Posts tagged DOJ
Justice Dept. Sues Bank of America Over Mortgage Securities
Washington – The Justice Department sued Bank of America on Tuesday, accusing the bank of defrauding investors by vastly underestimating the quality of mortgage-backed securities.
Eric H. Holder Jr., the United States attorney general, said the lawsuit was “the latest step forward in the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to hold accountable those who engage in fraudulent or irresponsible conduct.”
Bank of America, the Justice Department said, cloaked the risk associated with $850 million worth of securities backed by residential mortgages. In a corporate filing last week, Bank of America said it was bracing for the action.
The lawsuit is another blow for Bank of America, which is already reeling from a number of legal problems. Unlike many of its headaches that stem from its takeover of Countrywide Financial, which was once the nation’s biggest mortgage lender, the woes on Tuesday concern Bank of America’s own mortgages.
Posted by Kristin Tate
ERIC HOLDER DEMANDS GOVERNMENT SUPERVISION OF APPLE’S ITUNES & APP STORES
Attorney General Eric Holder has asked a federal judge to give his Department of Justice (DOJ) supervision of the Apple App Store and iTunes.
The DOJ’s demand is a disgusting attempted government power-grab into private business.
Holder’s request follows a decision by Denise Cote, a New York Federal District Judge. Cote ruled that Apple violates the US Anti-Trust Laws, which are designed to prevent monopolies and fixed prices.
Apple plans to fight the federal ruling tooth and nail, and will almost certainly appeal.
The mega company currently gets 30 percent commission for any e-books sold on an Apple Store App. According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ is pushing for Amazon.com to be able to sell e-books on Apple Apps without the 30 percent commission.
Apple objects to government attempting to control the marketplace. Commission on App stores currently makes up for 10 percent of the company’s revenue. It would be a huge blow to Apple if Holder’s request is granted.
FULL STORY @ http://benswann.com
Teachers Will Be Armed in Arkansas
Clarksville High School in Arkansas will be the first high school to utilize state laws that allow armed security guards in schools to arm teachers.
Training is underway now that will facilitate teachers carrying concealed weapons when classes resume.
David Hopkins, superintendent for Clarksville explained: “The plan we’ve been given in the past is, ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best.’ That’s not a plan.”
Twenty teachers, including volunteers and other facility are training with a private security firm to turn them into licensed guards. Those in the program will receive 9-mm Walter PPS and holster; including $1,100 for a total of $50,000 the school in spending.
To make sure these participants are full trained, they will receive 53 hours which is 5 times the requirements for security guards in Arkansas.
Hopkins said : “They’re not gonna be in a uniform, and they’re not gonna be wagging their gun on their side. We’re going to be very discrete about it, but yet we’re going to be trained professionals, and we’re going to be able to provide security for our kids in a matter of seconds instead of minutes.”
Instead of hiring an independent security firm, Hopkins asserts : “We’re not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens. We’ve got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas. Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.”
Students will not know which teachers are armed and which are not to ensure that Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are able to assist at a moment’s notice.
CERT is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These are trained members of each community educated in “disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.”
Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) said: “We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon.”
Arkansas and 6 other states; such as Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Washington State have adopted measures to place armed guards in public schools.
School districts in Florida, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Alabama and New Jersey have hired armed police officers to patrol and protect their campuses based on Vice President Joe Biden’s national recommendations last January.
Like those other schools, Sidwell Friends School, where President Obama’s two daughters attend, have 11 security officers and is seeking to hire armed police officers to patrol the campus.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) School Resource Officer program offers government certified law enforcement officers to patrol campuses as part of a national initiative.
Sheriff Douglas Harp of Nobile County, Indiana suggested deputizing teachers in order to carry handguns in classrooms just after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Last January, a scheduled Code Red lockdown was performed at Cary-Grove High School in Illinois.
This drill was complete with the firing of blanks into a hallway to give the students the very real impression that they were being attacked. Officials claimed that this exercise would help teachers and students “recognize the sound and react quickly should an active gunman situation occur.”
According the school website: “The drill will begin with a public address announcement about the lockdown. After staff have secured their rooms, Cary police and administrators will sweep the building to ensure all students made it into secure locations and assess any potential issues that may become apparent from the practice. Following this, a second PA announcement will be made informing students and staff that gunfire will be simulated so that they might be able to recognize the sound and react quickly, should an active gunman situation occur.”
They went on to explain: “Following the drill, a discussion will ensue between the students and their classroom teacher. We will utilize this feedback as a building and police department to assess our security and make any necessary adjustments to our building plan. Our sole purpose for utilizing the blanks is to fully prepare our students and staff.”
Parents whose children attend the school were concerned that the simulated gunfire was going beyond necessities. One parent said: “If you need to run a drill, you run a drill. They run fire drills all the time, but they don’t run up and down the hallway with a flamethrower.”
Students were upset by the crassness of the drill. Some participants pointed out that not all guns sound the same when fired. And a substitute teacher suggested that there be proactive training on what do to in such a situation instead of the terrifying drill that was conducted by school officials.
Jeff Puma, spokesperson for the high school explained that the administration is working with the Cary Police Department who recommended that this drill take place. Puma said: “It was their recommendation that we do this in order to create the knowledge necessary to keep our students safe in an active crisis situation.”
Puma said that the police referred to the students as “sitting ducks” while in their classrooms should a shooter enter the building. The police intimated that the students remain in their classrooms for “safety reasons” rather than try to escape through a window or run out a door.
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Posted by Judy Morris
‘Ministry of Truth?’ DOJ creating News Media Review Committee
With nearly all eyes trained on the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford, Fla., late Friday afternoon, the Obama administration found a good opportunity to announce the results of Attorney General Eric Holder’s exhaustive investigation into … Eric Holder. President Obama had directed Holder to look into the Justice Department’s investigation of Fox News reporter James Rosen, which included the DOJ secretly gaining access to Rosen’s personal email account and tracking not only his phone records but those of his parents.
The DOJ was able to read Rosen’s emails by naming him a co-conspirator under the Espionage Act. Holder himself vetted and signed the warrant, so it was unlikely the report would hold Holder’s feet to the fire. Instead, the DOJ has decided to create a News Media Review Committee to handle future cases like Rosen’s and spread the responsibility around.
Read the rest at Twitchy Media, here.
Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Truth
FBI sued over secretive facial recognition program
Soon the FBI will be done building a database containing the photographs, fingerprints and other biometric data for millions of Americans, but the agency has been far from forthcoming with the details. A new lawsuit filed this week aims to change that.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital rights group based out of California, sued the United States Department of Justice this week for failing to comply with multiple Freedom of Information Act requests filed last year by the EFF.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation received no fewer than three FOIA requests from the EFF last year for details about its state-of-the-art Next Generation Identification program, or NGI, a system that will store personally-identifiable data for millions of Americans and foreign nationals to act as what the FBI has called a “bigger, faster and better” version of what law enforcement already uses. But while the bureau has indeed already been using fingerprint information to track down potential terrorists and troublemakers for years, the EFF’s main concern revolves around what sort of space-age face recognition abilities NGI will be able to employ.
The FBI previously acknowledged that NGI will “house multimodal biometrics records like palm prints and iris scans” in one master system, as well as facial imaging information and intelligence about scars, marks and tattoos. Eventually, the agency said, it hopes to incorporate technology to track down people using only their voice. For now, though, the EFF is interested in what the facial recognition infrastructure will be able to do, and is demanding the FBI fesses up.
“NGI will change almost everything about how the FBI treats photograph submissions,” the complaint filed this week reads. Citing government documents, the EFF says that the system will allow “the increased capacity to retain photographic images, additional opportunities for agencies to submit photographic images and additional search capabilities, including automated searches.”
“The proposed new system would also allow law enforcement ‘to collect and retain other images (such as those obtained from crime scene security cameras’ and from family and friends) and would allow submission of ‘civil photographs along with civil fingerprint submissions that were collected for noncriminal purposes,’” the EFF continues.
When all is said and done, the FBI will be able to use NGI to scan millions of entries in a single database to find someone based off of a single photograph, and the EFF fears that could send things down a slippery slope.
“Governmental use of face recognition — and the potential for misuse — raises many privacy concerns,” the EFF says in the lawsuit.
Using statements already made by the FBI about the program, the EFF presents an argument about why they should be worried that’s hard to counter.
“The FBI has also stated in a public presentation given at a national biometrics conference that it wants to use its facial recognition system to ‘identify unknown persons of interest from images’ and ‘identify subjects in public datasets,’” the complaint continues. “In the same presentation, the FBI included a graphic image that implied the Bureau wanted to use facial recognition to be able to track people from one political rally to another.”
Another digital watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, previously alleged that NGI system could be integrated with other surveillance technology in order to enable “real-time image-matching of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras.”
Obtaining information about how the FBI will manage and operate this information has been a priority for the EFF for over a year now, and the failure to comply with those FOIA requests has finally prompted the organization to ask a court to intervene.
“NGI will result in a massive expansion of government data collection for both criminal and noncriminal purposes,” EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch said in a statement this week. “Biometrics programs present critical threats to civil liberties and privacy. Face-recognition technology is among the most alarming new developments, because Americans cannot easily take precautions against the covert, remote and mass capture of their images.”
The EFF is asking the court to enforce the FOIA requests sent last June and July, which could compel the FBI to disclose information about the face-recognition program and any plans to merge civilian and criminal records in a single database. They are also asking for the total number of face-recognition capable records currently in the database and an assessment of what number the agency expects to have when it rolls out the program in 2014.
“Before the federal government decides to expand its surveillance powers, there needs to be a public debate,” Lynch said. “But there can be no public debate until the details of the program are presented to the public.”
In a July 18, 2012 assessment, the FBI reported that the program was “on scope, on schedule, on cost and 60 percent deployed.” The program is being put together by contractors Lockheed Martin, who are expected to rake in $1 billion from the government by the time the NGI system is finally up and running.
The FBI previously admitted that they found 7,380 records that were “potentially responsive” to one of the EFF’s request, but has yet to deliver actual information pursuant to any of the three FOIA submissions filed, prompting the nonprofit to allege the FBI is “dragging its feet.”
“FBI has not explained to the public how NGI or IAFIS’s system design would ensure that civil submissions are not ‘tainted’ by criminal submissions or explained why it is necessary to combine the two types of data,” the EFF wrote in the complaint.
Posted by Judy Morris
President Rand Paul: Watch out, he’s becoming a better politician every day
Posted by Jerry Titus
The National Security Agency’s Domestic Spying Program
“It took me a few days to work up the nerve to phone William Binney. As someone already a “target” of the United States government, I found it difficult not to worry about the chain of unintended consequences I might unleash by calling Mr. Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower. He picked up. I nervously explained I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to speak to him. To my surprise he replied: “I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution. Yes, I’ll talk to you.”
The filmmaker profiles William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency who helped design a top-secret program he says is broadly collecting Americans’ personal data.
By Judy Morris
Secret court won’t object to release of opinion on illegal surveillance
In a rare public ruling by the nation’s most secretive judicial body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled Wednesday that it did not object to the release of a classified 86-page opinion concluding that some of the U.S. government’s surveillance activities were unconstitutional.
The ruling, signed by the court’s chief judge, Reggie Walton, rejected the Justice Department’s arguments that the secret national security court’s rules prevented disclosure of the opinion. Instead, the court found that because the document was in the possession of the Justice Department, it was subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.
Privacy advocates who brought the case said Wednesday that the ruling could pave the way for at least the partial release of landmark — but still classified — court rulings that some government surveillance activities violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution barring “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
The release of the opinion, they say, may prove central in the current controversy over the scope of National Security Agency surveillance programs.
Read the rest at NBC News, here.
Written by Adam Dick
US Government Spying: Constructing a ‘Turnkey Totalitarian State’?
The Washington Post reports that the ranking minority member of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence seems not too concerned about the United States government collecting information about our phone conversations:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said, “This is nothing particularly new…. Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this.”
He added: “It is simply what we call metadata that is never utilized by any government agency” unless an agency goes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges for further review of the information.
Using section 215 of the PATRIOT Act federal government agencies can require companies to hand over this and other personal information without the government establishing reasonable grounds, much less the constitutionally required probably cause, that the people whose information is sought are engaged in criminal activity.
When section 215 came up for re-authorization in 2011, Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, also members of the Senate Intelligence Committee with access to classified briefings on the US government’s use and interpretation of section 215 powers, warned that Americans would be concerned about the powers being exercised and promoted unsuccessful efforts to limit the exercise of these powers. Declan McCullagh detailed the senators’ concerns and legislative efforts.
Further, Sen. Chambliss’s suggestion that the FISA court will protect us from government snooping provides little comfort. That court ordered Verizon to hand over millions of individuals’ personal phone records. Indeed, the US Department of Justice reported to Congress that in 2012 the FISA court did not deny any of 1,789 applications for monitoring electronic communications.
National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reminds us in the Washington Times that US government snooping on the “metadata” and content of vast amounts of email and phone calls has been ongoing for over a decade. For more explanation from Binney about the secret US government spying on our private lives check out James Bamford’s investigative report from last year in Wired that also goes into the details of the multi-year, billions-upon-billions of dollars build-up of facilities, technology, and manpower to spy on our activities on an unprecedented scale. The US government’s snooping has reached the point that Binney gives the following warning in Bamford’s article:
Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.
Written by Adam Dick
NSA, the secret AT&T spy room, 2 Israeli companies, and loss of American privacy
Boom. Explosive revelations. The NSA is using telecom giants to spy on anybody and everybody, in a program called PRISM.
But the information is not new.
Three books have been written about the super-secret NSA, and James Bamford has written them all.
Bamford explained that, in the 1990s, everything changed for NSA. Previously, they’d been able to intercept electronic communications by using big dishes to capture what was coming down to Earth from telecom satellites.
But with the shift to fiber-optic cables, NSA was shut out. So they devised new methods.
For example, they set up a secret spy room at an AT&T office in San Francisco. NSA installed new equipment that enabled them to tap into the fiber-optic cables and suck up all traffic.
How Bamford describes this, in 2008, tells you exactly where the PRISM program came from:
NSA began making these agreements with AT&T and other companies, and that in order to get access to the actual cables, they had to build these secret rooms in these buildings.
So what would happen would be the communications on the cables would come into the building, and then the cable would go to this thing called a splitter box, which was a box that had something that was similar to a prism, a glass prism.
And the prism was shaped like a prism, and the light signals would come in, and they’d be split by the prism. And one copy of the light signal would go off to where it was supposed to be going in the telecom system, and the other half, this new cloned copy of the cables, would actually go one floor below to NSA’s secret room.
… And in the secret room was equipment by a private company called Narus, the very small company hardly anybody has ever heard of that created the hardware and the software to analyze these cables and then pick out the targets NSA is looking for and then forward the targeted communications onto NSA headquarters.
In James Bamford’s 2008 interview, he mentions two Israeli companies, Narus and Verint, that almost nobody knew about. They played a key role in developing and selling the technology that allowed NSA to deploy its PRISM spying program:
Yeah. There’s two major — or not major, they’re small companies, but they service the two major telecom companies. This company, Narus, which was founded in Israel and has large Israel connections, does the — basically the tapping of the communications on AT&T. And Verizon chose another company, ironically also founded in Israel and largely controlled by and developed by people in Israel called Verint.
So these two companies specialize in what’s known as mass surveillance. Their literature — I read this literature from Verint, for example — is supposed to only go to intelligence agencies and so forth, and it says, ‘We specialize in mass surveillance,’ and that’s what they do.
They put [this] mass surveillance equipment in these facilities. So you have AT&T, for example, that, you know, considers it’s their job to get messages from one person to another, not tapping into messages, and you get the NSA that says, we want, you know, copies of all this. So that’s where these [two Israeli] companies come in. These companies act as the intermediary basically between the telecom companies and the NSA.
AMY GOODMAN: “Now, Jim Bamford, take this a step further, because you say the founder and former CEO of one of these companies [Verint] is now a fugitive from the United States somewhere in Africa?”
JAMES BAMFORD: “…the company that Verizon uses, Verint, the founder of the company, the former head of the company, is now a fugitive in — hiding out in Africa in the country of Namibia, because he’s wanted on a number of felony warrants for fraud and other charges. And then, two other top executives of the company, the general counsel and another top official of the parent company, have also pled guilty to these charges.
“So, you know, you’ve got companies — these [two] companies have foreign connections with potential ties to foreign intelligence agencies, and you have problems of credibility, problems of honesty and all that. And these companies — through these two companies pass probably 80 percent or more of all US communications at one point or another.
“And it’s even — gets even worse in the fact that these companies also supply their equipment all around the world to other countries, to countries that don’t have a lot of respect for individual rights —- Vietnam, China, Libya, other countries like that. And so, these countries use this equipment to filter out dissident communications and people trying to protest the government. It gives them the ability to eavesdrop on communications and monitor dissident email communications. And as a result of that, people are put in jail, and so forth…”
AMY GOODMAN: “And despite all of this…these telecom companies still have access to the most private communications of people all over America and actually, it ends up, around the world. And at the beginning of the summer , the Democrats and Republicans joined together in granting retroactive immunity to these companies for spying on American citizens.”
The fugitive CEO of Verint, whom Bamford mentions, is Jacob “Kobi” Alexander. In 2006, the US Dept. of Justice charged him with conspiring to commit securities and wire and mail fraud. The SEC weighed in and filed similar civil charges.
Alexander fled to Namibia, where he finally settled with the SEC for $46 million. The DOJ criminal complaint, as far as I can tell, still stands. Alexander continues to fight against extradition to the US.