Is an unexpected October Surprise on the way?
They think it’s a bad thing, but I give The Nation credit for reportorial digging. The hard left magazine has discovered that federal law enforcement agencies (though not the FBI) have been tracing who the mobs in Portland have been communicating with. The apparent lead role in utilizing hi tech and classified electronic means is being played by The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), while the US Marshal’s Service is dispatching street level personnel. This bypasses the FBI, whose Director William Wray is on the record in sworn testimony, dismissing any such superstructure:
“It’s not a group or an organization. It’s a movement or an ideology,” he said, explaining that “folks who subscribe or identify” with antifa do not operate at a national level, but instead organize “regionally into small groups or nodes.”
The Nation reports:
A current DHS official described a colleague with expertise in electronic surveillance who was being deployed to Portland. But for what purpose? “Extracting information from protester’s phones,” the DHS official said. While in Portland, an interagency task force involving DHS and the Justice Department used a sophisticated cell phone cloning attack—the details of which remain classified—to intercept protesters’ phone communications, according to two former intelligence officers familiar with the matter.
Cell phone cloning involves stealing a phone’s unique identifiers and copying them to another device in order to intercept the communications received by the original device. The former intelligence officials described it as part of a “Low Level Voice Intercept” operation, declining to go into further detail—one of them citing the sensitive nature of the surveillance tool and the other an ongoing leak investigation within I&A.
“You’re getting an inside view into your targets, who they are, who they’re talking to—the hierarchy,” the former intelligence officer said, explaining that many within the DHS believe that antifa is an organized group—as opposed to the largely spontaneous, decentralized ideological tendency that most experts, including Trump’s own FBI director, believe it is. DHS intelligence has even found some limited evidence, which he considered thin, of foreign sponsorship. Attorney General William Barr, however, recently claimed that antifa is receiving foreign sponsorship—a necessary criterion to formally designating it a terror organization, which President Trump vowed to do in July. (The Nation recently reported on DHS intelligence’s attempts to tie antifa to Kurdish militant groups in Syria.)
“Signals intelligence collection would not be useful for preventing opportunistic looting or violent confrontations. It presumes the existence of coordinated, purposeful, and unlawful activity that is conducted through electronic means,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. “The general concern is that DHS treated mass public protests—not just violent individuals—as suspicious and targets of investigation, or worse.” (snip)