Spotlight Tech

US Federal Agents Flew A Secret Spy Plane To Hunt Drug Cartel Leaders In Mexico // BuzzFeed News // 8.3.2017

By analyzing flight-tracking data and documents submitted to the US Federal Aviation Administration, BuzzFeed News has now identified aircraft operated by the [US] Marshals and a front company used to conceal them. For the first time, this analysis has confirmed that one of the Marshals’ planes was in the thick of the action during an important capture in Mexico.

This Shadowy Company is Flying Spy Planes Over US Cities // BuzzFeed News // 8.4.2017

For six straight days in the middle of March, a small twin-propeller plane flew over Phoenix. Each evening, it picked two or three spots and circled for hours, flying at more than 17,000 feet. The plane was loaded with sophisticated surveillance equipment, including technology developed by the National Security Agency to track cell phones.

BuzzFeed News Trained A Computer To Search For Hidden Spy Planes. This Is What We Found. // BuzzFeed News // 8.7.2017

A secret spy plane operated by the US Marshals hunted drug cartel kingpins in Mexico. A military contractor that tracks terrorists in Africa is also flying surveillance aircraft over US cities. In two stories published last week, BuzzFeed News revealed the activities of aircraft that their operators didn’t want to discuss. [...] Here’s how we did it.

Drone, Inc.: Marketing the Illusion of Precision Killing // CorpWatch // 8.7.2017

The 92-page report includes the first published overview of the companies responsible for designing and operating specific aspects of the drone and targeted killing program— such as full motion video, thermal imaging, synthetic aperture radar, social network analysis, and semantic wiki systems— along with selected contractor revenue data.

Alameda County becomes first in state to regulate cellphone surveillance tool // Oakland North // 11.19.2015

Committee vote on police heat sensors signals cooperation between police, privacy activists // Oakland North // 09.17.2015



The Barrett Brown Podcast debut // WhoWhatWhy // 8.14.2017

“The piece published by WhoWhatWhy in 2013 was the first to provide a comprehensive explanation of what it was that my associates and I had uncovered to prompt one of the most bizarre and draconian criminal investigations in public memory. Four years later, that article remains the single most comprehensive summary of the private-public intelligence nexus that my Project PM organization documented. Well before The New York Times and its ilk came to understand what my case meant for the country as a whole, WhoWhatWhy had already told the story best.”

Drone warfare is broken, buggy and losing us the war on terror // Salon // 8.12.2017

A new report examines the technology of drone warfare and its lethal shortcomings.

CJR co-publishes final installment of spy plane series // Columbia Journalism Review // 8.7.2017


Earlier Articles

Carmen Ortiz's Sordid Rap Sheet

US Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz has garnered much attention following the suicide of information activist Aaron Swartz, considering her office threw the book at him for a very minor offense. But what other skeletons hang in her closet, and what does it tell us about federal prosecutions these days?

Iran Disinfo Watch: The AP Gets Thrown Another Curveball

Once these guys decide they want a war, nothing stands in the way. The media typically lay right down, and the Associated Press is no exception. Here, we look at its coverage of the evidence against Iran from the supposedly reliable IAEA. Supposedly.

Barrett Brown Update: New Defense Team, Feds Fish For Activists

Several new developments in the Barrett Brown case suggest that the playing field between the cyber-activist/journalist and the government may be starting to even out—at least a bit. But the feds aren’t giving up anytime soon.

U.S. Firms Target Legal Dissidents Abroad

In the era of Edward Snowden, new revelations about government snooping may fall on deaf ears. “Of course the NSA is watching/listening/recording” goes a common refrain among the exposé-weary. But while the intrusive surveillance of the NSA and its British doppelganger, GCHQ, has been extensively documented, far less attention has been directed to private companies that hawk spyware, complete with sophisticated data-laundering features, to interested governments.

FBI Sat Back While Snitch Directed Cyber-Attacks and Potentially Entrapped Others

The FBI sat back and watched a hacker they had compromised instigate and commit a host of cyber-crimes in an operation that netted eight more arrests, according to newly leaked documents. But the revelations raise questions about where law enforcement ends and law-breaking inducement begins.

Why Obama Can't Withhold Military Aid to Egypt

The coverage of the bloodshed in Egypt elides one crucial element regarding the role of the United States in the tragic mess: Plenty of stateside businesses are making money off the mayhem.

Big Brother, Kill Lists, and Secrecy: What to Expect from Obama’s Second Term

Two momentous stories of the past few weeks can help us evaluate current and future prospects for our Constitutional rights, a year after Osama bin Laden’s death and a decade after 9/11. One grim harbinger of what’s to continue: a nighttime drone strike in Yemen that killed three “al-Qaida militants” was carried out within 24 hours of Obama’s victory speech.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Iran and the Bomb, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Facts

Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. Thedisastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defense. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.

Older Columns

The American Media and Venezuela

Syria Uses Electronic Army to Spread Propaganda Online – and These Other Governments Do Too

What the Media Doesn't Get About the Protests in Ukraine

Why Liberal Tech Companies Like Facebook Still Aren't Your Friends in Politics

Mayor Bloomberg is Retiring, and What He Leaves Behind Will Haunt New Yorkers For Years

NSA's Surveillance Of Americans Could Be Coming to an End, With Your Help

An Inside Look at Tor, the Privacy Network Used By Silk Road   

Here's What the Cyber Security 'Experts' Aren't Telling You

What Net Neutrality and the Debt Ceiling Suddenly Have in Common

Inside the Media Shield Law That Could Do More Harm Than Good

There's a Troubling Dark Side to Apple's New Fingerprint ID That No One is Talking About