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FBI Created Phony Seattle Times Story To Find Bomb-Threat Suspect

By Mike Carter, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The FBI in Seattle created a fake news story on a bogus Seattle Times Web page to plant software in the computer of a suspect in a series of bomb threats to Timberline High School in Lacey in 2007, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.

The deception was publicized Monday when Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., revealed it on Twitter.

In an interview, Soghoian called the incident “outrageous” and said the practice could result in “significant collateral damage to the public trust” if law enforcement begins co-opting the media for its purposes.

The EFF documents reveal that the FBI dummied up a story with an Associated Press byline about the Thurston County bomb threats with an email link “in the style of The Seattle Times,” including details about subscriber and advertiser information.

The link was sent to the suspect’s MySpace account. When the suspect clicked on the link, the hidden FBI software sent his location and Internet Protocol information to the agents. A juvenile suspect was identified and arrested June 14.

The revelation brought a sharp response from the newspaper.

“We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,” said Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best.

“Not only does that cross a line, it erases it,” she said.

“Our reputation and our ability to do our job as a government watchdog are based on trust. Nothing is more fundamental to that trust than our independence — from law enforcement, from government, from corporations, and from all other special interests,” Best said. “The FBI’s actions, taken without our knowledge, traded on our reputation and put it at peril.”

Frank Montoya Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI in Seattle, defended the investigation and the technique, which court records show led to the arrest and conviction of a 15-year-old student.

“Every effort we made in this investigation had the goal of preventing a tragic event like what happened at Marysville and Seattle Pacific University,” Montoya said. “We identified a specific subject of an investigation and used a technique that we deemed would be effective in preventing a possible act of violence in a school setting.

“Use of that type of technique happens in very rare circumstances and only when there is sufficient reason to believe it could be successful in resolving a threat,” he said.

Ayn Dietrich-Williams, the spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle, pointed out that the bureau did not use a “real Seattle Times article, but material generated by the FBI in styles common in reporting and online media.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman, chief of the office’s criminal division, was reviewing the EFF documents provided to her by The Times and had no immediate comment. She pointed out that the prosecutor who oversaw the case, Kathryn Warma, has since retired.

The EFF posted 172 pages of documents concerning the FBI’s use of a software tool called a “Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier,” or CIPAV, in two cases — one involving the Timberline High School bomb threats and the other involving an extortion attempt against a cruise line in Florida. More than half of the documents relate to the Seattle case.

According to the documents, CIPAV lets the FBI “geophysically” locate a computer and its Internet Protocol address.

Soghoian said the software is activated when someone clicks on the bogus link. The technique apparently exploits the same computer security vulnerabilities used by hackers.

Police in Lacey contacted the Northwest Cyber-Crime Task Force after the school began receiving a series of bomb threats beginning in late May of 2007 and continuing into early June. The school was forced to evacuate students at least twice, and police were unable to identify a suspect.

The documents indicate the FBI in Seattle obtained a search warrant to “deploy” the CIPAV software after the task force, which is run by the FBI, received a public tip about a suspect. Special Agent Norman Sanders, in seeking the warrant, said the bureau would send a “communication” to the suspect’s computer that would make the computer identify itself for the agent. The case was taken up by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which helped draft and approve the warrant. The warrant does not say that “communication” would be a bogus news story that appeared to be published online by The Seattle Times.

AFP Photo/ Mandel Ngan

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Child-Porn Conviction Is Tossed: Navy Surveillance Is Blamed

By Mike Carter, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Navy criminal investigators repeatedly and routinely peeked into the computers of private citizens in Washington state and elsewhere, a violation of the law so “massive” and egregious that an appeals court says it has no choice but to throw out the evidence against an Algona, Washington, man sentenced to 18 years in prison for distribution of child pornography.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision handed down last week, said the 2012 prosecution of Michael Allan Dreyer by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle demonstrated Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents “routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate” the Posse Comitatus Act, a Reconstruction-era law that prohibits the military from enforcing civilian laws.

The court called the violations “extraordinary” and said evidence presented in Dreyer’s prosecution appears to show that “it has become a routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over that information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists.”

That is what happened to Dreyer, now 60, who became the target of an NCIS investigation in 2010 when Agent Steve Logan, who was stationed in Georgia, used a law-enforcement software program called “RoundUp” to troll for child pornography on computers in Washington using a legal file-sharing network called “Gnutella.”

According to court documents, Logan identified a computer sharing suspicious files, downloaded three of them, then got a subpoena for Comcast, which identified Dreyer as the IP address owner.

Logan, according to court documents, checked to see if Dreyer was a member of the armed forces and determined he was not.

Logan then summarized his investigation and forwarded it to the NCIS office in Washington state, which turned it over to the Algona Police Department, according to the documents.

The case was filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in federal court, where Dreyer faced up to 40 years in prison due to a prior conviction.

Dreyer was arrested in April 2011 and fought to suppress the evidence, which included explicit videos of adults having sex with preteen boys and girls.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman allowed the videos to be used and Dreyer was convicted of possession and distribution of child pornography after a four-day jury trial in September 2012. Dreyer — who previously had served 27 months for a federal child-pornography conviction in 2000 — was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release when he gets out.

However, the 9th Circuit judges found the NCIS behavior so outrageous that it “demonstrates the need to deter future violations” and sent Dreyer’s case back to the district court with an order that Pechman exclude the NCIS evidence against him.

Erik Levin, the former federal public defender who represented Dreyer during his trial and appeal, said the ruling likely means he will go free.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is considering asking the case be reheard by the entire Court of Appeals. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, whose office prosecuted Dreyer and argued the appeal, said Wednesday it is possible the court misunderstood some of the technology the agent was using and the scope of his searches.

Durkan said some information in the 9th Circuit’s opinion “is wrong.”

Otherwise, she said she could not comment on pending litigation.

Telephone and email messages sent to NCIS headquarters in Washington, D.C., were not returned Wednesday.

The government, in its appellate briefs, argued Logan was a civilian employee of the NCIS, and that his role in the investigation was peripheral and fell within exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act.

The panel unanimously, and strongly, disagreed.

Senior 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld found that the case “amounts to the military acting as a national police force to investigate civilian law violations by civilians.”

“There could be no bona fide military purpose to this indiscriminate peeking into civilian computers,” Kleinfeld wrote. “Letting a criminal go free to deter national military investigation of civilians is worth it.”

The judges also excoriated the government for defending the role of the NCIS and its investigation and said the court has warned the Justice Department about it before. This time, the court said, the violation comes with a price to get the government’s attention — Dreyer’s release from prison.

“Such an expansive reading of the military role in the enforcement of civilian laws demonstrates a profound lack of regard for the important limitations on the role of the military in our civilian society,” wrote Judge Marsha Berzon.

Logan, the NCIS agent, had argued he had chosen to scan computers in Washington partly because of the state’s many military bases.

While he initially was only able to identify the suspect’s whereabouts within a 30-mile radius of the IP address he identified, he wrote in a search warrant that the “large [U.S. Navy/Department of Defense] saturation” indicated a “likelihood” the suspect was in the military.

By that logic, Berzon said, Posse Comitatus would be “rendered meaningless.”

“To accept that position would mean that NCIS agents could, for example, routinely stop suspected drunk drivers in downtown Seattle on the off-chance that a driver is a member of the military, and then turn over all information collected about civilians to the Seattle Police Department for prosecution.”

The opinion comes as the reach of government and law enforcement has come under fire after a series of disclosures of domestic surveillance by former National Security Administration systems analyst Edward Snowden.

Levin, who now practices law in Berkeley, California, also noted the controversy over the so-called “militarization of police” in the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death by police of a black teenager. Exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act allow the military to provide some equipment to police.

“This,” Levin said, “is the real militarization of police — when the military becomes the police.”

AFP Photo/Greg Wood

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Jewish Federation Calls For Resignation Of NRA Lobbyist Over Alleged Holocaust Remarks

By Mike Carter, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has called for the resignation of a National Rifle Association lobbyist who reportedly linked gun control to the Holocaust.

At a news conference Tuesday at the federation’s Seattle headquarters, President Keith Dvorchik said longtime NRA spokesman Brian Judy should resign for reportedly connecting a ballot initiative designed to reduce gun violence to Nazi policies that led to the Holocaust.

Dvorchik also demanded the national office of the NRA “make clear that it rejects his ignorant and unproductive dialogue.”

A report about Judy surfaced Monday on the liberal blog Horsesass.org. An audio clip on the blog plays over a still photo of the meeting and purportedly features Judy talking about Jews who support gun control.

The remarks reportedly were made last week at a gathering in Silverdale in opposition to Initiative 594, a measure on the ballot this fall that would expand background checks for gun purchases.
In the recording, a speaker references Nick Hanauer, a Seattle entrepreneur who has contributed more than $300,000 to an independent-expenditure group supporting I-594. Hanauer, who is Jewish, wrote recently in Politico about how his family fled Nazi Germany. The speaker on the recording references Hanauer’s piece:

“Now (Hanauer is) funding, he’s put half a million dollars, toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out of Germany by the Nazis. You know, it’s staggering to me, it’s just, you can’t make this stuff up. That these people, it’s like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, ‘Are you serious? Do you not remember what happened?’ And why did that happen? Because they registered guns and then they took them.”

“Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place?” the speaker continues. “Hello! Is anybody home here?”

Judy has not returned several messages and e-mails requesting a response. A message left for comment at NRA headquarters in Reston, Va., was not returned.

Dvorchik, in calling for Judy’s resignation, said the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has a particular interest in the issue: Eight years ago, a disturbed Muslim man, Naveed Haq, forced his way into the federation’s offices with a handgun, killing one employee and wounding five others.

Dvorchik also demanded that the national office of the NRA disavow Judy’s purported remarks and the “idiotic, simplistic, and simply wrong” idea that the systematic persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany has anything to do with a ballot measure that calls for background checks for gun purchases.

The Nazis confiscated weapons from Jews, along with all of their other property, before forcing them into ghettos or shipping them off to slave-labor and extermination camps.

To question whether the Jews, who lost nearly 6 million people in the ghettos and Nazi death camps, don’t “understand history is the most vile rhetorical question that has ever been asked,” Dvorchik said.

Dvorchik was joined by Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-WA), who said Judy’s statements “carry dark, ugly and subtle undertones of anti-Semitism.”

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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Parolee In 1983 Seattle Massacre Deported To Hong Kong

By Mike Carter, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Wai-Chiu “Tony” Ng, who 31 years ago participated in the worst mass killing in Seattle history, has been deported to Hong Kong following his parole from prison, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Ng, 58, served 28 years for his role in the 1983 murders of 13 people at the Wah Mee Social Club in Seattle’s International District.

Ng was released into the custody of agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who escorted him on a commercial flight that left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Tuesday morning and arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday, according to ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz.

Tony Ng, Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak and Benjamin Ng (no relation) entered the back-alley gambling club in the early-morning hours of Feb. 19, 1983, hogtied the 14 patrons and workers, and then shot them all in the head. One man survived.

Tony Ng fled to Canada, and Mak and Benjamin Ng were convicted of the killings that same year. Benjamin Ng was sentenced to life without parole and Mak was sentenced to death. Mak’s sentence has since been overturned, and he is serving life without parole.

Tony Ng was arrested in Canada and extradited. At trial, he claimed Mak had threatened his family unless he participated in the robbery. Tony Ng has maintained that, while he had a gun, he never shot anyone.

He was convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery while armed with a deadly weapon and one count of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 30 years to life.

Tony Ng was rejected for parole five times before the Sentencing Review Board last year granted his release after months of deliberations. Ng, who came to the U.S. in 1970 looking for a job, agreed to deportation upon release.

Ng was considered a model prisoner and taught drafting to other inmates in the prison industries program. In his spare time, Ng folded delicate origami animals, which were sold to help fund a youth program, according to parole documents.

In a 2009 interview with Northwest Asian Weekly, Ng said he was sorry for what he had done.

“I always ask myself why. Why wasn’t I strong enough to say no?” he was quoted as saying. “Why did I have to create such a bad name for my family? They are good people.”

Prosecutors and relatives and friends of the victims opposed his release.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has said Ng has “caught some breaks in his favor that he did not deserve” — particularly when it came to how his sentence was determined under the law at the time and through a series of adjustments to his sentence over the years by the Independent Sentencing Review Board.

Satterberg had urged the review board to consider that had Tony Ng been sentenced under modern determinate-sentencing laws, he would have faced 70 years in prison on the firearm enhancements alone.

In the end, however, Satterberg said, the trial jury’s decision not to convict him of the killings “set in motion the possibility of his eventual release.”

Photo: Maxime via Flickr