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Submission + - Check whether Hacking Team demoed cyberweapons for your local cops->

v3rgEz writes: Turns out death squads aren't the only agencies buying Hacking Squad's controversial spyware. Town from Miami Shores, FL to Eugene, OR appeared on a list of US agencies that received demonstrations from the hacked surveillance vendor. MuckRock has mapped out who was on the lists, and is working to FOIA what these towns actually bought, if anything. Check and see if your city is on the map.
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Submission + - FBI releases Erdos files after MuckRock FOIA request->

v3rgEz writes: A Hungarian born in the early 20th century, Paul (Pal) Erdos, mathematician, was well-known and well-liked, the sort of eccentric scientist from the Soviet sphere that made Feds’ ears perk up in mid-century America. His lifetime generated over five hundred scholarly papers and a cult of collaborators. The Erdos number has become a mathy merit badge, and for those that don’t hold a coveted Erdos number of 1, there are resources to determine just how many degrees of celebrity separation exist between the man himself and other technical paper bylines.

And like almost all smart individuals of his era, Erdos had a lengthy FBI file — which ultimately concluded no nefarious intent, but rather "nothing to indicate the subject had any interest in any matter than Mathematics." Read on for highlights, or read Erdos' full FBI file.

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Submission + - J. Edgar Hoover trusted Ben Bradlee "as much as I would a rattlesnake."->

v3rgEz writes: Former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee's role in covering some of the biggest stories of the 20th century — most notably Watergate — has made him a legend in the industry. But after initially close government ties â" including Bradlee bring considered to head up Voice of America â" the legendary Washington Post editor was completely blackballed by the FBI after running a piece critical of J. Edgar Hoover, who took the piece personally, calling Bradlee "a colossal liar" and forbidding bureau employees from speaking with him. Read the full history of editor vs. FBI at MuckRock.
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Submission + - Police call logs from the Sun City llama drama->

v3rgEz writes: Wonder what it is like to be an officer charged with apprehending two llamas on the loose? Wonder no more: Sun City, AZ, has released the call logs from the tense, hours-long standoff between man and adorable beast. "They're heading into Thunderbird. It's gonna get ugly," the dispatcher warned, right before stifling a laugh. Listen to the full call logs over at MuckRock.
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Submission + - MuckRock FOIA request releases Christopher Hitchens' FBI files->

v3rgEz writes: Outspoken atheist firebrand Christopher Hitchens was never one for understatement, and apparently the FBI took notice. A Freedom of Information request from investigative news site MuckRock has resulted in the release of his 19-page FBI file, including details such as how his interest in socialism in college sparked heightened monitoring when given a scholarship to come to the United States.

Some of the pages had actually been previously released, but were then removed from the FBI's own website a few years ago. Despite the monitoring, Hitchens files have nothing on the hundreds of pages the FBI had on Richard Feynman.

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Submission + - FBI releases its files on DEF CON: Not amused by Spot-the-Fed->

v3rgEz writes: Not surprisingly, the FBI has compiled reports on notorious hacker gathering DEF CON, now released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request. The files detail the lack of amusement at the Spot-the-Fed game, as well as which conference tracks attract the most interest..
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Submission + - Inside Scientology-affiliated Narconon Arrowhead facility->

v3rgEz writes: Scientology-linked Narcanon (not to be confused with Narcotics Anonymous) has a murky history of putting vitamins and exercise over science and medical detox practices.

That prioritization might have lead to deaths of patients in Narcanon's care. At the group's Arrowhead location, in Oklahoma, when a body was found, rather than administering emergency care, "staff members would gather around the body and chant for the spirit to get back in the body."

The files on these incidents were the result of a FOIA request filed on MuckRock.

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Submission + - Watch your 'Likes': Police emails show few restrictions on who & why they wa->

v3rgEz writes: Love to show off your love of guns on Facebook? So do millions of other people ... but it's enough to spark monitoring of your account page by local police, even if you're two hundred miles from their city. That's what newly released emails from Austin's Regional Intelligence Center show, as details of how one man's feed was monitored came to life — and how little of a policy covered potential privacy concerns.
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Submission + - What the ATF could have learned from Bob's Burgers about drones->

v3rgEz writes: ATF spent over $600,000 on a set of six Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that, according to the agency's Inspector General, it never even used — or bothered to return. If only the ATF was fan's of Bob's Burgers, maybe things could have ended up a lot better, as the agency's problems uncannily mirror Bob Belcher's own love for faulty technology.
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Submission + - ICE tells reporter its secretive drone program isn't newsworthy->

v3rgEz writes: Wondering how Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses drones along the border? ICE says you shouldn't be, declaring the topic "isn't news" anymore. The agency rejected a FOIA request fee waiver regarding Operation Safeguard because the program, started in secret 12 years ago, is no longer new.

A March 3 letter signed by an ICE lawyer defined “news” as “information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public.” Hard to see how the government's drone program, even if it is over a decade old, doesn't hold current interest, but maybe a useful example of what happens when you let agencies dictate what is — and isn't — news.

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Submission + - Police fight to keep use of Stingrays secret

v3rgEz writes: The New York Times looks at how local police are fighting to keep their use of cell phone surveillance secret, including signing NDAs with Stingray manufacturer Harris Corp and claiming the documents have been lost. It's part of a broader trend of local agencies adopting the tactics of covert intelligence groups as they seek to adopt new technology in the digital era.

Submission + - US Marshals Service refuses to release Stingray info — that's already publ->

v3rgEz writes: The US Marshals Service is known to be one of the most avid users of StingRays, and documents confirm that the agency has spent more than $9 million on equipment and training since 2009.

But while it appears the USMS is not under any nondisclosure agreement with the device manufacturer, the agency has withheld a wide range of basic information under an exemption meant to protect law enforcement techniques — despite the fact that that same information is available via a federal accounting website.

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Submission + - "Next time I'll try a bus!" The best of the DOT's aviation consumer complaints->

v3rgEz writes: Last July, MuckRock user Curtis Raye requested all aviation consumer complaints in the categories of "customer service" and "discrimination" made to the Department of Transportation in March and April of 2014. Just last week, the response came back in the form of 166 case histories — and while some serious incidents are mentioned, the overwhelming majority are decidedly not-so-serious. Read on for some of the best ones.
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Submission + - When it comes to surveillance gear, many police ignore public records laws in fa->

v3rgEz writes: What should take precedence: State public records laws, or contractual agreements between local police, the FBI, and the privately owned Harris Corporation? That's the question being played out across the country, as agencies are strongly divided on releasing much information, if any, on how they're using Stingray technology to collect and monitor phone metadata without judicial oversight.
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Submission + - FBI can't find its drone privacy reports->

v3rgEz writes: Programs run by the federal government are typically required to undergo a Privacy Impact Assessment if there's a chance they'll veer into monitoring the activities of citizens: The assessments help balance the risks and benefits of the program, and help guide any oversight to prevent abuse.

But despite being legally mandated, the FBI and Justice Department have had a tough time producing the assessments done in conjunction with the Bureau's domestic surveillance drone program, first telling privacy advocates to file a FOIA request, and then rejecting that request, before ultimately claiming they now simply can't find the documents altogether.

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