Justices Adopt New Privacy Rules for Cellphone Tracking

The Supreme Court says police generally need a search warrant if they want to track criminal suspects’ movements by collecting information about where they’ve used their cellphones.

The justices’ 5-4 decision Friday is a victory for privacy in the digital age. Police collection of cellphone tower information has become an important tool in criminal investigations.

The outcome marks a big change in how police can obtain phone records. Authorities can go to the phone company and obtain information about the numbers dialed from a home telephone without presenting a warrant.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s four liberals.

Roberts said the court’s decision is limited to cellphone tracking information and does not affect other business records, including those held by banks.

He also wrote that police still can respond to an emergency and obtain records without a warrant.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Kennedy wrote that the court’s “new and uncharted course will inhibit law enforcement” and “keep defendants and judges guessing for years to come.”

The court ruled in the case of Timothy Carpenter, who was sentenced to 116 years in prison for his role in a string of robberies of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio. Cell tower records that investigators got without a warrant bolstered the case against Carpenter.

Investigators obtained the cell tower records with a court order that requires a lower standard than the “probable cause” needed to obtain a warrant. “Probable cause” requires strong evidence that a person has committed a crime.

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Apple Closing iPhone Security Gap Used by Law Enforcement

Apple is closing a security gap that allowed outsiders to pry personal information from locked iPhones without a password, a change that will thwart law enforcement agencies that have been exploiting the vulnerability to collect evidence in criminal investigations.

The loophole will be shut down in a forthcoming update to Apple’s iOS software, which powers iPhones.

Once fixed, iPhones will no longer be vulnerable to intrusion via the Lightning port used both to transfer data and to charge iPhones. The port will still function after the update, but will shut off data an hour after a phone is locked if the correct password isn’t entered.

The current flaw has provided a point of entry for authorities across the U.S. since the FBI paid an unidentified third party in 2016 to unlock an iPhone used by a killer in the San Bernardino, California, mass shooting a few months earlier. The FBI sought outside help after Apple rebuffed the agency’s efforts to make the company create a security backdoor into iPhone technology.

Apple’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI at the time became a political hot potato pitting the rights of its customers against the broader interests of public safety. While waging his successful 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump ripped Apple for denying FBI access to the San Bernardino killer’s locked iPhone.

In a Wednesday statement, Apple framed its decision to tighten iPhone security even further as part of its crusade to protect the highly personal information that its customers store on their phones.

CEO Tim Cook has hailed privacy as a “fundamental” right of people and skewered both Facebook and one of Apple’s biggest rivals, Google, for vacuuming up vast amounts of personal information about users of their free services to sell advertising based on their interests. During Apple’s 2016 battle with the FBI, he called the FBI’s effort to make the company alter its software a “dangerous precedent” in an open letter.

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FBI Warns of Posting Hoax Threats

Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is announcing a campaign to educate the public on the consequences of posting hoax threats to schools and other public places and reminds communities that these hoax threats are not a joke.

In the aftermath of tragic shootings such as the ones at Santa Fe High School in Texas and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the FBI and law enforcement around the country often see an increase in threats made to schools and other public forums.

The FBI and our partners follow up on every tip we receive from the public and analyze and investigate all threats to determine their credibility. Federal, state, and local law enforcement then employ a full range of tools to mitigate those threats that are deemed credible. Making false threats drains law enforcement resources and cost taxpayers a lot of money. When an investigation concludes there was a false or hoax threat made to a school or another public place, a federal charge could be considered, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If a federal charge is not warranted, state charges can be considered.

Public assistance is crucial to our efforts to curb these hoax threats. We ask that the public continue to contact law enforcement to report any potential threats or suspicious activity. If there is any reason to believe the safety of others is at risk, we ask that the public immediately reach out to their local police department by calling 911, or contact the FBI via tips.fbi.gov or over the phone (1-800-CALL-FBI). As always, members of the public can call their nearest FBI field office to report a tip.

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Public officers pan private police force plan

Lansing — Michigan law enforcement groups on Tuesday panned a new Senate plan to that would allow businesses, schools or other entities to contract with private security police forces that could carry weapons and make misdemeanor arrests.

The legislation could “de-professionalize” policing, reduce transparency and create a system where public safety services could vary depending on the wealth or resources of private entities, critics said.

But sponsoring Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, said he’ll invite police to a work group in hopes of improving legislation that advanced out of the Government Operations Committee in a 4-1 vote. His bill is a second effort after a private policing bill last year drew similarly harsh criticism.

“The main intent is getting more law enforcement on the ground in areas where there isn’t any available,” Kowall said.

Senate Bill 924 would expand a 1968 law that allows entities to create their own private police agencies, giving them the option to instead contract with a third-party vendor for the service.

The Detroit Medical Center, Detroit school district, General Motors Co. and the Henry Ford Health System are among 13 entities that already operate private security police agencies in Michigan.

Public law enforcement groups say expanding the law to third-party contractors heightens concerns over transparency, accountability and logistics.

“Under this law, any apartment complex could have their own private policing,” said Bob Stevenson, a retired Livonia police chief now with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

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Hillsborough security plan: trained armed guards in 100 more elementary schools

TAMPA — With scarce dollars and a mandate to provide armed protection for all students, some Tampa Bay area school officials have started to make use of a state initiative they once disparaged.

Named for a coach who was slain in the Feb. 14 Parkland massacre and enacted after opposition to an earlier proposal to arm teachers, the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program is a way to qualify other school employees to carry weapons and defend campuses against lethal intruders.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister was among those who earlier this year scoffed at the idea of arming teachers, which was first proposed by President Trump. And the guardian program never caught on among educators and law enforcement as the best way to protect schools.

But Chronister stood with Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Thursday to unveil a security plan that relies on trained security officers, including many who already work in Hillsborough schools.

“As much as I am opposed to arming our educators,” Chronister said, “there is a unique reality here in Hillsborough with an almost 40-year-old, established agency of security personnel that we can take advantage of. I can feel comfortable that they are going to provide the level of professionalism, safety and security to keep our children safe.”

Florida’s school security mandate has officials in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties scrambling to place an armed person on every campus by the new school year, which begins in August.

The hurdles are time and money, with not enough of either for districts to meet the mandate as they would like. The favored option among most educators is to hire school resource officers, or SROs, who are certified law enforcement officers. But that is proving expensive, with not enough money from the state to offset the cost.

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Williamsburg police arrest 10 people

Ten people — including eight College of William & Mary students and a professor — were arrested this week on narcotics distribution charges following a monthslong investigation, Williamsburg police said.

Police said the operation, a joint investigation by Williamsburg authorities and the Tri-Rivers Drug Task Force, seized LSD, cocaine, psilocybin (mushrooms), opioids, amphetamines, steroids, hashish and marijuana. Roughly $14,000 in cash was also recovered, authorities said.

Williamsburg police Maj. Greg Riley said the drugs were being sold on or around the William & Mary campus.

“We have no indication that these individuals were working together,” Riley said.

The criminal investigation began after authorities were told that there were unreported sexual assaults occurring because of increased drug activity on or around the William & Mary campus, Williamsburg police said.

“We were told the assaults were occurring because of increased drug use,” Riley said.

Police looked into the drug activity, which led to this week’s arrests, he said.

Police identified the professor arrested as Gi Sang Yoon, 40, who is facing two felony marijuana distribution charges and one count of possessing hashish. The other nonstudent charged was Timothy Tyrone Pryor, 27 — an employee at William & Mary who is facing a felony marijuana distribution charge.

Yoon is a visiting biology professor and Pryor works in dining services, said Suzanne Seurattan, a William & Mary spokeswoman.

In addition to facing drug distribution charges, the eight students are facing charges of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Police identified the students charged as Alexander Patrick Foley, 20; Biloliddin Tulamirza, 18; Daniel Jacob McBride, 20; Devin Moore, 20; Jacob Selmonosky, 18; Keegan Paugh, 22; Nicolas George Manuel, 22; and Shannon Cannaday, 20.

Riley could not provide where the students lived before attending the college. Seurattan said William & Mary has the following mailing addresses on file for the students: Foley, Bel Air, Md.; Tulamirza, Falls Church; McBride, Williamsburg; Moore, Springfield; Selmonosky, Falls Church; Paugh, Rapid City, S.D.; Manuel, Arlington; and Cannaday, Leesburg.

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Sarasota County Florida will create internal school security force

Sarasota County FL April 19 2018 The Sarasota County School Board decided Tuesday to create and manage an internal school security department over the next two years, dramatically shifting course from earlier discussions about continuing and expanding a program employing sheriff’s deputies and police officers from elementary through high schools.

Under the plan — a direct response to demands for increased security because of school shootings — the program would be phased in beginning this fall and completely implemented by the end of the 2019-20 school year, and will cost the district a total of about $3.1 million over those two years. The district plans to hire about 30 employees in the first year and 26 the following year, staffing their elementary schools with the trained and sworn law enforcement officers first and then adding them to middle and high schools.

For the 2018-19 year, Bowden will try to negotiate with local law enforcement agencies to retain the school resource officers in middle and high schools for that year while the district attempts to integrate their new, district-managed police officers at the elementary level. That will cost the district anywhere from an additional $1.4 to $2.5 million.

Three of the board’s five members, Caroline Zucker, Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown, spoke highly during the meeting of the idea of an internal police department. The concept was compared to the college police forces that staff many higher education campuses.

They will buy into the district and buy into the kids and keep those kids safer because they are responsible and they don’t report to anybody else but the school system,” Zucker said. “I like your plan for two years, because this gives you ample time to be able to put everything in place.”

Goodwin echoed that point, adding that the school police department employees could work with students after school and have a positive impact on their lives.

But School Board members Bridget Ziegler, the chairwoman, and Eric Robinson, were reluctant to quickly sign on to the new program, noting that it was a big task to undertake with only four months before the next school year.

Zucker, reflecting on previous criticism by Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight that the board was moving too slowly on security after the Parkland school shooting in February, countered one of Ziegler’s comments by saying, “We were told we’re moving too slow, and now we’re moving too fast?”

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Nationwide Law Enforcement Action Targets Online Drug Trafficking

A nationwide law enforcement action aimed at shining a light on those who use the dark web to buy and sell illegal opiates has resulted in hundreds of interactions and arrests of individuals who may have considered their seemingly anonymous online transactions beyond the reach of authorities.

The FBI-led enforcement action last week, named Operation Disarray, is part of a recently launched Department of Justice initiative to disrupt the sale of opioids online and was the first operation of its kind to occur simultaneously in all 50 states.

“The point of Operation Disarray,” said Special Agent Chris Brest, who helped organize the effort from FBI Headquarters, “is to put drug traffickers on notice: Law enforcement is watching when people buy and sell drugs online. For those who think the Darknet provides anonymity,” he explained, “you are mistaken.”

Darknet marketplaces resemble legitimate e-commerce sites, complete with shopping carts, thousands of products, sales promotions, and customer reviews. But the Darknet sites’ drop-down menus direct customers to cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and other illegal drugs.

The marketplaces are accessed through a type of software that claims to make the buyer and seller anonymous. Drug users anywhere in the world can sit in front of a computer screen and, with a click of the mouse, buy narcotics without having to risk a face-to-face interaction. “Drug trafficking is changing,” Brest said. “The environment is moving from real-world to the virtual realm, and it’s on the rise.”

Such unfettered access to illegal drugs, said Special Agent Eric Yingling, who specializes in Darknet investigations from the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division, “can accelerate someone’s addiction because the drugs are so easy to obtain. It also facilitates a low barrier of entry to becoming a trafficker,” he explained. “We see a number of individuals go from consuming to becoming distributors because they’ve become comfortable using the marketplaces. Anyone who owns a computer could potentially be involved in this type of activity.”

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Feds bust twin brothers from the Bronx for trying to build bombs

Bronx NY Cops have busted twin brothers from the Bronx for allegedly stockpiling explosive materials and crafting bombs inside their home — with help from high school students.

Christian Toro, a former teacher at Harlem Prep, and his brother, Tyler Toro, were arrested by the FBI on Thursday as part of a joint investigation with the NYPD.

The two 27-year-olds had been forging explosive devices inside their Pelham Parkway apartment since last October — using gunpowder from fireworks as the base for their bomb-making, according to the complaint.

A search of the residence turned up a slew of dangerous chemicals, including 20 pounds of iron oxide and aluminum powder, which form thermite when combined.

A “diary” was also allegedly found — which contained disturbing, handwritten notes, such as “WE ARE TWIN TOROS STRIKE US NOW” and “WE WILL RETURN WITH NANO THERMITE.”

As if that wasn’t enough, federal agents then discovered “a yellow backpack in a living area of the apartment, which contained, among other things, a purple index card with handwriting that reads, ‘UNDER THE FULL MOON THE SMALL ONES WILL KNOW TERROR.”

The complaint, obtained by The Post on Thursday afternoon, outlines numerous allegations against the Toro brothers — including how they’d been researching the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and paying teens to construct their makeshift weapons.

Christian allegedly met the youths through his job as a teacher and offered to pay them $50 per hour to “break apart fireworks and store the powder that came out of the fireworks in containers,” the complaint says.

Investigators spoke with “multiple students” who said that at least two people had agreed to work for the Toros in exchange for cash.

“Based on the interviews, it appears that the students visited the apartment between in or around October 2017 and in or around early January 2018,” the complaint says.

Authorities were tipped off earlier this year by officials from Harlem Prep after they found instructions on how to construct explosives on Christian’s laptop.

The FBI had launched an investigation back in December after the school received a bomb threat, but they didn’t start probing Christian until after the information was found on his computer.

“This case likely saved many, many lives,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at a press conference Thursday night.

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Radford University freshman ran ‘mini-syndicate’ prosecutor says

RADFORD — The brief drug-dealing career of a Radford University freshman brought him his own apartment with $25,000 in a safe beneath the kitchen sink and a 9mm pistol in a drawer — but it also brought threats to his family in Northern Virginia and the possibility of decades in prison for the one-time business major, attorneys and relatives said Friday.

“This isn’t some sandal-wearing hippie we caught here,” Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak said during a circuit court sentencing hearing for Gabriel Eduardo Yus-Baez, 18. “This is a major player in some kind of drug organization.”

Yus-Baez pleaded guilty in November to three counts of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them — one each for cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana — and to possessing a gun while possessing drugs.

On Friday, Judge Joey Showalter sentenced Yus-Baez to 35 years in prison, then suspended the term after Yus-Baez serves five years and five months. The judge imposed a $4,000 fine, suspended Yus-Baez’s driver’s license for 18 months after his release, and ordered supervision by the probation office for five years.

Before the sentence was pronounced, Yus-Baez said that he knew he had earned punishment but after a year in jail, was more than ready to turn his life around.

“I still plan — even though this is going to get in the way for a moment — to move forward and start something better … Please find it in your heart to let me go out there and make a better life for myself,” Yus-Baez said.

He agreed with defense attorney Jimmy Turk of Radford that he had been “young, dumb and stupid,” but was enticed by the idea of fast money and a showy lifestyle.

Wanda Baez, Yus-Baez’s mother, took the witness stand to speak for the half-dozen or so relatives in the courtroom. “You have put us in the most difficult situation of our lives,” she said to her son.

To Showalter, Baez said that she hoped her son could emerge from whatever punishment was imposed and realize the potential he had shown in high school.

“I hope and pray he has the opportunity to prove he can do better,” she said.

Questioned by Turk, Baez said that the family has felt threatened by people apparently connected to Yus-Baez’s drug cases, which include the Radford charges and another case in Northern Virginia.

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