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Huge Shift: FBI to Record Most Custodial Interrogations

Some very welcome news: The FBI's longstanding policy against recording interrogations of suspects will change in July.

Here is the May 12, 2014 memo sent to federal prosecutors and DOJ agencies by Deputy AG James Cole explaining the policy change. [More...]

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FBI May Loosen Hiring Policy on Marijuana Use

Congress has authorized 2,000 new hires for the FBI, and the FBI will be filling many of the positions with computer programmers and hackers in its fight against cybercrime. The problem, according to FBI Director James Comey, speaking yesterday at a white collar crime conference:

“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Mr. Comey said.

Up until now, the FBI has asked applicants whether they have used marijuana within the past three years. Comey says the agency is changing "its mindset and the way we do business" and working more outside the box:

One conference goer asked Mr. Comey about a friend who had shied away from applying because of the policy. “He should go ahead and apply,” despite the marijuana use, Mr. Comey said.

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The FBI's $1 Billion Face Recognition Project Proceeding as Scheduled

The FBI's $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme is proceeding on schedule and should be fully launched by 2014. It's already in use in several states as test pilots, including Michigan, Hawaii, Maryland, and possibly Oregon.

NGI expands the FBI’s IAFIS criminal and civil fingerprint database to include multimodal biometric identifiers such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos, and voice data, and makes that data available to other agencies at the state and federal levels.

The FBI page for the program is here. Here is a handy powerpoint on it from the 2010 Biometrics Conference. Here are the uses the FBI envisions for it: [More...]

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FBI Director: CyberAttacks Will Surpass Terrorism as #1 Threat

FBI Director Robert Mueller delivered this speech yesterday at the RSA conference in San Francisco. Highlights:

Cyberattacks will replace terrorism as America's number one threat

Terrorism remains the FBI’s top priority. But in the not too distant future, we anticipate that the cyber threat will pose the number one threat to our country.

Stings and more electronic surveillance are coming, including on social networks and wireless technologies: [More...]

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Mueller Testifies About FBI Agents Cheating on Surveillance Test

One would hope that FBI agents are familiar with guidelines for conducting surveillance and opening files on people without evidence they have committed a crime. Apparently, that's in doubt. The Inspector General is investigating whether hundreds of FBI agents cheated on a test about the guidelines.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress on Wednesday that he does not know how many of his agents cheated on an important exam on the bureau's policies, an embarrassing revelation that raises questions about whether the FBI knows its own rules for conducting surveillance on Americans.

Even Mueller got tripped up on the rules today. [More...]

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June 14, 1978: FBI and anti-abortion terrorism

In one of the seminal acts of anti-abortion terrorism, the Emma Goldman Clinic for Women in Iowa City was firebombed.

The Carter Justice Dept. ordered the local FBI station to drop everything else and solve the crime, an order which did not sit well with the Resident Agent, himself an anti-abortion zealot.

He came up with a theory which would justify his continuing surveillance of the local lefties, that the bombing had either been a ploy for fundraising, or the result of a lovers' spat, theories which he kept planting in the local press.

He proceeded to stalk my friend Steve Wilson (later changed his name to Jackson Clubb, who posted at kos as MadCityRag until his death a month ago) grilling his neighbors, etc. Jackson at the time was dating an employee of the clinic.

The firebombing was never officially solved. No charges were filed against Jack, probably because the US Attorney wasn't  buying the FBI agent's crap.

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FBI to Get Bigger Role in War on Terror

The L.A. Times reports that the Obama Administration is giving the FBI a bigger role in fighting terrorism.

Bureau agents will gather evidence to ensure that criminal prosecutions of alleged terrorists are an option. The move is a reversal of the Bush administration's emphasis on covert CIA actions.

Under the "global justice" initiative, which has been in the works for several months, FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counter-terrorism cases. They will expand their questioning of suspects and evidence-gathering to try to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option, officials familiar with the effort said.

Here's the Government's page on the Global Justice Initiative. Its mission: "the efficient sharing of data among justice entities." [More....]

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Top Ten FBI Stories of the Week

The FBI is publishing the top ten stories of the week. Here's the list for the week ending Dec. 5.

Of the ten stories, five pertain to crimes by allegedly crooked cops and politicians; two to white collar bigshots; one to a little white collar guy; and one to a crime by a former government employee.

There's no murders, no big drug dealers or gun offenders other than cops, no child p*rn, cybercrimes or terrorism (other than a reference to the resentencing of a terror suspect for a crime committed years ago.)

There's a message here, I'm just not sure what it is. [More...]

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Bush-Busting Policies for Obama to Add to His List

Barack Obama's Transition Chief John Podesta says stem cell research and drilling are among the top George W. Bush-issued executive orders he will reverse when taking over the White House.

Grits for Breakfast has one they'd like see Obama take action on: the new FBI snitch/snooping guidelines approved last month. You can read them here (pdf) or a summary here.

Seems like a good time to start a list. What executive orders or other Bush-authorized decisions would you add to that list?

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Intrusive New FBI Surveillance Guidelines Proposed


The New York Times reports some members of Congress were briefed earlier this month on a Department of Justice proposal for new FBI guidelines that loosen surveillance restrictions and that a few Senators lodged objections.

The senators said the new guidelines would allow the F.B.I. to open an investigation of an American, conduct surveillance, pry into private records and take other investigative steps “without any basis for suspicion.”

The plan “might permit an innocent American to be subjected to such intrusive surveillance based in part on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or on protected First Amendment activities,” the letter said. It was signed by Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave this unreassuring description of the plan: [More...]

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Your Police State at Work

The FBI is up to new tricks:

The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.

Today it's kiddie links, what will it be tomorrow? Links to sites offering information on growing pot? Links to sites offering prescription medicaton? Links to sites critical of the Government?

Be careful where you click, you may be next. [Hat tip to Blawg Review.]

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Denver Post Calls FBI "The Keystone Cops"

Leading with this week's news that telephone companies shut down FBI wiretaps because the agency failed to pay its bills, an editorial in today's Denver Post compares the FBI to "keystone cops."

In addition to the telephone bill embarrassment, the Post points out:

The late payments were part of a larger pattern of loose practices when it comes to tracking money sent to field offices for undercover operations.

With FISA hearings again on the horizon, the Post says we should be paying attention to the FBI's problems as Congress debates the reauthorization of the Patriot Act: [More...]

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FBI Lab Under Fire for Faulty Procedures

Don't miss the Evidence of Misjustice segment on 60 Minutes tonight. It will air the results of a joint investigation with the Washington Post on the use of the discredited comparative bullet lead analysis technique.

Hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide have been convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago. But the FBI lab has yet to take steps to alert the affected defendants or courts, even as the window for appealing convictions is closing, a joint investigation by The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" has found.

Concerns developed over the technique in 1991. TalkLeft wrote about it in 2003 (here too.) In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences concluded the technique was bunk and the FBI stopped using it in 2005. But it has refused to release the list of the 2,500 cases in which the technique was used.

Dwight E. Adams, the now-retired FBI lab director who ended the technique, said the government has an obligation to release all the case files, to independently review the expert testimony and to alert courts to any errors that could have affected a conviction.

....The Post and "60 Minutes" identified at least 250 cases nationwide in which bullet-lead analysis was introduced, including more than a dozen in which courts have either reversed convictions or now face questions about whether innocent people were sent to prison.

More....

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Report: Record Number of Secret Searches in 2005

According to a new disclosure report (mandated by the Patriot Act), there were a record number of secret FISA warrants in 2005.

A secret court approved all but one of the government's requests last year to search or eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and spies, according to Justice Department data released Tuesday.

In all, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court signed off on 2,176 warrants targeting people in the United States believed to be linked to international terror organizations or spies. The record number is more than twice as many as were issued in 2000, the last full year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And here's the rub:

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A First Hand Account of Receiving a National Security Letter

The Washington Post today publishes the first-hand account of a recipient of an FBI national security letter. His name isn't included because he's gagged from discussing it, so the Post verified it with his lawyer and publicly available documents (which I assume are the pleadings in his lawsuit brought by the ACLU which is ongoing.)

The author, who ran "a small internet access and consulting business," never gave up the documents on his client demanded in the letter and eventually the FBI said it no longer needed them. But he's still challenging the gag order that prevents him from discussing the matter.

He describes what his life was like living under a gag order.

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