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Archive for February 23rd, 2016

Former FBI Official Michael Mason on Apple: To Provide a ‘Free-Fire Communication Zone For Criminals’ Is Unwise

Michael Mason retired from the FBI as the Executive Assistant Director-Criminal Branch at headquarters.

Mike Mason/fbi photo

Mike Mason/fbi photo

By Michael Mason
For ticklethewire.com

This is an interesting issue because I don’t believe one can come down in the middle of this debate.  That would be akin to believing a woman can be little bit pregnant.

This is an either-or decision.  Either we are going to give pedophiles, drug lords, organized crime syndicates, fraudsters, hacktivists and a host of others a virtual free-fire communication zone or we are not.

The ability to intercept communications existed until these new applications were developed, so it’s not as though the government is seeking a new authority rather than the ability to maintain the status quo.  This conversation often gets postured as giving the government unilateral authority to intercept conversations without meeting the bar of evidence required to conduct such interceptions.

When phrases such as “back doors” are used, it makes it sound as if the government’s objectives are nefarious and seek to skirt the law and I do not believe that is the government’s objective.  Any authority can be abused and when that happens, it must be addressed swiftly and severely.

However, to provide a free-fire communication zone for criminals to operate strikes me as unwise.  I would not want to provide criminals with any platforms or resources enabling them to ply their criminal trades without fear of law enforcement intervention.

We should not arm criminals in any manner that cannot be adequately addressed by law enforcement.  Americans will be quick to blame the law enforcement and intelligence communities the next time we are visited by a large scale tragedy.  There will be howls of what both communities missed that led to the tragedy.

Absolute security and absolute privacy simply cannot co-exist in the same environment.  We can put in appropriate safeguards to help prevent abuses, but no guarantees can be made that the existence of decryption keys won’t fall into the wrong hands.

This is a cost-benefit question.  Does the risk to security caused by offering the bad guys the aforementioned free-fire zone outweigh the benefit of creating an uber-privacy zone that will….absolutely will be abused by criminals and terrorists?  It’s time we had an adult conversation with the American public regarding this subject and stop letting ignorance of the law lead the debate.

 

Protesters Plan to Stage Demonstrations in Support of Apple’s Fight with the FBI

Apple logoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Protesters across the nation plan to stage demonstrations today to support Apple’s fight against the FBI’s attempt to force the company to unlock an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Fight for the Future, a group that has organized demonstration on other tech issues, is organizing the protest, the Los Angeles times reports. 

Among the protest locations are San Francisco, Los Angeles and the FBI headquarters in Washington.

Protesters plan to carry banners reading, “FBI: Don’t Break Our Phones” and Secure Phones Save Lives.”

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook sent a letter to employees on Monday, saying “The case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.”

Other tech companies, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, have expressed support for Apple. On Monday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates took sides with the FBI.

U.S. House Committee Demands Answers After Homeland Security Lost 165 Firearms in 3 Years

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Congressional leaders are demanding answers from Homeland Security following the discovery that it lost 165 firearms in three years.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested Homeland Security inventory records and policies, the Daily Caller reports. 

The discovery of lost firearms, badges and cellphones was made by the news site, Compete Colorado.

The loss of the firearms “shows that the department is consistently unable to safeguard sensitive property,” the congressmen wrote.

“The fact that hundreds of badges and cell phones are missing gives rise to a variety of different security threat possibilities,” the letter said. “It is particularly troubling, however, that the department cannot account for its entire inventory of firearms.”

Between 2006 and 2008, Homeland Security lost 289 firearms, according to the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Bill Gates Sides with FBI in Fight to Force Apple to Unlock iPhone of San Bernardino Shooter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Bill Gates is siding with the FBI in it battle to force Apple to help hack into a locked iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters.

In an interview with Financial Times, the Microsoft founder compared the case to police gathering records from a phone company as part of an investigation.

“This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,” Gates said.

“It is no different than [the question of] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information, should anybody be able to get at bank records. Let’s say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, ‘Don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times’.”

Microsoft is the first major tech company to side with the FBI. Other tech companies, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, have sided with Apple, saying the case would set a dangerous precedent of invading the privacy of tech users.

Trump’s Desire to Torture Terrorists Again Won’t Gain Traction, Ex-CIA Chief Said

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Current and former CIA officials took issue with Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. should start torturing terrorists again for information.

In an interview with NBC News, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said the spy agency won’t employ torture after the fallout from the post-9/11 interrogation program.

Hayden, who served as CIA director at the end of George W. Bush’s administration, said the agency would not return torturing terrorists.

“Multiple investigations, grand juries, presidential condemnations, and congressional star chambers have a way of doing that to you,” Hayden told NBC News.

Trump said last week that “torture works,” and he would bring back waterboarding and “much stronger methods.”

CIA officials would be unlikely to use harsh techniques in the near future because of the fallout following the interrogation program.

‘I can’t imagine anyone volunteering to do it,” said Bill Harlow, a former CIA spokesman.

U.S. House Committee Investigates Lucrative Bonuses Doled Out to TSA Managers

airport-people-walkingBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A U.S. House committee has launched an investigation into awards and bonuses doled out to senior management with TSA.

The news comes a day after FOX 9 revealed that TSA managers were receiving lucrative bonuses.

Kelly Hoggan, the assistant administrator at TSA headquarters in charge of security, received $70,000 in bonuses over three years.

The issue first came to light when Drew Rhoades, an assistant federal security director at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, blew the whistle on bonuses.

“It wasn’t tied to a performance rating, wasn’t tied to any objective basis, if you have a high salary you continue to get performance bonuses,” Rhoades recalled.

TSA said in a statement: “Since his confirmation, Administrator Peter Neffenger has sought to enhance respect, selflessness, collaboration, and accountability in all activities, across the agency, from executive decision-making to core security functions. TSA will not tolerate illegal, unethical or immoral conduct. When such conduct is alleged, it is investigated thoroughly, and when appropriate, by an outside authority. When an investigation finds that misconduct has occurred, TSA takes the appropriate action. This is the case regardless of seniority or position.”

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