Thursday, November 7, 2013

Oops! Did We Make a Boo Boo?

Trey Smith

The FBI monitored a prominent anti-war website for years, in part because agents mistakenly believed it had threatened to hack the bureau’s own site.

Internal documents show that the FBI’s monitoring of, a news and commentary website critical of US foreign policy, was sparked in significant measure by a judgment that it had threatened to “hack the FBI website” and involved a formal assessment of the “threat” the site posed to US national security.

But never threatened to hack the FBI website. Heavily redacted FBI documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the Guardian, show that Eric Garris, the site’s managing editor, passed along to the bureau a threat he received against his own website.

Months later, the bureau characterized as a potential perpetrator of a cyberattack against the bureau’s website – a rudimentary error that persisted for years in an FBI file on the website. The mistake appears to have been a pillar of the FBI’s reasoning for monitoring a site that is protected by the first amendment’s free-speech guarantees.
~ from FBI Monitored Anti-War Website in Error For Six Years, Documents Show by Spencer Ackerman ~
Look, we all make mistakes. Some are silly and inconsequential ones. Others are glaring and far-reaching. The surveillance of -- a site I visit frequently -- falls into the latter category. What's worse, due to all the secrecy surrounding the function of the NSA, CIA and FBI, it is next too impossible to complain about surveillance [by error] when you can't even be sure it is taking place!

We've seen this same kind of problem with some people placed on the No-Fly list. Over the last decade, I've read several accounts by rather innocuous individuals who have been barred from flying domestically or internationally because their name (or something close to it) showed up on the no-no list. When they try to find out WHY they are on the list, nobody can or will tell them. When they try to get their name removed from the list, they hit a brick wall. They are told that there is a good reason their name appears on the list, but "we can't tell you why that is!" If a person is not allowed to know why, it makes it damn hard to prove it is some kind of error.

In this case, however, the documents obtained by the Guardian clearly show a glaring error and it is one that NOBODY in the FBI caught for over 6 years! This kind of revelation does not instill the citizenry with much confidence in the FBI. How could that many trained professionals miss something so obvious for so long?

Of course, there IS another explanation. It wasn't an unknowing error. Maybe the FBI was looking for a justifiable reason to surveil a known anti-war website and, finding none, conjured up this "error" as their ticket in. Later, if the "error" saw the day of light, the FBI could merely say, "Oh, our bad.  Sorry."

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