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The FBI admits to asking U.S. companies to spy on Americans without a warrant

Often when the government tries to suppress information about its surveillance programs, it cites national-security concerns. But not always.

In 2008, a few years after the Bush administration’s warrantless-wiretapping program was revealed for the first time by the New York Times, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act. That act authorizes the government to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications without meaningful oversight. As we’ve explained before (including in our lawsuit challenging the statute), the FISA Amendments Act is unconstitutional.

In 2009, we also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the government’s interpretation and implementation of the FISA Amendments Act. Last November, the government released a few hundred pages of heavily redacted documents. Though redacted, the documents confirmed that the government had interpreted the statute as broadly as we had feared and even that the government had repeatedly violated the few limitations that the statute actually imposed.

Two weeks ago, as part of our FOIA lawsuit over those documents, the government gave us several declarations attempting to justify the redaction of the documents. We’ve been combing through the documents and recently came across this unexpectedly honest explanation from the FBI of why the government doesn’t want us to know which “electronic communication service providers” participate in its dragnet surveillance program. On page 32:
“Exemption (b)(4)-1, cited in conjunction with (b)(7)(D)-1,
has been asserted because disclosure of the identities of electronic communication service providers would cause substantial harm to their competitive position. Specifically, these businesses would be substantially harmed if their customers knew that they were furnishing information to the FBI. The stigma of working with the FBI would cause customers to cancel the
companies’ services and file civil actions to prevent further disclosure of subscriber information. Therefore, the FBI has properly withheld this information pursuant to Exemption (b)(4), in 32.”

FBI FOIA pdf:
http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/2011.04.25_VAUGHNS_-_FBI_Declaration.pdf
Link:
http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/fbi-if-we-told-you-you-might-sue-1

Wealthy Long Island village is planning an extensive network of security cameras that scan license plates

(CBS New York) – If you visit Kings Point, big brother will be watching.

The affluent community is hoping to prevent crime by going high-tech — by setting up a sophisticated network to screen every vehicle that goes in or out of town.

Kings Point is one of the wealthiest villages on the North Shore, and residents want to keep it that way with the latest security.

“I think it’s great,” one resident told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

To protect its 3.3 square miles, Kings Point plans to install 44 cameras and license plate readers at each of the 19 points of entry. The devices will take pictures of every vehicle and license plate and compare them to data bases.

“It will alert us to suspended registrations, felonies, stolen cars, order of protection, sex offenders, things like that,” Kings Point Police Commissioner Jack Miller said.

A week and a half ago, CBS 2 reported on a Kings Point woman being followed into her garage and robbed of her diamond ring by two guys who haven’t been caught.

“If they came into the village again with those cameras up, they would pass three of our locations with cameras,” Miller said.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, the NYPD put in its so called “Ring of Steel” camera system in lower Manhattan, modeled after the one in London. Kings Point residents Slattery spoke with said they support the plan.

“It doesn’t bother me. I have nothing to hide,” Nancy Roth said.

“I think it’s an absolutely wonderful idea and they should,” Nahal Zelouf added.

“There’s cameras on almost every intersection now. It’s the harsh reality of today’s world,” another resident said.

Privacy advocates call the cameras “overreaching.” The New York Civil Liberties Union said it may not be illegal, but there are privacy concerns.

“Giving up our liberty and our privacy in the name of security doesn’t always make us safer,” the NYCLU’s Samantha Fredrickson said.

Like the police, resident Barbara Stein, used a recent rash of home burglaries in the village to defend the surveillance.

“I mean if it’s caught on video, you know, they’ll have a better chance of apprehending whoever is doing this,” Stein tells WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.

Aaron Freedburg said you have to balance people’s security and their right to privacy.

“[It’s a good balance] as long as you’re respectful to the extent possible of people’s privacy and the things that enhanced security, especially in this day and age, I tend to be in favor of,” Freedburg told 1010 WINS reporter John Montone.

There’s no way of knowing whether the project will reduce crime. It may just send it off to other towns that are less secure.

Police said the project will cost $1 million, and will be paid for over several years. They also stressed only police will have access to surveillance information.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/04/26/exclusive-kings-point-plans-extensive-surveillance-network/

Police bust a Root Beer keg party and force 90 teens to take breathalyzers, not one teen tested positive for alcohol

(MSNBC)   Cars lining the street. A house full of young people. A keg and drinking games inside. Police thought they had an underage boozing party on their hands.

But though they made dozens of teens take breath tests, none tested positive for alcohol. That’s because the keg contained root beer.

The party was held by a high school student who wanted to show that teens don’t always drink alcohol at their parties. It has gained fame on YouTube.com.

Dustin Zebro, 18, said he staged the party after friends at D.C. Everest High School got suspended from sports because of pictures showing them drinking from red cups.

The root-beer kegger was “to kind of make fun of the school,” he said. “They assumed there was beer in the cups. We just wanted to have some root beer in red cups and just make it look like a party, but there actually wasn’t any alcohol.”

Nearly 90 breath tests were done, and officers even searched locked rooms for hiding teens.

“It was a tremendous waste of time and manpower, but we still had a job to do, and our officers did it,” Joling said. “If one kid had come there, even hadn’t drank there, but had come there and had been drinking and had left and crashed and burned, then what would the sentiment be? Why didn’t the police check everybody out?”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23851011/ns/us_news-weird_news/t/cops-bust-teens-root-beer-kegger/

http://massprivatei.blogspot.com/2011/05/police-bust-root-beer-keg-party-and.html

TSA VIPR Squads Roam Florida Train Stations

(PRISON PLANET)   Squads of TSA agents conducted random searches and patrols at a train station in  West Palm Beach, Florida yesterday in yet another example of the expansion of TSA Tyranny beyond the nation’s airports.

“Hoping to keep terrorists and others off-guard Transportation Security Administration conducted what it calls  a random ‘Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Operation’ on Thursday morning at the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail station.”, reports WPTV news.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oSpworYrCA

As we have documented, VIPR teams are now occupying America in the name of “security,” having expanded from airports, to train stations, highways and street corners.

The TSA was recently caught in yet another act of deception after claiming that passengers, including young children, who were subjected to an invasive pat down and bag search after getting off an Amtrak train in Savannah, Georgia did not have to enter the station, when in fact according to a firefighter on the scene, TSA agents swarmed the platform as soon as passengers stepped off the train and ordered them to cooperate.

VIPR is quite obviously a 21st century Gestapo designed to indoctrinate Americans into accepting Soviet-style shake-downs, bag searches and groping of genitalia at checkpoints across the country – not just in airports.

If people think they can avoid the TSA by staying away from airports, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening. TSA is clearly engaged in a total takeover of society and plans to have its agents searching, patting down, scanning and harassing Americans at all levels of society.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/tsa-vipr-squads-roam-florida-train-stations.html

FBI dedicates $1 billion to massive biometrics identification program to target Americans suspected of crimes

(RAW STORY)   The Federal Bureau of Investigations announced recently that it is dedicating up to $1 billion for a Lockheed Martin-developed system that will enable on-the-fly analysis of detailed identification information that can be instantaneously shared with law enforcement all around the world.

It’s called the “Next Generation Identification System” (NGIS), and if you’re a fan of television dramas like the CBS crime drama NCIS, it may sound pretty familiar.

The FBI says their forthcoming system is an “incremental” upgrade to their currently-existing “Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System” (IAFIS), but it’s more than just an upgrade: it’s a revolution in law enforcement technology that’s bound to draw comparisons to the “Total Information Awareness” (TIA) project Congress ostensibly shut down in 2004.

The TIA project, however, was broader in scope, targeting private individuals all over the world instead of just suspected criminals or terrorists.

While the initial stage of NGIS deals solely with fingerprints, the FBI said it will eventually upscale to include detailed biometrics like retina prints, facial mapping, palm prints, voice mapping and handwriting analysis, among other likely sources of data.

“[NGIS] represents a quantum leap in fingerprint identification that will help us in solving investigations, preventing crime, and apprehending criminals and terrorists,” an agency spokesman announced earlier this month.

One aspect of the program that’s likely to draw a sharp reacting from civil liberties advocates is the provision of electronic fingerprint scanners to state and local police agencies.

The FBI says these scanners will be used to collect biometric data from “suspects,” as opposed to those convicted of crimes. That data would then be sent wirelessly to the NGIS, where it can be accessed by law enforcement anywhere.

A sub-database, called the “Repository for Individuals of Special Concern,” will also be created to track wanted criminals, registered sex offenders and “suspected terrorists.”

That’s another facet of the project which may give civil liberties advocates even more cause for alarm, considering the Obama administration’s recent revisions to how Americans suspected of terrorism should be treated by law enforcement.

In an FBI memorandum recently obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the direction was given to hold American terrorism suspects without reading them their Miranda rights, which guarantee U.S. citizens the right to remain silent and have an attorney present for questioning.

Under the Obama administration’s new rules, constitutional requirements can be ignored in “exceptional cases,” allowing investigators leeway to “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.”

The FBI’s center in Clarksburg, W. Virginia is currently participating in the NGIS program, according to a published report.

The agency also plans to construct a 50,000-sq. ft. “Biometric Technology Center” in Clarksburg, which will be shared with the Department of Defense.

A spokesperson with the American Civil Liberties Union was unavailable for comment at time of this story’s publication.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/24/fbi-dedicates-1-billion-to-massive-biometrics-identification-program/

Iowa police covering up racial profiling

(CNN) A police department accused of racially profiling Latinos has reached a settlement with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. In exchange for agreeing to several policy changes, the identity of the police force is not being made public.

According to a news release issued Wednesday by the commission, the investigation stemmed from an informal complaint alleging an officer routinely made traffic stops based on the national origin of the registered owner or driver of a car.

According to the person who made the informal complaint, the officer’s actions constituted a pattern of behavior that resulted in a disproportionately higher number of stops, citations, and arrests for Hispanics. The police department denied all allegations in the complaint.

The commission identifies the police department only as being located in a town with approximately 4,000 residents in an Iowa county with a high Latino population.

“The settlement reached by the parties ensures that there will be no racial profiling in this jurisdiction and the officers will receive training regarding racial profiling to help them avoid situations that cause the public to question their objectivity,” said Beth Townsend, executive director of Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Under the settlement agreement, the police department will make changes to its current racial profiling policy, including providing information to the public in English and Spanish on the definition of racial profiling, how to file a complaint and the process by which the department responds to complaints. All officers will undergo additional training, and for two years officers will be required to keep records of their initial reasons for making each traffic stop.

In addition, the police chief must perform officer evaluations in which yearly statistics on arrests, citations and warnings will be under review.

Iowa’s Latino population has recently grown rapidly. According to 2010 U.S. census data, Latinos make up 5.0 percent of Iowa’s population, up 83.7 percent from 2000, and they have become critical to the state’s agribusiness economy.

The Census Bureau defines “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/04/14/iowa.racial.profiling/

The Michigan State Police are using portable devices to extract personal information from citizens smartphones

(MASS PRIVATE I)   The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan urged the Michigan State Police (MSP) today to release information regarding the use of portable devices which can be used to secretly extract personal information from cell phones during routine stops.

For nearly three years, the ACLU has repeatedly asked for this information through dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests, but to date it has not been provided.

“Transparency and government accountability are the bedrocks of our democracy,” said Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project staff attorney. “Through these many requests for information we have tried to establish whether these devices are being used legally. It’s telling that Michigan State Police would rather play this stalling game than respect the public’s right to know.”

Several years ago, MSP acquired portable devices that have the potential to quickly download data from cell phones without the owner of the cellphone knowing.

The ACLU of Michigan expressed concern about the possible constitutional implications of using these devices to conduct suspicionless searches without consent or a search warrant.

In August 2008, the ACLU of Michigan filed its first FOIA request to acquire records, reports and logs of actual use.

Documents provided in response confirmed the existence of these devices, but MSP claimed that the cost of retrieving and assembling the documents that disclose how five of the devices are being used is $544,680. The ACLU was then asked to pay a $272,340 deposit before the organization could receive a single document.

According to CelleBrite, the manufacturer of at least some of the devices acquired by MSP, the product can extract a wide variety of data from cellphones including contacts, text messages, deleted text messages, call history, pictures, audio and video recordings, phone details including the phone number and complete memory file dumps on some handsets.

http://massprivatei.blogspot.com/2011/04/detroit-mi-michigan-state-police-are.html

Police like to hunt according to Miami Chief, Miguel Exposito. “Our guys were proactively going out there, like predators.”

(NY TIMES)   The video, shot with a hand-held camera, shows brawny Miami police officers breaking down doors and hauling handcuffed African-American suspects off some of the city’s toughest streets. “We hunt,” one officer says in the five-and-a-half-minute clip. “I like to hunt.”

But it was not a source of embarrassment for Miami’s police chief, Miguel A. Exposito. The video was part of a reality television pilot, “Miami’s Finest SOS,” a project with the enthusiastic backing of Chief Exposito. “Our guys were proactively going out there, like predators,” he says during his cameo in the video, which surfaced online in January.

A few weeks later, a Miami police officer shot and killed a black man during a traffic stop at North Miami Avenue and 75th Street in the Little Haiti neighborhood. The man, Travis McNeil, 28, was unarmed and never left the driver’s seat of his rental car when he was shot once in the chest, members of his family said.

Mr. McNeil was the seventh African-American man to be shot and killed by Miami police officers in eight months. The shootings in this racially polarized city have led to marches on the Police Department’s headquarters and calls for a Justice Department investigation, and the city manager has initiated an investigation into the chief’s record.

After pushing for action for weeks, the families of the seven shooting victims will speak at a City Commission meeting on Thursday. Some families are demanding that Chief Exposito be dismissed.

“I don’t understand how the powers that be can allow these things to keep happening,” Sheila McNeil, the mother of Mr. McNeil, said of the Feb. 10 shooting death of her son. “Something is drastically wrong.”

Chief Exposito, a burly 37-year veteran who became chief in November 2009, defended his leadership. “We don’t have a violent police department,” he said in an interview last week. “You’ll find our officers are very compassionate with the people they deal with. They will try to de-escalate situations rather than resorting to deadly force.”

The officer who shot Mr. McNeil is Reinaldo Goyo, a member of the city’s elite gang unit who appeared in the “Miami’s Finest SOS” video. (The TV show has since been shelved.)

Saying on the video: “I’ve got some style. I’ve got some flavor” while wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the words “The Punisher,” Detective Goyo says he and his partner inherited the nicknames Crockett and Tubbs after the lead characters in the 1980s TV show “Miami Vice.” “It’s got a nice little ring to it,” he says.

Detective Goyo would not comment, a police spokesman said. A lawyer for Detective Goyo did not respond to phone messages.

Chief Exposito said he thought the video was “excellent,” although in an e-mail to the production company in December, he acknowledged that he regretted using the word “predator” and asked that his quotation be changed. In another e-mail to one of his assistants, he wrote: “This statement would add fuel to the fire. They need to soften it!”

In an interview last week, Chief Exposito said the video was not supposed to be for public consumption. “I had a problem with the production company — it was not supposed to be on YouTube or anywhere else.”

The chief also defended the officer who said, “I like to hunt.”

“Hunting doesn’t mean you go kill people,” the chief said. “Hunting means you go out there and capture people.”

Miami has a long history of racially charged police shootings, some of which combusted into deadly riots and Justice Department inquiries that ended with police officers in prison. The pattern this time is familiar: All seven men who were fatally shot by the police were African-American; the police officers who shot them are all Hispanic.

“There is a wide range of growing concern in the community regarding the apparent lack of communication and response to these incidents by the City of Miami Police Department,” Representative Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat from Miami, wrote in a recent letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., asking the Justice Department to investigate.

Questions about Chief Exposito’s leadership have galvanized some leaders of the African-American community, who say that two of the men shot by the police were unarmed. Police officials would not describe details, but they have said that during both shootings, the officers had reason to believe their lives were in danger.

Community leaders also expressed outrage that a 12-year veteran of the city’s gang unit, Ricardo Martinez, shot and killed two men within nine days last August. Officer Martinez returned to his job six days after fatally shooting one man, then shot and killed another three days later. Before the shootings, he was under investigation for allegedly selling seized phones.

One officer being responsible for two fatal shootings in such a short period of time is highly unusual, national experts on police forces say. Typically, officers are assigned to desk duty after a shooting pending an inquiry.

“What does that tell you about the chief’s judgment?” said the Rev. Anthony Tate, president of the civil rights organization Pulse and pastor of New Resurrection Community Church in the Liberty City neighborhood.

Chief Exposito said that the inquiry had been initiated by his department, and that it would have been inappropriate to keep Officer Martinez off the street because of an allegation of wrongdoing. In December, Officer Martinez was charged with selling stolen Bluetooth phone headsets. He has been dismissed.

Mr. Tate, two Miami city commissioners and other community leaders have repeatedly called for the chief’s dismissal. Chief Exposito was a major in the property room and in charge of a compliance task force before being elevated two years ago to police chief by Mayor Tomas P. Regalado. Since then, the chief and the mayor have feuded bitterly over a variety of issues.

City Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II was the first on the commission to call for the chief’s dismissal. “It’s not personal. He’s just not competent to be a chief, that’s all,” said Mr. Dunn, whose district includes the neighborhoods where all seven fatal shootings occurred.

“These shootings have us sitting on a time bomb,” he said. “Everyone wonders: When is the next one going to happen? And the fact the chief is still here just makes Miami look like a banana republic.”

Chief Exposito said that after the first of the fatal shootings, last July, he invited the F.B.I. to attend the department’s internal inquiry, a gesture his predecessors had not offered, he said. “This is not something I was forced to do,” he said.

The chief’s critics say his leadership is markedly different from that of his predecessor, John F. Timoney, a deputy police commissioner in New York in the Giuliani administration.

During Mr. Timoney’s seven-year tenure, the department once went 22 months without having a police officer fire a weapon. When Mr. Exposito succeeded Mr. Timoney in November 2009, he assigned more than 100 officers to “tactical units” to try to curb violent crime.

The tactical units, including the gang unit whose officers have been responsible for the majority of the most recent shootings, have arrested hundreds of suspects and removed 400 more guns from the street in 2010 than in 2009, the chief said.

During those sweeps, “seven people decided they were not going to obey the law and not adhere to the police orders,” said Armando Aguilar, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, “and they ended up getting shot.”

The chief’s fate is in the hands of the city manager, Tony E. Crapp Jr. In late February, Mr. Crapp hired a former senior F.B.I. agent, Paul R. Philip, to assess the department’s record.

Mr. Philip, who headed the F.B.I.’s Miami field office, said in an interview that he compared the number of police shootings in 2009, the last year of Mr. Timoney’s leadership, with the first 15 months of Chief Exposito’s tenure. During Mr. Timoney’s final year as chief, seven officers shot at suspects, killing four and missing three others. Under Chief Exposito, there have been 10 shootings, with seven fatalities.

“It seemed to be a concern that the department was engaged in an accelerated rate of shootings, but there doesn’t appear to be,” Mr. Philip said. “The data seems to support the chief.”

Mr. Philip said his review did not include interviewing police officers who fired their weapons, witnesses or the family members of victims. Determining whether each of the shootings was justified is the state attorney’s job.

The chief said he was gratified that “someone with the stature of Paul Philip is agreeing with me.” He added: “I’ve been saying all along, we’re trying to get violent crime under control in that community. Unfortunately when you do that, you will be confronted by people who are armed and dangerous.”

Community leaders said they were upset about the pace of the Police Department’s own inquiries. They complained that police investigators had not taken a statement from Kareem Williams, 31, who is Mr. McNeil’s cousin and was shot three times as he sat with Mr. McNeil in the rental car last month. Mr. Williams, who left the hospital two days later, told his family that the officer began shooting without saying a single word, Mrs. McNeil said.

Not long ago, Mrs. McNeil met with Chief Exposito, who spoke about police procedures on the use of deadly force, she said. She added that the “impersonal” nature of the discussion had left her frustrated and sad.

“When your son has been shot,” she said, “you don’t want to hear about policies.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23miami.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

TJX Hacker Claims U.S. Authorized His Crimes

(WIRED)   Albert Gonzalez, the hacker who masterminded the largest credit card heists in U.S. history, is asking a federal judge to throw out his earlier guilty pleas and lift his record-breaking 20-year prison sentence, on allegations that the government authorized his years-long crime spree.

Gonzalez, 29, admitted last year that he and accomplices hacked into TJX, Office Max, Dave & Busters, Heartland Payment Systems and other companies to steal more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers, in what the government deemed the biggest computer crime case ever prosecuted in the United States. He’s currently serving time at the Milan low-security federal prison in southeastern Michigan, with a release date in the year 2025.

The government has acknowledged that Gonzalez was a key undercover Secret Service informant at the time of the breaches. Now, in a March 24 habeas corpus petition filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Gonzalez asserts that the Secret Service authorized him to commit the crimes.

“I still believe that I was acting on behalf of the United States Secret Service and that I was authorized and directed to engage in the conduct I committed as part of my assignment to gather intelligence and seek out international cyber criminals,” he wrote. “I now know and understand that I have been used as a scapegoat to cover someone’s mistakes.”

In his 25-page petition, he faults one of his attorneys for failing to prepare a “Public Authority” defense, by which someone who commits a crime argues that he did so with the approval of government authorities.

He says his attorneys never discussed a Public Authority defense with him. Had he known the option existed, he would never have pleaded guilty.

Habeas motions, known as 2255 motions, can be used by convicted prisoners to assert defective counsel or other jurisdictional and constitutional issues outside of a direct appeal. Gonzalez is acting as his own attorney in the petition.

Gonzalez became a confidential informant for the Secret Service when he was arrested in New York in 2003 after withdrawing cash from ATMs using stolen card numbers. While working closely with agents for more than four years to put other carders behind bars, he was simultaneously running a criminal enterprise he dubbed “Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” according to court documents.

He was arrested in 2008 and eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy and computer fraud, among other charges. He received two sentences last March amounting to 20 years and a day in prison — the lengthiest punishment ever imposed for computer or identity theft crimes.

At one of his sentencing hearings, Gonzalez told the court that he deeply regretted his crimes and was remorseful for having taken advantage of the personal relationships he’d forged.

“Particularly one I had with a certain government agency … that gave me a second chance in life,” he said.

But in the motion to withdraw his plea, he asserts that “each and every illegal act” he was charged with was conducted during covert operations that were controlled and operated by the Secret Service.

He writes that when he was arrested in May 2008 by Miami police, he “was expecting Secret Service to come and take custody of me and squash the charges.” Instead, he was charged with crimes that he says he committed on the government’s behalf.

Gonzalez’s former attorney, Rene Palomino, disputes assertions that the Secret Service approved Gonzalez’s crimes.

“He was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for the Secret Service,” Palomino says. “He chose to become a criminal, bottom line, and become a double agent working both sides — the criminal side and the legal side.”

In his petition, Gonzalez faults Palomino and co-counsel Martin Weinberg with failing to file a notice of appeal as he requested after his sentencing and, more important, failing to file a motion to suppress evidence obtained from a Ukrainian carder’s laptop after his arrest in Turkey.

Gonzalez says that in 2007 the carder, Maksym “Maksik” Yastremskiy, was tortured by Turkish officials in order to obtain the passphrase to decrypt his computer.

Yastremskiy was considered the top card vendor in the underground and allegedly earned more than $11 million selling stolen credit and debit card data. He was lured to a meeting in Turkey with an undercover operative, where he was nabbed.

Gonzalez says prior to Yastremskiy’s arrest, he had been passing information about the carder’s activities to his government handlers and was even congratulated by Secret Service agent Steve Ward over lunch after the arrest. He also writes that Ward told him that the Turks had “beat Yastremskiy’s ass and made him give up the passphrase.”

Data gleaned from the laptop, along with other information, allowed authorities to zero in on two hackers who appeared to be Yastremskiy’s biggest suppliers of stolen card data from top retailers such as TJX, OfficeMax and Dave & Busters. One of the suppliers, “Segvec,” was eventually identified as Gonzalez.

When he was arrested in 2008, Gonzalez told Palomino about Yastremskiy’s alleged beating and asked him to investigate. But when Palomino sought funds from Gonzalez’s parents to fly to Turkey, Gonzalez’s parents said they couldn’t afford it.

Without an affidavit, Palomino told Gonzalez, he couldn’t file a motion to suppress. Palomino was “ineffective” for failing to file the motion, Gonzalez writes. Had he done so, the evidence would have been suppressed, and the government “would have had no case against me.”

In his petition, Gonzalez further argues that he should be allowed to withdraw his plea because the government failed to uphold its part of the agreement. He was told that if he pleaded guilty, the government would ask the court to consolidate the three cases against him — in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts — into a single case before one judge, allowing him to receive a single sentence.

Prosecutors did request a consolidation from the court, but the court agreed to consolidate only two of the cases. Gonzalez ended up receiving two sentences — 20 years, and 20 years and a day — which he is serving concurrently.

Palomino insists his former client has no grounds for withdrawing his plea.

“This was a negotiated plea,” says Palomino. “He knew what he was getting into when he signed off on this agreement.”

Regarding his failure to file a motion to suppress evidence obtained under torture, Palomino says, “We researched the issue regarding the evidence, and there were no grounds for suppression. Everything that was legally possible that could have been done for him was done for him. Nothing was left undone.”

The filing provides a glimpse at some of Gonzalez’s undercover work and at the relationship he formed with his handlers, Secret Service agents David Esposito and Steve Ward, who he says paid him $1,200 a month in cash for the work he performed.

Using the online names “Cumbajohnny” and “Segvec,” Gonzalez engaged carders in underground chat rooms and helped set them up to be busted. During his undercover time, he went to California for a week for one operation and to Chicago, where he helped set up a honeypot.

He was also invited to Secret Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., to give a presentation on malware and computer-security vulnerabilities. He proved himself so trustworthy, that he was invited to agent briefings and became privy to “highly confidential information.”

He even went bike riding and bar hopping with his handlers in the evening after work.

“They treated me like one of their own and did everything but give me a gun and a badge,” Gonzalez writes. “On one occasion, even the possibility of a gun for protection was discussed if the need ever arose.”

In 2004, he participated in his biggest sting operation from a military base at Cavens Point, New Jersey. Called Operation Firewall, the groundbreaking sting focused on carders on an underground forum called Shadowcrew and led to arrests of more than 20 people.

After Operation Firewall ended, Gonzalez moved back to Miami, where he’d grown up, and continued to work undercover for the agency on the “Shadow Ops” operation. A former associate of Gonzalez told Threat Level previously that it was during this period that he began earning $75,000 a year working for the Secret Service. It was also during this period that he committed the bulk of the crimes for which he was later charged.

Gonzalez writes that when the agents asked him to commit acts he knew were illegal, he complied, “to please the Agents who had shown me such respect and friendship.” He said the agents told him they had his back and would intervene if he was ever arrested.

“At that point I would have done anything they asked me to do,” he writes. “I was overwhelmed and felt like I could do no wrong.”

Gonzalez says the agents even turned a blind eye when he committed crimes in order to resolve a $5,000 debt with an unnamed Russian carder. Gonzalez incurred the debt before he began working for the feds and didn’t have the funds to clear it.

He says he told the agents that if he didn’t repay the debt, he’d lose credibility in the underground and thus his effectiveness as an informant. Agent Ward allegedly told him, “Go do your thing and pay the debt, just don’t get caught.”

“All of this inflated my ego and made me feel very important and made me feel like I was really a part of the Secret Service with the backing and support of the Government Agency,” Gonzalez writes.

“One day I was unknown and nothing, and the next day I am being hailed as a genius and giving presentations to Secret Service Agents in Washington, D.C. All of this was mind boggling for me.”

A Secret Service official told Threat Level that because the case was going through the appellate process he was unable to comment.

Gonzalez-Habeas-Petition
See also:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/04/gonzalez-plea-withdrawal/#more-25160

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