02/27/20

FCC Charges Mobile Carriers with Selling Your Location Data

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Source: The FCC has finished investigating carriers’ unauthorized disclosure and sale of subscribers’ real-time location data, Chairman Ajit Pai has shared with (PDF) lawmakers in the House of Representatives. In his letters, he told Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. and others that the agency has come to a conclusion after an extensive probe: one or more carriers “apparently violated federal law.” Pai has also promised the lawmakers that the agency is going to take action against the offending carriers to ensure that they comply with laws that protect consumers’ sensitive information.

Back in 2018, it came to light that carriers sell their customers’ real-time location data to aggregators, which then resold it to other companies or even gave it away. Last year, a Motherboard report also revealed that bail bond companies and bounty hunters have been buying people’s location data for years, allowing them to use that information to track their targets.

All four major US carriers promised to stop selling customer location data to aggregators after the information first came out. The companies made good on their word, though it took them a year to do so: They informed FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel that they had already halted sales to aggregators after she requested for an update in 2019.

Pallone said in a statement:

“Following our longstanding calls to take action, the FCC finally informed the Committee today that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal privacy protections by turning a blind eye to the widespread disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I’ll be watching to make sure the FCC doesn’t just let these lawbreakers off the hook with a slap on the wrist.”

Rosenworcel, who repeatedly brought the issue up over the past years, also said that it was a “shame that it took so long for the FCC to reach a conclusion that was so obvious.” Especially when “shady middlemen could sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data.”

We’ve reached out to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and CTIA, the trade group representing the wireless communications industry in the US, for a statement.

***

Google has been tracking Android users even when location ...

Source: Google has been tracking Android users even when location services are disabled

House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) said that Pai’s response to lawmakers “is a step in the right direction, but I’ll be watching to make sure the FCC doesn’t just let these lawbreakers off the hook with a slap on the wrist.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that he is “eager to see whether the FCC will truly hold wireless companies accountable or let them off with a slap on the wrist.”

Source: An investigation by Motherboard in January 2019 found that “T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are [still] selling access to their customers’ location data and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country.”

The carriers made further promises to stop selling the data and later confirmed to the FCC that they had phased out the data-selling programs.

Pai’s letter today did not say exactly which federal law the carriers broke, but Section 222 of the Communications Act says that carriers may not use or disclose location information “without the express prior authorization of the customer.” Carriers have also been accused of violating rules on the usage of 911 location data.

02/27/20

DOJ New Unit to Strip US Citizenship of Criminals and Terrorists

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Hoorah… it is a great start.

A new unit staffed with an estimated 30 lawyers will review cases that point to those that fraudulently obtained citizenship by failing to disclose past convictions for serious crimes — including terrorism and war crimes.

The section, which will be within the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, will be dedicated to denaturalizing those who had failed to disclose they had been involved in criminal activity on their N-400 form for naturalization. It requires the government to show that citizenship was obtained illegally or “procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.”

Form N-400 | Gastelum Law

That form includes questions asking whether an applicant has been involved in genocide and torture among other serious crimes, if they have ever been part of a terrorist or totalitarian organization, if they had been associated with the Nazi government in Germany, and if they have been charged or convicted with a crime or served prison time. Targets for denaturalization are those who have made material breaches of those questions.

“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a U.S. citizen under false pretenses, it is an affront to our system — and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said. “The new Denaturalization Section will further the Department’s efforts to pursue those who unlawfully obtained citizenship status and ensure that they are held accountable for their fraudulent conduct.”

The department has seen an increase in such cases both because of an increased effort by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to root out fraud, as well as Operation Janus — an operation which began during the Obama administration and that identified hundreds of thousands of cases where paper fingerprint data was not entered into the centralized fingerprint database.

Officials have pointed to recent cases whereby the DOJ has secured the denaturalization of terrorists, war criminals and sex offenders. They include:

  • An individual convicted of terrorism in Egypt who admitted recruiting for Al Qaeda in the U.S. He was denaturalized while in Egypt and had his passport taken away from him.
  • An individual who received military training in an Afghan jihadist camp and coordinated with 9/11 mastermind Usama Bin Laden. He “self-deported” to Somaliland.
  • An individual who was convicted in Bosnia of executing eight unarmed civilians and prisoners of war during the Balkans conflict. He was denaturalized while serving a sentence in Bosnia.
  • One individual who engaged in sexual contact with a 7-year-old family member and another who sexually abused a minor for multiple years.

The department has filed 228 civil denaturalization cases since 2008, and 94 since 2017. Officials say it has increased its filing rate by 200 percent in the past three years and has seen an increase in referrals by over 600 percent.

Such denaturalization proceedings are not targeted at people who commit crimes after they become citizens, only those who have made fraudulent citizenship applications and left out crimes they committed on that form. A number of cases involve those who were initially denied entry to the U.S. or removed from the country, only to re-enter under a false identity.

Citizens cannot be deported, but those who have been stripped of citizenship revert back to permanent residency status, which allows deportation or barring of entry from the U.S. in the case of serious criminal offenses. Source

02/26/20

AG Sessions Lawsuit and Big Win for President Trump

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

A 3-judge panel… unanimous decision by the way.

The program began in 2006. The Federal government created a grant assistance program for states, local and tribal governments to reduce crime and violence… let that sink in. It is called the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program… let that sink in… justice.

This would have been easy to argue in court actually to stop the violators from receiving the grants. Just understand the simple premise —>

BJA helps to make American communities safer by strengthening the nation’s criminal justice system: Its grants, training and technical assistance, and policy development services provide state, local, and tribal governments with the cutting edge tools and best practices they need to reduce violent and drug-related crime, support law enforcement, and combat victimization.

BJA is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office for Victims of Crime, and Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking.

FILE – In this Tuesday, March 20, 2018 file photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, left, speaks during a roundtable talks on sanctuary cities hosted by President Donald Trump, third from right, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington. The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 in a decision that conflicted with three other federal appeals courts. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Anyway…

(AP) — The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday in a decision that conflicted with three other federal appeals courts.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned a lower court’s decision ordering the administration to release funding to New York City and seven states — New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and Rhode Island.

The states and city sued the U.S. government after the Justice Department announced in 2017 that it would withhold grant money from cities and states until they gave federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.

Before the change, cities and states seeking grant money were required only to show they were not preventing local law enforcement from communicating with federal authorities about the immigration status of people who were detained.

At the time, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.”

In 2018, the Justice Department imposed additional conditions on the grant money, though challenges to those have not yet reached the appeals court in New York.

The 2nd Circuit said the plain language of relevant laws make clear that the U.S. attorney general can impose conditions on states and municipalities receiving money.

And it noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the federal government maintains broad power over states when it comes to immigration policies.

In the past two years, federal appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have ruled against the federal government by upholding lower-court injunctions placed on the enforcement of some or all of the challenged conditions.

“While mindful of the respect owed to our sister circuits, we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue,” the 2nd Circuit three-judge panel said in a decision written by Judge Reena Raggi.

“These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight,” the appeals court said.

The Justice Department praised the decision, issuing a statement calling it a “major victory for Americans” and saying it recognizes that the attorney general has authority to ensure that grant recipients are not thwarting federal law enforcement priorities.

The department added that the ruling’s effect will be limited because other courts have ruled the other way, giving the plaintiffs in the New York case the opportunity to point to those as reasons to ignore the new conditions.

Cody Wofsy, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the decision a “real outlier,” saying he believed the 2nd Circuit was the nation’s first court to side with the Trump administration on the issue.

“Over and over, courts have said the Department of Justice doesn’t have authority under governing statutes to impose these conditions,” he said. “These conditions are part of the administration’s attempts to bully, cajole and coerce state and local governments into participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.”

Under the Constitution’s federalism principles and the 10th Amendment, Wofsy said, states and municipalities “are entitled to decline to become part of the administration’s deportation force.”

The appeals rulings pertain to the issuance of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

02/25/20

Operation Mega Flex

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

From July to September last year, Customs and Border Patrol in that 3-month period seized 1061 shipments of counterfeit goods at our cargo ports of entry. Items from Louis Vuitton bags to sports equipment with faulty parts. Other items included children’s toys, drug paraphernalia, deadly opioids, and really scary were (are) counterfeit drivers’ licenses. Recreational drugs, clothing, jewelry, and even food and nutritional items (may contain toxins) are part of the counterfeit items affecting likely every American and business.

Image result for CBP counterfeit

Unlike legitimate drug manufacturers that are subject to inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, labs that manufacture counterfeits have no such oversight. According to a 2019 Better Business Bureau study, “companies based in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India shipped 97 percent of the counterfeit medicines seized in the U.S.” In March 2019, Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, seized 13 million doses of counterfeit medicine ranging from opioids to heart medication. Europol noted that this type of counterfeiting is on the rise due to the relatively low risk of criminal detection.

Check out those items in retail operations of all sorts and locations and what you purchase in the e-commerce realm, not from the street vendor at the corner and when purchasing books, movies or music, you could be in real trouble for a transaction that violates copyright-protected work.

Image result for CBP counterfeit

Watches and jewelry follow at 13 percent of total seizures. During the Mega Flex operation on August 21, 2019, for example, CBP officers seized counterfeit Rolex watches valued at over $1.4 million. Handbags and wallets represented nearly 11 percent of all seizures, including counterfeits of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, and Gucci. Consumer electronics represented 10 percent of seizures, including products such as iPhones, hoverboards, earbuds, microchips, and others. Pharmaceuticals and personal care items account for only 7 percent of total seizures. However, as discussed in the next section, many of the products in these categories pose significant dangers to the consumer. Fake prescription drugs can lack active ingredients, contain incorrect dosages, or include dangerous additives. Fake personal care items such as cosmetics have been found to contain everything from harmful bacteria to human waste. Between 2017 and 2018, CBP and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized over $31 million in fake perfumes from China.

Law enforcement officials have uncovered intricate links between the sale of counterfeit goods and transnational organized crime. A study by the Better Business Bureau notes that the financial operations supporting counterfeit goods typically require central coordination, making these activities attractive for organized crime, with groups such as the Mafia and the Japanese Yakuza heavily involved. Criminal organizations use coerced and child labor to manufacture and sell counterfeit goods. In some cases, the proceeds from counterfeit sales may be supporting terrorism and dictatorships throughout the world.

In FY 2018, 12 percent of DHS seizures included counterfeit versions of critical technological components, automotive and aerospace parts, batteries, and machinery. Each of these industrial sectors have been identified as critical to the defense industrial base, and thus critical to national security. One example drawn from a 2018 study by the Bureau of Industry and Security within the Department of Commerce featured the import of counterfeit semiconductors or “Trojan chips” for use in defense manufacturing and operations. Such Trojan chips can carry viruses or malware that infiltrate and weaken American national security. The problem of counterfeit chips has become so pervasive that the Department of Defense has referred to it as an “invasion.” Companies from China are the primary producers of counterfeit electronics.

According to a 2019 report, Instagram and Counterfeiting, nearly 20 percent of the posts analyzed about fashion products on Instagram featured counterfeit or illicit products. More than 50,000 Instagram accounts were identified as promoting and selling counterfeits, a 171 percent increase from a prior 2016 analysis. Instagram’s Story feature, where content disappears in twenty-four hours, was singled out as particularly effective for counterfeit sellers.

For the full report, go here.

02/24/20

Bernie Sanders/AOC Manifesto

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Okay, so there is now chatter that since Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is campaigning for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, she would likely become his pick for Vice President.

AOC is much more radical for modern-day political policy than Bernie Sanders, while Sanders has a deep history with communists which cannot be denied and he admits to including full support of Fidel Castro.

Is Bernie or AOC the real problem or is the scary part of all this the supporting of socialism, communism, and Marxism?

If you are energetic enough to read the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, go here.

But to make it easier for you, a more modern-day manifesto is available and it is known as Prairie Fire. Copyrighted in 1974, it is authored by four people you may recognize: Bernadine Dohrn, Billy Ayers, Jeff Jones, and Celia Sojourn. Yes, The Weather Underground.

Just the preface includes in part: Prairie Fire is written to communist-minded people, independent organizers, and anti-imperialists: those who carry the traditions and lessons of the struggles of the last decade, those who join in the struggles of today. Prairie Fire is written to all brothers and sisters who are engaged in armed struggle against the enemy, It is written to prisoners, women’s groups, collectives, study groups, workers’ organizing committees, communes, GI organizers, consciousness-raising groups, veterans, community groups and revolutionaries of all kinds, to all who will read, criticize and bring its content to life in practice. Prairie Fire is based on a belief that the duty of a revolutionary is to make revolution.

How many times has Senator Sanders used the term revolution or movement? You’ve lost count too, eh?

The contents of the Prairie Fire Manifesto (163 pages) is quite interesting and excellent for reference. Just a few items of distinction include:

1. Arm the Spirit

2. Why Revolution is Necessary

3. The Real and Phony Energy Crisis

4. Black Resistance to Slavery and the Rise of the Abolitionist and Women’s Movement

5. Monopoly Capital

6. Imperialism Means Underdevelopment

7. Imperialism Means Racism and Genocide

8. Neocolonialism

9. Imperialism Means Sexism

10. The Palestinian Liberation Movement

Any of that in your recent memory? To review or scan the manifesto, click here.

Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti ...

Bernie has a long history and this piece from the Washington Examiner complete with graphics may help with that evidence.

As for AOC, words and deeds do matter. Her reason to endorse Bernie”

“When I was a baby, my family relied on Planned Parenthood for prenatal care,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Then, Bernie Sanders fought for me. When I was growing up and education was being gutted for kids in the ‘wrong ZIP code,’ Bernie Sanders fought for us. When I was a child that relied on CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] so that I could see a doctor, Bernie Sanders fought for a single-payer health care system … Bernie Sanders did not do these things because they were popular, and that’s what we need to remember.”

“I feel decided,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It would be dishonest of me not to let folks know how I feel about this race.”

“For me, this is not about ‘Why not any other candidate?’ ” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The fact that [Sanders] has been fighting for these issues for so long struck me in a very personal way.” Source

Gotta wonder how much of that is true since her father was an architect and she was a graduate of Boston College. Nonetheless: Ocasio-Cortez is among the first female members of the Democratic Socialists of America elected to serve in Congress. Ocasio-Cortez advocates a progressive platform that includes Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, a proposed Green New Deal, abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, free public college and trade school, and a 70% marginal tax rate for incomes above $10 million. All of that was learned by her work for former Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential bid and her collaboration with MoveOn, Black Lives Matters and Democracy for America.

Some interesting pieces of information right?

02/24/20

How Can AI Help With Real-Life Cold Case Files?

By: Denise Simon | Mind Matters News

AI doesn’t create new ideas in police work; rather, it does the work that police, who must move on to urgent, fresh cases, don’t have time to do.

When no new leads emerge in a murder or a missing person investigation, police must shift their resources to cases that offer new information. Currently, the FBI Uniform Crime Report keeps an estimated 250,000 cold cases on file, on which it co-operates with local law enforcement. Recent developments in AI, however, have shed light on some of these old and cold cases.

For example, in 2018, DNA evidence submitted through a popular genealogy database enabled charges to be laid in more than a dozen cases involving the Golden State Killer who had been living “ under the radar” for decades. According to a recent article in Forensic Science International, in 2018, direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic genealogy databases were used to solve over fifty cold cases of either murder or missing persons.

These uses of AI raise privacy and ethics issues, of course. But they raise those issues precisely because the method actually provides potential new information.

AI doesn’t create new ideas in police work; rather, it does the work that police, who must move on to urgent, fresh cases, don’t have time to do. For example, it can grade information in the files for unseen clues, global positioning, trace evidence, and even chemical analysis. Detectives and volunteers can then have a fresh look once the AI results are merged with DNA lab results, facial recognition, and human analysis to see if a new pattern is worth pursuing.

For example, there is the case of the West Mesa Bone Collector. Between 2001 and 2005, eleven women were buried in an undeveloped tract of land outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. A real estate developer had begun construction there a couple of years later but had to stop because of the mortgage crisis of 2008. In 2009, floods caused human remains to surface in the disturbed soil.

The crime is still unsolved but DNA technology, along with witnesses and satellite imagery, has provided some clues. For example, in 2010, two of the skeletal remains were determined to be misidentified because those two women were identified as alive. Some persons of interest have also been identified as possible suspects.

AI applications in the West Mesa case and others could be sifted and evaluated for false positives and misidentifications. In the past, old and cold cases have often been considered too complex to reopen. But AI might simplify the process and maintain the safe-keeping of relevant information, preventing loss or manipulation.

The globe is a big place, yet it has shrunk in certain ways, due to the ease of international travel and instant communication. INTERPOL, the world’s biggest repository of police cooperation and crime control, is pursuing strategies, along with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, in AI, robotics, future-casting, and facial recognition to keep pace.

They have their work cut out for them. The suspects in the West Mesa case may well have fled to a foreign country where extradition agreements with the United States are not recognized. In any event, there are countless unsolved cases that have international implications, such as the murder of British journalist Jill Dando in London (1999), the death of the Setagaya family in Tokyo (2001), or even the former Vladimir Putin aide, Mikhail Lesin (2015) found dead in a hotel room in DuPont Circle, Washington, DC.

AI could very well prove useful in the case of the Zodiac Killer (late 60s in San Francisco), Tupac Shakur (Las Vegas, 1996) and even JonBenét Ramsey (Boulder, 1996). Did Natalie Wood (California, 1981) really drown? Did D. B. Cooper (Washington State, 1971) really hijack a plane and jump out to never be found? AI may never solve the case of Jimmy Hoffa (Detroit area, 1975); however digitizing the evidence, testimonies, information about suspects could turn up some useful patterns.

Here’s what police are doing with AI today, and some reactions to it:

Here are some other fields in which AI can help solve longstanding puzzles:

Can AI help us decipher lost languages? Yes, sometimes. It depends mainly on the reasons we haven’t yet deciphered ancient texts.

Can AI prove that Shakespeare had ghostwriters? An author’s unique style is like a fingerprint. AI can fill it in and give us some patterns to look at.

and

Does AI challenge Biblical archeology? Many surviving documents are so damaged that they cannot be read using traditional methods. Recently, AI deciphered a nearly destroyed Biblical manuscript, showing that it was the earliest surviving copy.

02/24/20

Trump Goes to India

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

This two-day trip will begin with pomp and circumstance where Prime Minister Modi is returning the ceremonious favor of the Houston ‘Howdy Modi’ event that celebrated Modi’s visit to the United States in 2019.

Image result for trump modi

Trade talks will begin but not in real terms as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are not part of the travel delegation. Trade talks will be in principle.

Talks could very well include some kind of peace mediation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The U.S. will need assistance in this regard and mutually so as the Taliban one-week quiet period has begun and Pakistan is for the most part on notice to stand with the United States and not with the Taliban-al Qaeda militants known to have sanctuary from time to time in Pakistan including the Haqqani network.

Another important component of the Trump-Modi meeting is China. Military cooperation may be an important topic due to regional aggression by China. You can bet that President Trump will offer India to buy more military aircraft and equipment from the United States.

The bigger part of the talks may well include Venezuela. India is a nation that has not joined countless other nations to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela and India is a large buyer of Venezuelan oil.

President Trump has grown quite impatient over the regime change in Venezuela.

The United States still has the military option on the table as well as a naval blockade.

The U.S. has put several companies that continue to do business in Venezuela on notice, the official said, including India’s Reliance Industries, Spain’s RepsolChevron and Greek shippers. Trump is likely to raise the issue of India’s oil imports from Venezuela with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a two-day visit next week, the official said Friday in a briefing for reporters.

The official asked not to be identified as a condition of participation in the briefing. The Trump administration has long sought to oust Maduro’s regime but has so far failed to replace him with the opposition leader it supports, National Assembly President Juan Guaido. Guaido was a surprise guest of Trump at this month’s State of the Union address.

Trump has ordered his administration to use any tools necessary to build pressure on Maduro with the goal of securing free and fair elections in Venezuela, the official said. The U.S. doesn’t believe that free elections are possible with Maduro in power, the official said.

The U.S. continues to pursue what the official called a “Trump doctrine” to foster democratic governments throughout the Western Hemisphere, akin to the Monroe Doctrine, which warned against European colonization efforts in the Americas two centuries ago. Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua remain impediments, the official said, adding that actions by Russia and China in the region are unacceptable.

The U.S. is also frustrated by Spain, which it believes is too accommodating to Maduro allies who seek to flee Venezuela. Spain has been hesitant to help oust Maduro and remains the biggest barrier in the EU to the U.S. campaign, the official said. More here from Bloomberg.

02/21/20

FBI Arrests Hacker Linked to Katie Hill Campaign

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Federal agents have arrested Arthur Dam in connection with a hacking spree that disrupted the 2018 Democratic California primary that ultimately nominated Katie Hill, according to a new criminal complaint. A criminal complaint can be found here.

Image result for congresswoman katie hill

‘Throuple’ congresswoman Katie Hill says she made the right choice to resign.

Dam, in the criminal complaint, is linked directly to the Hill campaign. Hill won the general election in California’s 25th district, and then later resigned from Congress amid controversy.

“Dam was found to be connected to the cyber-attacks through subscriber information, IP addresses, geolocation history, and open sources, including through his employer and his wife, K.O., who worked for one of the Victim’s opponents,” the complaint reads.

Image

Dam’s wife is Kelsey O’Hara, Hill’s fundraiser during the campaign and her district director after she won office. O’Hara was also the subject of a sexual joke made by Hill and caught on tape by Vice News in 2018. In Hill’s FEC records, she lists a $500 in-kind contribution from Dam on March 25, 2018, for “Graphic design and website security consultation.”

During the campaign, the websites of Hill’s opponents, Democrats Bryan Caforio and Jess Phoenix were both attacked, though Hill’s never was, raising suspicions at the time that Hill’s campaign was behind them. One major attack on Caforio’s campaign website came at a crucial moment, just an hour before the biggest debate of the primary, the complaint notes. Hill eventually won the California primary by fewer than 3,000 votes.

The FBI traced the hacking to an Amazon Web Services account tied to the email address [email protected], though the credit card used to pay for the service was listed under Dam. The Hotmail account had been created in 2002 using the subscriber name “Arthur Slam.” Dam also used the Hotmail account as the recovery email for his own Gmail account.

The FBI launched a probe that zeroed in on the Hill campaign in 2019, according to FBI correspondence reviewed by The Intercept. Hill did not immediately respond for comment.

Hill’s campaign was the subject of unusual national attention during her campaign, including a Vice News documentary and a Rolling Stone article. On March 3, the 25th Congressional District will hold a special election to replace Hill, who resigned in October 2019.

02/21/20

Justice Dept. Brands Huawei as a Criminal Enterprise

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Gotta hope that Europe takes note, especially Britain. Europe so far has approved Huawei as the vendor platform for 5G. Check your use of apps at the Google store and take a second look at your smart devices.

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FDD: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies and its subsidiaries last week for alleged racketeering, theft of intellectual property, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, among other charges. The indictment portrays Huawei not merely as a company that has broken the law, but as a fundamentally criminal enterprise.

The new charges target Huawei, four of Huawei’s subsidiaries (Huawei Device Co. Ltd., Huawei Device USA Inc., Futurewei Technologies Inc., and Skycom Tech Co. Ltd.), and Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which Congress passed in 1970 to combat organized crime.

According to the DOJ, the Huawei business model entailed “the deliberate and repeated misappropriation of intellectual property of companies headquartered or with offices in the United States.” DOJ also highlighted other violations, including Huawei’s role in sanctions evasion and fraudulent activities.

Last week’s indictment marks the first time DOJ charged a company with suspect connections to a foreign government as a criminal enterprise. Although Huawei asserts it is not state-owned, the company has indirect ties to the Chinese government and has yet to publically disclose who exactly owns and controls the company. Huawei’s majority shareholder is the company’s labor union, which keeps the details of its membership and governance structure out of the public eye. Last year, Jiang Xisheng, a top executive, explained during a press conference that the labor union’s ownership is simply a matter of legal convenience; this only further obfuscated who is really in charge. Additionally, Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhangfei, served in the Chinese military and is a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

While the indictment does not say that Beijing directed Huawei to operate as a criminal enterprise, China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 requires Huawei and other private companies to provide the government with their data to “support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence according to the law.” In short, the law empowers Beijing to exploit Huawei as an intelligence asset whenever it sees fit.

In other high-profile cases, the Chinese government has stolen sensitive U.S. data to achieve a strategic advantage. U.S. officials have even deemed China’s espionage and intelligence activities as a “long-term existential threat to the security of our nation.” In 2012, the head of the U.S. National Security Agency estimated that China’s economic espionage cost U.S. companies $250 billion in annual losses. Additionally, the targeting of strategic industries has allowed Beijing to enhance its own military capabilities at America’s expense.

The exploitation of Huawei could clearly enhance Beijing’s intelligence collecting capabilities. Just last week, the U.S. government reported that for over ten years Huawei secretly maintained “back doors” on its mobile networks that allowed the company – and potentially the Chinese government – to have direct access to their users’ most sensitive data.

The indictment of Huawei as a criminal enterprise shows that the Trump administration was mistaken when it placated Beijing by softening previous penalties for Huawei’s misconduct. If the court finds Huawei guilty under RICO, the administration should ensure the full application of all penalties necessary to end its criminal pursuits.

 

02/21/20

US Unable to Trace $716 Million of Military Gear

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

It was and still is a nasty conflict in Syria, Iraq and even in Turkey. The Islamic State lost its control of landmass but the terror group(s) still operate in various locations.

The Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General, which was released to the public on Tuesday, shows that most of the CTEF weaponry’s whereabouts cannot be verified. The reason, according to the audit, is that officials with the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, failed to maintain detailed lists of all military equipment given to Washington’s allies in Syria between 2017 and 2018. Officials did not have a centralized depository facility for dispensing the equipment, and no documentation was kept during the operation, according to the audit. Consequently, thousands of weapons, weapons parts, and other military hardware were exposed to “loss and theft”, says the Pentagon report.

US pulled multiple ways in Syria as Islamic State recedes ...

In December 2018, the DoD began planning for the safe, professional withdrawal of U.S. personnel from Syria while maintaining its efforts to defeat ISIS. For FY 2020, the DoD budget requested $300 million, including $173.2 million for weapons, ammunitions, vehicles, and other CTEF-S equipment, to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. The FY 2020 DoD budget request states that equipping, sustaining, and enabling the VSO is critical to the DoD’s approach. The relationship between U.S. forces and the VSO relies heavily on the DoD’s ability to provide weapons, ammunitions, and equipment. Furthermore, the FY 2020 DoD budget request states that the VSO’s combat effectiveness, movement, and operational tempo are directly linked to U.S. support, including the provision of weapons, ammunition, and equipment.

The CTEF-S program provides equipment designated for Syria to support the VSO. From FY 2017 through FY 2018, Congress authorized a total of $930 million for the CTEF-S program to support the VSO. Of the $930 million, the DoD budget requested $715.8 million for weapons, ammunition, vehicles, or equipment for FYs 2017 and 2018.

Special Operations Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR), under Combined Joint Task Force–OIR (CJTF-OIR), is the primary accompany force in Syria that advises and assists the VSO. According to SOJTF-OIR personnel, SOJTF-OIR also manages the day-to-day operations of the CTEF-S program. Specifically, SOJTF-OIR personnel identify program requirements—including the VSO’s needs for CTEF-S equipment and weapons— coordinate with acquisition agencies, manage equipment distribution, and monitor divestment tracking and reporting for CTEF-S equipment, such as weapons, ammunition, or vehicles.

Personnel from 1st Theater Sustainment Command (1st TSC), under U.S. Army Central, told us that 1st TSC personnel account for and store CTEF-S equipment in Kuwait, accept the equipment once it arrives in Kuwait, then transport the equipment to the Building Partners Capacity (BPC) Kuwait warehouse. According to 1st TSC personnel, 1st TSC maintain a detailed inventory of all CTEF-S equipment at the BPC Kuwait warehouse and coordinate the movement of all CTEF-S equipment from the BPC Kuwait warehouse to storage sites closer to Syria. Personnel from 1st TSC indicated that CTEF-S equipment remains in U.S. Government possession while stored at the BPC Kuwait warehouse and storage sites closer to Syria. According to SOJTF-OIR personnel, Coalition units located throughout Syria work closely with the VSO to identify their current and future operational needs, such as weapons and vehicles. The VSO consists of DoD-approved Syrian opposition personnel who are dedicated to fighting ISIS throughout Syria. SOJTF-OIR personnel stated that Coalition units select, investigate, train, and equip these local Syrian forces to defeat ISIS. In addition, SOJTF-OIR personnel stated that Coalition units receive the CTEF-S equipment from the BPC Kuwait warehouse and divest CTEF-S equipment to the VSO. Once divested, ownership and accountability of CTEF-S equipment is transferred from the DoD to the VSO.

Finding

SOJTF-OIR personnel did not account for the budgeted $715.8 million of CTEF-S equipment for FYs 2017 and 2018 from procurement through divestment in accordance with DoD Instruction 5000.64 and Army Regulation 735-5. For example, SOJTF-OIR personnel did not maintain comprehensive lists of all equipment purchased and received. This occurred because SOJTF-OIR personnel allowed multiple entities involved with CTEF-S equipment to store records in numerous locations instead of designating a central repository for all supporting accountability documentation.

1st TSC personnel did not properly store or secure CTEF-S equipment at the BPC Kuwait warehouse in accordance with DoD guidance, Army regulations, or SOJTF-OIR standard operating procedures. For example, 1st TSC personnel stored weapons outside in metal shipping containers, exposing the equipment to harsh environmental elements, such as heat and humidity. This occurred because SOJTF-OIR personnel did not divest or dispose of CTEF-S equipment, which led to overcrowding at the BPC Kuwait warehouse. In addition, according to 1st TSC’s inventory records, 1st TSC personnel stored 4,144 Category II weapons (sensitive weapons), such as machine guns and grenade launchers, outside in metal shipping containers and not in a facility that met the requirement for storing Category II weapons.

For FY 2020, the DoD budget requested $173.2 million for weapons, ammunitions, vehicles, and other CTEF-S equipment. Without accurate accountability records, such as inventory records and hand receipts, SOJTF-OIR personnel could order equipment that SOJTF-OIR already has in stock, risking unnecessary spending of CTEF-S funds and further overcrowding the BPC Kuwait warehouse resulting in equipment being stored outside.

Furthermore, SOJTF-OIR and 1st TSC personnel left thousands of CTEF-S weapons and sensitive equipment items vulnerable to loss or theft. Without conducting consistent inventories and ensuring proper security for CTEF-S equipment, 1st TSC could not determine whether items were lost or stolen which could delay the initiation of an investigation.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Commander of SOJTF-OIR develop a central repository system for all documentation required to support CTEF-S equipment requested on the memorandum of requirement through the entire divestment process.

We recommend that the Commander of SOJTF-OIR develop guidance for the proper disposal of CTEF-S equipment stored at the BPC Kuwait warehouse that has been declared unserviceable.

Additionally, we recommend that the Commander of 1st TSC complete a physical security inspection periodically, but no less than every 18 months, and ensure corrective action is taken to fix new and existing security issues identified.

Management Comments and Our Response

During the audit, we advised SOJTF-OIR and 1st TSC of the deficiencies within the CTEF-S program for the accountability and security of CTEF-S equipment. SOJTF-OIR and 1st TSC personnel agreed with our findings and immediately initiated corrective actions. SOJTF-OIR personnel stated that SOJTF-OIR created a shared drive portal for all documentation for CTEF-S equipment from procurement through divestment, including memorandums of requirement, purchase orders, equipment received, inventories completed, hand receipts, transfers, and divestment packages. 1st TSC has already started providing its hand receipts and completed inventory documents to SOJTF-OIR for inclusion in the shared drive. As of January 2020, SOJTF-OIR is using this shared drive portal to store documentation for CTEF-S equipment, such as inventories, lateral transfers, and hand receipts. The actions taken addressed the specifics of Recommendation 1 to establish a central repository for all documentation required to support CTEF-S equipment requested on the memorandum of requirement through the entire divestment process; therefore, Recommendation 1 is closed.

On May 31, 2019, U.S. Central Command developed and began implementing a disposal plan for unserviceable equipment purchased for the VSO, including items stored at the BPC Kuwait warehouse. CJTF-OIR personnel stated that this plan will reduce the amount of CTEF-S equipment currently stored at the BPC Kuwait warehouse, and equipment will no longer need to be stored outside the warehouse exposed to the harsh elements. Furthermore, in November 2019, CJTF-OIR personnel confirmed that disposition guidance for unserviceable CTEF-S equipment was received from U.S. Central Command and that unserviceable CTEF-S equipment will be provided to the Defense Logistics Agency or disposed. The actions taken addressed the specifics of Recommendation 2 to develop guidance for the disposal of unserviceable equipment; therefore, Recommendation 2 is closed.

During our February 2019 followup site visit, the audit team verified that 1st TSC personnel had started taking corrective actions to address the security deficiencies on the issues the audit team identified during the initial site visit. The actions taken addressed the specifics of Recommendation 3 to complete a security inspection and address security issues; therefore, Recommendation 3 is closed.

This report is a result of Project No. D2019-D000RJ-0031.000