The FBI and (Another) Dirty Little Secret

The Federal Bureau of Investigation calls itself an “intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization.” In all its self-praising, it fails to mention the unconstitutional and even illegal acts that it is currently involved in—such as paying Best Buy employees working on the Geek Squad to dig through customers’ computers looking for things they can investigate.

In one recent case, a prominent physician and surgeon in Orange County took his computer to the local Best Buy and had one of the Geek Squad folks look at it since he was unable to boot it up. What the doctor didn’t know—what no one knew—was that “the company’s repair technicians routinely searched customers’ devices for files that could earn them $500 windfalls as FBI informants.”

The technician reported to his boss that he “accidentally” found child porn on the doctor’s computer. His boss was another informant, and he told both a third informant and the FBI, who seized the hard drive.

At this point, the average reader probably thinks that the nasty pervert got what he deserved and that the employees were ethically bound—if not legally so—to report finding such material on a customer’s computer. The truth, however, is not that simple. The FBI had already broken the law by using the Geek Squad technicians to perform what amount to illegal, warrantless searches of a private individual’s computer, over and above the scope of the repair work that the customer requested. The FBI was also offering monetary incentives to any of the employees who chose to dig around in customer files and found something the FBI would be interested in investigating.
To bring a case against the doctor, the FBI needed to find a way to reconstruct ‘finding’ the evidence to cover up their illegal search. The defense said agents “conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records.” Making the case even murkier was the fact that the images resided in a part of the hard drive that made it quite possible that the doctor did not even know they were there—hidden in unallocated space, possibly placed there by malware, and only accessible by forensic software.

The most important part of this story is not that a doctor may or may not have knowingly had child porn on his computer. It’s not even that Best Buy employees were overly nosy at best and planted filth on customer’s computers to get paid at worst. The problem is greater than that—and speaks to a dangerous culture within law enforcement agencies, who seem to grow ever more creative at finding ways to avoid adhering to the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment. The issue is that they are not just conducting illegal searches of private files, but that they are paying employees of private companies to do it for them—and in doing so, they are encouraging citizens to spy on and report each other to the government for money.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that pedophiles and other predators against children serve as examples of situations where they claim illegal searches worked. The cases are held up as positive examples of law enforcement at work. It’s a very calculated effort to normalize the surveillance state and ensure that the public sees the violations as not just a good thing, but a necessary thing to keep our children safe. Those who prey on children are the lowest of the low even among fellow criminals; certainly, as the argument goes, no law-abiding American would stand in the way of law enforcement doing whatever is necessary to get them off the streets. Faced with the logical fallacy of ‘support law enforcement or support pedophiles,’ the public focuses on the result—never realizing that in doing so, they have tightened the noose around their own necks.

Sadly, the idea of government agencies and law enforcement paying employees at various businesses to spy on their customers is not a new one. Last July, a San Bernardino UPS employee was performing illegal searches on packages at the behest—and on the payroll—of the county sheriff’s department. The Postal Service is also scanning all mail and making that data available to any federal law enforcement agency that wants it, without a warrant ( a post-9/11 addition). The Drug Enforcement Agency even got caught by the Inspector General paying agents from the Transportation Security Administration to notify them if anyone was traveling with large sums of money—in return, they would get a cut of what they seized.

There is no proof that the doctor ever viewed the images on his computer, or even knew they were there; even the government had to stipulate that they could not prove the charges. There is, however, plenty of proof that federal law enforcement agencies are willing to do anything, including violate the Constitution and break the law, even if their target might be innocent. That isn’t something that Best Buy customers—or anyone else in America—should allow.

ATF on the Chopping Block Again, So Brace for Waco 2

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has introduced legislation to abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Gun-running, Explosives, and Childkilling, also known as ATF or BATFE. According to his proposal, he thinks the ATF’s ‘duties’ (I use the term loosely) could be absorbed by the FBI and DEA. If the bill passes, then the ATF has six months to come up with a plan for how it’ll dissolve.

While a lot of folks are cheering because Drain The Swamp and Take Our Country Back and all of that stuff, they’re missing a whole other layer to this situation.

Remember last time the ATF was up for dissolution? That was in 1993. When Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) proposed back then that ATF needed to be dissolved, the agency scrambled to find a way to justify its own existence. Surely, if they had a big bust, a big save, the government would see how very important and necessary they were. But who could they arrest? What could they do to prove they needed to stick around?

They decided to go after a guy in Texas, named Vernon Howell–known to his church as David Koresh. The rest, as they say, is history; a bloody, horrifying, charred and craven piece of history that proved only the depravity of the ATF and the greater federal government.

Why does this matter now? Because depravity doesn’t lessen over time. The government has more capability now, more reasons for self-preservation, and those who would stand against them are awakening as well. The battlespace is the same in some ways and yet very different in others.

In short, if you think the ATF will go quietly into the good night, you are sorely mistaken, and history shows that they are willing to do anything–even knowingly and with malice gas and blow up children–to ensure their place at the table.

What does that mean for us? Take a look around. In the state of Washington alone, two major gun bills are on the table that would result in crippling blows to firearm rights. Oregon is in the same position, as a gun-hungry governor has made it her mission to disarm the populace. In both states, there are a large number of armed and defiant patriots. Do that math.

Now add in the informant variable. We already know that the government is willing to pay nearly any price and wait any length of time to infiltrate, facilitate and even coerce people into doing ‘illegal’ things. Look at Kenneth Fadeley and Randy Weaver. How many months and even years in he spend pushing Weaver to saw off some shotguns for him? How many lies were told? How much (taxpayer) money was spent? In case you think that was a long time ago and that doesn’t happen anymore, go read about Bill Keebler’s case. The feds put three undercover guys on one, for 18 months. Think about that. Three.  Keebler got tag-teamed, for a year and a half. Was he playing stupid games? Yes. Did the agents create the game, or did it occur organically? No way to know now, is there?

Look at the Malheur refuge. Now, anyone who knows me knows that while I supported a stand on behalf of the Hammonds, I didn’t support the moronic, ill-prepared, wholly-infiltrated ruckus that went on at Malheur. That’s a whole other issue, not for this article. But let’s take a moment to think about the total manpower, money, and time that the ATF, FBI, and other agencies put into just the informants and undercover agents. Now think about how far they’ve gone to protect the names of those informants and undercover agents. Why do you think that is? Here’s a hint–it’s not because those folks are retiring to a remote piece of Arizona.

Now let’s put it all together.

You’ve got a scandal-ridden agency with a proven history of both depraved indifference to human life and overt, premeditated targeting of children (and then a coverup on top of it, characterized by two decades of lies and more depravity to ensure the story stays buried), and this agency is threatened with extinction. They’ve already proven that they will do anything, kill anyone, and lie as much as they have to in order to justify their own existence. That’s one side of the equation.

On the other side, you have a bunch of folks who, let’s face it, run the gamut between fairly well-meaning but poorly trained, and mouth-breathing morons who either want a confrontation, or are too stupid to avoid one. Within that side are a host of folks who also can’t tell a federal informant if she’s cooking them breakfast—literally.  You’ve got the ego-driven, the ‘Meal Team Sixers,’ the liars and posers and everyone else. That’s pretty much the other side.

Between those two sides are a group of people who are forced to spend a fair amount of their time either talking to people about how to not be stupid, or standing outside yet another event that got stupid because of stupid people, or trying to not get pegged as one of the many stupid people. These folks are training. They’re building local communities. They’re reading books and learning new skills and teaching others the skills they already have. They’re not looking to take over the next landmark or start the next national ruckus. They’re too busy learning, training, and working.

Imagine that situation now, if you will. Depraved federal agency and morons, with the solid folks in the middle trying to keep things from getting out of control. You can argue that this isn’t how it is, but you’d be wrong.

Now imagine that the depraved agency is cornered and faced with extinction. It’s like a rat in a trap, and it’s looking for someone—anyone—it can use to save itself.

What do you think is going to happen here?

One of the the things that Mike Vanderboegh used to say is “No more free Wacos.” In 2017, it’s quite possible that we will all be faced with the question, “or what?