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Entries in DHS (50)

Monday
Dec102012

Everyone in U.S. Under Virtual Surveillance by NSA

As a former special agent with the the Departments of State and Treasury and Homeland Security, my ears perk up when I hear someone talk about domestic spying by the National Security Agency (NSA). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and virtually all other federal law enforcement and investigative agencies have unlimited access to NSA information .  I will not disclose classified information that may have come to my attention during my career but I will say this report does not suprise me. 

NSA Whistleblower William Binney was recently interviewed by Russia Today.  I have been paying close attention to Binneys story.

Binney came to national attention earlier this year when he started telling the story of how NSA surveillance works to anyone who would listen. He is a crypto-mathematician and a codebreaker (described as one of the best in NSA history) and  his explanation of the spying program appeared in the New York Times in August 2012 . Binney spoke about “Stellar Wind” a top-secret domestic spying program developed by the NSA and its implications for civilian security and privacy.

After the recent General Petraeus scandal, the NSA has come under the spotlight as it pertains to domestic spying and the privacy of US citizens and their digital dealings.  Everyone should be aware that anything sent over the Internet can be intercepted. Everything send in the clear is largely unprotected; but the scale of surveillance of any individual citizen has always been something of a technical conundrum.

It’s unlikely that any one person (not already targeted) could have all their data ransacked by even an overfunded government agency because of the sheer volume but with the falling prices on big storage technology and the advent of Big Data fears of the NSA’s spying powers are less science fiction and more business fact. Massive storage of petabytes and the analytics necessary to process it are not uncommon today.

“He is [President Obama] supporting the building of the Buffdale (Utah) facility which is over 2 million dollars they’re spending on storage alone of data,” says Binney when asked about how the current administration may have changed the NSA’s mission. “Which means they’re collecting a lot more now and they need more storage for it. That facility, by my calculations, that I submitted in a sworn affidavit to the court for the EFF lawsuit against the NSA would hold on the order of would hold on the order of 5,000 exabytes or 5 zettabytes of data…and that’s not talking about what they might have in the future.”

Binney is alleging a great deal of surveillance that extends to billions of communications.

Even now, with Anonymous rattling around like the rats in the walls of the Internet, the youth of many countries are turning to the use of anonymizing services and VPN services to hide their cyber-activities from prying eyes. Although for the most part this cultural shift is due to ISPs throttling and essentially spying on their own customers as part of anti-copying regimes—we’ve seen the sudden up-thrust of more VPN use after the UK blocked The Pirate Bay, but using more security to hide communication would also tend to help shield against government surveillance to an extent as well.

Not long after the Petraeus scandal hit the airwaves,  it sparked a debate about domestic government spying and much of the media circled back to Google’s most recent semiannual Transparency Report. In that, Google revealed that they’d received over 20,000 requests from governments around the world and complied with almost 90% of them. This doesn’t even cover covert surveillance of the type that Binney speaks about in his interview.

Much of this behavior, and the radical transparency of Internet communications may lead to a paradigm shift among the wired-and-wise to migrate to more secure communication, use more cryptography in their daily communications, and watch what they say online. Of course, the opposite is also true: as the Internet integrates more fully into our daily lives, it’s easy to be more cavalier about what we say online, what information we boast across the wires, and recklessly abandon in dusty 3rd party storage silos.

Of course, a person targeted for surveillance by a large agency wouldn’t be able to hide their activity even if they encrypted everything online—spies capably sussed out communications long before the arrival of the Internet.

Binney believes that he’s definitely a “target” and takes a bit of humor in his being in the NSA’s spotlight:

“So I keep telling them everything I think of them in my e-mail, so when they read it they know everything I think of them,” he says.

Binney - The FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the emails of virtually everybody in the country. And the FBI has access to it. All the congressional members are on the surveillance too, no one is excluded. They are all included. So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason - they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything theyve done for the last 10 years at least.

If you are using an iPad, iPhone or other device without FLASH, view interview here

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. -4th Amendment

Sunday
Oct072012

Border Patrol Agent Mistakenly Fired at Other Responding Agents

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol agents union says the agent killed last week in a shooting in southern Arizona apparently opened fire on two other agents thinking they were armed smugglers and was killed when they returned fire.

The two sets of agents approached an area where a sensor had been activated early Tuesday from different directions and encountered each other in an area of heavy brush, National Border Patrol Council president George McCubbin said.

Agent Nicholas Ivie apparently opened fire first and wounded one of the other agents but was killed in the return fire.

I dont know what it was he saw or heard that triggered this whole event, McCubbin said. Unfortunately it resulted in his death and another agent injured.

Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock confirmed the scenario but would not say if Ivie was the first to shoot, saying that was up to the federal agencies involved.

The new details add to a FBI statement Friday that the shooting appeared to be a friendly fire incident that involved no one but the agents.

McCubbin and Rothrock both said the two sets of agents knew the others were heading to the area on foot but apparently didnt know they were so close. McCubbin said hed been briefed by the agency, while Rothrocks agency has been involved with the investigation.

It was dark, very, very rugged terrain, and what they could see of each other was further obscured by the fact that there was brush and cacti and stuff like that between them, Rothrock said. I have no doubt that these agents were in as heightened a state of alert as you can get due to the proximity to the border and the history of trafficking in that area.

Rothrock said that when the agents spotted each other in the dark, they apparently took defensive postures, which was probably interpreted as aggressive postures. Like readying your weapons, for example.

Tuesday
Oct022012

Sig Sauer P239 SAS .357sig Conversion 

If you read the forums, you wont find too many .357 sig fan boys.  You may even be lead to believe that the .357 sig is a passing fad.  H&K quit making a .357 sig model.  I believe the primary reason the .357 sig is the least popular self defense round is the cost of the ammo.  Its the most expensive, hardest to find and most difficult to hand load of the most common handgun rounds (.380 through .45).

Many gun owners dont realize what a great defensive round the 357 sig is. The ammo is expensive, which is why I think the larger agencies have stayed with .40 caliber. Federal Air Marshals, the Secret Service and Texas DPS carry this round in their standard issue pistols because it spreads out considerably more than the 40 S&W when penetrating a target.

We purchased the P239 before I retired from DHS HSI. It was not approved for carry back then but last year DHS, decided to purchase Sig P229 DAK pistols as their standard service weapon.

We purchased a .357 sig barrel from Sig Sauer and dropped it in our P239SAS.  Ive shot the SIG SAUER P239 in .357 sig with only 200 rounds so far. The SIG SAUER P239 (henceforth called the P239) is a single-stack, semi-auto pistol with classic SIG SAUER features, including a hard coated anodized aluminum frame and a stainless steel slide. It comes in the DAK, SRT, or DA/SA trigger. My model is a DAK trigger version, originally sold as a .40 S&W model.

This gun has performed without a hitch having fired over 1,000 rounds of .40 S&W before converting to .357 sig.  The P239 is a smaller and slimmer version of the P229 and the SAS model comes out of the Sig Custom Shop.  SIG SAUER uses quality components like hardened roll pins and full-length slide rails. The barrel and chamber of the P239 (and the P229) are markedly reinforced compared to most compact handguns.  This suits the .357 sig round, which is loaded considerably hotter than the .40 caliber round.

The DAK trigger is a smooth double action trigger that gives the user the same pull all the time if the shooter allows the full reset.  There is no decocking lever on DAK models. After the pistol fires and the trigger is released forward, the trigger has an intermediate reset point that is approximately halfway to the trigger at rest position. The trigger pull from this intermediate reset point is 38 N (8.5 lb). If the trigger is released all the way forward, this will engage the primary trigger reset and have a trigger pull of 29 N (6.5 lb). To engage the intermediate reset, the trigger must be held to the rear while the slide is cycled, either manually or by the recoil of a round being fired.

The .357 SIG cartridge was designed to mimic the .357 magnum in an auto pistol. It is a bottleneck cartridge, which means the bullet has a narrower diameter than the base of the cartridge. In this case, the bullet diameter approximates a 9 mm bullet and the base of the cartridge approximates a 40 caliber cartridge.

The .357 magnum had a reputation of excellent performance in ballistic gelatin tests, especially after barrier. That is, one fires through tempered glass into ballistic gelatin to test one aspect of bullet performance. There are several factors including the weight retention of the recovered bullet, the amount of expansion and what it actually does inside the gelatin.

FBI tests resulted in the .357 SIG cartridges generally duplicating or exceeding the 357 magnum performance, except in heavier bullet weights. It appears that the nominal bullet weight for the 357 SIG was about 124 grains, simply because the 124 grain combinations were more accurate and tore up the gelatin.  The 357 SIG gave after-barrier performance, which could only be described as remarkable.

SIG SAUER has a reputation for design ergonomics in their handguns, which are more expensive than most of the other major manufacturers.  The P239 should fit a variety of shooters comfortably, especially the grip angle, which tends to absorb the recoil of this cartridge. The inherent design advantages of the 357 sig cartridge are perfect for this handgun. I am able to shoot a superior cartridge that feels like a +P 9mm in a handgun package small enough for comfortable concealed carry.  The carry weight (7+1) of my P239SAS is just over 2 lbs.

Another reason to carry this gun in .357 sig caliber is its accuracy.  Using duty rounds, I consistently hitting 4’ steel plates at 50 yards during my first test.  The only handgun that I consistently shoot more accurately than my P239 is my single action S&W 1911SC series E .45 ACP pistol. 

Heres a good video on the Sig P239 SAS from my YouTube buddy Tom at Weapons Education

The great object is that every man be armed. and Everyone who is able may have a gun.
Patrick Henry

Thursday
Aug022012

ICE Agent Suspended for Enforcing Immigration Law

The Obamanation has made it clear that the United States is an open border country.  If you enter the country illegally from south of the border you have less than a zero chance of being deported if you arent arrested for committing a serious felony. 

Todd Starnes reported in a exclusive on Fox News  that a veteran Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent is facing suspension after he refused to release an illegal immigrant who was not considered a priority target under the Obama Administration’s new immigration enforcement policies.

FOLLOW TODD ON FACEBOOK FOR CULTURE WAR NEWS. CLICK HERE.

Morale among Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents is at an all-time low more than a month after the Obama administration announced major changes to the nation’s immigration enforcement policy, according to the head of a national agency representing thousands of agents.

“Morale is in the toilet right now,” said Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council. “Most of the guys out in the field are just in an uproar.”

“They’re punishing law enforcement officers who are just trying to uphold U.S. law,” said Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council. Crane is a union representative acting on the unidentified officer’s behalf.

The officer under fire is an 18-year law enforcement and military veteran.

On March 27 he and another officer were conducting surveillance on a vehicle in Newark, Del. with plates that were registered to a criminal alien target. During the surveillance, they observed an individual get into the vehicle. The person was detained, questioned and taken to an ICE office so that his fingerprints could be run through a federal database.

The individual was not their criminal alien target. However, he was a 35-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who had ten previous traffic violations – including driving without a license.

Two supervising officers, including the acting field director, intervened and ordered the officer to release the illegal immigrant. The acting field director sat down with the illegal and explained that he was going to be let go because he was not a “presidential priority,” Crane said.

According to a “Notice of Proposed Suspension,” dated July 19, the officer “failed to follow these supervisory instructions, when you arrested a non-targeted alien who did not appear to meet any of the ICE priorities.

Ironically, the illegal alien in this particular incident was given better treatment than an American citizen would have been in similar circumstances.

A spokesman for the Newark Police Dept. told Fox News that if an American had been stopped on the same charges – they would have been put in jail. The spokesman said officers would have let the judge sort out the details.

How many people do you know that are unemployed?  Unemployment like cancer affects every family in America.  Yet your President is paying thousands of federal agents NOT to enforce immigration law.  Your President is giving illegal aliens jobs in America, while over 10% of the citizens are unemployed or under employed.

The DHS Budget for fiscal year 2012 is $57 BILLLION dollars. Polls show that about half the voters plan on casting their ballot for Obama in November.  Wake up America!

Tuesday
Jun262012

ICE HSI Informant Sets Up Gun Dealer in New Mexico Who Reported Straw Buyer

I retired from ICE/HSI four years ago.  Most of my law enforcement career was with U.S. Customs Investigations.  Sting Operations were my least favorite investigations.  I spent most of my career successfully avoiding them.  There were more than enough historical investigations, which I called REAL investigations for me to do so it wasnt that difficult to avoid being a case agent on Sting Operations.  There are enough real criminals out there without the government creating more.  Besides, in federal law enforcement, those who can do.  Those who cant run Stings.

My aversion to Stings started early in my career when I saw suspects entrapped by other federal agents and confidential informants.  One suspect with no previous criminal history was fooled into playing a bad guy after an informant who Im convinced set him up for the government. The suspect fell into a trap to buy a Stinger Missile for illegal export from an undercover agent.  He was convicted and sentence to 5 years in federal prison. 

The suspect complained to prison doctors that he was sick soon after going to prison.  He complained of severe stomach aches and other problems for a year while he was housed at the Fort Worth Federal Detention Center.  The doctors kept telling him there was nothing wrong with him.  Less than two years after reporting to prison he was released to go home to die.  The agent who made the case had retired so the U.S. Atorney contacted me about his release.  I told the USA that Customs did not object to his release. He was released shortly before Thanksgiving and was dead before Christmas.

The suspect was a European immigrant who owned a Janitorial Service.  The informant met him at a Gentlemans Club.  He did not deserve the death sentence for being stupid.  A Customs confidential informant set this guy up so he could be paid.   If not for that well financed Customs Sting Operation, and a charming informant, that guy would never have considered purchasing a Stinger Missile for export to Europe.

Stings can only be successful if the government entraps the suspect.  Entrapment like lying is not illegal for government agents.  Entrapment is a defense to a crime, not a crime.  Its a felony for citizens to lie to federal agents but federal agents can and do legally lie to citizens. Lying to citizens is the foundation of all sting operations.

Eighteen months after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in Arizona by Mexican bandits using guns purchased through a U.S. government program called Fast and Furious, we still don’t know who within the Department of Justice knew about the program, much less who authorized it.

Certainly there has been no serious talk about prosecuting any of the people responsible for assisting in the illegal sales of over 2,000 guns to Mexican arms traffickers – guns that were subsequently involved in the murders of BPA Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, as well as possibly hundreds of Mexican citizens.

But while that investigation has dragged on, with Attorney General Eric Holder denying knowledge of the program, denying knowledge of who was involved and denying congressional investigators access to tens of thousands of documents that might answer those questions, New Mexico gun dealer Rick Reese and his two sons Ryin and Remington have sat rotting in separate detention centers, jails and prisons around the state accused of a similar crime involving some 30 guns.

Jeff Knox, is director of The Firearms Coalition , and his writing can regularly be seen in Shotgun News and Front Sight magazines. Knox has written extensively about the Reese Family for the WorldNetDaily . The Reese family, including Rick’s wife Terri, ran a gun shop in Deming, N.M., and was arrested in late August of 2011 on charges of knowingly selling guns to Mexican smugglers and various other related charges.

After spending 6 months in jail, Terri Reese was finally granted bail in March of this year, but Rick and the boys have been repeatedly denied bail on the pretext that they are flight risks.

 The rationale for denying the Reeses’ constitutional rights is that Rick knows some people in Mexico, his home has a well and solar power and there were guns and ammunition in their homes and businesses when they were arrested. That’s right: Guns and ammo in the home and business of a federally licensed firearms dealer (all of which were seized a year ago and have never been returned) is being offered as evidence that they can’t be trusted – and a judge bought it.

Well, there’s also the fact that Rick and Terri were involved with a local tea-party group. That’s probably reason enough right there.

The Reeses are scheduled to finally get their day in court in late July, almost a full year after they were arrested and incarcerated. The first of several pre-trial motion hearings was held last week in which the judge heard arguments as to whether the charge of criminal conspiracy should be dropped. The prosecution contends that the Reese family members were all in cahoots in a conspiracy to sell guns to illegal buyers, falsify purchase paperwork, smuggle guns to Mexico and launder the illegal proceeds. The defense contends that the family operated a business buying and selling firearms, ammunition and accessories, and that they made every effort to ensure that every sale they made was legal and properly documented.

During this first hearing, we learned several things about the prosecution’s case. For instance, we learned that prosecutors acknowledge that every gun the Reeses sold was properly logged into and out of their store inventory, and that FBI background checks were conducted, and approvals received, for each purchaser. They also agree that all taxes were paid and no money was exchanged “under the table,” nor did any of the family members receive compensation above their normal company paycheck.

We learned that Rick Reese also employed retired and off-duty law enforcement officers as part-time help in the shop, and that a substantial portion of the company’s business came from law enforcement officers and agencies.

We learned that prosecutors consider three family members standing close to each other and quietly talking to be evidence of conspiracy and that the lead investigator in the case has a very low opinion of fellow law enforcement officers. When asked if he considered the fact that the Reeses employed LEOs in the shop to be contraindicative of a criminal conspiracy, he replied that he did not because “a lot of them [cops and former cops] are dirty.”

Probably the most important fact we learned at this hearing was that the entire investigation was instigated based on a tip that a woman named Penny Torres was making suspicious purchases of guns and ammunition, and might be illegally buying for someone else. That tip led to Torres’ arrest and her subsequent grand jury testimony against the Reese family and another gun shop where she had made some purchases. The presumption is that her cooperation garnered her leniency in the charges and sentence she was facing for her criminal activity.

What is most significant about the arrest of Penny Torres is that the original tip identifying her as a potential “straw buyer” came from Terri Reese.

Torres had claimed that her purchases were in preparation for a large family reunion at an area ranch where her relatives wanted to do a lot of shooting. At some point after the sales, Terri Reese became suspicious of Torres’ story and contacted a friend in the Luna County Sheriff’s office, who acted as the shop’s go-to guy in law enforcement. He assured Terri that he would make a report to ATF and get back to her.

Torres testimony against the Reese family led to a months-long sting operation conducted against the Reeses by a federal agency, Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI. That investigation involved a confidential informant named Roman, who was trying to earn a reduced sentence for drug and human smuggling. His job was to make purchases of firearms and ammunition from the Reeses while dropping hints that his intent was to illegally take the guns to Mexico. The trick was to drop those hints in such a way that they wouldn’t alarm the Reeses, but that someone listening to a recording of the tape and reading a transcript would conclude that the Reeses knew, or should have known, his intentions.

Roman, by the way, speaks only broken English, and his conversations with the Reeses included a lot of Spanish, a language that no one in the Reese family speaks, but which has been transcribed for the court in English.

Who would believe that a gun dealer’s report of a suspicious purchaser would lead to a federal investigation of the dealer herself, culminating in a raid with armored vehicles, helicopters and heavily armed officers and agents from multiple jurisdictions?

Or that a few firearms and ammunition sales in a high-volume gun store, including the sales that Terri Reese had reported as suspicious, would result in confiscation of virtually everything the family had accumulated over a 25-year marriage and 17 years in business – bank accounts, gun and coin collections, store inventory, vehicles, real estate, just about everything the family had?

Or that the same Justice Department that had instructed dealers to sell over 2,000 guns to known straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels while making no attempt to track or interdict them – with a few arrests and minor charges against the straw purchasers, but no charges against the ATF and DOJ employees who masterminded the criminal operation – would effectively destroy a family for not being quite diligent enough in their efforts to screen their customers?

It is worth noting that as HSI progressed in their investigation against the Reese family, they were briefing and receiving guidance from Phoenix ATF Bureau Chief Bill Newell – the man responsible for directly overseeing Operation Fast and Furious.

For the Reese family, who have already served 10 months behind bars and have had all of their worldly possessions taken from them, the July trial is an opportunity to prove their innocence and try to reassemble what’s left of their lives.

For the prosecution, it is imperative that they prove that the Reeses were intentionally engaging in the criminal activity they have already been being punished for. Failure to get a conviction would leave egg on the face of a relatively new federal law enforcement agency trying to establish itself, and would mean that the various agencies involved wouldn’t get to divvy up the spoils already pillaged.

Once again though, we see a case where those inside the government and law enforcement are handled with kid gloves and given the benefit of every doubt, while those outside of government and law enforcement are presumed guilty until they can prove their innocence – even after the government has taken away the resources they need to make their case.

In a prepared statement to the press US Attorney Gonzales of New Mexico stated: “This case serves to put firearms dealers on notice that they will be held accountable for any failure to comply with federal firearms laws.” 

If you would like to help the Reese family in their struggle, a defense fund has been set up at:

REESE DEFENSE FUND
ATTENTION Patricia Arias
First Savings Bank
520 South Gold
Deming, NM 88030