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Archive for July, 2018

Facebook Reveals New Coordinated Disinformation Campaign Ahead of Midterm Elections

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Facebook revealed Tuesday that it uncovered a new coordinated disinformation campaign potentially targeting the midterm elections.

The company said the campaign involved dozens of fake accounts on its social media platform. In a statement posted on Facebook, the company said it removed 32 pages and accounts from its platform and Instagram “because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.” 

Facebook said the accounts were targeting protests planned in Washington D.C. next week.

The company is uncertain of the source of the fake accounts and is investigating.

The discovery comes at a time when federal agencies in the U.S. said Russia continues to spread disinformation to divide Americans.

Facebook found:

  • In total, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages, the earliest of which was created in March 2017. The latest was created in May 2018.
  • The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.” The remaining Pages had between zero and 10 followers, and the Instagram accounts had zero followers.
  • There were more than 9,500 organic posts created by these accounts on Facebook, and one piece of content on Instagram.
  • They ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in US and Canadian dollars. The first ad was created in April 2017, and the last was created in June 2018.
  • The Pages created about 30 events since May 2017. About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending. The largest had approximately 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 users said that they would attend.

Man Accused of Killing Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent Is Facing Second Trial

Hisaias Justo Lopez is on trial for allegedly murdering an off-duty Border Patrol agent.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The man accused of stabbing to death an off-duty Border Patrol agent outside of a Far East El Paso bar is facing his second trial after the first one ended in a mistrial.

Testimony began in the second trial on Tuesday, when the common-law wife of Agent Isaac Morales said her husband flashed his Border Patrol badge after an argument ensued between him and Hisaias Justo Lopez in May 2017. Yasmi Gonzalez testified that Lopez swatted the badge out of Morales’ hand, pulled out a knife and threatened to kill the 30-year-old agent, KVIA reports.

Gonzalez said Lopez then stabbed the Border Patrol agent in the eye. He died four days later.

The defense has an entirely different story and points to a surveillance camera that shows Morales and one of his friends following Lopez as he walked away. In the first trial, the defense argued that Morales punched Lopez in the face.

During her testimony, Gonzalez said she did not recall whether that happened.

The trial resumes Wednesday.

Giuliani Says Collusion Is Not a Crime; But Legal Experts Say Conspiracy Is

President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump has fervently denied colluding with Russia to undermine the 2017 election.

Now his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says the issue is irrelevant because collusion likely is not a crime. 

“I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding with Russia,” Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, told CNN on Monday. “You start analyzing the crime – the hacking is the crime. … The President didn’t hack.”

While some legal experts agree that collusion itself is not a crime, conspiracy to undermine an election is. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump, said at a CNN town hall in Apri that collusion “is not actually a thing that exists under the federal laws of the United States.”

Comey said the issue is whether anyone conspired with a foreign government to commit crimes against the U.S., which he and other legal experts said is a crime.

Huge Implications for Special Counsel Mueller As Manafort Trial Begins Today

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The long-anticipated trial of Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, begins today in a courtroom in Alexandria.

Manafort faces 18 charges of bank and tax fraud, primarily related to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine before he joined the Trump campaign.

If he’s found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The trial is the first to stem from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation that began in May 2017 after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

The implications are enormous for Mueller, who has come under constant attack by the president and his allies who are seeking to undermine the former FBI director’s credibility. Trump continues to call the investigation a “witch hunt.”

Jury selection begins today.

Follow Ticklethewire.com for daily coverage of the trial. 

Congressional Infrastructure Plan Would Help Trump Replace ‘Terrible’ FBI Headquarters

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A recently unveiled infrastructure plan could provide the funding required to replace what President Trump called the FBI’s “terrible” headquarters in downtown Washington D.C. with a new building.

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., introduced a capital revolving fund last week to help agencies replace or revamp troubled federal buildings, the Washington Business Journal reports

The Trump administration’s first project using the fund would be a new FBI headquarters to replace the current one, which bureau officials said is archaic and can’t meet the demands of today’s technology.

The fund would provide the GSA with $10 billion and allow federal agencies to borrow and repay money for infrastructure projects.

The GSA said in February that the fund is “designed to enable a more effective capital planning process that is similar to capital budgets used by private companies and State and local governments.”

According to the news site Axios, Trump told a source that the “building is terrible.”

Some members of Congress oppose building a new headquarters at the site of the new one, saying the support the original plan to construct the new building in the suburbs in Maryland or Virginia.

Trump ‘Obsessed’ with Renovating FBI Building, Treating It Like Trump Tower Project

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump has become obsessed with revamping the FBI headquarters because he can’t stand looking at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C.

“The building is terrible” a source cited Trump as saying, Axios reported. “It’s one of the brutalist-type buildings, you know, brutalist architecture.”

Brutalist architecture generally refers to buildings with exposed concrete.

“Honestly, I think it’s one of the ugliest buildings in the city,” Trump reportedly said.

The source said Trump, who is known for micro-managing building projects in the private sector, reportedly wants to do the same with the FBI building, treating it like a Trump tower project.

But those projects don’t have the same level of security required for an FBI building.

“POTUS has interest in the issue and has met with FBI officials, but more importantly the GSA [General Services Administration] team. GSA has concerns that the building can’t be rehabilitated particularly given the security requirements and has relayed that to him,” the White House told Axios of Trump’s plans to renovate.

The FBI has been searching for a new headquarters for years, but funding problems continue to delay the project.

TSA Secretly Tracking Travelers Not on Government Watch Lists

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Federal air marshals are conducting surveillance on thousands of unsuspecting Americans as part of a secret TSA program called “Quiet Skies.’”

The Boston Globe reported that the undisclosed surveillance targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” citing a TSA bulletin from March. 

The bulletin indicates the program is intended to diminish threats to commercial flights posed by “unknown or partially known terrorists.”

Here’s how the program works: All U.S. citizens are subjected to screenings, and thousands of Americans have already been surveilled. Travelers are then added the Quiet Skies list for up to 90 days or three encounters. At no time are Americans alerted they are on the list.

It’s unclear what prompts the federal agency to add a traveler to the watch list.

Americans added to the list are then monitored by marshals, who fly with the travelers and look for sleeping patterns, “excessive fidgeting,” a “cold penetrating stare” or an “Adam’s apple jump.”

The Globe questions whether the tracking is legal:

Quiet Skies represents a major departure for TSA. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has traditionally placed armed air marshals on routes it considered potentially higher risk, or on flights with a passenger on a terrorist watch list. Deploying air marshals to gather intelligence on civilians not on a terrorist watch list is a new assignment, one that some air marshals say goes beyond the mandate of the US Federal Air Marshal Service. Some also worry that such domestic surveillance might be illegal. Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.

Trump Claims Mueller Holds a Grudge, Calls Probe ‘Illegal Scam’

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump continued his tirade against special counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting again that the former FBI chief has “conflicts of interest,” citing a “very nasty and contentious business relationship.”

In a series of weekend tweets designed to erode the public’s confidence in the investigation over Russia meddling in the presidential election, Trump claimed Mueller also held a grudge because he was not appointed FBI director.

Sunday’s tweet was more specific than past claims of alleged conflicts of interest involving Mueller, who was appointed by the president’s own Justice Department after he fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

Trump’s claim about a “contentious business relationship” appears to involve a dispute with Mueller over fees at Trump’s National Golf Club in Virginia.

Here are additional tweets from Sunday:

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