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May 8, 2017
FBI struggled with “messaging challenges” surrounding its controversial counterterror program for teens
In internal emails Bureau decried “self-proclaimed activists who are providing incorrect information to the media” regarding CVE
Written by Waqas Mirza
Edited by JPat Brown
FBI officials fretted over critical press coverage of their interactive website and online game on violent extremism aimed at high school students and attempted to assuage concerns raised by civil liberties and Muslim organizations, according to documents released through a FOIA request by Michael Best.
The FBI’s Don’t Be a Puppet website is intended to raise awareness of violent extremism and the risk of radicalization to vulnerable students. It relies on flawed theories of radicalization which erroneously assumes that there are “indicators” or “risk factors” of violent extremism.
The website and the online game were immediately met with criticism and ridicule. A letter signed by 19 organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Immigration and Law Center, and others, accused the FBI website of promoting “bigotry and hatred” and doubling down on “the problematic law-enforcement strategy of profiling.”
The FBI held a meeting with representatives of many organizations which had criticized the website. According to Abed A. Ayoub, the legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the meeting was “very tense” and FBI officials received “blowback from everybody.”
The documents released by the FBI are heavily redacted and exclude nearly every substantial discussion of the website, including meeting presentations and notes, changes proposed by groups, input by students and teachers, and media briefings.
What the documents do show, however, is the clear frustration of many FBI officials due to critical coverage of the website and pushback from civil liberties and community organizations.
One e-mail laments the “unfortunate press” in the New York Times and the Washington Post “as a result of criticisms by several groups” whose “characterizations of the website” it claimed were “very inaccurate.” The e-mail also claimed that such a response was not representative since FBI focus groups with “nearly 50 groups and 200 individuals” yielded an “almost universally positive” response.
Such critical press coverage was foreseen by at least one shrewd FBI official, who, in a response to queries by the New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein, remarked to colleagues that “NYT should certainly be discouraged from writing a story as they have little to nothing to go on.”
There documents included notes on one meeting with the Muslim Leaders’ Council, perhaps to showcase the “almost universally positive” response to the website, which also derided “self-proclaimed activists who are providing incorrect information to the media.”
It is unclear exactly what the Muslim Leaders’ Council is. The notes refer to “our” Muslim Leaders’ Council and one of its members as one of “our” members, which seem to suggest that it has close connections to the FBI and would also explain the effusive response of the group to the FBI website.
Nonetheless, such an “almost universally positive” response by individuals and groups FBI held focus groups with did not solve the Bureau’s “messaging challenges,” for which it ultimately reached out to a woman who worked on the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative in Montgomery County, MD.
The woman whose name is redacted is likely someone who works for the World Organization for Resource Development and Education (WORDE), which runs a CVE initiative that relies on a flawed theory of radicalization, stigmatizes Muslim Americans, and has the potential to curtail civil rights and political expression and organizing.
The Bureau attempted to confront its “messaging challenges” by replacing at least one “Islamic angle” with a focus on animal rights activists.
Nonetheless, the Bureau ran into an easily avoidable logistical difficulty when it attempted to meet with religious leaders to further its messaging efforts.
One individual invited to a briefing with the Bureau hoped the FBI’s CVE initiative would not brand bearded Muslims as terrorists.
To which an FBI official helpfully responded by stating that “facial hair” would not be a part of the discussion.
While the FBI boasts of holding focus groups and seeking inputs from students, teachers, community leaders, and members of religious organizations, the actual input is curiously not made available to the public. Previously, the Department of Education had rejected a FOIA request for the feedback that it provided to the FBI on its website. The documents released by the FBI also redact all input received from the public but include the consent forms signed by parents of students.
May 8, 2017
The Government Is Not Done Messing with Barrett Brown
A recent lawsuit against the FBI is shedding light on the complex game the Bureau is playing to silence investigators of the cyber-industrial complex.
The lawsuit concerns the subpoenaing of anonymous donor information to the legal defense fund for formerly incarcerated journalist Barrett Brown. Brown had investigated data from private intelligence corporations that was leaked by the hacker collective Anonymous. He created a wiki, ProjectPM, to crowdsource the work of sifting through the data — which found interesting bits of information, like an effort to discredit WikiLeaks and the journalist Glenn Greenwald through fake documents and propaganda.
The FBI did not like this snooping. Agents arrested Brown in September 2012 after a raid on his apartment and his mother’s house. They initially indicted him on the now infamous “linking” charge — because he linked the already leaked data from one chatroom to another — but that was dropped in favor of lesser charges: threatening an FBI agent on a Youtube video, interfering with a search warrant’s execution by hiding his laptop, and accessory after the fact. Brown was in prison for four years, before being released to a halfway house in November 2016. He is now on parole.
Kevin Gallagher, an advocate for privacy who followed Brown’s work and arrest, created the website FreeBarrettBrown.org and used the donation platform WePay.com to collect anonymous donations for a legal defense fund during his incarceration. Suspecting that these anonymous donors may have had ties to hackers, or were hackers themselves, the FBI subpoenaed WePay for its information — demanding “any and all records” regarding the donations to Brown’s defense fund. Gallagher and an anonymous donor decided to officially retaliate, signing on as plaintiffs to the lawsuit.
Is the subpoena legal? Gallagher’s lawyers say no. The lawsuit claims that the FBI violated the First Amendment, the Stored Communications Act, and the privacy rights in the California Constitution (Gallagher and some of the donors are from California, according to the lawsuit). Whatever the charges against Brown were, the lawsuit claims that “the identities of, and the amounts donated by, the journalist’s supporters are completely irrelevant to the charges levied against the journalist.”
The gravity of the problem is right in the lawsuit: “the WePay subpoena was part of a larger scheme… to unlawfully surveil the donors in violation of the First Amendment.” We know the intelligence community has an unseemly knack for crushing dissent, the most high profile example being Edward Snowden; but the incarceration of Brown and the subpoenaing of anonymous donor information shows the lengths to which they will go. Snowden can at least be cast as a villain by the government because he leaked classified information, but Brown was deemed a criminal because he looked at information that was already leaked. And now donors, who have nothing to do with what Brown did, are on the FBI’s list.
Why would the FBI jail a journalist, whose worst crime was a mildly threatening Youtube video because he was angry about the FBI raiding his mom’s house, for four years? It was simply part of a long play to intimidate journalists, and to find more information on hackers. Once the defense fund was set up, the FBI saw an opportunity for more information and they subpoenaed it. Maybe some of those donors have hacker ties, or are hackers themselves, or maybe not. But an innocent man was jailed for those names.
Brown is now out on parole in Texas, but the ire of the FBI is not over. He was re-arrested on April 27 for speaking to the press about his plight, only to be released on May 1. According to Brown himself in a column for D Magazine, the Texas Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had begun demanding Brown and his interviewers sign forms prior to interviews, which Brown rejected on claim that there is no relevant rule, either in the Bureau of Prisons Program Statement on News Media Contacts or in the Constitution, which constrains his dealings with the press. The BOP retaliated by ordering him on the morning of April 27 to appear at the Volunteers of America halfway house that day, where he has biweekly meetings with his case manager.
Brown could tell something was amiss, so he called journalists and Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston to tell them what was going on. At 10 am, Brown was taken into custody. He was never given an official explanation of why he had been re-arrested, and waited for four days while a lawyer retained by D Magazine, David Siegal of Haynes and Boone, made a series of calls to the BOP describing “what they’d gotten themselves into.” On May 1, the jail’s counselor summoned Brown into his office and told him “You won. Get your stuff ready. You’re leaving.”
But did he win? Brown was taken back to the halfway house and pressured, yet again, to sign forms that had nothing to do with his situation. The forms can be seen here and here; these are forms for the press gaining access to speak to a prison inmate, not for someone out on parole.
Brown wrote a detailed description of his last meeting:
“Woody Hossler, the aforementioned halfway house staffer, had to pick me up in his car and take me back to Hutchins, where I was given a breathalyzer and drug test before being cajoled into meeting with Wells, who this time had some other fellow in his office with him whom he identified vaguely as his new ‘program director.’ After commenting that I ‘look mad,’ Wells said that the BOP wanted me to sign two forms. I asked him what would happen if I didn’t. He replied that in that case we would ‘be back where we started’ and that he would have to call the BOP. I asked who at the BOP had told him all this; he said that Lujan was absent that day and someone else was acting in her role. I spent about two minutes trying to get him to admit that I was being threatened with yet another unlawful arrest if I failed to sign these two inappropriate forms, an idea that he attempted to depict as wholly silly. I asked, for instance, if I
... sponsored by the Arizona Police Association - includes a class, Understanding and Investigating Jihadi Networks, taught by former FBI agent John Guandolo.
Whistleblower Says USA Went Easy on Dumping in Gulf of Mexico
whistleblower who told authorities three oil drilling companies dumped chemicals in the Gulf of Mexico claims a federal prosecutor ignored his evidence, costing the United States $28 million in fines.
Evan Howington sued the United States on May 4 in Federal Court.
The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships encourages whistleblowers to speak out, but they need the cooperation of federal prosecutors to collect any reward.
Whistleblowers can be paid up to 50 percent of penalties the government gets from a polluting ship operator under the law, which Congress passed in 1980.
Howington’s lawsuit turns on how that law defines a ship.
He says that Jon Maestri, an assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans, came to the “patently incorrect” conclusion that an oil drilling support vessel from which Howington saw chemicals dumped into the Gulf is not “capable of being used as a means of transportation” so it does not meet the definition of a ship under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
A fired, white Dallas-area police officer who inexplicably shot and killed an unarmed black teenager with a rifle as he was leaving a party in a car was arrested late Friday on a murder charge and sued in federal court for wrongful death.
Tickled by CIA’s Tweets, Anthropologist Files Suit
BOSTON (CN) – The CIA’s tongue-in-cheek Twitter posts inspired a federal complaint from an anthropologist specializing in social media, hoping to get records on the spy agency’s funny bone.
Set to get her doctorate this year from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Amanda Johnson brought her May 4 complaint in Boston after waiting years on an answer by the CIA to her request under the Freedom of Information Act.
“It is rare for a federal agency – especially an agency whose duties are so serious – to employ a humorous tone when communicating with the public,” the 11-page complaint states. “This makes the CIA’s decision to do so a matter of both public and academic interest, especially for scholars in the humanities.”
Johnson notes that a sarcastic tone has been evident in the CIA’s Twitter communications from the get-go.
Kenneth Grey, a retired FBI special agent and lecturer at the University of New Haven, said he is not surprised by the hacking attack. “It certainly does seem to be ...
Repeat Felon Is Hero Alt-Right Deserves
Ex-con has cracked heads at Berkeley street demonstrations
Kyle Chapman, 41, is a thrice-convicted felon who has spent ten years behind bars for his various crimes. He now seeks to destroy "neo-Marxists."
MAY 8--The latest hero of the alt-right, a California man who has beaten and maced anti-Trump protesters on the streets of Berkeley, is a thrice-convicted felon who has served three separate prison terms, jumped bail, twice violated parole, used cocaine, LSD, and meth, and was described by his own lawyer as having “severe psychological problems,” court records show.
Kyle Chapman, a 41-year-old rough boy committed to destroying the “neo-Marxist scourge,” was arrested March 4 following a melee at a rally organized by Trump supporters. While marchers purportedly were there in support of free speech, Chapman--who has spent a combined 10 years behind bars--came dressed for a fight.
Chapman, a Bay Area resident, was one of ten combatants
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