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Technology

Administering a polygraph examination

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Ethan Collins had it all figured out. Like a lot of far-right extremists, he fantasized a lot about committing various acts of terrorism—bringing down the power grid, bombing police stations, that sort of thing—and thought about ways to make them happen. The Colorado man decided his best shot was to try to infiltrate a federal law enforcement agency and pull off his crimes from within its ranks.

Fortunately, Collins is a terrible liar. In order to join that unnamed federal agency, he had to take a polygraph test. He failed it. Three times. And his answers to agents the third time around became grounds for a search warrant that produced a store of illegal silencers Collins says he made himself. He's now under arrest.

Collins' story was revealed this week in a Daily Beast article by Pilar Melendez and Seamus Hughes. He is currently being transported to Colorado to face multiple weapons charges—all of them related to the silencers. Investigators reportedly also found a substantial cache of legal weapons in his home, including a high-powered sniper-type rifle and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

According to the affidavit filed by the FBI this week, Collins—who makes his living as a pilot—had applied to the federal agency in May 2020 for work, and was required to take a polygraph exam. Collins failed three times—likely because of his reactions during the portion of questions devoted to terrorism, because after the third blown exam, on Jan. 11, the polygraph examiner questioned him further about his responses to those portions of the exam.

His answers were hair-raising. Among the many things the Collins confessed:

  • He had carefully plotted out an attack on the Colorado energy grid that would leave the Denver metropolitan area without power for an extended period. He thought the best time to carry out such an attack was in the winter.
  • His plan would have entailed recruiting over 70 people to participate in the scheme, carefully coordinated by him but with minimal contact with each other.
  • The high numbers of recruits eventually sidelined his plan, because he realized he lacked the manpower to pull it off.
  • Among his other potential targets for attack were the Federal Reserve—which he blamed for his economic woes—and Data Centers for the state of Colorado, as well as local police stations.
  • He approved vigorously of the plot by 14 Michigan militiamen to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer that was disrupted last fall by the FBI. Collins told the examiner that "those plotting to kidnap the Governor would be justified in doing so if they arrested her and put her on trial for violating their rights as American citizens."

"Collins considers himself as a patriot, not a terrorist, but at one point during the interview did state he felt he was a terrorist. Collins said he has spent a lot of time thinking about how easy it would be," the affidavit explained.

Based on his replies, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on Collins' home in Centennial, a Denver suburb, nearly three weeks later. In addition to the silencers and guns, investigators also found ballistic gear.

While the Collins arrest is a reassuring reminder that federal law enforcement's processes intended to catch such would-be infiltrators are working, it also leaves the ominous sense that there likely are men who are better liars capable of eluding detection by polygraph who have gained access to the ranks of federal agencies.

After all, the FBI itself recently warned that law enforcement generally was being targeted for infiltration by right-wing extremists of a variety of ideological stripes, including white supremacists and "Patriot" conspiracists. And very few such agencies outside of the federal government even create an emphasis to screen for such extremists, let alone require polygraph tests to detect them.

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Many of us already know how to cut back on our energy usage to help the environment. But unnecessarily high energy usage can also be a problem for your utility bills. On average, the annual electricity consumption for a U.S. customer was 10,9772 kWh, or 914 kWh per month. That's a lot of energy you may not actually be using.

From energy vampires to inconsistent tech habits, there are plenty of reasons why your energy usage may be higher than usual. To help you fight back against your energy bills and shrink down your carbon footprint a little more, here are a few simple ways you can cut back on your electricity with a little help from your tech devices.

Unplug Your Electronics

When it comes to using your electronics, it's understandable to want to keep your battery as high as possible. You don't want to lose important work, after all. But keeping your devices plugged in once the battery is at 100 percent isn't the best idea. In fact, it might actually be doing your devices more harm than good. When you keep your tech plugged in, you can overfill the battery. Because power is still connected to your device, once the battery has reached 100 percent, the power is redirected to the rest of your device, which can damage it. You're essentially damaging your devices while also wasting power you don't need.

Unplug Your Cords

Now that you've unplugged your charged devices, it's just as important to unplug the cords from the wall. While it might seem more convenient to leave your laptop's cord plugged into the wall so you can simply plug in your device when you need to, the disconnected cord can actually create an energy vampire in your home. Your cords don't need to be connected to anything to draw power from the wall. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, idle cords and electronics pull the same amount of power as 12 power plants in a single year.

Stay Connected To Your WiFi Network

When it comes to the Internet, you typically want to stay connected without any interruptions. That's why infrastructure like GroupCast exists to provide connectivity without a single point of failure. However, it's actually better to stay connected to your own WiFi network as much as possible rather than making the switch over to your LTE network while you're on your smartphone. The reason for this is that phones and other devices actually consume less battery power when they're connected to WiFi compared to 4G/LTE.

Turn Off Devices When Not In Use

Many of us will put our devices in sleep mode rather than completely turning them off. While sleep mode doesn't use very much energy (approximately two watts of electricity for a laptop and five watts for a desktop), it can still drain your tech to keep your devices on all the time. As you use your computer, for instance, you're collecting cached copies of attachments, cookies, and running several applications. It's recommended to turn your computer off at least once a week to give your tech some rest.

Turn Off Background Apps

While some phones need to be charged more often than others, it might actually be your applications that are causing your phone to lose its battery. The average smartphone draws about 3.68 watts of power from your outlet while it's charging. Even when it's fully charged, your phone will still pull 2.24 watts from the outlet (see our point above about unplugging your devices). To keep your phone charged for longer and to save on energy usage, consider powering down your apps. Games like Minecraft, which sold over 200 million copies, and Animal Crossing, which sold over 31 million copies, can be closed out while not in use.

When it comes to saving on energy costs, many of us tend to focus on turning off the light and lowering our thermostat. However, our tech devices and how we maintain them can also be a major player in how we're wasting energy. By following the tips above, you can help to keep your energy usage down while keeping your tech devices in great shape, too.