A court document obtained by Buzzfeed identifies Jeremy G. C. Bogle as the FBI agent who collaborated with Jon Honan and Keith VanHook to criminally hack the internet service Awesomeness TV.
Last year, an FBI agent paid almost $6,000 to obtain the IP addresses of 10,000 internet users in violation of a federal law. The spies reportedly targeted many parents — presumably hoping to find them to indict for viewing R-rated movies on their computers. “The IP address searches have raised concern among computer experts that the U.S. Government may be intercepting vast numbers of innocent web users, including innocent children,” reported BuzzFeed. The FBI’s serious violation of privacy laws could easily lead to it being tossed out of court, and prosecutors forced to return the money spent on the illicit program. But the FBI apparently is uninterested in losing.
It turns out, the story obtained by BuzzFeed is only one part of a much bigger story about cyber-crime. The U.S. government acknowledges that cybercrime has been increasing, and that it is almost a cottage industry for the security services. Agents are stationed in European countries to promote the advertising of “security firms and products,” and other agents operate under the operation of a “security contracting firm,” according to a Wall Street Journal article. The FBI has created a special unit to combat cyber-crime as well. In other words, the FBI has discovered it can sell more serious crime without jeopardizing the law enforcement mission to protect society. It is not beyond the pale, one might argue, for law enforcement to conduct cyber-crime investigations on behalf of counterterrorism operations.
“Yes, my cyber-security contacts employ a criminal hacker in Los Angeles and a contractor from England,” said Mikko Hypponen, founder of the computer security firm F-Secure. “Many of them work as private detectives.” Another investigation of an Islamic State operative, by another company acting for the FBI, yielded an embarrassing leak of Americans’ personal data.
One way to argue that this should not be considered private security for government functions is that keeping an eye on the internet is itself a security function, and it follows that the FBI should be held accountable for the actors behind it. ThreatWatch, a monitoring service, investigated at least 155 events that the government confirmed occurred, involving thousands of people who used government-issued accounts for public activity. The Washington Post found that a private industry had been created to work with the NSA on creating a secure internet.
The cyber-crime industry is flourishing. And the FBI is happy to help set the rules, to execute it according to a business model it concocted for itself, and to profit from it.