted by a group of environmental terrorists,” he said. “Upon responding to the horrific sound, my two female staff members were greeted by the visage of several Earth First! terrorists, one wearing a black ski mask, and another wearing dark goggles and a hood.”

**FILE** The remains of Vail Mountain's Two Elks restaurant were still smoldering in this Oct. 20,1998 file photo, after a morning fire destroyed the mountain-top facility.  A radical environmental group called Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for fires that caused $12 million in damages to the facilities at the nation's busiest ski resort. The remnants of the organization's members were sentenced for their crimes by a federal judge in Oregon in 2007. (AP Photo/Jack Affleck)

The remains of Vail Mountain’s Two Elks restaurant on Oct. 20, 1998, after a fire destroyed the mountain-top facility.

Photo: Jack Affleck/AP

In October 1998, in the midst of renewed focus on their activities, Earth Liberation Front activists raised the stakes. In the name of protecting lynx habitat, they burned down several buildings at a new ski resort near Vail, Colorado, causing $12 million worth of damage. “The environmental groups who have not just claimed credit, but in some cases have been proved to have committed criminal acts, are a very, very serious part of our domestic terrorism focus,” then-FBI Director Louis Freeh told Congress a few months later.

The Fur Commission celebrated. “Over the last year, the people of the fur trade have been key players with other animal and resource-based industries in a concerted effort to push eco and animal rights terrorism up the government’s priority pole,” according to a March 1999 newsletter. “These efforts have resulted in a strong statement of commitment from the FBI.”

Detective Greg Harvey joined the Eugene Police Department’s special investigations unit in June of that year. For the better part of the next decade, solving the string of ALF and ELF arsons would become his primary task.

Harvey’s work on the team coincided with an intense national tug of war over the meaning of terrorism. Indeed, Harvey had his own taxonomy. Blocking a road and trespassing? Not terrorism. The ALF and ELF arsonists? Not in the same category as international terrorists who kill people, but terrorists just the same. “Their whole intent is to change the way things are done,” Harvey told The Intercept. “They’re trying to close down businesses. Well, that’s terrorism. When the families or the workers are afraid to do something, that’s what I consider terrorism.”

“One of the things we were really trying to focus on was breaking the movement,” he said. Harvey and other law enforcement officials went after the group’s omerta — its staunch refusal to cooperate with authorities. “That was one of the things that we broke.”

But it would take a disaster even bigger than the Vail arson to give industry and law enforcement the political capital needed to cripple the movement. “They called us eco-terrorists before 9/11,” said John Sellers, former director of the Ruckus Society, which trains environmental justice organizers in direct action. “But no one really believed them.”

Protesters, some proclaiming to be supporters of the group Earth Liberation Front, march in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002. In remarks prepared for a hearing in Washington, a chairman of a House subcommittee said Tuesday that eco-terrorists are hardened criminals--that they are dangerous well-funded, savvy sophisticated and stealthy.  The ELF and its sister organization the Animal  Liberation Front, have claimed responsibility for 137 illegal direct actions in 2001. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Protesters, some proclaiming to be supporters of the Earth Liberation Front, march in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 12, 2002.

Photo: Don Ryan/AP

From 9/11 to the Green Scare

Rescue workers were only beginning to survey the damage when Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young picked up a call from an Anchorage Daily News reporter on September 11, 2001. Few details had emerged about who was behind the attacks, but Young was unfazed. “War has been declared as far as terrorists go,” he told the newspaper. “I’m not sure they’re that dedicated, but eco-terrorists — which are really based in Seattle — there’s a strong possibility that could be one of the groups” behind the assault.

Young’s remarks were prescient: Eco-saboteurs would become one of the U.S. government’s lesser-known war on terror adversaries. September 11 was a crisis perfectly suited to the groundwork industry groups had laid in the 1990s, and corporate actors stood ready to exploit it. It didn’t hurt that the saboteurs aligned themselves against capitalism, which was being defended as critical to America’s suddenly imperiled way of life. With political careers freshly dependent on hammering terrorism, eco-sabotage became an easy target.

The attacks “did not set off the Green Scare,” Shapiro said. Instead, “9/11 was exploited by Green Scare warriors to turn up the volume on their surveillance and suppression of the animal rights and eco movements.”

The Patriot Act’s broad new definition of domestic terrorism, signed into law in October 2001, was another step toward institutionalizing the notion that eco-saboteurs were terrorists. The law targets those who commit criminal acts “dangerous to human life” that “appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or influence government policy. It also made it easier for the FBI to wiretap and surveil U.S. citizens. Even though a core tenet of ALF and ELF was to avoid harming living things, the Justice Department considered the movement’s acts of arson and vandalism dangerous enough to count.

Craig Rosebraugh, spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, talks about being a spokesman for the radical enviromental group during a photo session Thursday, May 24, 2001, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Jack Smith)

Craig Rosebraugh, a spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front, on May 24, 2001, in Portland, Ore.

Photo: Jack Smith/AP

Less than a week after the law’s passage, Craig Rosebraugh, a spokesperson for ELF and ALF, received a subpoena to testify before members of Congress at a hearing on eco-terrorism. Rosebraugh had been profiled in news articles as the face of the movement, even though his role was to publish anonymous communiques rather than conduct acts of sabotage.

At the hearing, representatives from both parties offered anti-ALF and ELF soliloquies. “On the morning of December 28, the employees of U.S. Forest Industries arrived at work to find their offices smoldering. The scene is reminiscent of what we saw of the damaged part of the Pentagon after September 11,” said Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden. “It didn’t take a jetliner to destroy this office. An ELF firebomb did the job. And while fortunately there was no loss of life, the destruction was just as severe.”

The domestic terrorism section chief of the FBI, James Jarboe, announced that ALF and ELF were “the No. 1 priority in the domestic terrorism program.”

Rosebraugh tried to turn the tables on his accusers. “If the U.S. government is truly concerned with eradicating terrorism in the world, then that effort must begin with abolishing U.S. imperialism,” he wrote in prepared remarks. “Members of this governing body, both in the House and Senate as well as those who hold positions in the executive branch, constitute the largest group of terrorists and terrorist representatives currently threatening life on this planet.”

Lawmakers at the hearing proposed various legislative fixes, including an Agroterrorism Prevention Act, which would have made activists eligible for the death penalty if someone were to die in one of the arsons. That bill was never passed, but another proposal — an expansion of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act — did become law, with help from industry.

In tandem with politicians’ maneuvers, Quimby and the other law enforcement officers assigned to the arsons were doubling down on capturing the saboteurs. In the summer of 2001, they had met to discuss how they could crack open what had become stubbornly cold cases. “We decided we were going to be much more overt, and we were going to go start knocking on doors,” Quimby said.

Armed with a list of 30 to 40 targets, the lead agent on the case began popping up in coffee shops and neighborhoods where he knew activists would recognize him. “You start to induce a little bit of paranoia,” Quimby explained. The idea was that the activists would start thinking, “Are they on to us? Are they watching me? Are they on my phone? Are they monitoring my email account?” she told The Intercept. “It sewed some seeds of doubt.”

“They called us eco-terrorists before 9/11, but no one really believed them.”

Eugene detective Harvey’s job was to remain unseen. “I lived in the shadows. I basically sat in my car, watching people, buildings,” he said. At one point, he said, he spent hours sitting outside the Castle Superstore where one of the activists worked, in the hopes that Dibee would show up to visit.

The operation zeroed in on Jake Ferguson, who was suspected of being one of the most prolific arsonists. “We were following around Jake Ferguson for months and months,” said Harvey. “You’re looking at a heroin user, which makes him unbelievably paranoid.” Agents from multiple states moved into a shared office in Eugene, where the walls were papered with charts, photos, and timelines.

Quimby doesn’t fully credit 9/11 for the intensified investigation. But “there’s no question that funding that became available as a result of 9/11 may not have been there” if not for the attacks, she said. The ALF and ELF cases “became a priority and a very visible priority.”

By the end of 2001, however, Dibee and fellow activists had begun to move away from radical protest tactics like arson, according to Lauren Regan, a lawyer who would later represent one of the Backfire defendants. “It was causing division, because there was no way to control who was doing what,” she said. “They felt as if, sooner or later, some wildcard would potentially screw something up and kill themselves or kill someone else.” An October 2001 arson, of a hay barn at a Bureau of Land Management holding facility for wild horses, would be the last fire prosecutors attributed to Dibee and other Backfire defendants.

Dibee also had a falling out with one of his closest collaborators in the movement, Jonathan Paul. Paul had participated in the Cavel West arson, and he and Dibee had co-founded an organization called Sea Defense Alliance, which sought to physically disrupt the Makah people’s whale hunt (an action that is hard to imagine in today’s environmental movement, which seeks to follow the lead of Indigenous people).

The two activists sued each other over ownership of the organization’s boat, and at one point, Dibee drove toward Paul’s home with a gun, allegedly planning to confront him, according to law enforcement accounts included in federal court filings. But Dibee got lost and was pulled over by police, and the meeting was averted.

For a time, Dibee appeared to move on with his life, maintaining his adrenaline high by racing cars and flying planes. But the Backfire case was about to break. In 2003, Ferguson, who had a young child to consider, agreed to wear a wire and travel around the U.S., visiting his activist friends and convincing them to talk about the old days.

**ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, FEB. 6, 2006**Huntington Life Sciences in East Millstone, N.J., can be seen Friday, Feb. 3, 2006. Seven members of the Philadelphia-based group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which goes by the acronym SHAC, were arrested in May 2004 and charged with animal enterprise terrorism, conspiracy and interstate stalking, part of a plan to drive Huntingdon Life Sciences out of business. Charges against one of the defendants were dropped; the other six are to stand trial in Superior Court, where jury selection begins on Monday.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Huntingdon Life Sciences in East Millstone, N.J., on Feb. 3, 2006.

Photo: Mel Evans/AP

Breaking the Movement

Among the earliest casualties of the Green Scare was a group known as the SHAC 7. After reporters and undercover activists obtained disturbing footage from inside the laboratories of the research company Huntingdon Life Sciences, a campaign called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty emerged to shut it down. The nerve center of the campaign was a website where administrators posted communiques describing protest actions that targeted not just Huntingdon, but any company or individual that supported it — from clients to investment firms to the club where the CEO played golf. In response to persistent disruptions, dozens of companies severed ties with Huntingdon.

In January 2004, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful organization whose members include legislators and corporate lobbyists, released draft legislation meant to strengthen the Animal Enterprise Protection Act to make it even easier to crack down on activist groups like SHAC. Under ALEC’s model, titled the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” filming an animal facility without the owners’ consent could be prosecuted as terrorism. ALEC’s version would also have created a “terrorist registry” of anyone convicted under the law.

But prosecutors didn’t need ALEC’s draft legislation to go after SHAC. A few months after the proposal was finalized, seven SHAC organizers were arrested and six were later sentenced to prison terms under the original version of AEPA. They were accused of encouraging and publicizing radical tactics, but not participating in acts of sabotage themselves.

Nor did authorities need a new anti-terrorism law to go after the ALF and ELF arsonists. In December 2005, FBI agents carried out simultaneous arrests in five states. Over the next year, 18 alleged ALF and ELF saboteurs would be accused of participating in a domestic terrorism conspiracy. The feds interviewed Dibee. Then he disappeared.

The pressure on the eco-radicals to inform on their friends in exchange for reduced prison time was immense. Hanging over their heads were terrorism sentencing enhancements developed in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which could increase prison time for a specific list of crimes if they were “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” Among the charges that fit the enhancement were arsons of buildings involved in interstate commerce or belonging to the U.S. government. 

Given the prison time at stake, with some facing possible life sentences, nearly every activist shared information. “Some named every name they could,” Harvey said, while others “listed involvement without naming names.”

Prosecutors declined to negotiate with the handful of defendants who refused to cooperate, according to Regan. But that changed overnight, she said, after defense lawyers issued an extensive motion demanding the government reveal whether the National Security Agency or FBI had used warrantless wiretapping or Patriot Act-authorized surveillance against the activists. When the judge supported the motion, and prosecutors changed their tune. “They said, ‘OK, we’ll do a noncooperating plea deal if you’ll drop this motion,’” Regan recalled.

“If I had to choose who was the greater threat, I would obviously go with the ones who were killing people.”

A narrower version of ALEC’s law, introduced by Republican Sen. James Inhofe and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, passed the following November. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, or AETA, left out much of ALEC’s wish list, limiting the law to animal enterprises rather than actions targeting mining, timber harvesting, and fossil fuel extraction. However, it succeeded in criminalizing “interference” in the activities of any entity with a connection to an animal enterprise, a lower bar than AEPA’s “physical disruption.” It also increased the maximum penalty for causing economic damage, from three years in prison to 20, and allowed for up to five years in prison if an action simply caused someone a “reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death.”

The section that would have criminalized filming at animal facilities was picked up by state lawmakers across the U.S. — “ag gag” bills became law in nine states, though they’ve been overturned as unconstitutional in three, and legal battles continue.

Twelve of the Backfire defendants received terrorism enhancements. They were sentenced to between one and 12 years in prison. One defendant’s status as a “terrorist” was later used to justify his transfer to a communications management unit, where his contact with friends, family, and the public was severely limited.

But it wasn’t prison time that most deeply undermined the movement. “The level of betrayal that took place during the Green Scare and the number of hardcore activists that basically crumbled under minor pressure by the state to become snitches or informants really shook the foundations of the radical movement,” Regan said. “It was very, very difficult for a lot of people to organize and trust each other in the aftermath of that shakeup.”

As for Dibee, the FBI suspected that he sheltered with relatives in Syria. Friends thought he might have died in the violent civil war there. One by one, the other Backfire fugitives were picked up. After 30-year-old New Jersey native Justin Solondz was arrested on drug charges in 2009 in the backpacker community of Dali, China, he pleaded guilty in the U.S. to firebombing the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture. Thirty-nine-year-old Rebecca Rubin, who had been hiding in her home nation of Canada, turned herself in in 2012, exhausted by years when “she was forced to live in what is, in some ways, a prison without walls,” as her lawyer told a Maclean’s reporter. She pleaded guilty to freeing wild horses and helping with the Vail arson.

While Dibee was on the lam, Obama’s election drove much of the environmental movement’s energy toward legislative change and away from direct action. The Intercept identified only 13 eco-activist cases prosecuted federally after 2008 — all but two charged under AETA. Six of the cases involved activists freeing mink from fur farms — actions that could hardly be considered terrorism even under the Patriot Act’s broad definition. Four more of the cases were dismissed. “The primary purpose of these laws is to try and brand activists as terrorists in order to turn public opinion against their advocacy and their campaigns,” Regan said.

Meanwhile, Democratic leadership failed to deliver any meaningful response to the deepening climate crisis and resulting biodiversity loss. Rising ocean temperatures caused the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which Dibee had visited as a kid, to bleach and die. Wildfires burned with more intensity through the desiccated Pacific Northwest forests that he’d fought to protect from the timber industry. Orca whale populations shrunk to perilous levels off the coast of Washington state. And Donald Trump was elected president, paving the way to reverse even the minor steps the Obama administration had taken to challenge corporate polluters.

Daryl Johnson, a former analyst at a branch of the Department of Homeland Security that studied the threat posed by anti-government militia groups, near Rockville, Md., Jan. 7, 2016. Johnson says that too little is being done to combat a rising domestic terrorism threat from right-wing extremists. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times)

Daryl Johnson, a former domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, near Rockville, Md., on Jan. 7, 2016.

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times via Redux

A Rising Threat Dismissed

Daryl Johnson started at the Department of Homeland Security as a domestic terrorism analyst when eco-terrorism was still one of its major priorities. He didn’t have a problem with that. “I still believe they’re terroristic threats, because it’s ideologically motivated violence against property,” he said. “But if I had to choose who was the greater threat, I would obviously go with the ones who were killing people.”

By 2009, Johnson had come to see right-wing extremism as a severe, rising threat. That April, he became the lead author on an intelligence assessment that found that right-wing movements were using Obama’s election as a recruiting tool. That same month, three police officers in Pittsburgh were ambushed and killed by a man who regularly posted on the white supremacist website Stormfront. “Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” the report concluded.

The report was leaked, and the backlash was swift. Conservative groups were particularly offended by its suggestion that veterans might be vulnerable to recruitment by far-right groups. Everyone from Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner to the American Legion released statements deriding it.

At first, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano defended Johnson’s work. “We must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence,” she said in a statement a week after the report was published. But after 20 conservative groups put out ads calling for her to resign, she backtracked, claiming there had been a breakdown in internal review processes and promising to replace the report.

“Their whole intent is to change the way things are done. … Well, that’s terrorism.

In contrast to the crackdown on eco-radicals, DHS stepped back from focusing on domestic terrorism altogether. Johnson’s unit was gutted, and he left the agency along with many of his peers.

“It sent a chilling effect in the law enforcement and intelligence community. They saw what happened to me and how my unit was politicized,” he told The Intercept. As a result, “you have 10 years of attacks almost,” said Johnson, who now works as a consultant on domestic extremism. “Lots of people have died. The threat [of far-right groups] is still very active right now, and so it’s thriving.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, between 2002 and 2018, 80 percent of extremist-related murders in the U.S. were carried out by people linked to right-wing movements. Only 3 percent were linked to left-wing ideologies, and 17 percent to Islamic movements. Every single extremist killing in 2018 — 50 in all — had a link to a right-wing movement.

Will Potter, a journalist and civil liberties advocate whose work focuses on the persecution of protesters as terrorists, argues that the federal focus on animal rights activists over right-wing extremists was driven by more than corporate lobbying. “Beliefs that motivate [animal rights] activists were presented as this ideological threat to core concepts that underpin what some people think it means to be an American — defense of capitalism, a religiously aligned state, defense of industry, the belief that humans are exceptional.”

In contrast, many of America’s foundational values — Christianity, individualism, gun rights, and white supremacy — align with those of right-wing extremists. As Johnson put it, right-wing groups “operate under some of the same values that [I], an FBI agent, might believe.”

Shapiro went even further: “No shit the FBI doesn’t like to go after right-wing groups. They’re on the same team.”

Activist Jessica Reznicek, talks with Lee County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Sproul while conducting a personal occupation and protesting the Bakken pipeline, Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016 at a pipeline construction site, along the Mississippi River Road near Keokuk, Iowa. Reznicek, a Des Moines Catholic Workers group member, was later taken into custody at about noon Tuesday by the Lee County Sheriff's Department.  (John Lovretta/The Hawk Eye via AP)

Activist Jessica Reznicek, left, talks with Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Sproul while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline on Aug. 30, 2016, at a construction site near Keokuk, Iowa.

Photo: John Lovretta/The Hawk Eye via AP

A New Generation

In October 2016, as thousands of opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline gathered in protest camps in North Dakota, activists simultaneously turned above-ground valves on five tar sands oil pipelines across the U.S., shutting off the oil’s flow in solidarity with the Standing Rock tribe. They livestreamed the actions and stayed on site, awaiting arrest.

Less than a year later, holes burned using welding tools began appearing on valves along the Dakota Access pipeline. Two pipeline activists, Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek, called a press conference to claim responsibility for the sabotage.

In response to the resurgence of direct action tactics, 84 members of Congress, including four Democrats, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in October 2017 asking whether “the attacks against this nation’s energy infrastructure, which pose a threat to human life, and appear to be intended to intimidate and coerce policy changes,” fell within the Justice Department’s understanding of domestic terrorism.

“Just because time passes doesn’t mean the FBI forgets.”

The American Petroleum Institute praised the letter and told the industry publication Natural Gas Intelligence that the group was working with the Trump administration on the issue, including the Justice Department and the FBI. “A key component of securing our nation’s energy infrastructure is ensuring that law enforcement has the tools needed to prosecute those who attack it,” an institute spokesperson said.

As if on cue, ALEC entered the fray. By December 2017, it had introduced a model Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, which would increase penalties for trespassing on or inhibiting the operations of oil and gas pipelines. Under the model, “conspirator” organizations, such as activist groups, would face a fine several times that of the trespasser. Eight states are considering versions of the law, and industry groups and oil and gas companies, including Dakota Access parent company Energy Transfer Partners, have been lobbying on its behalf.

“It’s the corporate state bringing out the same old tired playbook and repeating the same plays again and again,” said Regan.

While legislators’ efforts haven’t yet translated into Green Scare-style prosecutions, their enthusiasm reveals that the anti-eco-terror framework built in the 1990s and strengthened in the wake of 9/11 could easily be deployed again.

On August 10, the FBI held a press conference to announce it had captured Dibee. “Just because time passes doesn’t mean the FBI forgets,” FBI agent Tim Suttles, who worked the Operation Backfire case for 14 years, said in a statement. “We are very gratified to have Dibee in custody.”

Dibee’s lawyer declined to comment. But if his case turns out like those of his co-defendants, he’ll probably negotiate a guilty plea. The judge is likely to consider a terrorism enhancement, and Dibee will be sentenced to years in prison.

Harvey, the Oregon detective who spent years trying to catch Dibee, learned of the arrest from a friend who’s still working on the case. “I was extremely happy,” he told The Intercept.

Quimby, the former FBI agent, was similarly gratified. “When Joe was picked up, it was sort of cool, like one more down, one to go.”

But she knows it’s not over. One Backfire defendant, Josephine Overaker, remains missing. “She speaks fluent Spanish and may seek employment as a firefighter, midwife, sheep tender, or masseuse,” the FBI said in its press release announcing Dibee’s capture.

“With Overaker still out there the case isn’t closed,” Quimby said. “It won’t be until she comes into custody.”

Source documents used in this reporting were obtained by Property of the People and shared exclusively with The Intercept. You can learn more about Property of the People’s work litigating Freedom of Information Act requests here.

The post How a Movement That Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorism Threat appeared first on The Intercept.

The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional “Black Identity Extremism” Movement

Hours after police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on a quiet suburban street in Ferguson, Missouri, Olajuwon Ali Davis stood with a few dozen people on that same street. As the impromptu candlelight vigil that August night in 2014 turned into a historic wave of nationwide protests against police violence, Davis, wearing a black Malcolm X T-shirt, was among the first to lift his hands in surrender, as Brown was rumored to have been doing when Wilson shot him.

Within days, the gesture became the symbol of a movement for police accountability and racial justice the nation had not seen since the civil rights era. And the refrain protesters began chanting that night — “Hands up, don’t shoot” — would soon be replaced by one that would echo across the country for years to come: Black lives matter.

Davis, who was 22 at the time, kept showing up as the protests grew larger and angrier, and as scores of law enforcement descended on Ferguson wearing riot gear and firing tear gas. Days after Brown’s death, during a short-lived break in the looting and police violence, Davis was photographed wearing all black and directing traffic; the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which he had joined on the heels of Brown’s killing, was keeping the peace.

Days later, Davis emailed a local reporter who had covered the NBPP’s peacekeeping efforts to thank him for portraying “the true nature and the intent” of the party, which, despite taking its name, is not affiliated with the Black Panther Party of the 1960s. “For the record we the NBPP and its local chapter members have and never [sic] promoted acts of violence towards anyone or any establishment or businesses,” Davis wrote to the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis weekly. “True enough there are people so angry that they show their pain and emotions with aggression towards cops and frankly anything that they can get their hands on. But let these few not distort the genuine peaceful intention and benevolence of the NBPP.”

Three months later, Davis and another young man named Brandon Orlando Baldwin were arrested in an FBI sting and accused of planning to plant bombs, kill officials connected to the Brown case, and blow up St. Louis’s iconic Gateway Arch.

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 22:  Ten-year-old Robert Dunn uses a megaphone to address hundreds of demonstrators during a protest against police brutality and the death of Freddie Gray outside the Baltimore Police Western District station April 22, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ten-year-old Robert Dunn uses a megaphone to address hundreds of demonstrators during a protest against police brutality and the death of Freddie Gray outside the Baltimore Police Western District station in Maryland on April 22, 2015.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ideological Make-Believe

Three years later, the FBI listed Davis’s case in a secret memo warning of the rise of a “black identity extremist” movement whose members’ “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans” spurred what the FBI claimed was “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.” Although Baldwin was convicted of the same crimes, the FBI report inexplicably only mentioned one suspect.

The “black identity extremism” report was prepared by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, part of the bureau’s Counterterrorism Division, and was distributed to scores of local and federal law enforcement partners across the country. Although Davis and Baldwin were not charged under anti-terrorism laws, they do appear to be the first individuals retroactively labeled by the FBI as “black identity extremists.”

The FBI report was written six months into the Trump administration — as white supremacist groups felt emboldened by support for their ideology seemingly coming from the very top of the government — and was released only a week before the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white nationalist ran down and killed Heather Heyer. When the report was leaked to Foreign Policy later in 2017, it prompted fierce and widespread criticism from activists, civil rights advocates, and lawmakers, many of whom accused the FBI of reverting to the surveillance and sabotage of black activists that had defined its activities in the civil rights era.

Critics called the report’s contents “fiction,” “fantasy,” “weak” and “irresponsible.” Several noted that it seemed designed to distract attention from the reality of police abuse against minorities. “The feds have invented a title — BIE — and linked it to a handful of episodes of violence,” wrote Andrew Cohen, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “To deflect legitimate criticism of police tactics, to undermine a legitimate protest movement that has emerged in the past three years to protest police brutality, the FBI has tarred the dissenters as domestic terrorists, an organized group with a criminal ideology that are a threat to police officers.”

“Whenever you create an assumption that somebody poses a physical threat to law enforcement, that provides incentive for law enforcement to shoot first and ask questions later.”

The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, which includes leaders of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, called for the classification to be eliminated. “This assessment resurrects the historically negative legacy of African American civil rights leaders who were unconstitutionally targeted and attacked by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies for seeking full U.S. citizenship under the law,” the group wrote in a statement.

Yet even more worrisome than the report’s political implications is the immediate threat to life that labeling someone a “terrorist” can pose, especially as the FBI has no way to monitor what law enforcement departments do with the reports it distributes. For many black people, already accustomed to being uniquely vulnerable to police violence, the fear is that being viewed as potential terrorists for expressing legitimate political grievances might give police license to target them even more intensely than they already do.

“Not only can they go after these people with surveillance, but they can then justify using the most aggressive, violent tactics,” said Justin Hansford, a St. Louis activist and law professor who heads the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University. “Whenever you create an assumption that somebody poses a physical threat to law enforcement, that provides incentive for law enforcement to shoot first and ask questions later.”

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in December 2017, shortly after the report was leaked to the press, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the FBI investigates as domestic terrorism only cases involving federal crimes that include the use or attempted use of violence in furtherance of political or social goals. “We don’t have that, we don’t investigate,” Wray said. “It doesn’t matter whether they are right-wing, left-wing, or any other wing.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee  on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on December 7, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

FBI Director Christopher Wray arrives to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on oversight of the FBI in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7, 2017.

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images


“We take respect for the First Amendment very seriously, and in this context, as in every other domestic terrorism context, we want to be very clear with people, and all the American people, that we do not investigate rhetoric, ideology, opinion, no matter who might consider it extremist,” he added. “What we do investigate is when rhetoric, ideology, opinion takes that next step into the category of federal crime and of particular violence.”

At the hearing, Wray said that the “black identity extremism” report was based on both open-source information and ongoing FBI investigations. He also said, citing no specific numbers, that the bureau had “about 50 percent more” investigations of white supremacists than it did of “black identity extremists.” In subsequent meetings with lawmakers, he said he was unfamiliar with any investigations of “black identity extremists.”

In a statement to The Intercept, a spokesperson for the FBI wrote that the agency “does not police ideology.” The bureau, she added, will only initiate an investigation if there is an allegation of a federal crime or a threat to national security. “Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on criminal activity,” the spokesperson wrote. “When an individual takes violent action based on belief or ideology — and breaks the law — the FBI will enforce the rule of law. The FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of their constitutional rights, and we remain committed to protecting those rights for all Americans.”

The FBI declined to answer The Intercept’s questions about how various ideologies are presented, downplayed, or emphasized in threat assessment reports that the agency routinely circulates to law enforcement, or about how those reports might impact surveillance and policing of targeted communities, regardless of the threats they pose. At the 2017 Judiciary Committee hearing, as well as at a second hearing before the same committee in June 2018, Wray also failed to address those questions.

“My big concern is that local law enforcement will misinterpret that and will clamp down on people exercising their First Amendment rights,” Rep. Karen Bass, one of the report’s fiercest critics in Congress, told him at the first hearing.

FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 13:  Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday. Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, is experiencing its fourth day of violent protests since the killing.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

It’s unclear how the “black identity extremism” report has been used by local law enforcement agencies. But if the threat is as serious as the FBI report implies, that hasn’t turned into successful federal prosecutions. According to The Intercept’s analysis, Davis and Olajuwon’s case was the only federal prosecution of individuals the FBI considers to be “black identity extremists” that resulted in a conviction. By comparison, the analysis found that 268 right-wing extremists were prosecuted in federal courts since 9/11 for crimes that appear to meet the legal definition of domestic terrorism, even though the Justice Department applied anti-terrorism laws against only 34 of them.

While several news reports referred to the case of Christopher Daniels, a Texas activist who advocated for the rights of black gun owners, as the first known prosecution of a “black identity extremist,” the FBI appears to have retroactively used that label to refer to individuals it started surveilling as early as 2014, on the heels of the Ferguson protests. Daniels, who also went by the name Rakem Balogun, was indicted of a weapons offense months after the release of the FBI report, but a judge dismissed the charge last May. The FBI declined to comment on any of these cases, as well as on the origins of the “black identity extremist” label.

“This was literally picking six random events and then imagining a movement around them.”

None of the other five individuals referenced in the FBI’s 2017 report were federally prosecuted. They include three black men who attacked and, in two cases, killed, police officers in New York, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, though the FBI’s report fails to connect their actions to any specific group or clear ideology. A man who shot at two police stations in Indiana in October 2016 and another who drove his car toward three police officers in Arizona in September 2016 — both of whom were prosecuted on state charges — also appear to have acted independently of any groups or discernible ideology. Three were killed by police on the scene.

Davis himself, while he had recently joined the New Black Panther Party, was found to have plotted the St. Louis bombings without the group’s knowledge or support. And he was also known to police as a devotee of the Moorish Science Temple of America, a black variation of the overwhelmingly white sovereign citizen movement, a domestic extremist ideology well known to the FBI.

The only connection between the six men referenced in the report, besides their race, is a thread of anger at police that is common among tens of thousands of Americans who never committed or intended to commit acts of violence. “In all of them, there is no connection to any national movement; the cases are not linked in any way,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. “This was literally picking six random events and then imagining a movement around them.”

“This is not just a failure of an intelligence product, but a dangerous intelligence product,” German added. “It spreads misinformation rather than intelligence.”

Olajuwon Ali Davis (left) was one of a small group of people who went into the Ferguson Police Department to speak with Lt. Craig Rettke on the night of Aug. 9, 2014 hours after Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson. Davis one one of two men charged with federal weapons charges, and who also allegedly had plans to bomb the Gateway Arch, and to kill St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. (David Carson/Post Dispatch/Polaris) ///

Olajuwon Ali Davis, far left, was one of a small group of people who went into the Ferguson Police Department to speak with Lt. Craig Rettke on the night of Aug. 9, 2014, hours after Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

Photo: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Polaris

The Bomb Plot

On November 21, 2014, three months after Brown’s killing, Davis and Baldwin were arrested in an FBI sting and indicted in federal court on weapons charges, accused of making false statements to buy guns at a Cabela’s store where Baldwin worked.

Three days later, a grand jury declined to charge Wilson for Brown’s death. As protests once again engulfed St. Louis, news outlets citing unnamed law enforcement sources reported that Davis and Baldwin had bought what they thought was a pipe bomb and had plans to buy two more from undercover agents, and that they intended to blow up the city’s celebrated arch and kill St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. In a packed courtroom, the friends and families of the accused dismissed those accusations as “lies,” while the New Black Panther Party’s national leadership called them a “FRAME UP attempt.” Davis’s wife, who was pregnant and due in two weeks, fainted in court and went into early labor.

The most explosive allegations against Davis and Baldwin were not detailed in the original court filings. But in a revised federal indictment filed months after their arrest, the two were charged with additional crimes, including attempting to “damage and destroy, by means of explosives, a building, vehicle and other property.”

If the court documents were light on detail, the press coverage was not. In the heated atmosphere that followed the Ferguson protests, many news outlets hyped the story, writing headlines that mischaracterized Davis and Baldwin as affiliates of the “Black Panthers,” and letting anonymous law enforcement sources drive the narrative around their alleged scheme. The press picked on the story’s most salacious details: Davis and Baldwin had planned to buy more bombs, several outlets reported, but had been unable to do so because they were waiting for funds to be disbursed to “a girlfriend’s” EBT card — a detail, presumably leaked by law enforcement, that turned out to be false.

According to their nearly identical sentencing plea agreements, Davis and Baldwin, who met during the protests over Brown’s killing, discussed acquiring guns and bombs and wanting to organize Ferguson protesters to “be like an army.” Baldwin told an FBI informant that he wanted to “build bombs and blow things up.”

“We are at war, you understand, bro,” he told the informant. According to Baldwin’s plea, Davis “put it out there that he was a terrorist” — a reference that appears to have been scrapped from Davis’s own plea. The Gateway Arch, which according to earlier accounts had been the pair’s main target, was never actually mentioned in conversations recorded by law enforcement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Pastor Spencer Booker, of the St. Paul A.M.E. Church, addresses the crowd at a press conference where a boycott and protest of Black Friday shopping was announced by the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition in St. Louis on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2104. In addition to the boycott leaders called for mass demonstrations at shopping centers. Pictured to the far left is Olajuwon Ali Davis who is one one of two men charged last week with federal weapons charges, and who also allegedly had plans to bomb the Gateway Arch, and to kill St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. (David Carson/Post Dispatch/Polaris) ///

Pastor Spencer Booker addresses the crowd at a press conference, where a boycott and protest of Black Friday shopping was announced by the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition in St. Louis on Nov. 12, 2014. Olajuwon Ali Davis, far left, participated in the public announcement.

Photo: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Polaris

For their part, law enforcement officials conceded that it was unlikely that Davis and Baldwin would have been capable of executing a bomb plot, and that it was unclear how they would have made it through airport-style security at the arch; nonetheless, they painted the duo as a dangerous threat.

Richard Callahan, then-U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Missouri, said in a statement after the guilty plea that the disruption of the plot days before the grand jury’s rejection of charges against Wilson “undoubtedly saved lives. Luckily for all of us, we’ll never know just how many.” But that seemed to contradict an earlier interview, in which he had said that a lot of Davis’s and Baldwin’s ideas were “totally unrealistic and impractical, and we didn’t include [in the indictment] all of the things they rambled on about, to not sensationalize the case or make it more than it is.” Callahan did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment. Kenneth Tihen, a lead prosecutor in the case, declined to comment.

Davis and Baldwin pleaded guilty to explosives and gun charges in June 2015, and in September 2015 they were sentenced to seven-year prison terms. (Davis’s father told The Intercept that before their plea, prosecutors had threatened his son with the possibility of 30 years in prison.)

At sentencing, Davis called his actions “reckless, irresponsible and just stupid.” Baldwin’s attorney said on behalf of his client that Baldwin also apologized for “his stupidity.” Davis’s attorney did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment; Baldwin’s declined to comment. Davis and Baldwin, who are currently in prison, could not be reached for comment.

But those close to them maintain that their ordeal was a classic case of entrapment.

“They wanted to set an example through my son to show that we are onto you all. The FBI, the federal government, is onto you activist people. We’re watching you; this can happen to you too.”

“He was tricked,” Henry Davis, Olajuwon Davis’s father, told The Intercept. “They wanted to set an example through my son to show that we are onto you all. The FBI, the federal government, is onto you activist people. We’re watching you; this can happen to you too.”

Henry Davis said that FBI “agents” befriended his son during the Ferguson protests, then offered him money, marijuana, and hotel stays. They later moved into his apartment complex and spent weeks hanging out with him, talking about “the resistance.”

His son, he said, felt obligated to do what they asked. “They pretended to be part of the whole movement, said that they wanted to be down,” Henry Davis said. He added that FBI agents gave his son and Baldwin the money they used to buy the guns, claiming that they couldn’t buy the weapons themselves because of felony records. But the same agents later insisted that Davis and Baldwin pay for the pipe bombs with their own money. That should have made his son suspicious, Henry Davis said.

“I’m not trying to justify his actions, because I’m ashamed, and I’ve expressed my disappointment to my son,” said Henry Davis. But, he added, “Olajuwon never had the intention of harming anyone. He’s actually harmless. … They got him.”

Baldwin’s father, Berlin Baldwin Jr., also told The Intercept that his son was caught in a trap. “If you believe in what you hear on TV, yeah, you would think he was a terrorist,” he said. The elder Baldwin readily admitted that his son made a mistake and committed a crime, but added, “He is not no terrorist. They just went after somebody and wrapped him up in it. And he’s none of what they’re saying. Just none of that stuff is true.”

Daniels, the Dallas gun activist who federal authorities tried and failed to prosecute as a “black identity extremist,” put it more bluntly. “A lot of people in this movement are not fully developed and mature individuals,” he told The Intercept, noting that he himself had staved off entrapment attempts by law enforcement. “If I go to any white college in America and talk to a whole bunch of 20-year-olds, and be like, ‘Hey man, I got some grenades, would you like to buy some?’ — somebody’s going to buy them. It’s like offering a gun to a baby.”

“Moorish” Citizens

Brandon Orlando Baldwin appears to have been politicized by the protests over Brown’s killing. Three days after the shooting, Baldwin changed his Facebook profile picture to one of himself wearing a black beret — a symbol of the Black Panthers — and in the following months, his social media posts alternated between enraged comments about police brutality and pictures of himself with his young daughter.

baldwin-1553005534

Brandon Orlando Baldwin and his daughter.

Photo: Courtesy of the Baldwin family

In one post about the proliferation of videos showing police abuse, he wrote, “Stop filming and start blow’n they fuckin heads off… or beaten they Ass with they batons… When r we gonna really say enough is enough and stop turning the fuckin cheek for ppl who wouldn’t turn on the water if yo Ass was on fire.” In October 2014, a month before his arrest and while he was already under FBI surveillance, he posted: “I wonder how many of my Followers are FEDS.”

To his family, Baldwin’s arrest came as a shock, his father told The Intercept. His parents had not even known that he had started going to the protests in Ferguson until a family friend told his father that he had seen him on TV. “I immediately called him and said, What the hell are you doing?” Berlin Baldwin Jr. said.

“He might have been a protester, but he’s not an activist,” the senior Baldwin added, arguing that his son was young, naive, and new to the world of protests and activism. “To me and the family, we feel that he was brainwashed. … It was just a big mistake in his life, thinking that he was joining something that was important, being young.”

Davis had a longer history of political engagement. He had been a valedictorian in high school and won a full scholarship to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he was studying economics, his father told The Intercept. Davis was also a promising actor, and in 2013 he starred in an award-winning independent film that was released last year. “The story surrounding his arrest and crime aren’t a full picture,” Robert Herrera, the film’s director, said in an interview. “I think people would have a hard time reconciling who they see on screen versus what they read about him — and I think that is something to think about when you read about all the young minorities out in this country who are considered irredeemable criminals.”

“The bureau’s fever dreams of leftist subversion have undermined American efforts for social justice.”

In college, inspired by an African history class, Davis learned about the Moorish movement, a group that’s grown considerably in recent years, whose beliefs are a mixture of sovereign citizen ideology — a historically right-wing and white supremacist ideology whose adherents reject the legitimacy of government institutions — and devotion to the Moorish Science Temple of America. The senior Davis, who is a vocal Trump supporter and hopes the president will pardon his son, had dreamed that Olajuwon Davis would become the first black secretary of the Treasury. But to his father’s horror, Davis joined the Moors, dropped out of college, and moved back to St. Louis. “The Moors convinced him that he was too black and too powerful to work for the government,” his father said.

Because they reject government authority, including that of law enforcement, sovereign citizens are perceived by police agencies as a top threat. But the FBI’s “black identity extremism” report, while noting “sparse evidence” of a convergence of sovereign citizen extremism and Moorish beliefs, said that the connection is clearest in the production of fraudulent personal identification documents. “Not all self-identified Moors are sovereign citizens, and not all sovereign citizen Moors engage in violence against law enforcement or other illegal activity,” the FBI conceded in the report.

Davis filed an “Abjuration of Citizenship” document with the Moorish nation movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League, and declared himself an “aboriginal indigenous Moorish national of Northwest Amexem,” the Moorish name for North America.

He carried a Moorish ID and said he had been tased and arrested in 2013 after attempting to make a “tax-free” purchase at a gas station using the ID. In social media posts, he described St. Louis as a “Slave Capital in a Slave State!” and the Gateway Arch as a “Symbol of Our destruction and demise.” According to his father, Davis met out-of-state members of the New Black Panther Party after Brown’s killing and was quickly recruited to lead the group’s local chapter. He befriended two FBI informants shortly thereafter.

moorish-id-1553005721

A screenshot of the Moorish ID that Olajuwon Ali Davis shared in a YouTube video where he discussed sovereign citizenship.

Screenshot: The Intercept

The older Davis said his son did not realize that he was being framed, but the younger Davis indicated in social media posts that he knew he was under surveillance. “Family and Friends, every day I got Caucasians following me in SUV trucks,” he wrote on Facebook two days before his arrest. “Please be advised that if you show any signs of noncompliance with this Devil they will try to assassinate you.”

In prison, Davis has been taking classes, reading Paulo Coelho novels, recording himself reading books to his children, and volunteering to support fellow inmates who were placed on suicide watch, he wrote last year in a letter to the judge who sentenced him. “I recognize that my incarceration was due to my failure to adhere to the principles of unwavering faith and affirming peace in thought and in action,” he wrote. “My imprisonment has given me the chance to once again develop a perspective that is sound and humane.”

Egregious “Bothsidesism”

As protests over Brown’s killing intensified in Ferguson and spilled across the country over the next months and years, so did the FBI’s scrutiny of protesters. In November 2014, days before the Ferguson grand jury’s decision and Davis and Baldwin’s arrest, the bureau circulated an internal bulletin warning law enforcement of “Potential Criminal Reactions to Missouri Grand Jury Announcement.” Two years later, after protests against police brutality had engulfed Baltimore, Chicago, and several other cities, the FBI again issued an intelligence bulletin, warning that “Black Separatist Extremists’ Call for Retaliation in Response to Police-Involved Incidents Could Incite Acts of Violence against Law Enforcement.”

By 2017, the FBI had given this presumed threat a new name: Black Identity Extremism, or what the bureau claimed was a growing, violent, and racially motivated movement targeting law enforcement. Filled with innuendo and stereotypes, the 12-page report that first introduced the label was written so imprecisely that the very definition of a “black identity extremist” was left grammatically incomplete, making its meaning unclear:

The FBI defines black identity extremists as individuals who seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society and some do so in furtherance of establishing a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States.

The report also explicitly connected its analysis to the Ferguson protests, focusing on incidents of what it called “premeditated attacks against law enforcement officers since 2014.”

“The FBI assesses it is very likely incidents of alleged police abuse against African Americans since [Ferguson] have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity, within the BIE movement,” it noted, adding that agency had “high confidence” in its assessment. “The FBI further judges it is very likely BIEs proactively target police and openly identify and justify their actions with social-political agendas commensurate with their perceived injustices against African Americans, and in some cases, their identified affiliations with violent extremist groups.”

Hansford, the activist and professor, told The Intercept that law enforcement took legitimate grievances about a broken system as personal attacks against them, and fabricated a nonexistent threat to repress criticism. “The Black Lives Matter protesters and other black protesters oftentimes are protesting the police themselves, so it’s a situation of self-interest where [police] feel personally attacked,” he said. “The problem is there really hasn’t been a major [African-American] group that has in any way, shape, or form been a tangible threat to law enforcement, physically, since the Black Liberation Army,” Hansford added, citing a militant black nationalist group active in the 1970s. “It’s been over 40 years.”

Lawmakers also condemned the report. In addition to Wray’s meetings with the Congressional Black Caucus and testimonies about it at two separate House Judiciary Committee hearings, Bass memorably grilled then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the report’s claims at a different committee hearing. Sessions said he hadn’t read the report and couldn’t name an African-American organization that had committed violence against police. Moments after Bass asked him whether he considered the Ku Klux Klan to be “white identity extremists,” Sessions quipped that the names of any white supremacist groups were “not coming to me at this moment.”

Despite a barrage of criticism the FBI did not retract or amend the report. Speaking before the House Judiciary Committee in December 2017, Wray said that the FBI would not “withdraw intelligence assessments based on public outcry.” Appearing before that committee again, in June 2018, he offered no answers to some legislators’ questions about who exactly had written the report and based on what premises, but he said that their feedback “prompted us to go back and take a very hard look at how we are bucketing the different categories of domestic terrorism.” “I think it’s been a useful learning experience for us,” Wray said, “and I expect we will see some changes in how we do things going forward.” Still, to date, the FBI has issued no clarification or amendment to the report.

But the “black identity extremism” report wasn’t the only one the FBI produced that year warning about the threat posed by a nonexistent ideological group. As Jezebel reported in January, the FBI in 2017 issued a similar alert about what it called “pro-choice extremists.”

In a one-page memo obtained via public records request by the government transparency group Property of the People, the FBI lists the new category of made-up extremists along actually existing “pro-life extremists” under the common banner of “Abortion Extremism Ideology.” As was the case with “black identity extremism,” the FBI concedes in the report that its own evidence for claiming that such an ideology exists is scant. “Only one pro-choice extremist has been prosecuted,” the report notes. “And that person acted independently and without any direct affiliation to a pro-choice group.”

As Jezebel notes, that is a reference to Theodore Shulman, who served three years in prison for harassing and threatening to kill two leaders of the anti-abortion movement. The only killing of an anti-abortion activist came at the hands of a mentally ill man who had also killed someone else that day, and that showed no signs of being motivated by ideology.

The documents obtained by Property of the People also give a sense of how these reports might be put to use by law enforcement. In one email published by the group, a Washington state sheriff shares the FBI material with his staff with the following warning: “Attached is the latest and greatest about groups we should be aware of. Some of them operate in Eastern Washington.”

Property of the People called the equation of imaginary “pro-choice extremism” to the real “pro-life extremism,” whose adherents have murdered at least a dozen doctors and abortion providers, “an especially egregious case of ‘bothsidesism.’”

“The term ‘terrorist’ is so nebulous, it’s so abstract. Anything they don’t like, they’ll call terrorist.”

“The FBI has a long, sad history of targeting progressive movements as threats to national security,” Ryan Shapiro, the group’s executive director, told The Intercept. “From the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements to the animal rights, anti-fascist, pro-choice, and Black Lives Matter movements today, the bureau’s fever dreams of leftist subversion have undermined American efforts for social justice.”

The FBI has also done little to address criticism that while it has long warned of the “persistent” threat posed by white supremacist groups — and even investigated white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement, as The Intercept has reported — it has grossly undercounted the violent incidents stemming from white supremacist ideology. While a May 2017 FBI report argued that “lone actors and small cells” within the white supremacist extremist movement “will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence,” that report minimized the level of violence coming from these individuals, listing only “one lethal and five potentially lethal attacks” carried out by white supremacist extremists in 2016 and omitting, for instance, the case of Brent Ward Luyster, a neo-Nazi who murdered three people in 2016 while under FBI investigation.

Between 2008 and 2017, “right-wing extremists” were responsible for 274 murders — more than 70 percent of all murders carried out by domestic extremists, according to a review by the ADL. And of 34 extremist-related murders in 2017, 59 percent were related to right-wing extremism, including 53 percent involving individuals who explicitly espoused white supremacist views. But many of those cases were rarely discussed by officials in terms of domestic terrorism, nor were the accused charged under anti-terrorism laws, even though they appeared to be motivated by a clear ideology.

Instead, as The Intercept’s analysis revealed, the Justice Department applied anti-terrorism laws against only 34 of 268 right-wing extremists it prosecuted for crimes that appear to meet the legal definition of domestic terrorism — while also targeting 17 environmental and animal rights activists with anti-terrorism laws.

“They view terrorism through a distorted lens that overemphasizes nonviolent acts by groups opposed to government policy over acts of violence against marginalized groups here in the United States,” said German, the former FBI agent, referring to the agency. “The language is intentionally malleable because they want to include certain acts and exclude other similar acts, depending on who is committing them or who the victim of the crime is.”

“The reason they’re able to do this is because the term ‘terrorist’ is so nebulous, it’s so abstract. Anything they don’t like, they’ll call terrorist,” echoed Hansford, the activist and law professor. “They will always resist having a more precise definition of terrorism because they want to use it as a tool to basically go after whoever they want to go after.”

Members of an FBI evidence response team work at the scene of the attack on police officers in Dallas, Saturday, July 9, 2016. A peaceful protest over the recent videotaped shootings of black men by police turned violent Thursday night as gunman Micah Johnson fatally shot several officers. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Members of an FBI evidence response team work at the scene of the attack on police officers in Dallas on July 9, 2016.

Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

The FBI’s “BIE List”

In addition to the case of Davis and Baldwin — which the FBI report inexplicably describes as involving only one unnamed suspect — the “black identity extremism” report mentions the deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge in the summer of 2016. Those shootings followed the police killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, which were caught on video and reignited the national outrage sparked by Brown’s killing two years earlier. The report also lists nonfatal attacks on police in New York, Indiana, and Arizona.

But despite the FBI’s efforts to group the incidents together, there is no evidence that the perpetrators knew each other, belonged to any common groups, or subscribed to the same set of beliefs. Instead, the cases present a mix of resentment toward police, anger at the treatment of minorities, and mental health issues. At least two of the men referenced had expressed sovereign citizen beliefs: one was a Muslim convert who had shown fascination with jihadi violence, and two were military veterans who had sought treatment for symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. In many cases, the ideologies that law enforcement has attributed to them appear to have been based on FBI agents scrolling through comments the men had made on social media.

Three of the six referenced in the report were killed before their motives could be tested in court. Micah Johnson, who on July 7, 2016, shot and killed five law enforcement officers and wounded several others at a Dallas protest against police violence, told police negotiators before being killed in a standoff that “he was upset about recent police shootings and white people, and expressed a desire to kill white people, especially white officers,” according to the FBI report. The report notes that Johnson had “searched and liked social media pages of BIE and black separatist groups” and “appeared to have been influenced by BIE ideology.” It also cites news reports saying that he had been “ousted from a local BIE group for being too radical.” It’s unclear what groups the FBI was referring to, since “black identity extremist” organizations do not exist.

Gavin Eugene Long, who shot six Baton Rouge police officers on July 17, 2016, killing three, had used “black separatist rhetoric” on social media and in a manifesto he left behind, in which he described his actions “as a necessary evil … in order to create substantial change,” the FBI report notes, adding that Long had also declared himself a “Moor,” changed his “slave” name to a Moorish name, and was carrying a Moorish identification card at the time of his death. In videos and tweets posted shortly before the shooting, Long had praised Johnson, the Dallas shooter. He added, if “anything happens to me … don’t affiliate me with anybody.”

The cases present a mix of resentment toward police, anger at the treatment of minorities, and mental health issues.

Both Johnson and Long were military veterans. Johnson had sought treatment for anxiety, depression, and hallucinations after returning from Afghanistan in 2014, according to the Veterans Health Administration, and he had reportedly told doctors that he heard voices and mortars exploding, and that he had panic attacks and nightmares. Long, who served with the Marines in Iraq between 2008 and 2009, had told doctors that he experienced symptoms of PTSD, though his ultimate diagnosis was “adjustment disorder with depressed mood.”

The FBI report also lists the case of Zale Thompson, who attacked four New York police officers with a hatchet in October 2014, injuring two. According to the report, Thompson had tattoos that “indicated he was affiliated with a black separatist extremist group” and “pocket litter indicating he may have been associated with another black separatist group.” The FBI report cites “law enforcement reporting” as its source, but doesn’t mention that Thompson also appeared to have become fascinated by Islamic State propaganda videos and jihadi rhetoric.

Finally, the report listed the cases, though not the names, of Damoine Wilcoxson and Marc Laquon Payne. Wilcoxson was sentenced to 37 years in Indiana state prison after shooting at two Indianapolis police stations in 2016, leaving behind delirious handwritten notes saying, “White must die.” Payne was accused of plowing his car into three officers in Arizona that same year. Authorities indicated that Payne, who has pleaded not guilty and is facing trial later this year, was impaired at the time and that his motives were unknown, but the FBI report notes that Payne’s social media accounts “indicated that he was tied to a BIE group and a Moorish group and that he was angry over police shootings since at least the killing of Brown in 2014.”

But while the FBI stretched its definition of “black identity extremism” to include a disparate series of disconnected cases, white criminal suspects’ connections to extremist groups are often discounted, German said. “There’s evidence that the shooter in Las Vegas had expressed some anti-government views that are in line with some far-right groups, but you don’t see this rush to say he was a far-right extremist and to attribute those deaths to far-right extremism in the United States,” he said, referring to the massacre of 59 people at a country music concert in 2017. “That’s where the politics of this kind of approach are very damaging and divisive in American society, because they do tend to reflect political views rather than the threat of violence.”

Rakem Balogun photographed near his home in Dallas, Texas.

Rakem Balogun, photographed near his home in Dallas, Texas.

Photo: Allison V. Smith

Rakem’s Story

The case of Rakem Balogun is often characterized as the first attempted federal prosecution of a “black identity extremist” since the FBI report about the supposed ideology. Balogun is a Dallas-based former Marine and a member of Guerrilla Mainframe, a pan-African group with a broad agenda ranging between universal health care and the abolition of the U.S. Constitution. He was also a member of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, which promotes the Second Amendment rights of African-Americans.

Balogun, whose legal name is Christopher Daniels, was arrested in December 2017, when officers in riot gear pulled him and his 15-year-old son out of their house and forced them to stand outside in the cold, handcuffed and in their underwear. Balogun spent the next five months in jail on a single illegal firearms possession charge, while prosecutors tried and failed to paint him as a domestic terrorist. At his detention hearing, where Balogun was denied bail, an FBI agent testified that he had been under surveillance for two years, since video of him at an open-carry rally against police brutality circulated online, including on the right-wing conspiracy site InfoWars.

The video shows protesters, including Balogun, chanting, “The only good pig is a pig that’s dead” and “Oink oink, bang bang.” Balogun’s Facebook page “openly and publicly advocates violence toward law enforcement,” the FBI agent said. On the first anniversary of the July 2016 Dallas police shooting, Balogun posted several comments that appeared to celebrate shooter Micah Johnson. “Today one year ago one Black Man brought Dallas Pig Department to their knees,” he wrote.

Today, Balogun says he always suspected that he was being watched. “Anybody that knows a little bit about the history of black activism would know that once you become politically involved as a black person, especially as somebody who counters popular politics, that you will be watched,” he told The Intercept months after a judge ordered his release. “I don’t mind having an audience. I’m not doing anything illegal and I don’t advocate for anything illegal.”

“The thing about it is, a lot of mature black nationalists, militants, are not into the concept of going to war with the police or the state or anything of that nature,” he added, noting that he espouses what he called “scientific revolutionary socialism,” and that he believes in an individual’s right to self-defense.

Ultimately, the case against Balogun hinged on an accusation that he was prohibited from owning a gun due to a 10-year-old misdemeanor conviction for domestic assault in another state. Prosecutors tried to convince him to take a plea deal, he said. “Their plan was for me to be weak and sign for six months, and to feel guilty for being a black activist who promotes a culture of self-defense and self-preservation in a white nation. … That’s really the crime,” he told The Intercept. He refused to take a deal.

Balogun, who has long been an advocate for gun rights, said he’s used to the double standard applied to black gun owners. Perhaps the most infamous example of that is Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop, which his girlfriend streamed on Facebook Live. Castile was a legal gun owner and told the officer he had a gun, but he was shot anyway while reaching for his license as ordered. Balogun told The Intercept that while police officers are generally friendly with open-carry demonstrators in Texas, black open-carry demonstrators routinely receive more hostile treatment.

A federal judge ultimately dismissed the gun charge against him, but Balogun lost his job and home, and missed his newborn daughter’s first months while he was in jail. He says he is now considering legal action to obtain whatever surveillance material the government may have gathered on him. Wray said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2017 that he was not familiar with Balogun’s case.

Babu Omowale, a founder and director of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, told The Intercept that he is sure Balogun was not the only member under surveillance. The group, which is named after a co-founder of the Black Panther Party, is mostly made up of former members or the New Black Panther Party who have focused their activism on gun rights and self-defense in the black community, mostly staging open-carry rallies, neighborhood patrols, and in one case, counterdemonstrating as an anti-Muslim group rallied outside a Dallas mosque.

“We see them sitting outside of our meetings, watching us, but it’s not going to stop us from organizing our people,” said Omowale, referring to the FBI. “We’ve known about it since the 1960s, when J. Edgar Hoover was over the counterintelligence program where he sought out black leadership.”

At a rally outside the U.S. Courthouse October 29, 1969, Dr. Benjamin Spock, background, listens to Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther party.  It was part of a protest against the trial of eight persons accused of conspiracy to cause a riot during the Democratic National Convention in 1968.  (AP Photo/stf)

At a rally outside the U.S. Courthouse on Oct. 29, 1969, Fred Hampton, chair of the Illinois Black Panther Party, speaks at a protest against the trial of eight people accused of conspiracy to cause a riot during the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

Photo: AP

COINTELPRO 2.0

The FBI’s leaked memo, as well as evidence that had already emerged that the FBI was targeting black activists for surveillance, drew widespread comparisons to the notorious COINTELPRO, a program aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, and sabotaging the civil rights, anti-war, and black liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. “Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the original ‘Black Identity Extremists,’” a HuffPost column noted. Several people called the FBI report “COINTELPRO 2.0.” The FBI itself referred to the civil rights era in its 2017 report, retroactively applying its new “black identity extremist” label to the now-defunct Black Liberation Army. “BIEs have historically justified and perpetrated violence against law enforcement, which they perceived as representative of the institutionalized oppression of African Americans,” the report argued. “BIE violence peaked in the 1960s and 1970s in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement.”

Under the COINTELPRO umbrella, the FBI went from tracking King’s every move and attempting to smear him, to surveilling Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, including by obtaining a floor map of his apartment, before Chicago police shot about 90 rounds into the apartment in 1969, killing Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark. At the same time, they routinely failed to intervene as white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan engaged in a sustained campaign of violence against civil rights activists and African-Americans.

The FBI report noted that between 1970 and 1984, the Black Liberation Army was involved in at least 38 criminal incidents, including 26 armed assaults, three assassinations, four bombings, and four hijackings and hostage-takings — half of them targeting law enforcement officers. But it made no reference to law enforcement violence against black activists, including the 1985 bombing of the Philadelphia headquarters of black liberation group MOVE, that killed 11 people.

Speaking before the House Judiciary Committee in November 2017, Wray called COINTELPRO “one of the darker moments in FBI’s history.” “It’s something we are not proud of, but it’s also something we have learned from,” he said. But when Rep. Cedric Richmond asked him why the FBI’s building continued to be named after J. Edgar Hoover — COINTELPRO’s infamous architect — Wray replied, “Like most people, he’s complicated.”

The “black identity extremism” report was hardly the first FBI effort to revive the tactics of COINTELPRO. In 2012, German, then at the American Civil Liberties Union, obtained public records revealing that the FBI had come up with yet another label to target what they claimed was a growing threat: “black separatist” domestic terrorism. Then, as now, the more recent violence driven by black nationalist ideology dated back decades, but the FBI included new warnings in its terrorism training materials that inexplicably connected the growing size of the black population in states like Georgia with a growing domestic terror threat. (As the ACLU noted at the time, the FBI had around the same time also invented what it called “American Islamic Extremists.”)

“The government has always kept an eye on black people because they want to keep us in a certain social order.”

“You would hope that a law enforcement agency learns from its past mistakes,” said German. “I think that’s where the biggest failure is, that there are enough parallels to how the FBI reacted to protests in the 1960s and 1970s that should have dissuaded them from adopting similar approaches again.”

But rather than learning from the past, it seems that the FBI is trying to maintain its old ways under a different name. While the ideologies that the terms “black separatism” and “black identity extremism” purport to represent would appear rather different, the FBI has recently folded both into the latter category, documents reveal. In an internal email exchange obtained by Property of the People and shared with The Intercept, Michael F. Paul, an official with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, wrote to colleagues that the bureau had updated its definition of “black separatist extremism” in order “to broaden it beyond simply those seeking ‘separatism,’” he wrote. “The threat or movement has simply evolved,” Paul added, “and many are seeking more than/other than separation.”

Shapiro, of Property of the People, said the reclassification aimed to cast an even wider net on black activists at a time when police accountability, rather than separatism, was their priority. “Black Lives Matter isn’t a separatist movement, and the FBI wanted to expand its surveillance of black activists and communities,” he told The Intercept.

“With ‘black identity extremism,’ the FBI has expanded its ‘black separatist extremist’ category to also designate groups like Black Lives Matter a security threat,” he added. “The ‘BIE’ classification is the FBI’s bureaucratic umbrella for targeting as terrorists black people who expose the daily terror against their families and neighborhoods perpetrated by unaccountable killers in blue.”

To many black activists, that’s a familiar story.

“The government has always kept an eye on black people because they want to keep us in a certain social order,” said Omowale, of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club. “The term ‘black identity extremist’ may be a new term, but the way that the government operates is nothing new. They’ve been doing it since we’ve been in this country, since black people, even slaves, tried to organize for some type of freedom.”

The post The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional “Black Identity Extremism” Movement appeared first on The Intercept.

How Individual States Have Criminalized Terrorism

The U.S. Department of Justice most often brings terrorism-related charges, but 34 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that make committing acts of terrorism — and, in some cases, providing support to terrorists — state-level felonies.

Most of these laws were created in response to the 9/11 attacks. In all, 27 states passed anti-terrorism legislation in 2002.

In some states, terrorism is vaguely defined. Arkansas outlaws “terroristic acts” but does not say that such acts must be ideologically motivated, a requirement under the federal terrorism law. Maine prohibits what lawmakers term a “catastrophe” of “terroristic intent,” which can include releasing a chemical or biological toxin or causing an explosion, fire, flood, building collapse, or even an avalanche.

Since 9/11, state lawmakers have continued to be reactionary in drafting and amending anti-terrorism laws. Georgia created a law in 2017 to define “domestic terrorism” following Dylann Roof’s mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina. After Omar Mateen’s massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, lawmakers amended the state’s 2002 anti-terrorism law to strengthen criminal penalties for acts of terrorism, adding a life sentence for terrorists whose violence results in death, among other changes. Kentucky and Michigan provide even harsher penalties: life in prison for anyone convicted of committing an act of terrorism.

Here’s a look at anti-terrorism laws in the 50 states and the District of Columbia:

State Description Year Statute Code
al

Alabama

Alabama’s law defines terrorism in terms similar to the USA Patriot Act and provides a sentencing enhancement for terrorism-related crimes. 2002 § 13A-10-154
ak

Alaska

Alaska’s law prohibits sending and threatening to use bacteriological, biological, chemical, or radiological weapons. 2002 § 11.56.807
az

Arizona

Arizona’s law prohibits vaguely defined acts of terrorism, providing support for terrorists, the use of weapons of mass destruction, and threats to use weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 13-2308.01
ar

Arkansas

Arkansas’s law outlaws so-called terroristic acts, which do not require an ideological motivation. 2005 § 5-13-310
ca

California

California’s law prohibits the use of and threats to use weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 11415
co

Colorado

Colorado does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
ct

Connecticut

Connecticut’s law prohibits building chemical, biological, and radiological weapons. It also defines various crimes of “terrorist purposes,” such as computer hacking, contaminating water or food supplies, and damaging public transit systems. 2002 § 53a-300-304
de

Delaware

Delaware does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
dc

District of Columbia

Washington, D.C.’s law specifies penalties for acts of terrorism involving murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, arson, and assault. 2002 § 22–3153
fl

Florida

Florida’s law, amended following the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, defines terrorism in terms similar to the USA Patriot Act. It also criminalizes providing material support to terrorists. 2002 § 775.30-35
ga

Georgia

Georgia’s law, enacted following Dylann Roof’s mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina, defines domestic terrorism as any felony intended to intimidate civilians or coerce the government. 2017 § 16-11-220-224
hi

Hawaii

Hawaii does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
id

Idaho

Idaho does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
il

Illinois

Illinois’s law defines terrorism as any act intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population. 2002 § 720-5
in

Indiana

Indiana’s law prohibits using or transferring another person’s identifying information for use in an act of terrorism and prohibits using weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 35-47-12-1
ia

Iowa

Iowa’s law designates acts of terrorism and providing material support to terrorists as felonies punishable by up to 50 years in prison. 2002 § 708A
ks

Kansas

Kansas’s law defines terrorism as any felony intended to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2010 § 21-5421
ky

Kentucky

Kentucky’s law defines terrorism as violent acts intended to intimidate civilians or influence government, and provides a penalty of life in prison. 2018 § 525.045
la

Louisiana

Louisiana’s law defines a number of crimes, such as murder and kidnapping, as terrorism if the intent is to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2002 § 14:128.1
me

Maine

Maine’s law prohibits a “catastrophe” of “terroristic intent,” such as an explosion, fire, flood, avalanche, building collapse, or release of chemical or biological toxins. 2002 § 803-A
md

Maryland

Maryland does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
ma

Massachusetts

Massachusetts’s law prohibits developing, acquiring, or transporting biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. 2002 266 § 102C
mi

Michigan

Michigan’s voluminous law defines terrorist organizations as those designated by the U.S. State Department; provides a life sentence for terrorist acts that result in death; and prohibits providing material support to terrorists. 2002 § 750.543
mn

Minnesota

Minnesota’s law prohibits using weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 609.712
ms

Mississippi

Mississippi does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A
mo

Missouri

Missouri’s law prohibits providing material support to any designated foreign terrorist organization. 2002 § 576.080
mt

Montana

Montana does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
ne

Nebraska

Nebraska does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
nv

Nevada

Nevada’s law prohibits acts of terrorism and providing material support to terrorists. 2003 § 202.445
nh

New Hampshire

New Hampshire does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
nj

New Jersey

New Jersey’s law prohibits acts of terrorism and providing material support to terrorists. 2002 § 2C:38-2
nm

New Mexico

New Mexico does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
ny

New York

New York’s law defines a number of crimes, such as murder and kidnapping, as terrorism if the intent is to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2002 § 490.00-70
nc

North Carolina

North Carolina’s law prohibits using weapons of mass destruction. 2001 § 14-288.21-24
nd

North Dakota

North Dakota does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
oh

Ohio

Ohio’s law defines a number of crimes, such as murder and kidnapping, as terrorism if the intent is to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2002 § 2909.22
ok

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s law defines all acts of terrorism as felonies and prohibits chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons material. It also prohibits providing financial support to terrorists. 2002 § 21-1268.5
or

Oregon

Oregon does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
pa

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s law defines terrorism as crimes intended to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2002 § 2717
ri

Rhode Island

Rhode Island does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
sc

South Carolina

South Carolina’s law prohibits using weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 16-23-715
sd

South Dakota

South Dakota’s law defines terrorism as any use of chemical, biological, radioactive, or explosive weapons intended to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2002 § 22-8-12
tn

Tennessee

Tennessee’s law prohibits using weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 39-13-801
tx

Texas

Texas does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
ut

Utah

Utah’s law prohibits “threats of terrorism” intended to intimidate civilians or influence government. 2002 § 76-5-107.3
vt

Vermont

Vermont’s law, amended in 2018 following the failed prosecution of a man who was planning a school shooting, defines domestic terrorism and prohibits using weapons of mass destruction. 2002 § 1703
va

Virginia

Virginia’s law establishes a minimum punishment of 20 years in prison for committing an act of terrorism or providing support to terrorists. 2002 § 18.2-46.5
wa

Washington

Washington’s law defines placing a bomb with intent to commit a terrorist act as “malicious placement of an explosive.” 1997 § 70.74.270
wv

West Virginia

West Virginia’s law establishes a minimum punishment of one year in prison for threatening to commit a terrorist act. 2001 § 61-6-24
wi

Wisconsin

Wisconsin does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A
wy

Wyoming

Wyoming does not have an anti-terrorism law. N/A N/A

Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures, Justia

The post How Individual States Have Criminalized Terrorism appeared first on The Intercept.

The Crux of the Accusations Against David Sirota From the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere is False

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 16, 2018: A rack of magazines, including The Atlantic, on display in a bookstore in San Francisco, California. The Atlantic cover story promo asks 'Is Democracy Dying?' In 2017, billionaire investor and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs,  acquired majority ownership of the magazine. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

A rack of magazines, including The Atlantic, on display in a bookstore in San Francisco.

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images


The Atlantic on Tuesday published a sensationalistic series of accusations by reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere aimed at long-time journalist David Sirota, whose hiring by the Sanders 2020 presidential campaign as a speechwriter and adviser had just been announced earlier that day. The Atlantic article predictably and quickly went viral, cited by major media outlets and Democratic Party operatives as proof that Sirota had acted unethically by critically reporting on rival presidential candidates in the prior months while dishonestly concealing his work as an operative or adviser for the Sanders campaign.

In his viral tweet promoting what he hyped as his “SCOOP,” Dovere was even more explicitly accusatory, claiming that “Sirota, just hired as Bernie Sanders’ speechwriter and senior adviser, has been quietly writing speeches and advising him for months without disclosing it but while bashing pretty much every candidate in the field.”

As it turns out, there are indeed serious breaches of journalistic ethics from this episode, but they are ones committed by the Atlantic and Dovere, not by Sirota. That’s because the core accusation of the Atlantic article – that Sirota “for months” had been “informally” advising the Sanders campaign as a speechwriter while pretending to be an independent reporter attacking Sanders’ opponents – is simply false. It relies on a timeline that simply never happened.

Since publication of Dovere’s bombshell, the Atlantic has tweaked and edited the story to reflect the multiple errors and denials that make it appears as though the original version contained those edits. The article at first added what it called an “update” reflecting the Guardian’s vehement denial that Sirota, who had been working as a columnist for the paper as well as an investigative reporter for Capital & Main, had performed any work for the Sanders campaign, “informal” or otherwise, while publishing articles at the Guardian: a central claim of the Atlantic story. It now simply includes that denial with no indication that it was added after the fact: 

But the various edits and “updates” made by the Atlantic after publication do not begin to reflect what a journalistic debacle this article was. Most critically, the key claim that made the article such a sensation – that Sirota’s “informal work for Sanders goes back months” and included “quietly writing speeches” for the Senator – is entire and demonstrably false.

That timeline was so central to the story’s significance because it was Sirota’s investigation in December of Beto O’Rourke’s voting record, donors and funding sources which caused sustained anger and controversy toward Sirota. Sirota’s first published his research about O’Rourke’s receipt of donations on Twitter in early December, and then his analysis of O’Rourke’s voting record was detailed in a widely discussed story that was published by the Guardian on December 20, which fuelled the anger and accusations from Democratic centrists even further against Sirota.

Had it been true, as the Atlantic article claimed, that Sirota’s “informal work for Sanders goes back months,” it would have meant that Sirota was investigating and reporting on O’Rourke while masquerading as a journalist but in reality working as a concealed Sanders operative: a charge that many establishment Democrats voiced at the time but which Sirota vehemently and aggressively denied.

So the Atlantic’s article made it seem not only that the Sanders campaign was behind Sirota’s investigative reporting about O’Rourke, but worse, that Sirota outright lied by denying those accusations at the time. The use of the Atlantic’s article to claim vindication by the enemies of Sirota, and especially the enemies of Sanders, was so intense and widespread that Sirota’s name trended on Twitter for much of the day on Tuesday.

But after the festival of self-proclaimed vindication reached its peak, the Atlantic’s story quickly began to unravel. The Guardian issued a categorical, public denial, which forced the Atlantic to revise its story.

Worse still, the Guardian editor, John Mulholland, noted that the Atlantic had inexcusably failed even to request comment from the Guardian before publishing its extraordinary accusations, posting this statement to Twitter: “if Isaac Dovere had contacted us before publication, we could have corrected the reporting error in advance. Last piece by David Sirota for us: end of December. First discussion with Sanders was in mid January.” The Guardian has since written a formal demand for corrections to the Atlantic’s editor, Jeffrey Goldberg.

Beyond all that, even more crucial facts have now emerged proving that the Atlantic’s article was false in almost every material respect.

Sanders’ long-time senior aide Jeff Weaver, to whom the Atlantic had not spoken prior to publication, adamantly denied to the Intercept that the Atlantic’s reporting was accurate. “I can say that David Sirota was not working for the campaign, including speechwriting, either formally or informally in 2018,” Weaver said.

The only named source cited by Dovere in support of his key accusation is a purported claim from Faiz Shakir, who only joined the Sanders campaign as its campaign manager weeks ago, which means he would not have been present during the time Dovere tried to deceive readers into believing that Sirota was “informally” working for the Sanders campaign.

Dovere used deceitful sleight-of-hand tactics to create a false appearance that Shakir was confirming the Atlantic’s most inflammatory accusation, writing that Shakir “confirmed in an interview on Tuesday afternoon that Sirota had been in an advisory role prior to his hiring on March 11.” It’s true, as Shakir was quoted as saying, that Sirota’s informal role for the campaign began prior to March 11. It began on February 20: after he stopped writing articles.

But in the very next sentence, Dovere tried to imply that Shakir was confirming something that he plainly was not confirming and could not confirm, because it was false: namely, “that Sirota’s informal work for Sanders goes back months, and was meant to be a trial period to see how the senator, who famously likes to write every word that he says himself, would work with a speechwriter” (emphasis added).

In a timeline provided to the Intercept, Shakir made clear that Dovere’s key claim, attributed to him by the Atlantic without quotations, was simply false. “Sirota begins informally advising the campaign” only on February 20, Shakir said — six days after Sirota resigned his position with Capital & Main, and two full months after publication of Sirota’s Guardian article on O’Rourke. Shakir added that it was not until March 11 that Sirota signed his offer letter to formally become Sanders’ speechwriter.

Even more incriminating for Dovere is that Shakir – Dovere’s only named source for his key accusation – immediately communicated to the Atlantic reporter that he had attributed to Shakir claims he did not say or believe, and quickly asked for a correction. “I reached out to [Dovere] and said ‘it wasn’t months; at most, it was a month,'” Shakir told Paste Magazine today. But Dovere ignored him.

Think about what that shows about the motives and integrity of this Atlantic article and its reporter: Dovere ignored his only named source telling quickly him that his core accusation, attributed to Shakir, was false, but the Atlantic and Dovere nonetheless continued to aggressively spread it, reaping the rewards they sought of traffic, social media virality, and injury to Sirota and Sanders’ reputations. 

The real timeline, by itself, obliterates the crux of the Atlantic’s accusation against Sirota: that he concealed his role with the Sanders campaign while reporting on other candidates. Aside from the fact that no such campaign existed – Sanders spent much of December and even January expressing serious uncertainty about whether he would run – Sirota played no role of any kind, let alone acted as informal speechwriter, until February 20, when his “informal” adviser role began.

Along with Weaver and Shakir, Sirota similarly insisted to the Intercept that he had no involvement with the Sanders campaign of any kind throughout all of 2018. “During 2018, I never once drafted a speech for Bernie, looked at or offered advice on a speech for Bernie, or talked in any way about any work in any capacity with the campaign.”

Numerous questions sent early Thursday morning by the Intercept to Dovere regarding what basis he had for claiming that Sirota had been working informally for the Sanders campaigns “for months” – the crux of the story – have gone ignored.

Unless one believes that Weaver, Shakir, Sirota, and the Guardian are all jointly and blatantly lying – by vehemently denying that Sirota was performing work of any kind, “informal or otherwise,” for the Sanders campaign in 2018 – then the Atlantic’s entire story falls apart.

That Sirota is generally supportive of Sanders’ ideology and knows the Senator personally is hardly a secret. Sirota is quite open about that, and explicitly reminded everyone during the fallout from his O’Rourke reporting that he worked for Sanders 20 years ago. Sanders endorsed the successful 2018 candidacy of Sirota’s wife, Emily, for a seat in the Colorado State House against an establishment Democratic opponent.

So it’s hardly hidden that Sirota is generally supportive of Sanders’ left-wing ideology, has a long-standing personal relationship with him, and periodically chats with him, as many reporters do with many politicians and candidates they cover. But the only claim that made the Atlantic story notable at all – that Sirota worked for months informally advising the Sanders campaign with an explicit eye toward a permanent speechwriter position – is a complete falsehood.

As the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted, it is, for better or worse, common and considered proper for journalists and politicians to develop conversational relationships and even friendly ones. What transformed the Atlantic’s article into something newsworthy was that it attempted to scandalize normal discussions between journalists and politicians by describing the ones Sirota had with Sanders as having gone far beyond that – not conversations between a reporter and a politician but an actual working relationship between the journalist and the campaign – and it invented outright falsehoods to achieve that goal. As Wemple wrote:

In a clean world, political journalists would remain political journalists and political aides would remain political aides. In our actual, messy world, politics and the media are like adjacent townhouses separated by quarter-inch drywall.  Kick through a panel or two, and you’re on the other side. The crossover happens all the time: Sarah IsgurJay CarneyLinda DouglassTony Snow, just to name a few.

In fact, the only conversations Sirota had with Sanders after the 2018 midterm election, Sirota told the Intercept, was a brief exchange of pleasantries at a public conference of progressives he attended along with numerous other journalists in December, as well as a phone call Sirota had with Sanders after the O’Rourke article was published in which Sirota asked whether Sanders had made a decision to run for president, and was told no decision had yet been made. Beyond that, Sirota said a movement to “Recruit Bernie” formed in late 2018 that included him along with hundreds if not thousands of others on an email list, but Sirota ultimately communicated that he would not be a part of that group.

But it is not merely the Atlantic’s lack of evidence for its core claim, the obvious errors in its article, the Guardian’s public denials and demands for a correction, the ongoing tweaking of its storyline, or the vehement denials of multiple people that call into serious question the Atlantic’s core claims. Documentary evidence does the same.

A January 25 email from Sirota to his Guardian editors shared with the Intercept contains notification from Sirota that he was going to have a conversation to determine if Sanders was going to run for president, and that he was considering leaving journalism.

So as of January 25, Sirota was unsure whether Sanders even intended to run at all, let alone whether he would have any sort of role in the Sanders campaign. But he was clearly aware of, and concerned about, the journalistic necessity not to publish articles while he was considering that possibility – to the point where he stopped writing for the Guardian long before he began any “informal” advising role (which started only on February 20, according to Shakir), let along before he accepted a job with the campaign (March 11). If anything, Sirota was erring on the side of excessive caution by suspending his publication of columns without having any role of any kind – formal or informal – with a campaign that Sirota did not even know would eventually launch.

The same is true of Sirota’s work with Capital & Main. As Sirota’s informal advising to the campaign began on February 20, he advised his editor that he would be resigning his position in contemplation of that possibility. Capital and Main’s editor told the Washington Post that “Sirota told him during the second week of February that he was interested in working for the Sanders campaign” and therefore would no longer write for the publication pending a final decision.”

Capital & Main did end up publishing an interview Sirota conducted with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio on February 19, but Sirota had conducted that interview weeks earlier. One could reasonably argue that the DeBlasio interview should have included a disclosure that Sirota, days earlier, had begun informally advising the Sanders campaign, but that would amount to, at worst, a trivial disclosure oversight. It goes without saying that if this trivial omission on this one Capital & Main interview with Mayor DeBlasio in late February were the only valid transgression the Atlantic had to report – and it was – no article would have been published, let alone one that was hyped as some sort of major revelation designed to assassinate Sirota’s reputation and injure the Sanders campaign.

There was one fact and one fact only that made the Atlantic article so seemingly damaging: that Sirota was operating with an explicit agreement as an informal adviser and speechwriter during his controversial investigative reporting about O’Rourke and others in December and January. And that claim is manifestly false.

It’s hard to overstate how many other media outlets uncritically repeated the Atlantic’s false timeline with no attempt made to verify whether it was true.

The headline on the Washington Post’s news article this week by media reporter Paul Farhi illustrates how much blind faith was placed in the Atlantic’s claims, and how much damage it did to Sirota’s reputation: “A journalist (and Bernie Sanders supporter) had a relationship he kept from his readers.”

Citing the numerous criticisms Sirota has voiced of various establishment Democratic candidates, the Post article declared that “what Sirota, who wrote for a variety of publications, didn’t reveal was where he was coming from: essentially, from inside Sanders’s campaign.” Explicitly accusing Sirota of ethical violations, based entirely on the Atlantic’s unsupported and false claims, the Post article decreed: “A reporter’s undisclosed connection to a political candidate would constitute a breach of journalistic ethics,”

In a separate Washington Post column, this one by that paper’s Democratic neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin, even more extreme denunciations of Sirota appeared: “such deception is inexcusable,” Rubin thundered. After providing a shield of anonymity to multiple cowardly Washington operatives to heap all kinds of insults on Sirota’s character – a use of anonymity by Rubin that is itself dubious journalistic ethics, to put it generously – Rubin declared that all of this demonstrates that a Sanders presidency would be similar to Trump’s: “Rather than condemn Trump’s tactics and appeal to voters’ desire for something better, more high-minded, Sanders suggests through this hire that his operation will be just as mean-spirited as the current White House’s.”

USAToday – while at least displaying the journalistic integrity to at note that the Sanders campaign denies the Atlantic’s report – nonetheless repeated the central accusation in its first paragraph: “Sen. Bernie Sanders’ latest addition to his 2020 presidential campaign is drawing criticism after a report alleged the new staffer, an investigative reporter, had been for months secretly advising the campaign while bashing other Democrats running for the White House” (emphasis added).

So we have a major media storyline, an attempt to destroy a journalist’s reputation, and an attack on the Sanders campaign, all based on a false timeline that the Atlantic baselessly affirmed. The actual timeline not only guts the Atlantic’s core claims but proves that the unethical journalistic behavior here was committed by Dovere and the Atlantic.

Indeed, Dovere’s unethical conduct on this story extends beyond the core false claims in his article. In responding to the controversy over his article on Twitter, Dovere attempted to prove that Sirota was making claims about rival presidential candidates during the time he was working with the Sanders campaign, but – by this point likely knowing that his timeline was wrong – he posted Sirota’s allegedly unethical tweets only without the dates on those tweets – so that nobody would realize that the tweets from Sirota that he was citing were ones posted before Sirota’s work began with the campaign, not after.

In lieu of convincing evidence to support his central claim, Dovere used all sorts of slimy insinuation to imply that Sirota was guilty of wrongdoing. He focused on the fact that Sirota had deleted roughly 20,000 tweets upon being hired by the Sanders campaign. But with journalists like Dovere so clearly devoted to smearing the reputations of anyone associated with the Sanders campaign using these sorts of manipulative tactics, is it any wonder that Sirota would view regular tweet deletions as a prudent course of action?

Contrary to Dovere’s attempts to make Sirota’s tweet deletions appear sinister and abnormal, they are actually a normal practice for many journalists. Vox’s Matt Yglesias, for instance, uses Twitter very prolifically, yet regularly and quite frequently deletes all of his tweets, ensuring that only the last few weeks of his pronouncements are available at any time. When MSNBC’s Joy Reid was revealed to have a long history of ugly anti-gay bigotry, she not only deleted tweets but also deleted her entire website, and then manufactured a lie that a hacker, rather than she herself, had authored them and that the FBI was searching for the hacker she invented (rather than being fired by MSNBC for lying to the public about a fake hacker and apparently to the FBI, she was praised for her ethics and courage by key MSNBC star Rachel Maddow).

Last year, I deleted roughly 27,000 old tweets – purposely choosing only ones that pre-dated the 2016 election (in a futile attempt to avoid deranged conspiracy theories that the deletions were designed to evade Robert Mueller’s scrutiny) – due to how easy it is to distort the meaning of particularly old tweets by removing them from their context (something that temporarily got Sam Seder fired by MSNBC until executives finally realized that they had mis-read the old tweet that caused his firing).

Indeed, to understand the justifiability and wisdom of deleting old tweets, consider what Vox writer Aaron Rupar did this week to Briahna Joy Gray when it was announced that Gray was leaving the Intercept to become the Press Secretary for Sanders’ campaigns (that happened on the same day Dovere smeared Sirota). Rupar spent that day digging through Gray’s old tweets to find anything incriminating that he could get his hands on in order to ruin her reputation before she even started her job as Sanders’ Press Secretary.

Rupar’s most viral, damaging tweet about Gray ended up being an outright falsehood: that Gray, during the 2016 election, had endorsed the theory that the DNC hack was really an “insider job.” Although Rupar, in the face of mass outrage, later admitted that his accusation about Gray’s views was false – Gray never embraced any such theory – his retraction received a tiny amount of attention and re-tweets compared to the original, viral untruth he posted. So the damage to Gray’s reputation was done, as intended – all because this anti-Sanders Vox writer wildly distorted on of her old tweets by tearing it out of its context:

Under those circumstances, it shouldn’t be hard to understand why people joining the Sanders campaign – in an environment filled with unethical journalists with extreme anti-Sanders animus such as Dovere and Rupar – would want to delete their old tweets to prevent distortions of this type. Whatever else is true, tweet deletions are certainly not evidence of any wrongdoing by Sirota. (On Friday night, Dovere, now clearly researching Sirota, published another attack, this one about a 20-year controversy involving Sirota’s use of campaign tactics as a junior campaign operative in the 1999 mayoral race if Philadelphia that Sirota himself has described as wrong and for which he has repeatedly apologized).

No matter one’s ideological leanings or candidate preferences, nobody should want a media environment where distortions and fabrications of the type the Atlantic just published can thrive. The Atlantic’s core claim – that Sirota has spent the last several months informally working for the Sanders campaign as an adviser and speechwriter – is clearly false. That magazine should have the integrity to admit this, retract the story, and apologize to Sirota and to its readers that it misled.

The post The Crux of the Accusations Against David Sirota From the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere is False appeared first on The Intercept.

Jared & Ivanka: Couple ‘Continues To Use’ Private Messaging For White House Business, Top Democrat Says

Freshly Exhumed writes: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has revealed that senior White House advisor Jared Kushner's lawyer admitted in December that his client "continues to use" WhatsApp to conduct official White House business. The chairman also said that a lawyer for Ivanka Trump and Mr. Kushner told the committee late last year that they additionally used private email accounts for official White House business in a way that may have violated federal records laws. Mr Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell could not say whether his client used WhatsApp to share classified information. Regardless, Cummings says the communications raise questions about whether Kushner and other officials violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires the president and his staff "take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records." As for Ivanka's use of a personal email account to conduct official business, her lawyer says she sent the emails before she was briefed on the rules. If you're not familiar with WhatsApp, here's what you should know about it: "As of January 2019, more than 1.5 billion users in over 180 countries use WhatsApp, created in 2009 as an alternative to text messaging," reports USA Today. "Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 to make a bigger play in the rapidly-growing messaging market, along with its own Messenger platform, which also boasts 1.5 billion users." The service features end-to-end encryption, meaning the sender and recipient are the only ones who can view the messages.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 10 Calculator Will Soon Be Able To Graph Math Equations

Earlier this month, Microsoft made the source code for its Windows calculator available on GitHub. This has spurred developers to add new features to the app, like a new graphing mode that will make its way to the official Windows Calculator app. The "Graphing Mode" is one of 30+ suggestions that open-source contributors have proposed so far. The ZDNet reports: As its name implies, Graphing Mode will allow users to create graphs based on mathematical equations, in a similar way to Matlab's (way more advanced) Plotting Mode. The feature was proposed by Microsoft engineer Dave Grochocki, also a member of the Windows Calculator team. In a GitHub issue Grochocki submitted to support his proposal, he argued that a graphing mode would help students learn algebra easier. "High school algebra is the gateway to mathematics and all other disciplines of STEM," Grochocki said. "However, algebra is the single most failed course in high school, as well as the most failed course in community college." By adding a Graphing Mode to Windows Calculator, an app included with all Windows 10 versions, the Microsoft engineer hopes to provide students and teachers with a free tool to help schools across the world. "Physical graphing calculators can be expensive, software solutions require licenses and configuration by school IT departments, and online solutions are not always an option," he added. "Graphing capabilities in their daily tools are essential for students who are beginning to explore linear algebra as early as 8th grade. [...] At present, Windows Calculator does not currently have the needed functionality to meet the demands of students." There's no timeline for when the new graphing mode will arrive, but it should arrive soon.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NBlog March 23 – lessons from Fukushima

As far as incidents go, a core meltdown at a nuclear power plant is about as big as they come. This afternoon, I've been reading an official US report into the Fukushima incident following the Sendai tsunami eight years ago this month. "Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants" is an excellent treatise on the incident, published just over three years afterwards.

As you would expect from a formal report, the style is matter-of-fact, describing the sequence of events that unfolded as the tsunami struck, the plant was terminally damaged, the electrical supplies and hence the monitoring, control and communications systems all failed, and the operators went to heroic lengths to shutdown all the units. The scenario was so extreme that the well-practiced emergency operating procedures and fail-safe controls proved inadequate, leaving the operators firstly struggling to determine what was going on inside the reactor buildings and the cores, and secondly almost powerless to keep things under control.

This paragraph from chapter 4 in particular stands out for me:
"Accidents frequently involve a confluence of interacting faults resulting in situations that have not been previously anticipated, placing a premium on the ingenuity and adaptability of plant personnel. In the committee's judgment, the personnel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant showed courage and resilience in responding to the March 11, 2011, accident under extraordinarily difficult conditions. Their actions potentially prevented even more severe outcomes at the plant."
In other words, yes it was a nightmare scenario that would have been even worse still, if it were not for the heroes working in the plant at the time. Their resilience and resolve made a real difference when the chips were down.

This was a true contingency situation, worse than their worst-case planning and preparations. They had to make-do with limited available resources including information, under extreme pressure. True grit.

If you work in nuclear power, I guess you are well aware of the incident, the reports and the changes arising as the lessons were learnt. There are lessons for the rest of us, too, in respect of incident preparation and management, regardless of the specific nature of the incident or the context. It is obviously and directly relevant to power stations, chemical factories and oil refineries, for example, but also in different ways to literally any organization, even individuals. For instance, severe power and communications problems literally and figuratively left people in the dark: what are your communications and emergency power arrangements in the event of a disaster? 

[Hinson tip: if you need to login to the cloud to search your online disaster management manual for 'comms' and 'power', you've already made a huge leap of faith!]

The incident might feature in April's awareness module on 'Spotting incidents', in particular concerning those comms issues that prevented the operators, managers and authorities (both on and off-site, and not just in Japan) from finding out exactly what had happened during the incident and coordinating the response. The situation is too complex to explain though, so we'd need to pick out a few key points that have general appeal and value. Tasters, as it were, of the full report.

Crypto Update: Coins Rebound as Bearish Momentum Fades

The major cryptocurrencies are showing signs of stability today, despite yesterday’s broad-based sell-off, and although the top coins are only sporting modest gains, a sharp downswing has […]

The post Crypto Update: Coins Rebound as Bearish Momentum Fades appeared first on Hacked: Hacking Finance.

Researchers Created Reprogrammable Molecular Algorithms For DNA Computers

dmoberhaus writes: In a major breakthrough for DNA computing, researchers from UC Davis, Caltech and Maynooth University developed a technique for creating molecular algorithms that can be reprogrammed. Prior to this research, molecular algorithms had to be painstakingly designed for specific purposes, which is "like having to build a new computer out of new hardware just to run a new piece of software," according to the researchers. This new technique could blow open the door for a host of futuristic DNA computing applications -- nanofactories, light-based computers, etc. -- that would've been impossible before. The paper was published this week in Nature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Como ex-militares dos EUA e mercenários inexperientes acabaram presos no Haiti

A maioria dos americanos chegou a Porto Príncipe vindo dos Estados Unidos em um jato particular na manhã de 16 de fevereiro. No avião charter de oito passageiros, eles carregavam um estoque de rifles semiautomáticos, revólveres, coletes Kevlar à prova de balas e facas. A maior parte deles já havia sido paga: US$ 10 mil previamente para cada um, e outros US$ 20 mil prometidos a cada homem após o término do trabalho.

Um trio de haitianos ligados à política recebeu os americanos quando seu avião pousou por volta das 5 horas da manhã. Um assessor do presidente do Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, e outros dois haitianos amigos do regime, os levaram ao maior aeroporto do país, sem passar pelos agentes alfandegários e de imigração, que ainda não haviam começado a trabalhar.

A equipe americana incluía dois ex-SEALs da Marinha, outro mercenário treinado pela Blackwater, e dois sérvios que viviam nos EUA. Seu líder, um ex-piloto de 52 anos chamado Kent Kroeker, havia dito a seus homens que esta operação secreta havia sido solicitada e aprovada pelo próprio Moïse. Os emissários do presidente haitiano disseram a Kroeker que a missão envolveria escoltar o assessor presidencial Fritz Jean-Louis ao banco central do Haiti, onde ele transferiu eletronicamente US$ 80 milhões de um fundo de petróleo do governo para uma segunda conta controlada exclusivamente pelo presidente. No processo, os haitianos disseram aos americanos que estariam preservando a democracia no Haiti.

Era um negócio bom demais para o bando de veteranos militares semiempregados e funcionários de segurança recusarem.

Mas, um dia depois de desembarcarem no Haiti, eles se viram encarcerados e no centro de um alvoroço político, com os haitianos perguntando o que um grupo de mercenários estrangeiros estava fazendo no banco central do país e para quem trabalhavam. Em três dias, Kroeker e sua equipe seriam libertados e enviados de volta aos EUA, tendo conseguido de alguma forma escapar das acusações criminais no Haiti.

Muitos detalhes da operação permanecem obscuros. Porém, com base em entrevistas com autoridades policiais e governamentais haitianas, bem como com uma pessoa com conhecimento direto do plano, é possível ter uma ideia mais clara sobre a desajeitada tentativa. O que a princípio parecia uma conspiração cômica sobre um grupo de ex-soldados que procuravam uma missão mercenária rápida e fácil foi, na verdade, um esforço mal executado, mas sério, de Moïse para consolidar seu poder político utilizando força americana.

Nem Moïse nem a Embaixada Haitiana em Washington D.C. responderam aos pedidos de comentários.

Nenhum dos americanos falou diretamente com Moïse ou recebeu documentos oficiais do governo haitiano autorizando-os a realizar a missão, segundo a pessoa com conhecimento direto da operação. No entanto, Jean-Louis e o outro organizador do plano, Josué Leconte, um haitiano-americano do Brooklyn e amigo próximo de Moïse, não parecem ter sido completamente desonestos.

Os americanos chegaram em um momento político e econômico tumultuado em um país com uma história de inquietações. Desde julho do ano passado, quando Moïse tentou aumentar os preços dos combustíveis em até 50%, protestos intermitentes paralisaram o Haiti.

Milhares de manifestantes marcham nas ruas durante protesto para exigir a renúncia do presidente Jovenel Moïse em 7 de fevereiro.

Milhares de manifestantes marcham nas ruas durante protesto para exigir a renúncia do presidente Jovenel Moïse em 7 de fevereiro.

Imagem: Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

De 2008 a 2017, a Venezuela forneceu ao Haiti cerca de US$ 4,3 bilhões em petróleo barato sob o Acordo Petrocaribe, assinado pela Venezuela com o Haiti e outros 16 países do Caribe e da América Central. O Haiti fez um acordo particularmente favorável: 40% do dinheiro devido à Venezuela seria pago em 25 anos a uma taxa de juros anual de 1%. Além disso, o Haiti estava livre para aumentar sua receita de petróleo para o fundo Petrocaribe. O fundo deveria apoiar hospitais, clínicas, escolas, estradas e outros projetos sociais, e ajudou a apoiar o governo haitiano após o devastador terremoto de 2010 e o furacão Matthew em 2016.

Mas as sanções da administração Trump à Venezuela e a má administração financeira do governo haitiano levaram o banco central haitiano a interromper os pagamentos à Venezuela, e o acordo Petrocaribe terminou efetivamente no início de 2018. Uma investigação do Senado do Haiti constatou que os quase US$ 2 bilhões do fundo foram em grande parte desviados e roubados, principalmente sob a liderança do Presidente do Haiti, Michel Martelly, entre 2011 e 2016.

Moïse chegou ao poder em 2017, após ser acusado de lavagem de dinheiro pelo promotor-geral de Porto Príncipe, Danton Leger. As alegações de corrupção, combinadas com o fim do petróleo e do crédito barato venezuelano, criaram uma tempestade perfeita de indignação popular. Nos últimos meses, Moïse e o primeiro-ministro haitiano, Jean-Henry Céant, têm disputado o poder, e a decisão de Moïse de apoiar os esforços recentes do governo Trump para minar o presidente venezuelano Nicolás Maduro deu início a uma nova rodada de protestos populares no Haiti pedindo a renúncia de Moïse. Sob a constituição haitiana, isso tornaria Céant o líder do país.

Foi dito aos americanos que o fundo Petrocaribe é controlado por Moïse, Céant e pelo presidente do banco central, Jean Baden Dubois. Por conta da ampliação do conflito político entre o presidente e o primeiro-ministro, esse arranjo deixou US$ 80 milhões efetivamente congelados, segundo a pessoa com conhecimento direto da operação.

Leconte e Jean-Louis disseram aos americanos que, ao transferir o dinheiro para uma conta que Céant e Dubois não pudessem acessar, Moïse poderia liderar o país de forma mais efetiva – daí a promessa de que eles estariam apoiando a democracia do Haiti. O fundo era o único instrumento econômico significativo do governo, e a medida garantiria a posição de Moïse e congelaria seu primeiro-ministro. Não está claro o que Moïse pretendia fazer com o dinheiro uma vez que ganhasse o controle sobre ele.

Segundo a fonte com conhecimento direto, Leconte pagou os americanos pela operação. Leconte e seu sócio, Gesner Champagne, que também se encontrou com os americanos no aeroporto de Porto Príncipe, estavam atuando como intermediários, dando a Moïse uma negação plausível, informaram aos norte-americanos.

Em troca da ajuda, o presidente prometeu a Leconte e Champagne que daria um contrato nacional de telecomunicações para a Preble-Rish Haiti, a empresa de engenharia e construção da qual Leconte e Champagne são donos, disseram Jean-Louis e Leconte aos americanos.

O Banque de la République d'Haïti no centro de Porto Príncipe em 8 de março.

O Banque de la République d’Haïti no centro de Porto Príncipe em 8 de março.

Imagem: Kim Ives/Haïti Liberté

Jean-Louis, Kroeker e seus cinco companheiros de equipe chegaram ao Banque de la République d’Haïti, no centro de Porto Príncipe, por volta das 14h do domingo, 17 de fevereiro, cerca de 36 horas depois que os americanos desembarcaram. Além de ser um assessor presidencial, Jean-Louis foi o ex-diretor da loteria nacional, que funciona fora do banco central. Não está claro se o seu trabalho anterior foi relacionado ao fato de ele ter sido escolhido para transferir o dinheiro.

Os americanos pararam em três carros e saíram. Eles estavam fortemente armados em torno de Jean-Louis, protegendo-o. O banco foi fechado, mas de acordo com a fonte com conhecimento direto, Jean-Louis disse a um segurança na porta que eles estavam no banco a negócios. Suspeitando de sua intenção, o segurança se recusou a deixá-los entrar. Em vez disso, alguém alertou a polícia.

Um impasse de duas horas se seguiu na Rue des Miracles. Cercado pela polícia, Kroeker chamou um sétimo membro de sua equipe para ajudar a negociar sua libertação. Dustin Porte, um prestador de serviços de eletricidade e ex-membro da Guarda Nacional da Louisiana que falava francês, apareceu e falou com a polícia em nome dos membros de sua equipe. Os contratados acabaram se entregando, dizendo à polícia que tudo era um grande mal-entendido – e que eles estavam lá em uma missão do governo, conforme o Miami Herald.

A polícia perguntou aos americanos porque eles não haviam passado pelos canais oficiais, se a missão deles era legítima, disse uma importante fonte haitiana da polícia ao Intercept.

“Porque o presidente não confia em vocês”, respondeu um dos contratados, segundo o policial haitiano, que pediu para não ser identificado porque não estava autorizado a falar publicamente sobre o ocorrido.

A polícia haitiana prendeu Kroeker, o líder da equipe; os ex-SEALs da Marinha Christopher McKinley, 49 anos, e Christopher Osman, de 44; o ex-funcionário da Blackwater, Talon Burton, 51 anos; e Porte, de 43. Eles também detiveram os dois sérvios, Danilo Bajagic, de 36 anos, e Vlade Jankovic, de 40. Fotos de suas armas e equipamentos táticos, que incluíam seis fuzis semiautomáticos, seis pistolas, facas e pelo menos três telefones via satélite, logo surgiram nas redes sociais.

Fontes da polícia haitiana dizem que alguns, se não todos os mercenários, trouxeram suas armas consigo e que as marcas, modelos e números de série das armas foram entregues ao Departamento de Álcool, Tabaco, Armas de Fogo e Explosivos dos EUA. Até agora, as autoridades dos EUA não levaram adiante as acusações contra os mercenários por viajarem ilegalmente para fora dos Estados Unidos com suas armas, algo que requer uma licença.

Jean-Louis aparentemente conseguiu fugir durante o longo impasse. Mas, depois que os americanos foram colocados na cadeia, Michel-Ange Gédéon, diretor-geral da Polícia Nacional do Haiti, recebeu telefonemas de Jean-Louis, do auxiliar presidencial Ardouin Zéphirin e do ministro da Justiça haitiano Jean Roudy Aly, que alegou que os americanos estavam conduzindo “negócios do Estado” e fazendo “trabalho para o banco”, de acordo com uma fonte policial bem posicionada. Em cada caso, os autores das ligações afirmaram que Moïse havia autorizado os americanos e que ele deveriam ser libertados. Gédéon se recusou a fazê-lo.

Céant não respondeu aos vários pedidos de comentários sobre a questão. Pouco depois de os americanos terem sido presos, ele foi ao rádio chamar a equipe de “terroristas” e “mercenários” que tentavam obter controle sobre o banco para que pudessem assassinar ele e outros parlamentares não especificados. Mais tarde, ele voltou atrás nas declarações, dizendo que elas se tratavam de “hipóteses”.

Na segunda-feira, o parlamento do Haiti votou pela expulsão de Céant como primeiro-ministro, mas Céant permaneceu resistente. “Há parlamentares que decidiram fazer algo ilegal e inconstitucional e que contraria princípios, tradições republicanas e tradições parlamentares”, disse ao jornal Haitiano Le Nouvelliste. “Eu sigo no cargo como primeiro-ministro.”

A estratégia poderia ter sido bem-sucedida se algum dos participantes americanos tivesse experiência anterior conduzindo uma missão mercenária clandestina em um país soberano. Ao invés disso, eles eram uma mistura de veteranos militares, incluindo um ex-SEAL que havia sido recentemente acusado de agressão por um incidente em estrada no sul da Califórnia e outro que era fisiculturista com um papel secundário como cantor de música country. Havia ainda Kroeker, que entre outros empreendimentos dirigia um negócio de suspensão de caminhões; Burton, ex-policial militar do Exército e contratado de segurança do Departamento de Estado; e Porte, dono de uma pequena empresa de assistência elétrica que obteve um contrato de 16 mil dólares com o Departamento de Segurança Nacional.

Kroeker, de acordo com uma pessoa com conhecimento direto, assegurou a seus colegas que a missão seria fácil. Mas, embora os americanos estivessem bem armados, eles não dispunham da contratação de outras provisões básicas para uma operação de segurança secreta: cobertura de seguro, plano de evacuação médica, autoridade legal para trazer suas armas para o Haiti ou um plano de fuga se as coisas corressem mal.

“Eles não tinham ideia do que estavam fazendo”, disse a pessoa com conhecimento direto, que pediu anonimato para falar publicamente sobre a missão clandestina.

Uma lista, criada pela polícia haitiana e adquirida pelo Haïti Liberté, dos números de série de armas que os mercenários tinham.

Uma lista, criada pela polícia haitiana e adquirida pelo Haïti Liberté, dos números de série de armas que os mercenários tinham.

Depois que o Departamento de Estado garantiu a libertação dos americanos, todos os envolvidos na operação se dispersaram. Quando os americanos foram libertados, Jean-Louis e Leconte tinham fugido do Haiti. Leconte voltou para os EUA saindo da República Dominicana, segundo a pessoa com conhecimento da operação; um dia depois de desembarcar em Nova York, seu perfil no Facebook foi removido. Em 24 de fevereiro, Leconte fugiu de um repórter que pediu comentários do lado de fora de sua casa no Brooklyn e se escondeu em uma garagem.

Chris Osman, um dos ex-SEALs da Marinha e o único membro da equipe a discutir publicamente a operação no Haiti até agora, escreveu no Instagram que estava no Haiti fazendo trabalho de segurança para “pessoas que estão diretamente ligadas ao atual presidente”. Osman insinuou a intriga política haitiana por trás do esquema, afirmando que ele e seus colegas “estavam sendo usados como peões em uma luta pública entre [Moïse] e o atual primeiro-ministro do Haiti”. Mais tarde, Osman deletou seu post.

Leconte e Champagne discutiram um possível contrato para uma nova missão com Kroeker se a transferência de dinheiro fosse bem-sucedida, segundo a pessoa com conhecimento direto da missão. Não está claro o que essa nova missão poderia ter sido.

Tradução: Maíra Santos

The post Como ex-militares dos EUA e mercenários inexperientes acabaram presos no Haiti appeared first on The Intercept.

Fedora 29: php-twig2 Security Update

**Version 2.7.2** (2019-03-12) * added TemplateWrapper::getTemplateName() ---- **Version 2.7.1** (2019-03-12) * fixed class aliases ---- **Version 2.7.0** (2019-03-12) * fixed sandbox security issue (under some circumstances, calling the __toString() method on an object was possible even if not allowed by the security policy) * fixed batch filter clobbers array keys when fill

Fedora 29: php-twig Security Update

**Version 1.38.2** (2019-03-12) * added TemplateWrapper::getTemplateName() ---- **Version 1.38.1** (2019-03-12) * fixed class aliases ---- **Version 1.38.0** (2019-03-12) * fixed sandbox security issue (under some circumstances, calling the __toString() method on an object was possible even if not allowed by the security policy) * fixed batch filter clobbers array

Cisco Identity Services Engine Password Recovery Vulnerability

A vulnerability in the Admin Portal of Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) could allow an authenticated, remote attacker to view saved passwords in plain text.

The vulnerability is due to the incorrect inclusion of saved passwords when loading configuration pages in the Admin Portal. An attacker with read or write access to the Admin Portal could exploit this vulnerability by browsing to a page that contains sensitive data. An exploit could allow the attacker to recover passwords for unauthorized use and expose those accounts to further attack.

There are no workarounds that address this vulnerability.

This advisory is available at the following link:
https://tools.cisco.com/security/center/content/CiscoSecurityAdvisory/cisco-sa-20190109-ise-passwd


Security Impact Rating: Medium
CVE: CVE-2018-15456

Fedora 28: php-twig2 Security Update

**Version 2.7.2** (2019-03-12) * added TemplateWrapper::getTemplateName() ---- **Version 2.7.1** (2019-03-12) * fixed class aliases ---- **Version 2.7.0** (2019-03-12) * fixed sandbox security issue (under some circumstances, calling the __toString() method on an object was possible even if not allowed by the security policy) * fixed batch filter clobbers array keys when fill

Fedora 28: php-twig Security Update

**Version 1.38.2** (2019-03-12) * added TemplateWrapper::getTemplateName() ---- **Version 1.38.1** (2019-03-12) * fixed class aliases ---- **Version 1.38.0** (2019-03-12) * fixed sandbox security issue (under some circumstances, calling the __toString() method on an object was possible even if not allowed by the security policy) * fixed batch filter clobbers array

Lithuanian Pleads Guilty To Stealing $100 Million From Google, Facebook

schwit1 writes: Evaldas Rimasauskas, a Lithuanian citizen, concocted a brazen scheme that allowed him to bilk Facebook and Google out of more than $100 million. The crime defrauded Google of $23 million and Facebook of $99 million. Rimasauskas committed the crimes between 2013 to 2015, an indictment was issued in 2017, and he was formally indicted Wednesday in New York after he pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and three counts of money laundering. "As Evaldas Rimasauskas admitted today, he devised a blatant scheme to fleece U.S. companies out of over $100 million, and then siphoned those funds to bank accounts around the globe," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a DoJ press release. How did he do it? The indictment reveals that he simply billed the companies for the amounts and they paid the bills. Rimasauskas was able to trick company employees into wiring the money to multiple bank accounts that he controlled and had set up in institutions in Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Latvia.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Insider Threats Pose the Biggest Security Risk

An anonymous reader shares a report: According to a new study 91 percent of IT and security professionals feel vulnerable to insider threats, and 75 percent believe the biggest risks lie in cloud applications like popular file storage and email solutions including Google Drive, Gmail and Dropbox. The report from SaaS operations management specialist BetterCloud also shows 62 percent of respondents believe the biggest security threat comes from the well-meaning but negligent end user. Among other findings are that 46 percent of IT leaders (heads of IT and above) believe that the rise of SaaS applications makes them the most vulnerable. In addition 40 percent of respondents believe they are most vulnerable to exposure of confidential business information such as financial information and customer lists. Only 26 percent of C-level executives say they've invested enough to mitigate the risk of insider threats, compared to 44 percent of IT managers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

FEMA Data Breach Hits 2.5 Million Disaster Survivors

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unlawfully shared the private information of 2.3 million hurricane and wildfire survivors with a federal contractor that was helping them find temporary housing, an inspector general from the Department of Homeland Security said Friday. The data includes "20 unnecessary data fields" such as "electronic funds transfer number," "bank transit number" and addresses. CNN reports: FEMA said it began filtering the data in December 2018 to prevent this information from being shared, but a more permanent fix may not be finalized until June 2020. "Since discovery of this issue, FEMA has taken aggressive measures to correct this error. FEMA is no longer sharing unnecessary data with the contractor and has conducted a detailed review of the contractor's information system," said Lizzie Litzow, press secretary for FEMA, in a statement. "To date, FEMA has found no indicators to suggest survivor data has been compromised. FEMA has also worked with the contractor to remove the unnecessary data from the system and updated its contract to ensure compliance with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cybersecurity and information-sharing standards. As an added measure, FEMA instructed contracted staff to complete additional DHS privacy training."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft Revived and Killed Clippy in a Single Day

The dream of the '90s was alive in Microsoft Teams this week when Microsoft's old office assistant, Clippy, showed up. From a report: If you used Microsoft Office between 1997 and 2001, you likely remember Clippy as the animated paperclip that popped up and offered tips for using the software. Microsoft did away with Clippy in 2001, so people were surprised to see Clippy stickers appear in Microsoft Teams this week. And they were even more surprised when, just a day later, Microsoft offed the little guy again. On Tuesday, Clippy appeared as an animated pack of stickers for Microsoft Teams. The stickers were released on the Office Developer GitHub page, but by the next day, they had vanished. Clippy was around just long enough to rally old fans, and there's now a user petition to bring Clippy back.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

McAfee Blogs: Facebook Users: Here are Proactive Tips to Keep Your Data Safe

Social media has become extremely popular over the years, providing users with an easy way to communicate with their friends and family. As social media users, we put a lot of faith and trust in these platforms to maintain the security of our private information. But what happens when our private information is mishandled? The reality is that these incidents happen and users need to be prepared. Yesterday, Facebook announced that it did not properly mask the passwords of hundreds of millions of its users, primarily those associated with Facebook Lite.

You might be wondering how exactly this happened. It appears that many user passwords for Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram were stored in plaintext in an internal company database. This means that thousands of Facebook employees had access to the database and could have potentially searched through these user passwords. Thankfully, no cases of data misuse were reported in the investigation, and these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of the company. According to Facebook software engineer Scott Renfro, Facebook is in the process of investigating long-term infrastructure changes to prevent these security issues going forward.

According to Facebook’s vice president of engineering, security, and privacy, the company has corrected the password logging bug and plans to notify the users whose passwords may have been exposed. But what can users do to better protect their data when an incident like this occurs? Check out the following tips:

  • Change your password. As a precautionary step, update your Facebook and Instagram passwords by going into the platforms’ security and privacy settings. Make sure your passwords are unique and complex.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. While this shouldn’t be your be-all and end-all security solution, it can help protect your credentials in the case of data exposure.
  • Set up a password manager. Using a password manager is one of the easiest ways to keep track of and manage your passwords so you can easily change them after these types of incidents occur.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Facebook Users: Here are Proactive Tips to Keep Your Data Safe appeared first on McAfee Blogs.



McAfee Blogs

Facebook Users: Here are Proactive Tips to Keep Your Data Safe

Social media has become extremely popular over the years, providing users with an easy way to communicate with their friends and family. As social media users, we put a lot of faith and trust in these platforms to maintain the security of our private information. But what happens when our private information is mishandled? The reality is that these incidents happen and users need to be prepared. Yesterday, Facebook announced that it did not properly mask the passwords of hundreds of millions of its users, primarily those associated with Facebook Lite.

You might be wondering how exactly this happened. It appears that many user passwords for Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram were stored in plaintext in an internal company database. This means that thousands of Facebook employees had access to the database and could have potentially searched through these user passwords. Thankfully, no cases of data misuse were reported in the investigation, and these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of the company. According to Facebook software engineer Scott Renfro, Facebook is in the process of investigating long-term infrastructure changes to prevent these security issues going forward.

According to Facebook’s vice president of engineering, security, and privacy, the company has corrected the password logging bug and plans to notify the users whose passwords may have been exposed. But what can users do to better protect their data when an incident like this occurs? Check out the following tips:

  • Change your password. As a precautionary step, update your Facebook and Instagram passwords by going into the platforms’ security and privacy settings. Make sure your passwords are unique and complex.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. While this shouldn’t be your be-all and end-all security solution, it can help protect your credentials in the case of data exposure.
  • Set up a password manager. Using a password manager is one of the easiest ways to keep track of and manage your passwords so you can easily change them after these types of incidents occur.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Facebook Users: Here are Proactive Tips to Keep Your Data Safe appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Police Officers In Berlin Had To Break Up Fight Between Supporters of Two Rival YouTubers

More than 100 police officers were deployed to break up a mass brawl reportedly organized by two rival YouTube stars in Berlin. The BBC reports: The fight broke out on Thursday evening on Alexanderplatz square in the German capital, police said, adding that nine people were arrested. More than 400 people had gathered after two social media influencers reportedly urged their fans to join a face-off. As tensions escalated, a large melee involving around 50 people erupted. Officers used pepper spray and tear gas after attempts to disperse the crowds with loudspeakers failed. As police intervened, clashes spilled over in a nearby subway, where rocks picked up from railway lines were reportedly thrown. The YouTubers who reportedly started this mess are named "Thatsbekir" and "Bahar Al Amood," both of which denied that they were at fault for the brawl in social media posts.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

80 Percent Of Spear Phishing Attacks Involve Brand Impersonation

Following the news that cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks has published a report on spear phishing which reveals that over 80% of attempts involve brand impersonation, Corin Imai, Senior Security Advisor at DomainTools commented below.

Corin Imai, Senior Security Advisor at DomainTools:

“Unfortunately, aside from investing in an efficient email filtering software, there is little that organisations and private individuals can do to keep phishing emails out of their inbox. Criminals have learnt that the best way to get victims to click on links or to disclose personal information is to elicit an emotional response, which is why they often choose to impersonate recognised and trusted brands that the receiver is likely to have a connection with. Additionally, when a language of urgency is used, people are instinctively brought to take action and are more prone to letting their guard down and respond to whatever call of action the email prompts. Recognising that this is how malicious actors operate is the starting point to counteract spear phishing campaigns. Organisations should aim to protect themselves by investing in awareness programmes that teach employees to recognise the markers of an attack and warn them against sharing personal information online.” 

 

The ISBuzz Post: This Post 80 Percent Of Spear Phishing Attacks Involve Brand Impersonation appeared first on Information Security Buzz.

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Modernizing cybersecurity approaches

oreilly.com - Download the free ebook, "Modernizing Cyber Security Operations with Machine Intelligence." Cybersecurity incidents are among the greatest concerns of businesses, government agencies, and private cit…


Tweeted by @KirkDBorne https://twitter.com/KirkDBorne/status/1109230755182530560

Germany Urged To Champion Global Treaty To Ban ‘Killer Robots’

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams and other activists warned on Thursday that fully autonomous weapons could be deployed in just 3-4 years and urged Germany to lead an international campaign for a ban on so-called "killer robots." Williams, who won the Nobel in 1997 for leading efforts to ban landmines, told reporters Germany should take bold steps to ensure that humans remained in control of lethal weapons. "You cannot lead from the rear," she said. Critics fear that the increasingly autonomous drones, missile defense systems and tanks made possible by new artificial intelligence could turn rogue in a cyber-attack or as a result of programming errors. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called last week for action to ensure human control of lethal weapons, but is pushing a non-binding declaration rather than a global ban, given opposition by the United States, Russia and China. The United Nations and European Union have called for a global ban, but discussions so far have not yielded a clear commitment to conclude a treaty. Activists from over 100 non-governmental groups gathered in Berlin this week to pressure Maas and the German government to take more decisive action after twice endorsing a ban on fully autonomous weapons in their 2013 and 2018 coalition accords.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Russian APT groups target European governments ahead of May Elections

Russian APT groups are targeting European governments for cyber-espionage purposes ahead of the upcoming European elections.

According to experts from FireEye, Russia-linked APT28
(aka Fancy BearPawn StormSofacy GroupSednit, and STRONTIUM) and
Sandworm Team (also TeleBots) cyberespionage groups are targeting European governments for cyber-espionage purposes ahead of the upcoming European elections.

The activity of the Russia-linked groups is focused on NATO member states.

The APT28 group has been active since at least 2007 and it has targeted governments, militaries, and security organizations worldwide. The group was involved also in the string of attacks that targeted 2016 Presidential election.

According to a report published by Symantec in October, the group was actively conducting cyber espionage campaigns against government and military organizations in Europe and South America.

Starting in 2017 and continuing into 2018, the APT28 group returned to covert intelligence gathering operations in Europe and South America.

The espionage activity on NATO member states has increased significantly since mid-2018, and it is ongoing. 

FireEye revealed that the two Russia-linked APT groups carried out spear-phishing attacks to trick victims into revealing government information and credentials.

Experts noticed that the activities of the groups are aligned, but while APT28 was observed using custom malware and zero-day exploits, the
Sandworm Team mainly used publicly available hacking tools. 

“The groups could be trying to gain access to the targeted networks in order to gather information that will allow Russia to make more informed political decisions, or it could be gearing up to leak data that would be damaging for a particular political party or candidate ahead of the European elections,” explained Benjamin Read, senior manager of cyberespionage analysis at FireEye.

“The link between this activity and the European elections is yet to be confirmed, but the multiple voting systems and political parties involved in the elections creates a broad attack surface for hackers,” FireEye’s Read said.”

According to The Milpitas, California-based firm, the group also targeted media outlets in France and Germany, political opposition groups in Russia, and LGBT organizations with links to Russia.

FireEye notified targeted organizations after uncovering the espionage campaigns.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Russian APT group, cyberespionage)

The post Russian APT groups target European governments ahead of May Elections appeared first on Security Affairs.

Security Affairs: Russian APT groups target European governments ahead of May Elections

Russian APT groups are targeting European governments for cyber-espionage purposes ahead of the upcoming European elections.

According to experts from FireEye, Russia-linked APT28
(aka Fancy BearPawn StormSofacy GroupSednit, and STRONTIUM) and
Sandworm Team (also TeleBots) cyberespionage groups are targeting European governments for cyber-espionage purposes ahead of the upcoming European elections.

The activity of the Russia-linked groups is focused on NATO member states.

The APT28 group has been active since at least 2007 and it has targeted governments, militaries, and security organizations worldwide. The group was involved also in the string of attacks that targeted 2016 Presidential election.

According to a report published by Symantec in October, the group was actively conducting cyber espionage campaigns against government and military organizations in Europe and South America.

Starting in 2017 and continuing into 2018, the APT28 group returned to covert intelligence gathering operations in Europe and South America.

The espionage activity on NATO member states has increased significantly since mid-2018, and it is ongoing. 

FireEye revealed that the two Russia-linked APT groups carried out spear-phishing attacks to trick victims into revealing government information and credentials.

Experts noticed that the activities of the groups are aligned, but while APT28 was observed using custom malware and zero-day exploits, the
Sandworm Team mainly used publicly available hacking tools. 

“The groups could be trying to gain access to the targeted networks in order to gather information that will allow Russia to make more informed political decisions, or it could be gearing up to leak data that would be damaging for a particular political party or candidate ahead of the European elections,” explained Benjamin Read, senior manager of cyberespionage analysis at FireEye.

“The link between this activity and the European elections is yet to be confirmed, but the multiple voting systems and political parties involved in the elections creates a broad attack surface for hackers,” FireEye’s Read said.”

According to The Milpitas, California-based firm, the group also targeted media outlets in France and Germany, political opposition groups in Russia, and LGBT organizations with links to Russia.

FireEye notified targeted organizations after uncovering the espionage campaigns.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Russian APT group, cyberespionage)

The post Russian APT groups target European governments ahead of May Elections appeared first on Security Affairs.



Security Affairs

Dashcam Video Shows Tesla Steering Toward Lane Divider – Again

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: The afternoon commute of Reddit user Beastpilot takes him past a stretch of Seattle-area freeway with a carpool lane exit on the left. Last year, in early April, the Tesla driver noticed that Autopilot on his Model X would sometimes pull to the left as the car approached the lane divider -- seemingly treating the space between the diverging lanes as a lane of its own. This was particularly alarming, because just days earlier, Tesla owner Walter Huang had died in a fiery crash after Autopilot steered his Model X into a concrete lane divider in a very similar junction in Mountain View, California. Beastpilot made several attempts to notify Tesla of the problem but says he never got a response. Weeks later, Tesla pushed out an update that seemed to fix the problem. Then in October, it happened again. Weeks later, the problem resolved itself. This week, he posted dashcam footage showing the same thing happening a third time -- this time with a recently acquired Model 3. "The behavior of the system changes dramatically between software updates," Beastpilot told Ars. "Human nature is, 'if something's worked 100 times before, it's gonna work the 101st time.'" That can lull people into a false sense of security, with potentially deadly consequences.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Future of Cybersecurity Education – Part 2

Intel's Amit Elazari Bar On and UC-Berkeley's Lisa Ho on Schools and Digital Transformation
What are America's universities doing to help fill the cybersecurity skills gap felt by enterprises worldwide? In part two of a two-part panel discussion on the future of cybersecurity education, Lisa Ho of the University of California-Berkeley and Amit Elazari Bar On of Intel Corp. offer insights.

Friday Squid Blogging: New Research on Squid Camouflage

From the New York Times:

Now, a paper published last week in Nature Communications suggests that their chromatophores, previously thought to be mainly pockets of pigment embedded in their skin, are also equipped with tiny reflectors made of proteins. These reflectors aid the squid to produce such a wide array of colors, including iridescent greens and blues, within a second of passing in front of a new background. The research reveals that by using tricks found in other parts of the animal kingdom -- like shimmering butterflies and peacocks -- squid are able to combine multiple approaches to produce their vivid camouflage.

Researchers studied Doryteuthis pealeii, or the longfin squid.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

The US Desperately Needs a ‘Fiber For All’ Plan

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a new report calling for a "fiber for all" plan to combat the broadband access crisis in the United States. Government data and independent analysis show we are falling behind the rest of the developed world in this area, and "the U.S. is the only country that believes having no plan will solve this issue," writes Ernesto Falcon from the EFF. "We are the only country to completely abandon federal oversight of an uncompetitive, highly concentrated market that sells critical services to all people, yet we expect widely available, affordable, ultra-fast services. But if you live in a low-income neighborhood or in a rural market today, you know very well this is not working and the status quo is going to cement in your local broadband options to either one choice or no choice." From the report: Very small ISPs and local governments with limited budgets are at the frontline of deploying fiber to the home to fix these problems, but policymakers from the federal, state, and local level need to step up and lead. At least 19 states still have laws that prohibit local governments from deploying community broadband projects. Worst yet, both AT&T and Verizon are actively asking the FCC to make it even harder for small private ISPs to deploy fiber, so that the big incumbents can raise prices and suppress competition, a proposal EFF has urged the FCC to reject. This is why we need to push our elected officials and regulators for a fiber-for-all-people plan to ensure everyone can obtain the next generation of broadband access. Otherwise, the next generation of applications and services won't be usable in most of the United States. They will be built instead for markets with better, faster, cheaper, and more accessible broadband. This dire outcome was the central thesis to a recently published book by Professor Susan Crawford (appropriately named Fiber) and EFF agrees with its findings. If American policymakers do not remedy the failings in the US market and actively pursue ways to drive fiber deployment with the goal of universal coverage, then a staggering number of Americans will miss out on the latest innovations that will occur on the Internet because it will be inaccessible or too expensive. As a result, we will see a worsening of the digital divide as advances in virtual reality, cloud computing, gaming, education, and things we have not invented yet are going to carry a monopoly price tag for a majority of us -- or just not be accessible here. This does not have to be so, but it requires federal, state, and local governments to get to work on policies that promote fiber infrastructure to all people. Most of the talk lately has been about 5G networks, but the less-spoken truth about these networks is that they need dense fiber networks to make them work. "One estimate on the amount of fiber investment that needs to occur is as much as $150 billion -- including fiber to the home deployments -- in the near future, and we are far below that level of commitment to fiber," the report says.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

DataBreachToday.com RSS Syndication: Cyber Risk Management: Why Automation is Essential

Skybox Security's Michelle Cobb on Point Solutions Versus Platforms
The challenge of wanted to adopt the latest and greatest point products, as opposed to opting for a more platform-based approach, seems never-ending, and can only be managed by bringing greater amounts of automation to bear, says Skybox Security's Michelle Cobb.

DataBreachToday.com RSS Syndication

The Ethical Hacker Network: Security Assumptions – Don’t Make an ASS of U and ME

EH-Net - Kron - Security AssumptionsHave you ever stopped to ask yourself if the things you are defending against are really your biggest security problems? I am going to challenge you to think about things a little differently, as I have been myself recently. Prepare yourself, as this may challenge some of your core security beliefs, things we have been taking as gospel since the early days of securing networks. We all know our time is precious and limited, so it is more important than ever to use what time we have wisely. That is exactly why I think we need to look deep into our beliefs and be willing to challenge ourselves on a profound, uncomfortable level. So, let’s make an attempt to be completely and utterly honest with ourselves about our security assumptions.

Do you require users to have long, complex passwords and expect them not to write them down? Do you use firewalls to cover up unpatched software, block access to vulnerable or unused services or to make up for poor configuration? What about Full Disk Encryption? Do you deploy that on every machine in your organization?

The post Security Assumptions – Don’t Make an ASS of U and ME appeared first on The Ethical Hacker Network.



The Ethical Hacker Network

Russian Hackers Target EU Elections

It has been reported today that Russian hackers have targeted European government systems ahead of the EU parliament election.According to researchers, two state-sponsored hacking groups, APT28 and Sandworm, used spear phishing — the practice of sending out emails designed to look like they’re from a trusted party — in an attempt to obtain government information.  

Anjola Adeniyi, Technical Manager for EMEA at Securonix: 

“The attacks on the EU elections are yet another example of phishing being used as a method to obtain sensitive government information and attack high value targets. As a result, it is vital that all EU government employees are empowered to mitigate these scams. 

Hackers will carry out reconnaissance on their targets to make their scams look legitimate, so even if employees are confident that an email is genuine, it is better to practice caution and be safe, rather than sorry. 

Impersonating a given domain is a common method used for phishing and other malicious activities – DMARC protects against this type of phishing attack, which the European government should consider if it hasn’t already done so.” 

 

 

The ISBuzz Post: This Post Russian Hackers Target EU Elections appeared first on Information Security Buzz.

PewDiePie ransomware forcing users to subscribe him on YouTube

By Waqas

T-Series – PewDiePie Battle Takes an Ugly Turn- PewDiePie Fans Launching PewDiePie ransomware to Get Followers. The battle between T-Series and PewDiePie for the top slot on YouTube is getting more fierce and dramatic day by day. Where T-Series fans are supporting the Indian music company, PewDiePie fans have resorted to extreme measures in making […]

This is a post from HackRead.com Read the original post: PewDiePie ransomware forcing users to subscribe him on YouTube

Minacce Informatiche: Prevenire Attacchi con l’Analisi Malware Cloud-Based | Soluzione Palo Alto Networks per Prevenire Attacchi Informatici | Florence Consulting Group

cio.florence-consulting.it - Con l’esponenziale aumento di minacce informatiche sempre più sofisticate, prevenire eventuali attacchi diventa sempre più difficile. Per far fronte a minacce come malware ed exploit zero-day, è nece…


Tweeted by @FlorenceCGroup https://twitter.com/FlorenceCGroup/status/1109200417295077378

Security Affairs: Medtronic’s implantable heart defibrillators vulnerable to hack

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Thursday issued a security advisory for multiple vulnerabilities affecting over a dozen heart defibrillators.

Multiple vulnerabilities in the heart defibrillators could be exploited by attackers to remotely control the devices, potentially putting the lives of patients at risk.

An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a device implantable inside the human body that performs cardioversion, defibrillation, and pacing of the heart. 

Security firm Clever Security discovered that heart defibrillators manufactured by Medtronic are affected by two serious vulnerabilities.

Attackers with knowledge of medical devices could interfere with the functionality of Medtronic devices.

The flaws affect the Conexus Radio Frequency Telemetry Protocol used by Medtronic defibrillators to enable wireless connections to implanted devices over the air using radio-waves.

“Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities may allow an attacker with adjacent short-range access to one of the affected products to interfere with, generate, modify, or intercept the radio frequency (RF) communication of the Medtronic proprietary Conexus telemetry system, potentially impacting product functionality and/or allowing access to transmitted sensitive data,” warns the advisory released by DHS.

heart defibrillators Medtronic

The first flaw is an IMPROPER ACCESS CONTROL (CVE-2019-6538), the Conexus telemetry protocol does not implement authentication or authorization.

“An attacker with adjacent short-range access to an affected product, in situations where the product’s radio is turned on, can inject, replay, modify, and/or intercept data within the telemetry communication.” continues the advisory. “This communication protocol provides the ability to read and write memory values to affected implanted cardiac devices; therefore, an attacker could exploit this communication protocol to change memory in the implanted cardiac device.

According to Medtronic, the flaws affect more than 20 products, 16 of which are implantable defibrillators.

The second flaw ties the CLEARTEXT TRANSMISSION OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION (CVE-2019-6540).

“The Conexus telemetry protocol utilized within this ecosystem does not implement encryption. An attacker with adjacent short-range access to a target product can listen to communications, including the transmission of sensitive data.” states the advisory.

The Conexus telemetry protocol doesn’t implement encryption to secure communications. An attacker could exploit the flaw could intercept, spoof, or modify data transmitting between the device and its controller,

Medtronic clarified that the exploitation of the vulnerabilities is hard and the following conditions have to be met:

  • (1) an RF device capable of transmitting or receiving Conexus telemetry communication, such as a monitor, programmer, or software-defined radio (SDR);
  • (2) to have adjacent short-range access to the affected products;
  • (3) for the products to be in states where the RF functionality is active. 

According to the security advisory published by Medtronic, neither a cyberattack nor patient harm has been observed or associated with these vulnerabilities to this date.

The company clarified that Medtronic pacemakers don’t use
Conexus telemetry, additionally, CareLink Express monitors and the CareLink Encore programmers (Model 29901) used by some hospitals and clinics do not use Conexus telemetry too.

Medtronic has already implemented additional controls for monitoring and responding to the abuse of the Conexus protocol by the implanted devices. The company is working on security patches to address the vulnerabilities.

“Medtronic is developing updates to mitigate these vulnerabilities. We will inform patients and physicians when they become available (subject to regulatory approvals). Medtronic recommends that patients and physicians continue to use these devices as prescribed and intended.” concludes Medtronic.

“The benefits of remote monitoring outweigh the practical risk that these vulnerabilities could be exploited. These benefits include earlier detection of arrhythmias, fewer hospital visits and improved survival rates”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – heart defibrillators, Medtronic)

The post Medtronic’s implantable heart defibrillators vulnerable to hack appeared first on Security Affairs.



Security Affairs

Medtronic’s implantable heart defibrillators vulnerable to hack

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Thursday issued a security advisory for multiple vulnerabilities affecting over a dozen heart defibrillators.

Multiple vulnerabilities in the heart defibrillators could be exploited by attackers to remotely control the devices, potentially putting the lives of patients at risk.

An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a device implantable inside the human body that performs cardioversion, defibrillation, and pacing of the heart. 

Security firm Clever Security discovered that heart defibrillators manufactured by Medtronic are affected by two serious vulnerabilities.

Attackers with knowledge of medical devices could interfere with the functionality of Medtronic devices.

The flaws affect the Conexus Radio Frequency Telemetry Protocol used by Medtronic defibrillators to enable wireless connections to implanted devices over the air using radio-waves.

“Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities may allow an attacker with adjacent short-range access to one of the affected products to interfere with, generate, modify, or intercept the radio frequency (RF) communication of the Medtronic proprietary Conexus telemetry system, potentially impacting product functionality and/or allowing access to transmitted sensitive data,” warns the advisory released by DHS.

heart defibrillators Medtronic

The first flaw is an IMPROPER ACCESS CONTROL (CVE-2019-6538), the Conexus telemetry protocol does not implement authentication or authorization.

“An attacker with adjacent short-range access to an affected product, in situations where the product’s radio is turned on, can inject, replay, modify, and/or intercept data within the telemetry communication.” continues the advisory. “This communication protocol provides the ability to read and write memory values to affected implanted cardiac devices; therefore, an attacker could exploit this communication protocol to change memory in the implanted cardiac device.

According to Medtronic, the flaws affect more than 20 products, 16 of which are implantable defibrillators.

The second flaw ties the CLEARTEXT TRANSMISSION OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION (CVE-2019-6540).

“The Conexus telemetry protocol utilized within this ecosystem does not implement encryption. An attacker with adjacent short-range access to a target product can listen to communications, including the transmission of sensitive data.” states the advisory.

The Conexus telemetry protocol doesn’t implement encryption to secure communications. An attacker could exploit the flaw could intercept, spoof, or modify data transmitting between the device and its controller,

Medtronic clarified that the exploitation of the vulnerabilities is hard and the following conditions have to be met:

  • (1) an RF device capable of transmitting or receiving Conexus telemetry communication, such as a monitor, programmer, or software-defined radio (SDR);
  • (2) to have adjacent short-range access to the affected products;
  • (3) for the products to be in states where the RF functionality is active. 

According to the security advisory published by Medtronic, neither a cyberattack nor patient harm has been observed or associated with these vulnerabilities to this date.

The company clarified that Medtronic pacemakers don’t use
Conexus telemetry, additionally, CareLink Express monitors and the CareLink Encore programmers (Model 29901) used by some hospitals and clinics do not use Conexus telemetry too.

Medtronic has already implemented additional controls for monitoring and responding to the abuse of the Conexus protocol by the implanted devices. The company is working on security patches to address the vulnerabilities.

“Medtronic is developing updates to mitigate these vulnerabilities. We will inform patients and physicians when they become available (subject to regulatory approvals). Medtronic recommends that patients and physicians continue to use these devices as prescribed and intended.” concludes Medtronic.

“The benefits of remote monitoring outweigh the practical risk that these vulnerabilities could be exploited. These benefits include earlier detection of arrhythmias, fewer hospital visits and improved survival rates”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – heart defibrillators, Medtronic)

The post Medtronic’s implantable heart defibrillators vulnerable to hack appeared first on Security Affairs.

DataBreachToday.com RSS Syndication: Washington, D.C. AG Wants Better Data Breach Protection

Top District Prosecutor Aims to Improve Consumer Breach Protection
Karl Racine, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., is looking to strengthen the District's data breach laws, specifically by offering greater protection for consumers and holding businesses accountable when they are breached or lose data.

DataBreachToday.com RSS Syndication

DataBreachToday.com RSS Syndication: The Future of Cybersecurity Education – Part 2

Intel's Amit Elazari Bar On and UC-Berkeley's Lisa Ho on Schools and Digital Transformation
What are America's universities doing to help fill the cybersecurity skills gap felt by enterprises worldwide? In part two of a two-part panel discussion on the future of cybersecurity education, Lisa Ho of the University of California-Berkeley and Amit Elazari Bar On of Intel Corp. offer insights.

DataBreachToday.com RSS Syndication

MIT Develops Algorithm To Accelerate Neural Networks By 200x

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ExtremeTech: MIT researchers have reportedly developed an algorithm that can accelerate [neural networks] by up to 200x. The NAS (Neural Architecture Search, in this context) algorithm they developed "can directly learn specialized convolutional neural networks (CNNs) for target hardware platforms -- when run on a massive image dataset -- in only 200 GPU hours," MIT News reports. This is a massive improvement over the 48,000 hours Google reported taking to develop a state-of-the-art NAS algorithm for image classification. The goal of the researchers is to democratize AI by allowing researchers to experiment with various aspects of CNN design without needing enormous GPU arrays to do the front-end work. If finding state of the art approaches requires 48,000 GPU arrays, precious few people, even at large institutions, will ever have the opportunity to try. Algorithms produced by the new NAS were, on average, 1.8x faster than the CNNs tested on a mobile device with similar accuracy. The new algorithm leveraged techniques like path level binarization, which stores just one path at a time to reduce memory consumption by an order of magnitude. MIT doesn't actually link out to specific research reports, but from a bit of Google sleuthing, the referenced articles appear to be here and here -- two different research reports from an overlapping group of researchers. The teams focused on pruning entire potential paths for CNNs to use, evaluating each in turn. Lower probability paths are successively pruned away, leaving the final, best-case path. The new model incorporated other improvements as well. Architectures were checked against hardware platforms for latency when evaluated. In some cases, their model predicted superior performance for platforms that had been dismissed as inefficient. For example, 7x7 filters for image classification are typically not used, because they're quite computationally expensive -- but the research team found that these actually worked well for GPUs.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

EU to drop threat of Huawei ban despite US pressure

The European Commission will next week urge EU countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks but will ignore U.S. calls to ban Huawei Technologies, four people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

CVE-2019-1763

A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Software for Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to bypass authorization, access critical services, and cause a denial of service (DoS) condition. The vulnerability exists because the software fails to sanitize URLs before it handles requests. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by submitting a crafted URL. A successful exploit could allow the attacker to gain unauthorized access to critical services and cause a DoS condition. This vulnerability affects Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series products running a SIP Software release prior to 11.0(5) for Wireless IP Phone 8821 and 8821-EX; and 12.5(1)SR1 for the IP Conference Phone 8832 and the rest of the IP Phone 8800 Series. Cisco IP Conference Phone 8831 is not affected.

CVE-2019-9649

An issue was discovered in the SFTP Server component in Core FTP 2.0 Build 674. Using the MDTM FTP command, a remote attacker can use a directory traversal technique (..\..\) to browse outside the root directory to determine the existence of a file on the operating system, and its last modified date.

CVE-2019-1765

A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Software for Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series could allow an authenticated, remote attacker to write arbitrary files to the filesystem. The vulnerability is due to insufficient input validation and file-level permissions. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by uploading invalid files to an affected device. A successful exploit could allow the attacker to write files in arbitrary locations on the filesystem. This vulnerability affects Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series products running a SIP Software release prior to 11.0(5) for Wireless IP Phone 8821 and 8821-EX; and 12.5(1)SR1 for the IP Conference Phone 8832 and the rest of the IP Phone 8800 Series.

CVE-2019-1764

A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Software for Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to conduct a cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attack. The vulnerability is due to insufficient CSRF protections for the web-based management interface of an affected device. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by persuading an authenticated user of the interface to follow a crafted link. A successful exploit could allow the attacker to perform arbitrary actions on a targeted device via a web browser and with the privileges of the user. This vulnerability affects Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series products running a SIP Software release prior to 11.0(5) for Wireless IP Phone 8821 and 8821-EX; and 12.5(1)SR1 for the IP Conference Phone 8832 and the rest of the IP Phone 8800 Series. Cisco IP Conference Phone 8831 is not affected.

CVE-2019-1766

A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Software for Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause high disk utilization, resulting in a denial of service (DoS) condition. The vulnerability exists because the affected software does not restrict the maximum size of certain files that can be written to disk. An attacker who has valid administrator credentials for an affected system could exploit this vulnerability by sending a crafted, remote connection request to an affected system. A successful exploit could allow the attacker to write a file that consumes most of the available disk space on the system, causing application functions to operate abnormally and leading to a DoS condition. This vulnerability affects Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series products running a SIP Software release prior to 12.5(1)SR1.

CVE-2019-1716

A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Software for Cisco IP Phone 7800 Series and Cisco IP Phone 8800 Series could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause a denial of service (DoS) condition or execute arbitrary code. The vulnerability exists because the software improperly validates user-supplied input during user authentication. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by connecting to an affected device using HTTP and supplying malicious user credentials. A successful exploit could allow the attacker to trigger a reload of an affected device, resulting in a DoS condition, or to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the app user. Cisco fixed this vulnerability in the following SIP Software releases: 10.3(1)SR5 and later for Cisco Unified IP Conference Phone 8831; 11.0(4)SR3 and later for Cisco Wireless IP Phone 8821 and 8821-EX; and 12.5(1)SR1 and later for the rest of the Cisco IP Phone 7800 Series and 8800 Series.

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GDPR: Data Breach Notification 101

Brian Honan of BH Consulting on When to Notify - or Not
Since the EU's new GDPR privacy law came into effect in May 2018, one challenge for organizations that suffer a breach is knowing whether or not they must report it to authorities, says Brian Honan, president and CEO of BH Consulting in Dublin.

The New York Times CEO Warns Publishers Ahead of Apple News Launch

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple is expected to launch an ambitious new entertainment and paid digital news service on Monday, as the iPhone maker pushes back against streaming video leader Netflix. But it likely will not feature the New York Times. Mark Thompson, chief executive of the biggest U.S. newspaper by subscribers, warned that relying on third-party distribution can be dangerous for publishers who risk losing control over their own product. "We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else," he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. "We're also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else's journalism."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

30-Day Free Trial – Abacode

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