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In 2019, federal investigators in Wisconsin were hunting men they believed had participated in the trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor. She had gone missing that year but had emerged claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted, according to a search warrant reviewed by Forbes. In an attempt to chase down the perpetrators, investigators turned to Google, asking the tech giant to provide information on anyone who had searched for the victim’s name, two spellings of her mother’s name and her address over 16 days across the year. After being asked to provide all relevant Google accounts and IP addresses of those who made the searches, Google responded with data in mid-2020, though the court documents do not reveal how many users had their data sent to the government.
It’s a rare example of a so-called keyword warrant and, with the number of search terms included, the broadest on record. (See the update below for other, potentially even broader warrants.) Before this latest case, only two keyword warrants had been made public. One revealed in 2020 asked for anyone who had searched for the address of an arson victim who was a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R Kelly. Another, detailed in 2017, revealed that a Minnesota judge signed off on a warrant asking Google to provide information on anyone who searched a fraud victim’s name from within the city of Edina, where the crime took place.
While Google deals with thousands of such orders every year, the keyword warrant is one of the more contentious. In many cases, the government will already have a specific Google account that they want information on and have proof it’s linked to a crime. But search term orders are effectively fishing expeditions, hoping to ensnare possible suspects whose identities the government does not know. It’s not dissimilar to so-called geofence warrants, where investigators ask Google to provide information on anyone within the location of a crime scene at a given time.
“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson said.
The latest case shows Google is continuing to comply with such controversial requests, despite concerns over their legality and the potential to implicate innocent people who happened to search for the relevant terms. From the government’s perspective in Wisconsin, the scope of the warrant should have been limited enough to avoid the latter: the number of people searching for the specific names, address and phone number in the given time frame was likely to be low. But privacy experts are concerned about the precedent set by such warrants and the potential for any such order to be a breach of Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches. There are also concerns about First Amendment freedom of speech issues, given the potential to cause anxiety amongst Google users that their identities could be handed to the government because of what they searched
The Wisconsin case was supposed to have remained secret, too. The warrant only came to light because it was accidentally unsealed by the Justice Department in September. Forbes reviewed the document before it was sealed again and is neither publishing it nor providing full details of the case to protect the identities of the victim and her family. The investigation is ongoing, two years after the crimes occurred, and the DOJ didn’t comment on whether or not any charges had been filed.
Forbes was able to identify one other, previously unreported keyword warrant in the Northern District of California in December 2020, though its existence was only noted in a court docket. It also has the potential to be broad. The order, currently under seal, is titled “Application by the United States for a Search Warrant for Google Accounts Associated with Six Search Terms and Four Search Dates.”
There’s more that the government can get with such requests than simple Google account identities and IP addresses. In Wisconsin, the government was hopeful Google could also provide “CookieIDs” belonging to any users who made the searches. These CookieIDs “are identifiers that are used to group together all searches conducted from a given machine, for a certain time period. Such information allows investigators to ascertain, even when the user is not logged into a Google account, whether the same individual may have conducted multiple pertinent searches,” the government wrote.
There was another disturbing aspect to the search warrant: the government had published the kidnapping victim’s name, her Facebook profile (now no longer accessible), her phone number and address, a potential breach of a minor’s privacy. The government has now sealed the document, though was only alerted to the leak after Forbes emailed the Justice Department for comment. That mistake—of revealing the identity of minor victims of sexual abuse in court documents. As in the latest case, the FBI and DHS have been seen choosing pseudonyms and acronyms for victims, but then publishing their full Facebook profile link, which contains the name of the minor.
Chinese tech giant Huawei paid Dem Tony Podesta $1 million for lobbying Biden White House: Report
Powerful Democrat Tony Podesta earned $1 million during the last half of 2021 for lobbying the Biden White House on behalf of restricted Chinese tech giant Huawei, according to financial disclosures.
Podesta began working for Huawei in August 2021, The New York Post reports. His Quarter 3 disclosure for 2021 shows that he made $500,000 lobbying the “Executive Office of the President.” He made $500,000 during Quarter 4 lobbying the “White House Office,” according to his disclosure filed Thursday. Both forms stated that he specifically lobbied on “issues related to telecommunication services and impacted trade issues.”
The Trump administration identified Huawei as a national security threat, and President Donald Trump issued regulations to prevent the sale of American products to Huawei.
In November 2021, restrictions on Huawei were tightened further after President Joe Biden signed legislation to stop new telecommunications equipment licenses from being issued to companies deemed to be security threats.
Documents released by The Washington Post the following month show that Huawei is connected to China’s mass surveillance program.
The filings show that Huawei spent $3.59 million in 2021 on lobbying.
Podesta’s brother is Democratic political consultant John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, counselor to President Barack Obama and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. He is currently president of the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress.
Baltimore State’s Attorney indicted on charges of perjury and falsifying mortgage applications
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday for allegedly lying on a mortgage application when she used the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to withdraw funds from her city retirement account.
Both charges – one for the false mortgage application, and one for perjuring herself – pertain to the purchase of two vacations home in Florida.
Mosby allegedly falsified hardship due to the pandemic as a reason that, under the CARES Act, she should be allowed to make withdrawals from her city retirement account. She subsequently, allegedly, requested two one-time withdrawals of $40,000 and $50,000, which she then used to make down-payments on two properties in Florida.
The grand jury indictment states that the official did not, in reality, experience any significant financial hardship due to the pandemic, and was awarded her full annual salary of just under $250,000 in 2020.
Mosby is additionally being accused of lying about the status of one of the Florida properties in order to get a better mortgage rate. Court documents reportedly reveal that she claimed one of the homes on which she placed a down payment was going to be a second home, despite having already entered into an agreement with a vacation rental company. She also reportedly failed to disclose that she and her husband (the president of the Baltimore city council) owe the IRS more than $45,000.
Should she be convicted, Mosby could face up to five years in prison for the perjury charge and another 30 years for each of the two counts of falsifying a mortgage application, in addition to a $1 million fine per mortgage application violation.
Mosby was first elected in 2014, won reelection in 2018, and is running for a third term in June. In a statement to the press, her attorney defended his client’s innocence.
“Marilyn Mosby is innocent, has been innocent, and we look forward to defending her in the court of law, and presenting evidence of her innocence to a jury of her peers. We will fight these charges vigorously, and I remain confident that once all the evidence is presented, that she will prevail against these bogus charges – charges that are rooted in personal, political and racial animus five months from her election,” said A. Scott Bolden.
Mosby gained a national profile when she brought charges against six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Grey, who died while in detention of the Baltimore Police Department.
Board member of NEA – the largest teachers union, saying unvaxxed should die or be shot
BREAKING: NEA just removed Mollie Paige Mumau’s name from their website after she posted on FB that unvaccinated people should die or be shot. However, they have yet to make a public statement.
NEA Board Member Suggests Unvaccinated with Religious Exemptions Deserve to Die
Mollie Paige Mumau, a Pennsylvania teacher and member of the board of directors of the NEA, identifies herself as an “educator, wife, union advocate, semi-pro wine drinker, LGBTQ ally, and ‘Team Pfizer.’”
Mumau wrote, apparently in response to a specific person, that those who choose not to be vaccinated and obtain a religious exemption deserve to die or be shot:
“Screw this guy and screw them all who are all about hiding behind religious exemptions because they don’t want anybody to tell them what to do. People tell you what to do all the time, and you do it. This is such BS. He and his ilk deserve whatever comes their way, including losing jobs, getting sick, and perhaps dying from this virus. But in the meantime, he’s going to put all the people around him in danger. I don’t know why the GOP doesn’t just take those guns they profess to love so much and just start shooting all of their constituents who think this way. It would be quicker and ultimately safer than putting me and my friends and family at risk.”
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