Friday, August 17, 2007

How the FBI deals with Internet terrorist threats


I once met with an Orlando FBI special agent with information regarding an unsolved murder case. I had been playing around with local authorities on another matter and something pertaining to that case crossed my path. Unfortunately, I didn't tell him anything he didn't already know, but because of this, he proffered a small amount of tidbits the FBI was aware of. A young woman was picked up at a bar I used to stop at once in a while. She was never seen again. This happened before I ever frequented the place and I did not know her. Because the crime crossed state lines, the feds got involved. The trail led to a ranch in Texas where several sets of human remains were found, but none belonged to the girl in question. Since the prime suspect did not own the property, there was no way to prove the bones were directly linked to him. Oh, they know who did it, but they were having a tough time proving it. That is all I was told. No name. No town. Just the basics. I was on a need-to-know basis and I didn't need to know anything more. The only reasons I was privy to anything at all was because of my affiliation with someone else and my knowledge of the case. That was the only time I ever met with a federal agent.

Have you ever received an e-mail from a person or organization that threatened the national security of the United States? I did. It was chilling and I immediately forwarded it on to the FBI. Today, with the proliferation of blogs and comments, there are probably a lot more nasty words being passed around, especially on controversial blogs, and more so than when it was just through e-mail accounts. Below is the letter I received (addressed directly to me) and the FBI's response.

Personally I don't see much difference between Americans and Israelis.
Both are regrouped scumbags from all over the world and both massacred
the original inhabitants of the lands.

America is terrorist state since it was created, Jews didn't told
Americans to butcher Red Indians, Jews didn't ordered Americans to
massacre Filipinos, Jews didn't asked Americans to invade Caribbean
islands and annihilated people in there, Jews didn't dropped nukes
over Japan, Jews have no aims in butchering Vietnamese, Laotian nation
or Cambodians.

Americans did those things because they were born MURDERERS.
Now, regarding Palestinian cause, Americans are not under the control
of Jews, but in fact Israel is the one under the control. Americans
can flix their muscles whenever they want, and Israelis can't help
but to obey the orders coming from Washington.

Blaming Jews is the thing that makes Americans sons of b*tch feel
slightly comfortable with, because it gives them the sense that they
are under the control of external power and they wouldn't do what
they did.

This is bullsh*t, Americans are our enemies as being Arabs.
And one day when we are finished with Israel, we will force the
bastards behind the Atlantic to pay it back with their own blood.

Arabs don't forget nor forgive.

Sorry if my words hurt you, but it's not a personal.

Revolution till victory

Marvin Wingfield

Here is the FBI response:

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 16:11:16 -0500
From:"FBI Internet Tips" <>
Subject:FBI Response

Dear Mr. anonymous: (of course, I supplied my real name)
Thank you for your tip to the FBI Internet Tip Line.
It is being evaluated for it's strategic value, and
will be disseminated, if appropriate, for further
action. It is the policy of the FBI to not provide
results of that evaluation or action to the providers
of information. I would recommend that you contact and lodge a complaint with them regarding the
sending of the email message. You should be aware
that there is a high probability that is
unaware that these messages are being sent from their
email system.

David N. Rushing/jbv
Supervisory Special Agent
FBI Headquarters
Washington, DC

The key element here is that information provided to the FBI is not shared back. They do not keep you in the loop, so it's not like dropping by the local police department and asking, "Hey, Chief, what's up with that case you're working on?"

The FBI does not take threats lightly, but what constitutes a real threat? Where is the line drawn between idle insults and the real thing? The FBI is bombarded by citizen complaints every day and many wasted hours are spent deciphering what is and what isn't worth pursuing. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of "boy who cried wolf" types out there. Some bordering on delusional paranoia.

What the FBI will do, if warranted, is interesting. The complete capabilities of the FBI's "Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier" are closely guarded secrets, but here are some of the things the malware collects, according to Wired News:

IP address

MAC address of ethernet cards

A list of TCP and UDP ports

A list of running programs

The operating system, type and serial number

The default Internet browser and version

The registered user of the operating system and registered company, if any

The current logged-in user name

The last visited URL

A computer is sent a secret spyware program that settles into a "pen register" mode and CIPAV monitors the computer's internet usage, logging everything for 60 days. The information gathered is likely sent on to an FBI technical facility somewhere in Virginia. The educated guess is Quantico, because that's where Carnivore operated. Carnivore was a "packet-sniffing" policeware program. Essentially, a packet sniffer is a program that can see all of the information passing over the network it is connected to.

Wired News reported that under a recent ruling "by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, such surveillance - which does not capture the content of the communications - can be conducted without a wiretap warrant, because internet users have no 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in the data when using the internet." See: Warrantless Monitoring of Internet Traffic

Dissenting and insulting e-mails and blog comments are one thing, and courts generally uphold First Amendment rights, but anyone would be a fool to send real or implied threats via any means, including through anonymizers. They are morally and ethically wrong and always remember that Big Brother is watching.

For further reading on a case the FBI investigated in June, 2007, please go to:
FBI's Secret Spyware Tracks Down Teen Who Made Bomb Threats


  1. Pretty interesting article. I've often wondered how the FBI gets into emails and such. Thanks for the information.

  2. Thank you, Lois. It was quite interesting to research, too.

  3. Wow, I learned something from that article. That letter creeped me out. I usually get only religious fanatics and the like. Never have had someone that scary, and I'm glad!

  4. Thanks, c.a.

    I have a WordPress blog by the same name. On that one, a guy from England commented that there was nothing threatening in the letter at all and hinted that it never should have been sent on to the FBI. I told him 9/11 was still quite fresh in our minds. Anything of that nature would set off whistles and bells. I asked him what would he do if he got something like that soon after the London subway bombings.

    I'm glad you learned something.