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Fraley,Public Policy

How much did Wisconsin taxpayers pay to spy on (and track the movements of) citizens who didn’t break the law?

7 Jan , 2016  

The GAB / John Doe Witch Hunt was worse than you think.

The level of domestic spying done by disgraced former special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, Milwaukee Co. DA John Chisholm, the soon-to-be-disbanded Government Accountability Board and their staffs is far more broad than previously reported.

As I wrote earlier, I was caught up in the wide net cast over Wisconsin conservatives. I’m not a campaign staffer or political aide but I have been among the GAB’s most vocal and effective critics.

What I haven’t disclosed, until now, is the extent of materials requested (and I can assume received) by the partisan zealots who engaged in this far-reaching, Constitution trampling, domestic spying operation.

You know they asked for emails, passwords, credit and banking information tied to email accounts and all documents stored in the cloud.

But there’s more.

From the letter I received this week from Schmitz, which detailed the Search Warrant for electronic records tied to my email address, is this line:

“…, log-in IP address associated with session times and dates.”

As background, you should know that every time you access a website, you leave an electronic trail behind you. Without taking some effort to mask your browsing, you leave behind a lot of identifying information about you. For example, that’s why ads for that thing you just searched for on Amazon appear in your Facebook sidebar the next time you check your Facebook wall.  It’s also how you can see ads that target the city you’re in (think “New Law in Wausau Could Lower Your Insurance Rates!”)

Anyway, in layman’s terms IP address are geocoded. With a certain degree of accuracy, you can pinpoint from where a person accessed a website by looking at the IP address recorded at the time of the visit.

So with the IP addresses of every time I accessed my email over four years the GAB and their investigators could (and likely did) plot my every movement for four years.  Basically, Fran Schmitz, Kevin Kennedy, John Chisholm and all associated with this domestic spying operation had a GPS tracker on me for four years.

They tracked our movements.

Imagine a drone following you every day for four years, without your knowledge.

Creepy. Yes. Illegal, possibly. But more on that in a later post.

Now, if you’re not bothered by the Constitutional problems with this level of domestic spying..if you simply think this is political garbage that is to be expected…Even if you think that “if I did nothing wrong I have nothing to worry about”…consider this:

They have all this data.

It takes a lot of manpower to analyze this.

159 notices similar to mine were issued last week.

So take my situation, multiply it by as much as 159.

Who analyzed this data. How much was there? How long did it take?

And here’s the kicker that should trouble every Wisconsin taxpayer, be they conservative, liberal or apolitical….

How much did it cost to gather, store, analyze and sort all of this?

My conservative guess is millions of dollars.

Millions of tax dollars. Tens of thousands of man hours. Probably. We may never know.

Based on a flawed and (as determined by multiple courts and the ultimate John Doe Judge Peterson) UnConstitutional legal theory.

I don’t seek your pity. Even though I believe I was targeted because of my work exposing the GAB’s incompetence. Even though I was just notified that two years ago a Search Warrant was executed for four years of my emails. Even though my communications and movements were tracked for years and years. Even though I was not a target of this probe yet was subjected to all of this. I can handle this. Am handling this. Will continue to handle this.

And I’m one of many. Remember, 159 notices were issued by the disgraced former special prosecutor Fran Schmitz.

So, I don’t seek your pity. But I would expect your outrage. If not over the Constitutional abuses, outrage over the incredible waste of taxpayer resources. Liberal tax dollars were wasted here, too, folks.

Single mom in Milwaukee who only votes for Democrats? Your tax dollars were wasted on this. Spent to track the communications and movements of more than 100 people who were not dealing drugs or plotting a terrorist attack, but merely had a political ideology some in the government disliked.

Union machinist in Green Bay who votes more often for Democrats than Republicans? Your tax dollars were wasted on this.

College student in Eau Claire who has never voted? Your tax dollars were wasted on this.

Bernie Sanders aficionado who hates Scott Walker with the blaze of 1,000 suns? Your tax dollars were wasted on this.

Hyper partisan Democratic operative in Madison who has spent your life trying to defeat candidates I have supported over the years? Your tax dollars were wasted on this.

For what?

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4 Responses

  1. John Foust says:

    I’ll bite. Who would you like to examine your case? A reporter? Cooperate with a reporter. Heck, cooperate with several, just to show how fair and balanced you are. The public? So post some scans.

    Let’s start at the beginning. Apparently the John Doe team was able to convince a few judges that there appeared to be violation of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law that they wanted to investigate, and as part of that, they were also granted search warrants, which they executed in the same fashion that thousands of search warrants are executed in Wisconsin each year. Are you opposed to how pre-dawn, invasive, and thuggish that process can seem only in your case, or in the case of the other thousands of search warrants, too?

    Let’s leave the (fair) debate about whether Wisconsin should have a John Doe process for another day. Let’s also leave aside for the moment the (fair) debate about the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. Can we agree that John Doe I led to convictions? Can we agree that when the John Doe II team started in 2012, they managed to convince some judges that they could proceed according to the existing law?

    You provide a fragment of a sentence regarding their request for IP addresses. You chose to leave out the context. I’ll presume this was their demand to the email service in question, asking for the IP addresses used to connect to their service. In an investigation regarding electronic records, this is not an unusual request. You realize that, right? Surely you’ve heard about other search warrants that get the IP address, too. (On the other hand, perhaps you have read about other cases of intellectual property theft, for example, where courts have found that IP address alone is not enough to implicate a particular person.) It’s a bit of corroborating evidence that helps to confirm who was using the email account. (Remember the Petraeus affair, where both parties were using a single web-based email account as a dropbox for their shared communications?)

    I think you are jumping to conclusions about whether they bothered to analyze and geo-locate those IP addresses. They didn’t have a real-time tracker. That is a colorful and gross exaggeration. Given the delays in records requests from the third-parties, it was probably weeks if not months before they might’ve been able to geolocate any IP address you used.

    Your home Internet IP address is probably allocated via DHCP, which means it could change every hour or maybe once or twice a year, at the whim of the systems of your Internet provider. Google “what is my ip” and it’ll tell you your IP. Plug that into any geolocation service. It probably does not pinpoint your actual location. For example, my office IP says I’m in Cottage Grove, 25 miles away from my true location, and I even pay extra for a static IP that hasn’t changed in a decade. (That’s why the targetted ad sometimes or always shows the wrong city.)

    For accurate geolocation of any IP address, they’d need to bother to get a warrant to see that Internet provider’s records that would tie a changing IP address with their customer records for that moment in time. Multiply that subpoena by every Internet provider used at every location where you might’ve used a laptop or their public-use Internet computer to check your mail. If you were checking email on your phone, those cellular IP addresses are even less accurate for geolocation. (So why does Google and Apple geolocation work so well? They triangulate cell phone towers and use databases of locations of WiFi access points.) These IP addresses merely serve as unique identifiers, like a ticket you get in line at the deli.

    As for why you were caught in their net, can we rely on you for a balanced explanation? How did the John Doe II team convince a judge that you might’ve been party to the illegal collusion they were investigating? You weren’t named only because you were a critic of the GAB. Certainly your history and connections with the Wisconsin GOP are far more extensive than that. You are a decidedly partisan spin doctor by profession. Now you want the outrage of single moms, union machinists, college students, and Bernie fans? (In the same spirit, I’ll ask you to investigate and tell me why Walker’s office can redact staffer and “Jimmy’s” email addresses a few months ago although you (correctly) fought to prevent Erpenbach from doing the same thing.)

    As for whether it’s a waste of money… It’s the legal system we have. We don’t expect criminals to volunteer to hand over the evidence of their crimes, any more than I would expect you to honestly blog about any truth you might know about any politician who broke any law. Is it a waste of money when any investigation or prosecution proceeds but fails to convict? We can’t make generalizations. We might critique the methods of law enforcement or prosecutors, but not all investigations are a “waste of money.”

    Maybe I should start a consulting business to teach political operatives about the usefulness of encryption.

    • Brian Fraley says:

      The logical gymnastics you go through to try to justify this unconstitutional fishing expedition are truly amazing. And, frankly, a little disheartening.

      I know I am not a sympathetic figure, especially in liberal circles, and frankly I don’t want anyone’s pity.

      But I would expect people who believe in civil rights and are concerned about the oppressive nature of unchecked power could set aside partisanship a bit and acknowledge that this 2 + year delay in notification of a warrant is outrageous, as is the 4 year look back on the emails of more than 100 people who were not targets of the actual investigation.

      And, you’re wrong on the IP address geolocation thing. They wanted this information for a reason. And once they got it, why should we think that they did not analyze it?

      On what basis do you conclude that the investigators didn’t go to dozens or even hundreds of service providers to help narrow the geomapping of the IP addresses? They had unlimited resources and unchecked (under Judge Kluka) powers to pursue every thread of a conspiracy they could think of.

      Bottom line. They had four years of my emails sent and received, and all the documents attached to them. They had everything stored in the Google Drive cloud. They had the information of where I was for four years. They obtained this by a search warrant signed by a judge who did not read it. And for more than two years they failed to notify me that the warrant had been issued.

      If I were suspected of terrorism, they would have had to let me know about the warrants within 180 days.

      How can this not trouble you?

      • John Foust says:

        The topic of your post was the IP addresses. At the start of my comment, I admitted there are plenty of important topics to debate regarding the wisdom of a separate John Doe process, the powers they are granted, and free-speech questions regarding campaigns. I said we should leave those for another day, and so I focused on the topic of your post. I didn’t engage in any gymnastics other than stating that John Doe II seemed to have followed a process that was established in law at the time.

        As I explained, the IP address from which you, say, accessed Gmail, acts more like a deli ticket number than a GPS. You can easily verify this. I just sent an email from my ATT iPhone and the originating IP in the received email (in the “Received:” header line, normally not displayed by default in email client software) says it first hit the Internet in Chicago. It’s off by 130 miles. The site “iplocation.net” says the IP address of my Charter cable modem geolocates to Cottage Grove, so it’s off by nearly 30 miles.

        As I said, if the John Doe team sent a subpoena to Time-Warner or Google or ATT for deeper info they might have about your location, it’s a different story. I did not conclude that they didn’t do that. I said they would need to expend considerable effort to do so.

        There are other layers ranging from the simple (Time-Warner knows your address and the minute-by-minute IP address assigned to your home cable modem) to the complex (Google Maps cars that sniffed WiFi MAC and IP addresses of every coffee shop and home they passed, web cookies, cellular provider records that showed which towers your phone used, per-call) that would provide far more precise info about your location. Surely you have heard of crime investigations where the police were able to use cell phone records to pinpoint calls. If you can show (or we ever learn) they requested other info like that, I’d be more convinced they were concerned about your actual location.

        I would be glad to be proven wrong about any bit of the above. I don’t think you can do that, though. Show me.

        If they were trying to prove collusion of different parties, the use of a single IP address could strongly suggest that three individuals were in the same place at the same time, sharing the same WiFi.

        As for your claim that Judge Kluka “didn’t read” the subpoenas, you’ll need to give me better evidence than the unsupported opinions of M. D. Kittle and O’Keefe’s attorneys.

        If the John Doe process leads to such unconstitutional invasions, why did the WisGOP in October only strip its use in political misconduct cases, and leave it intact for other situations? Why weren’t they concerned about the wide dragnets and pre-dawn raids in those other cases? Why are DAs and special investigators right and trustworthy in those other cases, but wrong and untrustworthy in yours? Would it be wrong for me to suggest that a prosecutor could be politically motivated in a violent crime or drug case?

        Frankly, if we didn’t have a caucus and political system that coerced such herd-like behavior, you’d think some Republicans would’ve supported allowing the John Doe in political cases from a conservative affection for slow deliberative reassessment of existing process, and some Democrats would’ve supported it because they’d love to avoid seeing Walker’s minions enacting the same sort of dragnet against Democrats in the years to come.

  2. Chris W says:

    Which means that I was probably spied on too – since I’ve HATED Walker ever since he first ran…

    I came to hate him because my email account was FLOODED with “support scott walker” spam through the WHOLE DAMNED CAMPAIGN, in spite of repeated calls and messages for them to QUIT sending me their crap!

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