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March 2018
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How to Become a Bounty Hunter


Records Reveal Geek Squads’ Relationship with FBI Is Deeper Than Previously Reported

Best Buy, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has paid Best Buy’s Geek Squad employees to act as informants for a decade, much longer than previously reported.

Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveal that the FBI has been working with Geek Squad employees since at least 2008. 

The FBI declined to say whether it has similar relationship with other electronics repair companies.

The records raise serious questions about whether the relationship between the bureau and Geek Squad employees violate the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures.

At issue is whether the FBI’s payments to the employees for turning over child pornography prompted Geek Squad workers to search computers beyond what was required to make repairs.

The bureau paid at least “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” between $500 and $1,000 each for helping disclose child pornography.

Wife of Slain Journalist Sues FBI for Confidential Records about His Murder

Slain journalist Steven Vincent.

By Steve Neavling

The wife of a journalist who was beaten and shot dead in Iraq in 2015 won’t rest until she gets justice.

But first, Lisa Ramaci needs classified documents from the FBI to go after Iranian officials she believes are behind the death of Steven Vincent, a 49-year-old freelance reporter.

Ramaci has sued the FBI for those documents, saying the bureau has refused to release more than 100 pages of documents, the New York Post reports

Ramadi has filed a civil lawsuit against Iran, its central bank and its national oil company.

Vincent was captured, beaten and shot dead by local police in Iraq a few days after he published an article about Iranian-sponsored radicals.

Judge Rules Against FBI in Reporter-Impersonation Case

By Steve Neavling

The FBI incensed news organizations after reporters discovered the bureau used special agents to impersonate a journalist to help capture a suspect in a string of anonymous bomb threats in 2007. 

Saying the impersonation “endangers the media’s credibility and creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government,” two media groups sued the FBI for records to show how often the bureau had masqueraded as news organizations. 

The FBI responded that it had no such records.

But last week, a D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the FBI failed to adequately search and locate documents related to the practice of using undercover agents to pose as journalists to go after suspects, Courthouse News reports

Courthouse News writes:

Two media groups brought the underlying challenge based on reports about how the FBI apprehended an individual who in 2007 made a series anonymous bomb threats to a Seattle high school, causing near-daily evacuations of students, teachers and administrators.

Believing the threats were the handiwork of a narcissist, the FBI agents investigating the matter devised a plan: They would flatter the culprit into clicking a link that appeared to be press coverage suggesting he’d outsmarted the authorities.

When he did, a specialized malware would be secretly delivered to his computer and it would reveal his location. The plan worked and the individual calling in the bomb threats was arrested.

A technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union spotted the FBI’s ruse several years later while reviewing documents from an earlier records request. News of the media-impersonation tactics quickly made national headlines. The New York Times even printed a letter in justification of the ruse from FBI Director James Comey Jr.

In the wake of the controversy, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Associated Press filed three FOIA requests for documents on the FBI’s impersonation of journalists and creation of “fake news” in the course of investigations.

Obama’s Administration Spent $114M on Vacations, Campaigning

By Steve Neavling

The total costs to taxpayers to protect former President Obama’s family travels reached a total of $114 million during his eight years in the White House, according to documents obtained by the conservative legal group, Judicial Watch.

So far, President Trump has spent $10 million in taxes for protection.

The figures come from documents obtained from the Air Force and Secret Service.

One of the biggest-ticket trips came during the weekend of February 14, 2014, when First Lady Michell Obama and her daughters traveled to Aspen, causing the shutdown of an airport.

Trump, who has been under fire for he and his family’s travel expenses, is spending less money so far than his predecessor, according to Judicial Watch.

Other Stories of Interest

Comey Drafted Conclusion of Clinton Probe Before He Interviewed Her

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies about President Trump before the Senate Intelligence Committee in early June.

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies about President Trump before the Senate Intelligence Committee in early June.

By Steve Neavling

FBI Director James Comey drafted a statement about the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton investigation months before the former secretary of state was even interviewed, according to documents released Monday. 

A vast majority of the documents were redacted and posted to the FBI’s “Vault” Freedom of Information Act reading room.

The documents confirm assertions by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham that Comey drafted his statement ahead of the investigation’s closure.

It’s unclear whether the Comey violated any rules by drafting the statement before the interview with Clinton.

Judge: Details on How FBI Hacked into IPhone Are Public Information

courtroomBy Steve Neavling

The FBI does not have to publicly reveal how it hacked into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists in an attack that killed 14 people, a federal judge has ruled.

On Saturday, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled against three media outlets that sued the FBI to reveal the mystery behind the hacking, Politico reports. 

Chutkan also ruled that the FBI does not have to reveal the cost or the company it hired to breaking into the phone.

At a news conference last year, then-FBI Director James Comey suggested that the cost to hire the company would exceed his salary for the remainder of his term – about $1.4 million.

Justice Department Finds No Evidence That Trump Or His Tower Were Wiretapped

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling

President Trump’s claims in March that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped his phones are not backed by evidence, the Justice Department said in a court filing.

The discovery came in a Freedom of Information case involving the government transparency watchdog, American Oversight, which was seeking information about surveillance of Trump, his New York City tower and his presidential campaign, Bloomberg reports

“Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” the Justice Department filing said.

Trump made the bold claim on Twitter, and it appears his source was Breitbart, a conservative media outlet that has become a propaganda tool for the alt-right.

“Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Trump wrote on Twitter. ”Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

The Justice Department wants the FOIA case to be dismissed since the records don’t exist.

Judge: 17 Years Is Too Long to Wait for FBI Records under FOIA

judge and gavelBy Steve Neavling

A judge slammed the FBI for saying it would take 17 years to provide public records to a documentary film filmmaker.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of Washington said the FBI’s insistence that it would take until 2034 to provide records about anti-war and civil rights activists in the 1960s and ’70s was unacceptable, Politico reports. 

The judge rejected the FBI’s proposed timeline, which is based on the bureau’s policy of release large record requests at a pace of 500 page a month. The bureau insisted that a quicker pace could shut down the FBI’s FOIA operation.

Documentarian Nina Seavy, who is 60, said she can’t wait 17 years to get about 110,000 page of records from the FBI.

Neither didn’t the judge.

“Neither proffered justification is persuasive,” the Clinton appointee wrote. “In the name of reducing its own administrative headaches, the FBI’s 500-page policy ensures that larger requests are subject to an interminable delay in being completed. Under the 500-page policy, requestors must wait 1 year for every 6,000 potentially responsive documents, and those who request tens of thousands of documents may wait decades.”

The judge also didn’t buy the argument that providing records at a pace faster than 500 pages a month would jeopardize smaller FOIA requests.

“If the FBI really wanted to demonstrate that processing larger FOIA requests would impact the processing of other requests there are numerous data points it could provide the Court,” Kessler said. “Instead, the limited data the FBI has provided suggests exactly the opposite.”