6 Examples of Undercover Cops Having Sex and Fathering Children w/ Activists They Are Investigating

(via Green is the New Red)

Policing Through Sexual Infiltration

“It must be a horrifying experience to discover that your partner is not the person they say they are; that they may have been relaying information provided in confidence ‘on the pillow’, to the state; and that the fundamentals of the relationship were lies. Many have described the sense of violation they feel.” – Tamsin Allen

The exploitation of human sexuality is a well-known pressure point in the repression of social movements. Typically such measures are thought to be reserved for military conflicts involving complex, multi-tiered, counter-insurgency campaigns, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout the first and second Palestinian uprisings, Israeli intelligence forces regularly recruited Palestinians for collaboration after first documenting them in precarious sexual situations. Classically, Israeli handlers would observe and record a Palestinian engaging in extra-marital, homosexual, or otherwise ‘deviant’ sexual behaviors and then leverage the publicity of these filmed vices in exchange for actionable intelligence leading to the capture of wanted Palestinian fighters and activists.

Though such methods may be more familiar to students of ‘traditional’ warfare, the collection of intelligence through the exploitation of trusted social network is a common domestic policing strategy as well. A 2014 study demonstrated that 81% of “law enforcement professionals” use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) in their investigations, and that 80% agree that the creation and management of fake social media profiles is an “ethical” practice in law enforcement. In 2011, the British press was made aware of several undercover police agents who were infiltrating protest movements throughout a 40-year period. Of the seven undercover officers initially exposed, five were found to have had sexual relationships with women. Often times these were women the officers were tasked with monitoring. These sexual liaisons between cop and activist were the product of misrepresentation. Subsequent investigation into the actions of these officers exposed 10 individuals, nine of which who had sexual relationships with activists.

The following will provide brief biographical profiles of these individuals. In doing so it is my hope that movements can learn from these examples and improve our resistance to infiltration and disruption. The purpose of these methods is to reverberate distrust, fear, uncertainty, suspicion and divisions amongst our friendship circles, our communities and our wider social networks.

Bob Lambert

bob-lambert-recentBob Lambert, posing as Bob Robinson, infiltrated leftist and animal liberation networks, using a job at Greenpeace London as an activist cover, and targeting activists affiliated with the ALF. Between May 1987-November 1988, Lambert was engaged in a sexual relationship with a 24-year-old female, not affiliated with political activism, whom he met at a party. Lambert reportedly maintained the relationship for 18 months to create the background of a personal life for his projected activist persona. To this end, Lambert even arranged to have his own home raided by police to show that he was a ‘known activist.’ In total, Lambert spent 26 years in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch (including the Special Demonstration Squad), and recently issued an apology for the relationship stating:

I also apologise unreservedly for forming false friendships with law abiding citizens and in particular forming a longterm relationship with [the woman] who had every reason to think I was a committed animal rights activist and a genuine London Greenpeace campaigner.

Not only was Lambert involved with the unnamed 24-year-old, but a year or so prior, he also had a sexual relationship with a second female whom he fathered a child with before disappearing. Lambert met the female activist whom he was meant to spy on in the “mid-1980s” and had a son with her in 1985 before breaking up in 1987. When the child was two years old, the female activist married a second man and Lambert surrendered his paternal rights. The woman came forward in early 2013 after seeing Lambert’s 1980s picture in a newspaper and recognizing it as that of her long lost ex-boyfriend and the father of their son. The woman reports that she met Lambert in 1984, and became involved in animal rights and involving herself in direct action networks. In 2013 Lambert admitted to having relationships with four women while undercover. Throughout this infiltration, Lambert was also legally married. Lambert is one of at least two UK police infiltrators that fathered a child with a female activist who was targeted for surveillance.

debenham-fire-lambertIn addition to his service as a police agent and sexual infiltrator, Lambert also served as an agent provocateur carrying our acts of property destruction, including the use of arson, and attributing such actions to the ALF. According to Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, in testimony given to Parliament, Lambert was responsible for placing and detonating an incendiary device in the Harrow, northwest London branch of the Debenhams department store in 1987 in protest of its selling of fur.

Lambert is also said to have admitted his involvement in the arson to a female activist. The arson was part of a three site simultaneous attacks with only two perpetrators arrested. According to testimony from one of the convicted arsonists Caroline Lucas as well as other evidence, Lambert was the third participant. Lambert, as expected, has denied these accusations but proudly asserts his role in providing intelligence that led to the arrest of the other two arsonists. The fires caused £7-8 million in damages and according to some, were instrumental in motivating the chain to cease the selling of animal fur. The purpose of the attack was for Lambert to garner credibility amongst his ALF community and convince them he was a committed activist.

Lambert played other key roles in the animal rights community penning an ALF leaflet explaining the group’s philosophy and even co-writing the infamous McLibel leaflet in 1986 which defamed McDonalds and led to the longest civil trial in UK history. During his dating and sexual exploits, Lambert also used his role as the boyfriend of an activist to encourage more militant action. According to “Charlotte,” one of Lambert’s sexual partners, “He would tease me for not being committed enough…he got me to become more involved in ‘direct action.’”

Mark John Kennedy

Mark-Kennedy-007Police Constable Mark Kennedy, posing as Mark “Flash” Stone, infiltrated environmental and leftist networks for approximately eight years (~2001-2009) in the area of Nottingham (sometimes working alongside a female spyplaying the role of an “eco-activist”), hosting meetings with activists in up to 23 countries including the United States, and participating as an activist in illegal actions including blockades, site occupations and sabotage, sometimes playing key logistical roles such as transport. In numerous accounts from activists, Kennedy is portrayed as a provocateur, encouraging activists to commit acts of violence including attacking police. For his work, stone was paid £50,000 annually, plus an additional £200,000 annually given for “bribes, drinks, accommodation, a vehicle and travel abroad to meet other anarchists.” During this time, Kennedy presented himself as an “avid rock climber and former drug smuggler,” maintained a four year relationship with a 26-year-old, female activist named Anna who reports having sexual intercourse with Kennedy more than 20 times. After Kennedy’s true identity was revealed, Anna spoke to the news media stating, “‘If somebody was being paid to have sex with me, that gives me a sense of having been violated.”

In addition to this relationship, Kennedy reports sleeping with a second female Welsh activist, though testimony from “those who knew him best” suggests that more female activists were likely victimized. It was this second female that exposed Kennedy after discovering his legitimate passport while on vacation with the spy in July 2010. Anna, Kennedy’s first activist girlfriend, stated to The Guardian that there were “several other women within the protest movement who Kennedy slept with,” but that while she knew he was sleeping with these additional women, “there was never any type of romance involved.” After his police handlers became aware of his “erratic sexual conduct” he became the subject of surveillance, wherein police officials videotaped him having sexual contactwith female activists. While Kennedy joked about his use of “horizontal interrogation techniques” with activists, he maintained a second life with his wife Edel, and their two children. Kennedy defended his actions, stating that sexual promiscuity was common within the protest movement. “It was a very promiscuous scene. Some people had five or six lovers…Girls on protest sites would sleep with guys in order to entice them to stay in these horrible places: Cold, wet, with bad food and nonexistent bathroom facilities.”

Since the exposure of Kennedy as a police spy, international activists have compiled an open-source, online, database attempting to document the host of protests, meetings and convergences in which he attended. Using the Powerbase platform, activists have linked Kennedy to at least 68 incidents, some covering multiple years. According to Kennedy, he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain embedded in UK protest movements. After Kennedy’s infiltration became public knowledge, and he left law enforcement, he used his wealth of insider knowledge for personal financial gain, establishing a series of companies (e.g. Tokra Limited, Black Star High Access) thought to be private consulting firms. In a report by The Guardian, Kennedy used the privileged access he gained in police infiltration campaigns to act as a “corporate spy” while still maintaining his Mark Stone alter ego. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Kennedy was working for a second spy firm in the US, Densus Group, targeting “anti-capitalist demonstrators.”Kennedy claims that during his sexual exploits, his police handlers “sanctioned” his actions, stating that some echelons of British policing was aware of his sexual relationships. Acpo president, Sir Hugh Orde told Members of Parliamentthat “he had no knowledge of the [Kennedy] case until the Guardian disclosed the prosecution of six activists…collapsed because of Kennedy’s role in it.” According to Kennedy, he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain embedded in UK protest movements. While the UK’s infiltration efforts targeting social movements date back to at least to anti-war campaigners in 1968, the pervasiveness of establishing sexual partnerships appears to be a newly intentional strategy.

Andrew James Boyling (aka Jim Boyling)

Jim-Boyling-008Detective Constable Jim Boyling, 28-years-old, posing as Pete James Sutton or Jim Sutton 34-years-old, infiltrated pro-bicycle movement Reclaim the Streets for five years (1995-2000) as a lead organizer, as well as having contact with additional environmental and hunt saboteur campaigns. During this time events were organized within the activist community designed solely to collect information on attendees. During his time within activist movements, Boyling married Angharad Bevan, the 28-year-old activist he was tasked to monitor, and fathered two children with her before divorcing. Boyling only made his superiors aware of his relationship in 2005 by informing a single senior officer close to the time he married Beven. His relationship with Beven was one of two sexual relationships Boyling had with females in activist networks while undercover. Both relationships were described as “serious.” At times Boyling worked directly under Bob Lambert, with Lambert acting as his handler.

Following Boyling’s exposure, Chief Constable Jon Murphy of Merseyside (NW England) told newspapers that sexual conduct between police agents and activists was “never acceptable…under any circumstances,” further stating in relation to the police infiltrators that “something has gone badly wrong here” and calling the undercover agent’s actions “grossly unprofessional…a diversion from what they are here to do…[and] morally wrong.”. Despite such grandstanding, Boyling’s ex-wife stated in an interview with The Guardian that superiors were knowledgeable of these incidents, stating:

Jim [Boyling] complained one day that his superiors said there was to be no more sexual relations with activists anymore – the implicit suggestion was that they were fully aware of this before and that it hadn’t been restricted in the past…[Jim Boyling] was scoffing at it saying that it was impossible not to expect people to have sexual relations. He said people going in had ‘needs’ and I felt really insulted. He also claimed it was a necessary tool in maintaining cover.

Boyling also reportedly perjured himself in court in 1997, giving evidence under oath (as Pete James Sutton) while concealing his true identity as a police spy during his prosecution alongside protestors arrested after occupying a government office.

Boyling was also present during legally protected conversations held between defendants and their lawyers, as the police spy was represented by the same legal firm. This action has led to a legal challenge where protestors have argued that Boyling’s presence during such conversations violated the defendants’ right to protected communications with council, and that Boyling thus obtained information through protected, private correspondences. Investigations by The Guardian revealed that “police chiefs [had] authorized undercover officers to hide their identities from courts when they were prosecuted for offences arising out of their deployment.”

Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs, 44-years-old, posing as 29-year-old Marco, infiltrated anarchist, anti-globalization, animal rights, and other social justice networks for five years (2004-2009) in the Cardiff area. Jacobs was known for taking on logistics and financial roles in his circles, and used the reputation he built within the Cardiff Anarchist Network (CAN) to infiltrate the Dissent! anti-G8 planning committees. During 2008, Jacobs maintained a sexual relationship with a female movement activist, and reportedly was responsible for encouraging CAN to engage behaviors to increase division and inebriation. On organizer with CAN reported to press:

He changed the culture of the organisation, encouraging a lot of drinking, gossip and back stabbing, and trivialised and ran down any attempt made by anyone in the group to achieve objectives. He clearly aimed to separate and isolate certain people from the group and from each other, and subtly exaggerated political and personal differences, telling lies to both ‘sides’ to create distrust and ill-feeling. In the four years he was in Cardiff a strong, cohesive and active group had all-but disintegrated. Marco left after anarchist meetings in the city stopped being held.

Following Jacobs’ exposure as a police spy, his activist girlfriend stated, “I was doing nothing wrong, I was not breaking the law at all. So for him to come along and lie to us and get that deep into our lives was a colossal, colossal betrayal.” According to additional testimony, a second female also maintained a dating relationship with Jacobs but littler more information is available.

John Dines

John-Dines-010Sergeant John Dines, posing as “John Barker” infiltrated London Greenpeace as well as unnamed anti-capitalist groups from around 1987-1992. He worked with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad and began infiltrating Greenpeace following the departure of Bob Lambert. In 1990, Dines began a relationship with Helen Steel, and abandoned her in 1992 feigning a mental breakdown. When Steel sought to track down the whereabouts of her boyfriend, she discovered that John Barker was really Sgt. John Dines who had stolen the name of Phillip John Baker, a child who had died of leukemia years prior. Steel also discovered that Dines has been married since 1977.

The Dines/Barker case is said to be one of at least 80 similar occurrences organized by Scotland Yard over a 30 year period wherein police adopted the names of dead children in order to produce false identities and documents with verifiable back stories. Other police spies utilizing sexual infiltration, including Bob Lambert, also used the identities of dead children to create false names and documents. According to Lambert he adopted his identity from that of a seven-year-old child who died of a heart problem, and stated to media sources that the UK Home Office was aware of this practice, and that it was widespread.

Mark Jenner

Mark Jenner, the police spy who went by the name of Mark Cassidy for six yearsMark Jenner, presenting himself as “Mark Cassidy,” infiltrated UK protest groups from 1994-2000 as an officer in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad under the direction of Bob Lambert. During his tenure, Jenner was married yet maintained a five year relationship (1995-2000) with a 29-year-old female activist, living with her in a London apartment and rarely returning to his family. After their lengthy cohabitation, the woman explained that she thought of themselves as “man and wife” having “completely integrated [Jenner] into my life.” Jenner met the woman’s family and even appeared in her mother’s wedding photographs and videos from other family events. The woman explained that Jenner used her as an “excellent cover story.”

Jenner used the woman’s credibility and trusted social network to insure his own cover story, as she explains, “People trusted me, people knew that I was who I said I was, and people believed, therefore, that he must be who he said he was because he was welcomed into my family.” Given this history, the woman was motivated to investigate his identity after Jenner disappeared in 2000 from their shared apartment stating that he was depressed. In testimony given to a Parliamentary inquiry, the woman, speaking via the pseudonym “Alison,” spoke of the deception stating, “It has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationships and other subsequent relationships. It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex.”

Further Inquiry

According to activists, at least two additional undercover informants were also present and had sexual relationships with activists. They have been named as Rod Richardson and Simon Wellings. According to Evans and Lewis, Richardson was not sexually involved with activists. While it is unknown if Wellings had relations with activist women, his behavior mirrors that of other informants, collecting and reporting on the personal details of activists such as their friendship circles as well as sexual preferences and partners. It is reported by the BBC that Wellings infiltrated anti-capitalist group Globalize Resistance from 2001-2005.

Source: Loadenthal, Michael. “6 Ways Cops Have Used Sex to Infiltrate and Disrupt Protest Groups“. Green is the New Red. 20 January 2015.

Thomas Pynchon: Internet was invention of elites – mass surveillance / control

“Never forget your Internet was Their invention, this magical convenience that creeps now like a smell through the smallest details of our lives, the shopping, the housework, the homework, the taxes, absorbing our energy, eating up our precious time. And there’s no innocence. Anywhere. Never was. It was conceived in sin, the worst possible. As it kept growing, it never stopped carrying in its heart a bitter-cold death wish for the planet, and don’t think anything’s changed, kid. Call it freedom, it’s based on control. Everybody connected together, impossible anybody should ever get lost, ever again. Take the next step, connect it to these cell phones, you got a total Web of surveillance, inescapable. You remember the comics in the Daily News? Dick Tracy’s wrist radio? It’ll be everywhere, the rubes’ll all be begging to wear one, handcuffs of the future. Terrific. What they dream about at the Pentagon, worldwide martial law.”

— Eddie, from Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge

Darknet Sweep Casts Doubt on Tor: Tor Will Be Defeated Again, and Again, and Again

(by Bill Blunden, via Dissident Voice)

When news broke of Silk Road 2.0’s seizure by law enforcement a lot of people probably wrote it off as an isolated incident. Silk Road 2.0 was the successor to the original Silk Road web site and like its predecessor it was an underground bazaar for narcotics, fueled by more than $8 million in Bitcoin transactions and operated as a hidden service on the Tor anonymity network.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Blake Benthall, the alleged 26-year-old operator of Silk Road 2.0, law enforcement officers caught their suspect using old fashioned police work. Specifically they sent in a mole, or what the text of the complaint refers to as an HSI-UC (a Homeland Security Investigations agent operating in an Undercover Capacity). Anyway, the undercover spy was wildly effective, gaining access to the Silk Road 2.0 discussion forum while the scheme was still in its formative stages and eventually acquiring administrative access to the web site after it launched.

But it turns out that the Silk Road 2.0 take-down was just the appetizer of a much larger main course called Operation Onymous. Onymous, as in anything but anonymous. Within a matter of hours it was announced that a joint operation involving dozens of officers from the FBI, the DHS, and Europol had taken down a grand total of 414 hidden services on the Tor network. This wasn’t just a single bust, no sir. This was a global dragnet that resulted in the arrest of 17 suspects.

The success of this international operation raises a question: how did they locate the hidden servers and identify the people who managed them?

In this instance Tor hidden services failed to live up to their namesake. Was the sudden collapse of several hundred Tor “.onion” domains the result of traditional police tradecraft ─developing informants, patiently waiting for opportunities, doggedly following leads─ or were security services quietly wielding advanced technical methods?

All told the cops are pretty tight-lipped. Wired Magazine asked Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Center, this very question and he replied:

This is something we want to keep for ourselves… The way we do this, we can’t share with the whole world, because we want to do it again and again and again.

Even with the discretion of insiders like Oerting there have been recent developments that hint at what’s going on behind closed doors. For instance, the FBI has just proposed that the U.S. Advisory Committee on Rules and Criminal Procedure alter federal search and seizure rules so that law enforcement agents can hack into machines that have been “concealed through technological means.” This is no doubt a thinly veiled reference to Tor.

The FBI’s request infers that public gripes against ostensibly strong encryption by officials like FBI Director James Comey, GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan, and former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker are mere theater. The feds already have tools at their disposal to defeat encryption-based tools like Tor. In fact, an internal NSA document admits that “[A] critical mass of targets use Tor. Scaring them away from Tor might be counterproductive.”

Really? I wonder why?

This past summer I questioned the wisdom of netizens putting all their eggs in the Tor basket, as did other writers like Pando’s Yasha Levine. Granted there were protests voiced by advocates, some of which I responded to. Still, the public record demonstrates that Tor isn’t a guarantee against the intrigues of a knowledgeable adversary. And now we clearly see the purported security of the Tor anonymity network unraveled on a grand scale. Not just for one or two illicit websites but hundreds. As to whether it’s possible for an app to safeguard essential civil liberties… the techno-libertarians of Silicon Valley can eat crow.

The reality is that the Deep State’s minions aim to eradicate genuine anonymity for everyone but themselves. The steady erosion of privacy is a part of a long-term campaign to consolidate control as economic inequality accelerates and perpetual war expands. The looming Malthusian disaster born of our leaders’ unenlightened self-interest will be a brutal spectacle and the members of the ruling class want to make sure that they’ll have a good view.

There is no such thing as perfect security

Good computer security is hard – it requires a lot of technical knowledge, and takes a lot of time and effort … And at the end of the day, there will always still be weaknesses in your system. This means that you should never be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that you are working on a “secure” system. You can have a more secure system or a less secure system, but there is no such thing as a perfectly secure system.

Adversaries like the FBI and NSA are technologically superior and have immensely greater resources than you do, and will compromise your system if they are determined to do so. But this does not mean that you should do nothing. What you can do is close off the obvious and easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities, forcing them to use more complex, expensive (in time and resources), and error-prone methods to violate your privacy.

While no single individual system can ultimately be completely protected from them, the collective effect of millions of people making it more costly will overwhelm their ability to target everyone (because they can only afford so many computers, so much electricity, so many analysts, etc.) … Whereas, if none of us do anything, it is very cheap and easy for them to spy on everyone. That is a complete lack of concern about security leads to complete and total surveillance. We should not make this easy for them.

While ultimately, the solutions to the problem of mass surveillance are political, not technological, we should utilize any technological methods we can to disrupt their intelligence efforts as we work towards these political solutions.

Free, privacy-respecting alternatives to corporate email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and MSN/Hotmail

“Free” email services such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Microsoft (MSN, Hotmail) might not cost you anything in the sense of money, but they are certainly not free in the sense of freedom. The price you pay for using these services is a complete loss of privacy and control over your data. The use of these services enables state intelligence/police agencies to easily monitor our communications and behavior/interests, map out our social networks, and then use this information to systematically destroy radical social movements.

What’s wrong with corporate email? What are they doing with your data?

NSA slide on the PRISM program, leaked by Edward Snowden. This shows that all of the major corporate email and social networking providers are feeding data to intelligence agencies. Why trust these people with your private emails, when there are free alternatives that won't do this?
A slide from an NSA presentation on the PRISM program, leaked by Edward Snowden. All of the major corporate email and social networking providers are feeding data to intelligence agencies. Why trust these people with your private emails, when there are free alternatives that won’t willingly collaborate? (click to enlarge)

Corporations such as Google provide their email service to you for “free” so that they can collect data about you and sell it for a profit. What they are actually offering you is spyware. Google collects and analyzes the contents of your emails and “private” messages, creates lists of everyone you communicate with, and tracks your behavior as you search and surf the web (what sites you visit, how long you spend there, etc). They then store all of this information in their massive databases, compile a detailed profile of you, and sell access to this information to advertisers and other companies.

The amount of personal information that is collected by companies such as Google and Facebook is truly vast, and historically unprecedented. Consider for a moment how detailed of a psychological/behavioral profile of you can be constructed by being able to read every email you’ve sent over the past few years, having a list of everyone you’ve communicated with, viewing everything you’ve searched for on Google, what sites you’ve visited (i.e. they know what kind of things you’re reading, what videos you watch, places you go, what you like to do for fun, your medical conditions, what you purchase online, political groups/ideas you’re interested in, your sexual preferences, and countless other things that you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with a complete stranger) … And now consider that they have this kind of information about hundreds of millions of people.

Collaboration with state intelligence/police agencies

Computer network information operations slide from NSA talking about propaganda, deception, and pushing news stories via social media to manipulate the public
Leaked NSA slide that talks about their “Computer Network Information Operations” (CNIO) which use propaganda, deception, and pushing news stories via social media to manipulate the public. To effectively deceive and manipulate you, they have to get inside your head. Letting them read all of your emails and monitor your surfing behavior makes this easy.

The major problem with this is that in addition to collecting and selling your private data, these corporations also willingly hand over this information to intelligence agencies and police. This type of intelligence gathering would cost the state billions of dollars if they had to do it themselves. But now, they can have companies like Google do it for them (supported by ad revenue) for free.

Never before have governments had access to this kind of detailed behavioral/psychological profiles of the people and groups that they consider “threats”(and identifying who these threats are is also much easier, now that they can easily do things like sitting down at the computer and saying “Give me a list of all of the people in Seattle, WA who regularly read anarchist literature.”)

Governments sometimes use this information to arrest people and throw them in prison (or kill them). However in order to uphold the illusion of “democratic governance” they can only do this to the highest valued targets. What surveillance and data mining is most useful for is social control through misinformation, manipulation, distraction, and disruption. I am pointing this out because when I’m talking about email security with people, they often say things like “Well it’s not like I’m going to be stupid enough to talk about illegal activity over email!” … but that’s not the point. What is more important is that you are giving the state detailed information about your plans/strategies, your beliefs, your personal preferences, your fears, your friends, your family, your interests … and they can use this to more effectively neutralize our collective efforts at radical change through propaganda, manipulation and deception, without appearing to be as violently repressive.

Sure, FBI agents can infiltrate our groups, break into our homes and install monitoring hardware, follow us around, and disrupt our meetings. They can get information about us if they want to by a variety of means. But by using corporate email and social media and freely sharing our most intimate personal details with them over the Internet, organizing our political activities on Google Groups and Facebook Pages, we give them far more information and make it extremely cost effective for them to monitor and manipulate a much larger number of people. That is by using Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. we are making mass surveillance and political repression easier. We are enabling them when we should be working to make things as difficult for them as possible.

Free alternatives to corporate email

If you’re doing any type of social justice organizing, independent journalism, or anything else that might make you a target for government surveillance and repression there are several free, non-profit alternative email services that are run by organizations who respect user privacy and will not collaborate with intelligence/police agencies.

The Riseup Collective is an autonomous body based in Seattle with collective members world wide. Our purpose is to aid in the creation of a free society, a world with freedom from want and freedom of expression, a world without oppression or hierarchy, where power is shared equally. We do this by providing communication and computer resources to allies engaged in struggles against capitalism and other forms of oppression.
“The Riseup Collective is an autonomous body based in Seattle with collective members world wide. Our purpose is to aid in the creation of a free society, a world with freedom from want and freedom of expression, a world without oppression or hierarchy, where power is shared equally. We do this by providing communication and computer resources to allies engaged in struggles against capitalism and other forms of oppression.”

Personally I use Riseup.net but there are several other options including Resist.ca, Tao.ca, and Autistici/Inventati. Riseup.net is based out of Seattle, Washington, Autistici/Inventati is based out of Italy, and Resist.ca/Tao.ca are based out of Canada (but all of them provide free services to people anywhere in the world). All of these sites are anti-authoritarian communications collectives whose mission is to provide free, secure email, chat, VPN and other web services for people who are working towards radical social change.

These sites are completely funded by donations so if you use their services, and can spare a few dollars every now and then, you should donate some to keep them running. But neither of them require you to pay anything if you can’t afford to.

How to smoothly transition from your old corporate email to your new address

Using a free, open-source email program like Mozilla Thunderbird makes it easy to manage multiple email accounts, use PGP encryption, and store messages offline.
Using a free, open-source email program like Mozilla Thunderbird makes it easy to manage multiple email accounts, use PGP encryption, and store messages offline

Just like Gmail, Riseup.net and the other services mentioned above will let you access your email through your web browser. However, I’d highly recommend downloading a free, open-source email reader such as Mozilla Thunderbird (from the same folks who make the Firefox web browser). This will enable you to easily manage multiple email accounts from one place, without having to go from one website to another. There are other benefits to using a standalone email reader like Thunderbird: it will enable you to easily use PGP encryption for your emails, keep a calendar/task list,  let you download your emails and store them offline, and many other useful things.

As far as transitioning to your new email from the old one, another way that an email program will be helpful is that it will let you receive emails with one address (for instance, your old Gmail address) and then reply to that message with a different email than the one that received it. This is the easiest way to notify people about your new email address. Instead of having to send a mass email out to everyone you know saying you’ve switched over, you can just periodically check your Gmail account in your mail reader and then reply to all the messages there using your Riseup.net or Autistici account and let them know that “By the way, this is my new email address, please use it from now on” … after a few months of doing this, you will get hardly any emails at your old Gmail address.

…But don’t get lulled into a false sense of security!

Switching to a provider like Riseup.net addresses a specific security vulnerability – that of corporate email providers having access to your private communications. However, it by no means solves all of the problems with email/internet security. For instance, if you are not using PGP encryption, your emails are still being transmitted in cleartext and are readable by large telecoms and governments, who have large scale packet interception/analysis systems. And even if you are using PGP encryption, you are still not being protected from traffic analysis (i.e. the contents of your email might be unreadable, but they can still see who you are talking to and what the subject line of your emails are). Basically, you should always keep in mind that there is no such thing as perfect security, and that there is no simple technological solution that will make your communications totally secure. Understand what the benefits of switching to a secure email provider are, but don’t overestimate these benefits …

 

The FBI Can Break Encryption

(By Bill Blunden via Dissident Voice)

Slide showing how the NSA performs <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-in-the-middle_attack">man-in-the-middle attacks</a> on SSL/TLS encrypted web traffic  (Photograph: Guardian)
Leaked slide showing how the NSA performs man-in-the-middle attacks on SSL/TLS encrypted web traffic (click to enlarge)Photo credit: Guardian 

[…] recent history is chock full of instances where the FBI employed malware like Magic Lantern and CIPAV to foil encryption and identify people using encryption-based anonymity software like Tor. If it’s expedient, the FBI will go so far as to impersonate a media outlet to fool suspects into infecting their own machines. It would seem that crooks aren’t the only attackers who wield social engineering techniques.

In fact, the FBI has gotten so adept at hacking computers, utilizing what are referred to internally as Network Investigative Techniques, that the FBI wants to change the law to reflect this. The Guardian reports on how the FBI is asking the U.S. Advisory Committee on Rules and Criminal Procedure to move the legal goal posts, so to speak:

The amendment [proposed by the FBI] inserts a clause that would allow a judge to issue warrants to gain ‘remote access’ to computers ‘located within or outside that district’ (emphasis added) in cases in which the ‘district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means’. The expanded powers to stray across district boundaries would apply to any criminal investigation, not just to terrorist cases as at present.

In other words the FBI wants to be able to hack into a computer when its exact location is shrouded by anonymity software. Once they compromise the targeted machine it’s pretty straightforward to install a software implant (i.e. malware) and exfiltrate whatever user data they want, including encryption passwords.

If encryption is really the impediment that director Comey makes it out to be, then why is the FBI so keen to amend the rules in a manner which implies that they can sidestep it? In the parlance of poker this is a “tell.”

As a developer who has built malicious software designed to undermine security tools I can attest that there is a whole burgeoning industry which prays on naïve illusions of security. Companies like Hacking Team have found a lucrative niche offering products to the highest bidder that compromise security and… a drumroll please… defeat encryption.

There’s a moral to this story. Cryptome’s John Young prudently observes:

Protections of promises of encryption, proxy use, Tor-like anonymity and ‘military-grade’ comsec technology are magic acts — ELINT, SIGINT and COMINT always prevail over comsec. The most widely trusted and promoted systems are the most likely to be penetrated, exploited, spied upon, successfully attacked, covertly compromised with faults hidden by promoters, operators, competitors, compromisers and attackers all of whom warn against the others while mutually benefiting from continuous alarms about security and privacy.

When someone promises you turnkey anonymity and failsafe protection from spies, make like that guy on The Walking Dead and reach for your crossbow. Mass surveillance is a vivid expression of raw power and control. Hence what ails society is fundamentally a political problem, with economic and technical facets, such that safeguarding civil liberties on the Internet will take a lot more than just the right app.

Read full article here.

How the NSA installs backdoors in US-made Internet routers

For years, the US government loudly warned the world that Chinese routers and other internet devices pose a “threat” because they are built with backdoor surveillance functionality that gives the Chinese government the ability to spy on anyone using them. Yet what the NSA’s documents show is that Americans have been engaged in precisely the activity that the US accused the Chinese of doing. […]

A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.

The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some “SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!)”.

Eventually, the implanted device connects back to the NSA. The report continues: “In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure. This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.” […]

— Glenn Greenwald, “How the NSA tampers with US internet routers“. The Guardian

Compton Police Testing New Aerial Mass Surveillance System

live google earth crime comptonIn Compton last year, police began quietly testing a system that allowed them to do something incredible: Watch every car and person in real time as they ebbed and flowed around the city. Every assault, every purse snatched, every car speeding away was on record—all thanks to an Ohio company that monitors cities from the air.

The Center for Investigative Reporting takes a look at a number of emerging surveillance technologies in a new video, but one in particular stands out: A wide-area surveillance system invented by Ross McNutt, a retired Air Force veteran who owns a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems.

McNutt describes his product as “a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities,” which is intriguing but vague (and also sounds a lot like the plot of this terrible Denzel movie). More specifically, PSS outfits planes with an array of super high-resolution cameras that allow a pilot to record a 25-square-mile patch of Earth constantly—for up to six hours.

It’s sort of similar to what your average satellite can do—except, in this case, you can rewind the video, zoom in, and follow specific people and cars as they move around the grid. It’s not specific enough to ID people by face, but, when used in unison with stoplight cameras and other on-the-ground video sources, it can identify suspects as they leave the scene of a crime. […]
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Read full article at: http://gizmodo.com/police-are-testing-a-live-google-earth-to-watch-crime-1563010340