Representatives from private industry and the US federal government has already made a discreet presentation to college students in Austin Texas this spring where the concept of a series of “National Identity Management Centers” aka “The Center For Identity” was introduced to students.
I have wondered WHY this presentation was made on a college campus to college students, most of whom are gullible and many are still innocent to the beguiling tactics of surreptitiously introduced socialism and mass population surveillance programs by the federal government. Restated: most college kids do not understand what “social engineering” means, or “mass indoctrination by media gradualism.”
Until just recently if you were to try to explain these mind control methods to college kids they would hop on their skateboards and laugh it off. But that en mass naivete is now changing. “The Center For Identity” on the University of Texas at Austin has already been planned and now has a web presence.
A close friend, college aged, and a student in Austin, who attended this presentation told me later the entire ambiance of the material was creepy, hard to understand and altogether very ambiguous.
Just exactly WHAT is a “national identity management center’? I examined the literature which was handed out at this presentation and it was all cloaked in well familiar magnanimous federal platitudes about ‘personal identity security” and so forth. There was even a letter included from President Obama. The specific term “RFID” was not referenced in the literature, but I had the very distinct feeling that once these federally staffed “national identity management centers” become operative, that RFID, Iris scans, facial recognition, DNA scans and a host of other high technology personal identification methods will be deployed through the centers. There is a partnership forming between high level corporations and the federal government to establish these “national identity management centers” for profit. That was made very clear in the documents that I examined. I have posted some of these documents at the end of this report.
In our last post, we summarized our inquiry into the City of Austin Police Department’s Digital Analysis Response Team’s (DART) Operation Wardrive, concluding that it was now up to the City to provide the documents responsive to our open records request which the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) declared were not exempt from disclosure. In a letter dated December 16th (notably well within the ten calendar day deadline initiated on December 13th), the City of Austin responded by postal mail with copies of the remaining documents.
Included were two new documents: an “Operational Briefing” and a “Synopsis of Operation.” The operation objective is worth reproducing in full:
Crack down on unsecured wireless networks in residential neighborhoods.
The Austin Police DART Unit plans to conduct a ‘wardriving’ mission around select Austin neighborhoods in an effort to educate its citizens to secure their wireless networks.
‘Wardriving’ refers to the technique of searching for unsecured wireless networks by driving the streets armed simply with a laptop or smartphone seeking network connections. When unsecured networks are found, the Police detectives will pay a friendly visit to the household or small business, informing them of the risks they are exposing themselves to and attempt to assist in securing their wireless network.
The Synopsis provides a little additional information:
Detectives should log the locations where they have made contact with residents and identify them on provided activity sheet.
There are a few items worth emphasizing here:
EFF Austin requested “All documents and communications related to the selection and identification of Austin locations, neighborhoods, and/or individual citizens that will be targeted by ‘Operation Wardrive'”. The Briefing specifies target locations as “Austin Neighborhoods,” while the objective mentions “select Austin neighborhoods.” We are left to presume the neighborhoods selected would be left to the recognizance of DART detectives or decided and communicated off-the-record, perhaps during the 30-minute briefing on September 22nd prior to the operation.
EFF Austin requested “All documents and communications related to the devices, software, and other technologies that will be utilized to identify Austin locations with unencrypted broadband networks.” The Briefing indicates wardriving may be practiced “simply with a laptop or smartphone seeking network connections” but does not explicitly declare this as the tools or techniques DART would be deploying.
EFF Austin requested “All documents and communications related to the policies governing the protection and security of the information obtained during ‘Operation Wardrive'”. The Synopsis instructs detectives to log the names and addresses of individual citizens they paid “friendly visit[s]” to, thus creating public records of open wireless access points – one of EFF Austin’s original concerns.
Perhaps most revealingly, EFF Austin requested “All documents and communications related to The City of Austin’s, Austin Police Department’s, the Digital Analysis Response Team’s, or other Austin governmental agency’s recommendations and/or suggested practices for securing wireless broadband networks.” We did not receive a single document, nor can we find a single sentence responsive to this inquiry, leaving one to ask: how could DART “Crack down on unsecured wireless networks in residential neighborhoods” if the City of Austin was unable to locate a single document explaining how citizens or detectives are supposed to go about securing those networks?
Perhaps DART detectives have received special training towards that end…
Standard Operating Procedures
The last document included in the City’s response was an unredacted version of the APD DART Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), available in the embed above. The City provided EFF Austin with a redacted version of the SOP while appealing to the Office of the Attorney General, insisting that disclosure might interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention efforts. The OAG disagreed, forcing the City to release the complete document. It is an interesting read we encourage you to review, revealing the marching orders of one of the most venerable computer forensics and cybercrime prevention units in the country.
Within the previously censored sections of the document, EFF Austin found an item that might be worth further exploration.
The duties of the Sergeant of DART, the ranking officer of what appears to be a team of five detectives, are described in section .05.C.1 under “Personnel Duties, Authority, and Responsibilities.” Item “aa” on page 5 states:
Act as unit coordinator with the Austin Metro High Tech Foundation (AMHTF) Board of Directors:
Prepare annual budget for December meeting which projects anticipated expenditures of the AMHTF monies over the upcoming calendar year.
Supervise expenditures of these budgeted monies over the budget year and authorize all expenditures from these monies.
Prepare annual reports for the board of directors meetings itemizing budgeted expenditures for the previous year.
Prepare reimbursement request(s) for the AMHTF, as needed, to recover monies from authorized expenditures. Provide a receipt for all items in the reimbursement request.
Authorize disbursements from and provide accounting on the travel and training fund provided by the AMHTF.
The Austin Metro High Tech Foundation (AMHTF) is an organization founded by local companies and law enforcement personnel to battle high-tech crime in the Austin Metro area. The Foundation began in mid-1994, when seven area security managers decided to join with local law enforcement to form a policing unit dedicated to investigating high-tech crimes.
Since 1994, the Foundation membership has grown, along with the expertise of the law enforcement personnel assigned to high-tech crimes.
And what does the Foundation do – or rather what did the Foundation do at this time?
Foundation members provide funds, training and in-kind donations to support the law enforcement community’s high-tech crime efforts. The funds are used for education, equipment and travel required by law enforcement personnel. The benefit to members is the increase in prosecutions and restitution associated with high-tech crimes.
This 1999 LA Times story (“Tech Firms Pay Police Agencies to Fight Cyber Crime”) mentions the Austin foundation, and its byline (“Law enforcement: Intel funds sheriff’s unit that chases computer pirates. Some fear conflict of interest.”) hints at reasons why AMHTF may opt for a low profile.
This is not to say funding from the Foundation is without cause or merit; from the article:
When losses mounted from armed robberies at computer chip plants in Austin in the early ’90s, the city’s high-tech companies decided to finance a private nonprofit group to train officers to deal with the problem. Through the Austin Metro High Tech Foundation, firms including IBM and Dell Computer Corp. annually donate up to $10,000 each for investigators’ training, travel and equipment.
In return, businesses–including Applied Micro Devices, National Instruments and Motorola Corp.–say they expect law enforcement to treat computer crime as seriously as drugs and gang violence.
In 1999, according to the article’s author, public sentiment was decidedly mixed on the appropriateness of private corporations funding specific law enforcement efforts narrowly focused on crime prevention within their business sector. Is that the cause for AMHTF deciding to assume a low public profile? Is that the reason why public servants of the City of Austin attempted to perpetuate the Foundation’s low profile through selective application of the secrecy attendant on the darkness of redaction?
In late September, the Austin Police Department (APD) aimed to identify open residential wireless access points around the city and educate their owners about the risks of providing free Internet access. The initiative, dubbed Operation Wardrive, was announced by an APD Public Information Office press release which was quickly picked up by local ABC-affiliate KVUE. Word circulated throughout the community and back to local officials, who quashed the nascent effort by APD’s Digital Analysis Response Unit (DART) prior to deployment. It remains uncertain whether the project will be restarted.
Why did we make these requests? If the Austin Police Department gathers data about open wireless access points operated by local citizens and organizations, we think it’s important to have a full and complete understanding of both intention and process. How will this data be used? Where will it be stored? Will it be retained and mapped? Is there a surveillance aspect to this activity? IF this activity is limited in scope, as suggested by one email we acquired suggesting that the wardrive would be only one time for a few hours, what is the target area, and why was it selected?
As compared to other states, Texas has admirable Open Records laws defined in Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code. Conforming with § 552.301(b), the City of Austin (CoA) responded to our request on October 5th (within 10 business days) providing a handful of documents responsive to our inquiry while simultaneously requesting a decision from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on the disclosure of additional records.
The documents withheld are alleged to fall under the protection of the attorney-client privilege (§ 552.107(1)) or potentially interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention efforts (§ 552.108(b)(1)). The documents provided to EFF Austin included emails discussing the Operation Wardrive press release and a heavily redacted document detailing APD DART’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
The Texas Attorney General had 45 business days to issue a ruling on the CoA’s request, and dutifully responded on December 13th (EFF Austin opted not to exercise its right to comment in support of the release of the requested materials as described in § 552.304). The Office of the Attorney General concurred with the City of Austin concerning records protected by attorney-client privilege, but did not entirely agree with the assertion that the remaining documents could be withheld for fear of disrupting law enforcement efforts. The remaining documents include an “operational briefing” and the redacted sections of the SOP (with the exception of the cellular phone numbers of DART detectives, which are wisely protected pursuant to Open Records Decision 506 at 2 (1988)).