IRS Officials are Really Good at Protecting their Own Privacy

Snooping by government officials is generally seen as a bad thing. Whether it is the NSA, CIA, FBI, or IRS, nobody wants others to learn about their private activities. But how about the Feds themselves? Shouldn’t they have the same levels of exposure or privacy as other citizens? Apparently not, according to some IRS employees who think they should have more privacy than do other citizens.

The desire for “special privacy” protection is so ludicrous that Department of Justice lawyers defending the IRS in a legal case have been lectured by more than one judge for their dilatory tactics and unprofessional behavior, which has repeatedly prevented evidence in the case from being produced in a timely fashion. What reason do they offer for delaying the case? The lawyers argued that it would be “unduly burdensome” to find and provide this information.

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Senator Reveals FBI paid $900,000 to Hack the San Bernardino iPhone and Received Nothing in Return

During last week’s questioning of FBI Director James Comey, California Senator Dianne Feinstein inadvertently revealed the amount the agency paid to hack into a terrorist’s iPhone, the Associated Press reports at The money was paid to break into the locked iPhone of a gunman in the San Bernardino, California, shootings. In return, the FBI received … nothing.

Even though the company the FBI hired was able to break into the phone and read its contents, nothing incriminating was found.

Details are available at

I wrote about the attempt to break into the iPhone several times last year. See my previous articles by starting at:

‘You Betrayed Us’ Billboards Targeting Anti-Privacy Lawmakers Erected

An article by Nadia Prupis in the MintPress News states:

“Billboards targeting legislators who voted to end online privacy measures earlier this year have gone up in key districts, as promised by activists.

“Digital rights group Fight for the Future vowed to put up the ads against Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), as well as other lawmakers after they voted in favor of a resolution, introduced by Flake, that overturned federal rules preventing broadband providers from selling user data to third parties without consent.

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UK’s Proposed new Investigatory Powers Act Hopes to Make It Easier to Spy on UK Residents and Others, But Will It?

More details of how the UK’s new surveillance law will operate have been revealed. The details concerning the use of encryption seem especially silly, possibly written by the staff writers of Monty Python.

Under draft regulations to support the new Investigatory Powers Act, the government will be able to issue ‘technical capability notices’ to companies with more than 10,000 UK users to make it easier for police, spy agencies, Inland Revenue employees, and other government bodies to access UK residents’ private communications.

In particular, the regulations require companies to provide and maintain “the capability to disclose, where practicable, the content of communications or secondary data in an intelligible form and to remove electronic protection applied by or on behalf of the telecommunications operator to the communications or data, or to permit the person to whom the warrant is addressed to remove such electronic protection.”

In other words, the proposed law wants an unlocked “back door” into all forms of encryption in order to read what is going on. Security experts all agree that any such “back door” that is available to government employees will also become available to hackers, credit card thieves, and foreign governments within a matter of months, if not within weeks. It is similar to leaving a key to your house door under the doormat.

Unlocked “back doors” will not remain secret very long.

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NSA Illegally Collected Americans’ Phone Records Despite Law Change

The U.S. National Security Agency collected more than 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls last year, even after Congress limited its ability to collect bulk phone records, according to an annual report issued on Tuesday by the top U.S. intelligence officer. The report from the office of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was the first measure of the effects of the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which limited the NSA to collecting phone records and contacts of people U.S. and allied intelligence agencies suspect may have ties to terrorism. It found that the NSA collected the 151 million records even though it had warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to spy on only 42 terrorism suspects in 2016, in addition to a handful identified the previous year.

Details may be found in an article by Mark Hosenball in the Reuters News Agency at:

Senate Republicans Introduce Anti-Net Neutrality Legislation

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill Monday to nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. Lee stated, “Few areas of our economy have been as dynamic and innovative as the internet. But now this engine of growth is threatened by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which would put federal bureaucrats in charge of engineering the Internet’s infrastructure.”

Senator Lee’s bill is a thinly disguised attempt to abolish the the 2015 net neutrality rules that are favored by almost everyone except bureaucrats and internet service providers. It would roll back the current legal requirements that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.

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CIA Develops a Tool to Track Whistleblowers

Shoot the messenger!

WikiLeaks has just dropped a user manual describing a CIA project known as “Scribbles” (a.k.a. the “Snowden Stopper”), a piece of software purportedly designed to allow the embedding of “web beacon” tags into documents “likely to be stolen.” The web beacon tags are apparently able to collect information about an end user of a document and relay that information back to the beacon’s creator without being detected.

The “Scribbles” user guide notes there is just one small problem with the program: it only works with Microsoft Office products. So, if end users use other programs such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice then the CIA’s watermarks become visible to the end user and their cover is blown.

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