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Other Night(s) as a P.I.

(Believe me, not nearly as exciting as it sounds!)

People not in ‘the business’ often get their ideas of private investigation from movies and television.

“I’m a P.I.”

“OH! Like MAGNUM!”

Oft times, it’s more like “Oh, like a bean counter-security guard!”

Case in point.  I’m working out of a P.I. agency cum polygraph business.  The owner is a retired Phoenix Police detective.  My boss is Bob Hall (later of gun store fame).  And Bob and I have done surveillance, security, security surveys, records checks, photography, interviews, taken statements, served legal papers, located missing persons, found hidden assets – all manner of private investigation related duties.

Then there was the tank farm.

Out on the South Central part of West Phoenix lies a tank farm.  (51st Ave/Van Buren) Wherein pipelines of gasoline and related products arrive to the Valley for distribution to local gas stations.

chevron_tank_farm_water_quality_201311_10_web-1

Once a rural edge of town, it’s now more centrally located.

Fortunately for us, whose office is just by the State Police offices at 23rd Av. and Grand. (in 1986).

It seems a rural gasoline hauler has been filling up at the tank farm, and their numbers don’t match with the fuel taken.  Hmmm.

SO, we as P.I.’s (keep thinking Magnum) get to monitor all fill-ups of these fuel trucks at the farm, compare the receipts with the pump readings, and note any discrepancies!  Whenever these guy arrive to fill up.  4 PM, Midnight, 4 AM.  Whenever.  They call when they are about 45 minutes out…

And I think they had eight trucks.

Which kept three or four private investigators busy…

Woo-Hoo!

Over a period of like two months.  Any day or night.

True, for the company, there was mileage + hourly for multiple investigators.

But, for the investigators, it was insanely boring, and tiresome.  And much comp time was taken for driving from home to the tank farm, watching and monitoring some yahoo fill his tanker truck for 20 minutes, and driving home.

Three hours? Starting @ 0200.

Well, we were young and foolish.  And hungry for money.

I’m not young, anymore.

Just In Time For Christmas!

(from my friend Borepatch)

Dangerous toys NOT to get for Christmas

I strongly recommend that you do NOT buy the My Friend Cayla doll, the i-Que robot, or the Barbie Hello Dream House as gifts due to a grotesquely dangerous security flaw in the toy’s design.
I often rant about poor security in products and how “security wasn’t an afterthought, it wasn’t thought of at all.”  Mostly it’s about something that is unlikely to effect most of all y’all.  This time is different – here are some toys that can endanger children, and I STRONGLY recommend that you do NOT buy these as gifts this holiday season.

My Friend Cayla is a doll with embedded voice recognition technology similar to Apple’s Siri, that can interact with children.  It not only listens to what the child says but can respond appropriately.

While it’s somewhat concerning that the doll “phones home” over the Internet for the voice recognition to work, the issue isn’t that it’s listening in on your kid.  Mind you, I find this more than a little creepy, but I remember when there were only 3 TV channels.

The danger is that the doll is Bluetooth enabled, and the Bluetooth is completely unprotected.  What this means is that anyone within Bluetooth range (which at 100 yards is actually further than many think) can connect to the doll and start talking to your child as she plays.

Let me say that again – Joe Shmoe in the park across from your house can connect to your little Princess’ doll and have a chat.There’s a video of this, although they’re wrong to call it a “hack”.  It’s simply use of the functionality as it was designed.

Also using the exact same technology with exactly the same flaw is the i-Que robot: this isn’t just a threat to little girls.

Unconfirmed reports also include the Barbie Hello Dream House.  I don’t know whether this is vulnerable to remote Bluetooth access, and it’s almost certain that nothing definitive will be published on this before the holidays.  Given that I recommend that you don’t buy this, either.

This seems to me to be bordering on criminal negligence by the companies involved (certainly My Friend Cayla and i-Que; possibly Mattel).  The idea that a child’s toy could be released that would allow someone to remotely talk with your child his his or her own bedroom is mind bogglingly stupid.

To reiterate, I strongly recommend that you do NOT buy the My Friend Cayla doll, the i-Que robot, or the Barbie Hello Dream House as gifts due to a grotesquely dangerous security flaw in the toy’s design.

Anyone remember “My name is Talky Tina” from Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone?  These toys take that to a whole new level.

Frightening.

Is Federalism EVIL?

I suppose that all depends on how it’s imposed…

(from Brock Townsend)

Why Yankees Won’t (And Can’t) Leave the South Alone

 yankee

This essay was first published in Southern Partisan in the Winter, 1985.

Southerners rarely while away their leisure hours by contemplating Yankees, for there is no point in thinking of unpleasant things if one is not obliged to do so. Yet the practice does have value; to some extent, at least, we are defined by those attributes which set us apart from others, and sometimes we can be made aware of such attributes only by observing people who do not share them. Another virtue of thinking about Yankees, in the long run perhaps a more important one, is that it serves to remind us that they have repeatedly tried to make us over in their own image. Indeed, though it may seem that they have been off our backs since the demise of the civil rights movement, their latest campaign to reform us is actually well under way.

What is there about us that has made us so offensive to them? Or, conversely, what is there about them that has compelled them to meddle in our affairs? The late great Richard M. Weaver, in The Southern Tradition at Bay, addressed himself to analyzing the qualities that distinguish the South from North, and for the nineteenth century he was perfectly on target. “The North had Tom Paine and his postulates assuming the virtuous inclinations of man,” Weaver wrote; “the South had Burke and his doctrine of human fallibility and of the organic nature of society.” The North embraced rationalism and egalitarianism; the South had a “deep suspicion of all theory, perhaps of intellect,” and clung to a hierarchical and deferential social order. The North bowed down before science and material progress; the South “persisted in regarding science as a false messiah,” and remained into “our own time” (the 1940s) “the last non-materialist civilization in the Western World.”

Growing up in public schools in the Southwest, we were taught it was The Civil War (in lieu of The War Between the States, or that recent unpleasantness).  And that Lincoln was a hero by preserving the Union.
Simplistic, I know.
Now the Republic seems more divided than ever, and there have been rumblings (on the Internet) of secessionist movements in Idaho, Texas, Montana, California and Alaska.
Even if President-elect Trump had quoted Gerald Ford and said ‘our long national nightmare is over’, that wouldn’t necessarily make it so.
And it does appear as though Southerners DO think differently than Yankees. (A Southerner now not being necessarily geographically defined.)
And the Federal government by it’s very nature seems to want more power and control.
Between land take-overs, false imprisonments, warrantless searches, courts of Star Chamber, and not taking a firm hand to persons who break the law, and illegal alien and drug smuggling, there is potential for this not to end well.
Just look at the diverse mindsets of progressives, conservatives and libertarians on Facebook!
We are as divergent as the South and the North 151 years ag0 – coupled with Internet technology and communication.  And statist millionaires fueling the fire with billions!
I fear for the Republic.

Social Media Is NOT Your Friend!

fedbook-spying-social-mediaPrivacy mavens have been going on for some time regarding the complete lack of privacy on the Internet.  Coupled with private industry and public intelligence, license plate readers and facial recognition software, the NSA listening to our cellular telephone calls and reading our email, and cameras everywhere, from about 2002, lets face it…

We’re hosed. 

Now, another factor has entered the arena.

(from Peter)

“Militarizing” social media?

According to Motherboard, it’s a real threat.

A global conference of senior military and intelligence officials taking place in London this week reveals how governments increasingly view social media as “a new front in warfare” and a tool for the Armed Forces.

The overriding theme of the event is the need to exploit social media as a source of intelligence on civilian populations and enemies; as well as a propaganda medium to influence public opinion.

. . .

The event, the Sixth Annual Conference on Social Media Within the Defence and Military Sector, is sponsored by the Thales Group, the tenth largest defense company in the world, which is partially owned by the French government.

Participants in the conference—chaired by Steven Mehringer, Head of Communication Services at NATO—will include military and intelligence leaders from around the world, especially “social media experts from across the armed forces and defense industry.”

. . .

“Social Media is increasingly important to the portrayal of armed forces, at home and abroad on operations; raising awareness of institutional issues; and gaining support through successful recruitment campaigns,” said conference Chairman, NATO’s Steven Mehringer, in an invitation brochure for the event.

The military’s goal of using social media to influence the beliefs of populations to win wars is alluded to in the description of other panels. A proposed panel titled ‘NATO’s Digital Outreach: Creating a Global Conversation’, describes NATO’s aim of “cultivating a global audience through social media to support The Alliance.”

Another panel discussion makes direct reference to the role of social media in covert US military ‘psychological warfare’ operations—i.e. propaganda—as well as the use of social media to support mass surveillance.

There’s more at the link.

At first I assumed that the conference was about nothing more or less than the usual propaganda exercises employed by all sides in any conflict.  However, reading between the lines, it appears that they’re talking about more active – and more covert – interventions, such as ‘sock-puppeting‘ comments on or reactions to articles, blog posts, etc. that they don’t like.  In other words, they wouldn’t act openly, or say that this is the view of a particular party;  so one wouldn’t be able to exercise informed judgment on what they have to say.

I know some of the more totalitarian governments have been doing this for decades.  (The so-calledGreat Firewall of Chinais a good example, and it’s now morphing into acitizen scorefor every person, upon which will depend their ability to get good jobs, get loans, or even eat well.)  If Western nations are now starting to venture into the same territory, we’ll have to be on our guard.

To coin a phrase: Big Brother is not your friend.

A New Mobile App!

For that nazi/narc in you!

From Alan Korwin:

ATF Launches Anonymous Tip App
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has launched a new mobile app that enables the anonymous reporting of information regarding crimes or that could be used to help prevent the commission of crimes. With the reportit app, available through the App Store or on Google play, citizens can submit a tip and attach a photo or video. The information is forwarded to ATF in real time, but should not be used to report a crime that is currently in process. Submitters will have the option to provide personal information, but it is not required. (emphasis added).

The Uninvited Ombudsman notes however that:

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Is it possible this app doesn’t already know who you are if you use it? Especially considering who designed it?

Top-notch expert: Oh I’m sure it does.
Second top-notch expert: Recommend you route any tips through Hillary’s personal email server to be safe.
Third: Doesn’t everyone know the system has to identify both ends of the address to deliver the message?
Names withheld but it doesn’t matter anymore. (end)

I remember back-in-the-day, when our State police agency had a toll-free number one could use to report vehicles with out-of-State license plates (as legal residency requires in-State licensure) TRANSLATION:  Revenue

And I thought THIS was beyond the pale!

If you see something, say something! – a current administration motto

For me, it’s a matter of degree.  Narking on your neighbors because they are behaving suspiciously (whatever THAT means?), hmmm…

Narking on the guy driving the wrong direction, erratically (which I have done)? Of course!

Being the eyes and ears of the State?  Degree, my friends.

The times, they are a changin’

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Private Investigating

I’ve not been a private investigator since 1986.  I’ve not been a credit card fraud investigator since 2009.  But I’ve been some-kind of investigator (private security, process server) most of my adult life.

It’s in my blood.

As such, I’ve tried to keep up with the latest regarding what records are available, what has been limited (due to privacy concerns) and the like.

And, of course, the overall erosion of privacy since Al Gore invented the Internet!  And the government passed The Patriot Act, NDAA, et al.

My dear friend Biff (previously lauded in song and story in these pages – well story, anyway) recently met me for coffee, and, as he oft wants to do, presented me with a gift!

I like gifts!  🙂

As he peruses used bookstores (in search of first editions and signed editions) he sometimes finds books his friends might appreciate.

And he found THIS!

pi-book

It was obviously used and in fair condition.  He was curious what I thought of it and it’s value to today’s sleuth.

It took me a few days to read it.  I had to keep reminding myself this was geared for the neophyte.  Hence the clever title…

Overall it’s a pretty good book.  The author claims to be a retired FBI agent who now has his own P.I. agency in Florida. (The Internet does confirm this.)  It’s fairly well organized and has both current and historic information regarding how to find stuff and to keep out of jail in so doing.  It even has material regarding sources on the Internet, and electronic surveillance.

My copy is the second edition.  An Amazon search revealed there is now a third.

It now holds a place of honor on my bookshelf, adjacent to Where’s What (the CIA book regarding where to find records, circa 1974).

Yeah, I’m a snoop at heart…

(FTC – neither Amazon, nor this book’s author gave me anything!  Biff did, but he’s my friend!  BACK OFF!)

T.M.I.

Much of the Internet Vanguard (Borepatch, The Silicon Graybeard et al) have chided us for years regarding not just the intrusion of government and business into lives, but our voluntarily providing too much information to them – like posting when you are leaving for vacation on Facebook.

Well, my friends, Internet intrusion has indeed jumped the shark! (or perhaps a more adult euphemism!)

(from Wirecutter, in part)

A woman is suing her (appliance name excised for taste) manufacturer for knowing too much about when and how she uses it.

A few weeks ago, two researchers told the Defcon hacking convention audience that We Vibe “smart” sex toys send a lot of data about their users back to the company that makes them. According to Courthouse News, one We Viber took this news hard. A woman known only as “N.P.” filed a class action civil suit in a federal court in Illinois against Standard Innovation, which makes the We Vibe line of sex toys and corresponding app.

The smartphone app lets users “customize” their We Vibe experience, unlock app-only “bonus” vibration modes such as the “cha-cha-cha” and the “crest,” and “create unlimited custom playlists,” according to the product’s website. In the suit, N.P. says she bought a We Vibe in May and used it “several times” until she realized that it was sending data about her usage practices back to Standard Innovation’s servers, including when she used it, which vibration settings she used, and her email address.
MORE

And here I was concerned about license plate readers, facial identity programs and grocery store purchase trackers!

YIKES!

She obviously thought she was the master of her domain*, anonymously…

*a Seinfeld reference

Hey! Rights Ain’t Dead, Yet!

This, courtesy of Wirecutter

For the first time, a federal judge has suppressed evidence obtained without a warrant by U.S. law enforcement using a stingray, a surveillance device that can trick suspects’ cell phones into revealing their locations.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Tuesday ruled that defendant Raymond Lambis’ rights were violated when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used such a device without a warrant to find his Washington Heights apartment.

The DEA had used a stingray to identify Lambis’ apartment as the most likely location of a cell phone identified during a drug-trafficking probe. Pauley said doing so constituted an unreasonable search.
MORE

stingray

If you are keeping score, that’s the anti-constitutional Statist bastards – 356

Liberty and Freedom – 3

 

National “Security” (In Air Quotes)

© Office of the Inspector General

© Office of the Inspector General

Senator Wyden Puts A Hold On Intelligence Authorization Bill To Block FBI Warrantless Surveillance

from the there-goes-that-wyden-guy-again dept

As we’ve discussed, some surveillance/law enforcement hawks have tried to rush through a law to expand the power of national security letters (NSLs) to paper over the long standing abuse of NSLs, by saying that they can use those documents (which have basically no oversight and don’t require a warrant) to collect a ton of private info, including email info and web browsing histories. The rushed vote on this — stupidly citing the Orlando attacks, despite the fact it would have done nothing to stop that — failed but just barely. Basically, if Senator Dianne Feinstein were able to attend the vote, it likely would have passed. The support for it was one vote shy, and then Sen. Mitch McConnell changed his vote for procedural reasons to be able to bring it back for a quick follow up vote.

Now, as Congress rushes towards that vote, Senator Ron Wyden stepped up today to use his power as a Senator to put a hold on the entire Intelligence Authorization bill. He gave a short floor speech explaining his reasons.

I certainly appreciate the FBI’s interest in obtaining records about potential suspects quickly. But Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are very capable of reviewing and approving requests for court orders in a timely fashion. And section 102 of the recently-passed USA FREEDOM Act gives the FBI new authority to obtain records immediately in emergency situations, and then seek court review after the fact. I strongly supported the passage of that provision, which I first proposed in 2013. By contrast, I do not believe it is appropriate to give the government broad new surveillance authorities just because FBI officials do not like doing paperwork. If the FBI’s own process for requesting court orders is too slow, then the appropriate solution is bureaucratic reforms, not a major expansion of government surveillance authorities.

The fact of the matter is that ‘electronic communication transaction records’ can reveal a great deal of personal information about individual Americans. If government officials know that an individual routinely emails a mental health professional, or sends texts to a substance abuse support group, or visits a particular dating website, or the website of a particular political group, then the government knows a lot about that individual. Our Founding Fathers rightly argued that such intrusive searches should be approved by independent judges.

It is worth noting that President George W. Bush’s administration reached the same conclusion. In November 2008, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel advised the FBI that National Security Letters could only be used to obtain certain types of records, and this list did not include electronic communication transaction records. The FBI has unfortunately not adhered to this guidance, and has at times continued to issue National Security Letters for electronic communications records. A number of companies that have received these overly broad National Security Letters have rightly challenged them as improper. Broadening the National Security Letter law to include electronic communication transaction records would be a significant expansion of the FBI’s statutory authority.

And unfortunately, the FBI’s track record with its existing National Security Letter authorities includes a substantial amount of abuse and misuse. These problems have been extensively documented in reports by the Justice Department Inspector General from 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2014. As one of these reports noted, “the FBI [has] used NSLs in violation of applicable statutes, Attorney General guidelines, and internal FBI policies.” No one in the Senate should be surprised by this pattern of abuse and misuse, because this is unfortunately what happens when federal agencies are given broad surveillance powers with no judicial oversight. In my judgment, it would be reckless to expand this particular surveillance authority when the FBI has so frequently failed to use its existing authorities responsibly.

Of course, to some extent, this is little more than show. It’s pretty clear that McConnell has the votes to get this passed, which is why Wyden has now taken the dramatic step of putting a hold on the bill. But the 60 votes here are usually what is necessary to break a hold (which remains a widely used, but informal, Senate rule). So in the end this won’t mean much, but we’ve been here before again and again and again. And by now it should be clear: When Ron Wyden says that the government is abusing laws to spy on Americans, he’s not lying. We shouldn’t then paper over that abuse and give the FBI or the NSA or anyone else greater powers to spy on Americans. Because they use that power and they don’t tend to use it wisely and judiciously.

Can anyone explain, seriously, why the emergency powers that allow the FBI to do the search in an emergency and then get the warrant after are somehow too problematic? Or why the FBI can’t go and get a warrant at all? It’s a petty quick process for them these days. This whole effort seems designed solely to wipe out what little oversight there is of the FBI and its use of national security letters.  (Techdirt.com)

AND, how much coverage of this was out there in the “press” (again, in air quotes)?
More importantly, why doesn’t the American Public care?

Is This The Beginning Of The End?

I’m speaking of this Republic.

With Rome, it was either when the Ottoman Turks took Byzantium (Constantinople) 1453 AD or when a barbarian deposed the last western Roman emperor 476 AD (ancient history About.com)

My Western Civilization professor said it began with (and I’m quoting here) “Moral decadence and pleasures of the flesh!” (to the cheers of the 400 or so horny underclassmen)

What is/was the beginning of the end of this Constitutional Republic we know as The United States?

The Whiskey Rebellion? (1791)

The Civil War? (1861)

Federal income tax (1913)

Direct election of Senators?  (1913)

Establishment of the Federal Reserve?  (1913)

The National Firearms Act (1934)

Or is it an amalgamation of these and many other things, eating away at our Constitutional substance, punctuated by further federal government oversteps such as Ruby Ridge and Waco?  No-knock warrants, followed by airport searches and sobriety checkpoints.  Massive surveillance of our electronic communications.  Prohibitions of Speech seen as ‘politically-incorrect’.  The killing of Blacks by police – whether or not legitimate actions – spun by self-serving propagandists into an ersatz race war?

Now followed by widespread racial civil unrest, punctuated by acts of terrorism against civil authority.

I’m certain all ‘civilizations’, be they primitive neolithic cultures like the American Indian when the White man first laid eyes on him, or the Romans, or the Christian Turks all thought they would endure forever.

And so have most of we Americans.

I guess the true question isn’t what was the tipping point.

It’s what do we do NOW?

dark ages

from a miniseries The Dark Ages

"Round up the usual suspects."

In Loving Memory…