Privacy SOS

The government expects us to trust it with unlimited surveillance powers, but it’s not trustworthy in the slightest

There's a lot of impersonating going on at federal intelligence agencies!

Here's the DEA, impersonating a woman by creating a fake Facebook profile using photographs agents seized from her phone to try to ensnare drug dealers:

The Justice Department is claiming, in a little-noticed court filing, that a federal agent had the right to impersonate a young woman online by creating a Facebook page in her name without her knowledge. Government lawyers also are defending the agent’s right to scour the woman’s seized cell phone and to post photographs — including racy pictures of her and even one of her young son and niece — to the phony social media account, which the agent was using to communicate with suspected criminals.

Here's the CIA, impersonating Senate Select Intelligence Committee staff in order to obstruct a senate investigation into CIA torture:

According to sources familiar with the CIA inspector general report that details the alleged abuses by agency officials, CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation. These sources requested anonymity because the details of the agency's inspector general report remain classified.

"If people knew the details of what they actually did to hack into the Senate computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It's straight out of a movie," said one Senate source familiar with the document.

And now here's the FBI, impersonating journalists in order to surreptitiously install malware on a person's computer:

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 Lacey’s Timberline High School in 2007, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) 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.

While it's not exactly impersonating, these California cops have also been up to some extremely shady activity on the job. So let's not leave them out:

The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect's phone told investigators that he and his fellow officers have been trading such images for years, in a practice that stretches from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station, according to court documents obtained by this newspaper Friday.

CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez, also confessed to stealing explicit photos from the cellphone of a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect in August and forwarding those images to at least two CHP colleagues. The five-year CHP veteran called it a "game" among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit.

Harrington told investigators he had done the same thing to female arrestees a "half dozen times in the last several years," according to the court records, which included leering text messages between Harrington and his Dublin CHP colleague, Officer Robert Hazelwood.

From top to bottom, from terror to drugs, law enforcement agencies do things the public finds inexcusable and violative of basic rights. That's totally unsurprising. What's shocking is that officials like James Comey, the head of the FBI, expect us to roll over and accept his demand that we forfeit our right to privacy.

"Just trust us," say the spies and the police. In the face of these disclosures about government action—some of it explicitly sanctioned by the Department of Justice—we would be fools to do so.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.