New Jersey Conservatives Monitored
Last week the owners of several websites frequented by New Jersey conservatives tracked searches coming off GOOGLE from an IP address that is part of LEO, or Law Enforcement Online. The searches typically contained the name of a private citizen along with words like “Republican”, “conservative”, or “tea party”.
The IP address was traced back to Clarksburg, West Virginia, where the LEO portal is operated and originates from. So how does LEO work? Here is the explanation from the LEO website, which is a program that falls under the purview of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS):
So you’re a police officer in Topeka, Kansas who’s looking for information about gangs in your state. Or an intelligence analyst in the U.K. who wants to chat with peers about the latest counterterrorism trends. Where do you turn?
One important answer: to Law Enforcement Online, or LEO, www.leo.gov.
LEO is a secure, Internet-based communications portal for law enforcement, first responders, criminal justice professionals, and anti-terrorism and intelligence agencies around the globe. LEO catalyzes and strengthens collaboration and information-sharing by providing access to sensitive but unclassified information and various state-of-the-art communications services and tools. It is available to vetted users anywhere in the world around the clock and is offered free of charge to members.
LEO started in 1995 as a small dial-up service with just 20 members. Now, it has more than 100,000 members across the world and a host of features and capabilities offered through a Virtual Private Network on the Internet.
What does LEO offer specifically? Here’s a rundown:
A national alert system directing members to the LEO site for information on emergencies (like the London bombings, for example);
Some 1,100 Special Interest Groups (SIG) that allow members who share expertise or interests to connect with each other, including sections on terrorism, street gangs, and bombs;
Access to important and useful databases, like those run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children;
E-mail services, which enable members to submit fingerprints to the FBI for processing by our Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System;
A Virtual Command Center (VCC)-an information sharing and crisis management tool that allows the law enforcement community to use LEO at local and remote sites as an electronic command center to submit and view information and intelligence;
Distance learning, with several online learning modules on topics like terrorism response, forensic anthropology, and leadership; and
A multimedia library of publications, documents, studies, research, technical bulletins, and other reports of interest to LEO users.
So why is someone using a system paid for with federal tax dollars to do political opposition research on conservatives in New Jersey? Who ordered it?
The problem with LEO is that it is difficult to track. Say a deputy attorney general in New Jersey logs onto the network from Trenton. Once on LEO, his IP address appears as Clarksburg, West Virginia - not Trenton, New Jersey.
We are sure that in the coming weeks the victims of this malfeasance will be contacted by an attorney and that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests will be filed with the United States Department of Justice. The network log for the relevant times will be requested and the person or persons who used LEO to conduct political opposition research will be uncovered.
The threat and intimidation level has just been elevated. Who is doing it and why? It is a brave new world all of us must be aware of.