Tech News

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Social Media Makes Us Soldiers in the War Against Ourselves

Wired - Wed, 2018-05-02 04:00
Bots don’t care what they share, but our very humanness—craving that which shocks and disgusts the most—may be our undoing online.
Categories: Tech News

A California Ruling Could Force Uber and Lyft to Change How They Operate

Wired - Wed, 2018-05-02 04:00
The California Supreme Court said more workers should be classified as employees, hurting companies such as Uber and Lyft that treat workers as contractors.
Categories: Tech News

Insect-Borne Diseases Have Tripled. Here's Why.

Wired - Wed, 2018-05-02 04:00
More people get sick from mosquito, tick, and flea bites than ever before. Climate change is a culprit, yes. But there are other factors at play.
Categories: Tech News

F8 2018: Facebook Needs to Stop Bad VR Apps Before They Start

Wired - Wed, 2018-05-02 04:00
With AR and VR apps, Facebook has the chance to crack down on bad actors early in on the game. Will it get it right this time?
Categories: Tech News

Buying a Tesla? Don't Count on That $7,500 Tax Credit

Wired - Wed, 2018-05-02 04:00
Tesla's about to max out its use of the federal tax credit, setting up yet another hurdle for the struggling automaker as challenges mount from GM, Ford, Volvo, VW, and others.
Categories: Tech News

Another Federal Court Says Compelled Decryption Doesn't Raise Fifth Amendment Issues

TechDirt - Wed, 2018-05-02 03:23

Another federal court is wrestling with compelled decryption and it appears the Fifth Amendment will be no better off by the time it's all over. A federal judge in North Carolina has decided compelling decryption of devices is only a small Fifth Amendment problem -- one that can be overlooked if the government already possesses certain knowledge. [h/t Orin Kerr]

The defendant facing child porn charges requested relief from a magistrate's order to compel decryption. The government isn't asking Ryan Spencer to turn over his passwords. But it wants exactly the same result: decrypted devices. The government's All Writs Order demands Spencer unlock the devices so law enforcement can search their contents. As the court notes in the denial of Spencer's request, the Fifth Amendment doesn't come into play unless the act of production -- in this case, turning over unlocked devices -- is both "testimonial" and "incriminating."

Spencer argued both acts are the same. The government may not ask him directly for his passwords, but a demand he produce unlocked devices accomplishes the same ends. As the court notes, the argument holds "superficial appeal." It actually holds a bit more than that. A previous dissenting opinion on the same topic said the government cannot compel safe combinations by "either word or deed."

This opinion [PDF], however, goes the other way. Judge Breyer likes the wall safe analogy, but arrives at a different conclusion than Justice Stevens did in an earlier dissent. The court finds drawing a Fifth Amendment line at password protection would produce a dichotomy it's not willing to accommodate.

[A] rule that the government can never compel decryption of a password-protected device would lead to absurd results. Whether a defendant would be required to produce a decrypted drive would hinge on whether he protected that drive using a fingerprint key or a password composed of symbols.

The refusal to craft this bright line ultimately makes little difference. The line already exists. Almost no courts have said the compelled production of fingerprints is a Fifth Amendment violation. Producing passwords, however, is an issue that's far from settled. In the cases that have gone the government's way, the key appears to be what the government already knows: the "foregone conclusions." The same goes here.

The court admits producing unlocked devices strengthens the government's case even before any searches take place.

So: the government’s request for the decrypted devices requires an act of production. Nevertheless, this act may represent incriminating testimony within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment because it would amount to a representation that Spencer has the ability to decrypt the devices. See Fisher, 425 U.S. at 410. Such a statement would potentially be incriminating because having that ability makes it more likely that Spencer encrypted the devices, which in turn makes it more likely that he himself put the sought-after material on the devices.

But that only deals with the incrimination side. Is it testimonial? The court thinks it isn't. Or at least, it believes whatever testimonial value it adds is almost nonexistent. All the government needs to show is that the defendant has the ability to unlock the devices.

Turning over the decrypted devices would not be tantamount to an admission that specific files, or any files for that matter, are stored on the devices, because the government has not asked for any specific files. Accordingly, the government need only show it is a foregone conclusion that Spencer has the ability to decrypt the devices.

It's a low bar but one that's sometimes difficult to reach if the government can't clearly link the defendant to the locked devices obtained during the search of a residence or business. As the court notes, it requires more than a reasonable assumption that files the government seeks might reside on the locked devices.

But it is nonsensical to ask whether the government has established with “reasonable particularity” that the defendant is able to decrypt a device. While physical evidence may be described with more or less specificity with respect to both appearance and location, a defendant’s ability to decrypt is not subject to the same sliding scale. He is either able to do so, or he is not. Accordingly, the reasonable particularity standard cannot apply to a defendant’s ability to decrypt a device.

The government needs far more if it seeks to compel decryption.

The appropriate standard is instead clear and convincing evidence. This places a high burden on the government to demonstrate that the defendant’s ability to decrypt the device at issue is a foregone conclusion. But a high burden is appropriate given that the “foregone conclusion” rule is an exception to the Fifth Amendment’s otherwise jealous protection of the privilege against giving self-incriminating testimony.

And the court finds the government does possess clear, convincing evidence.

All three devices were found in Spencer’s residence. Spencer has conceded that he owns the phone and laptop, and has provided the login passwords to both. Moreover, he has conceded that he purchased and encrypted an external hard drive matching the description of the one found by the government. This is sufficient for the government to meet its evidentiary burden. The government may therefore compel Spencer to decrypt the devices.

There is one caveat, however.

Once Spencer decrypts the devices, however, the government may not make direct use of the evidence that he has done so.

As the court points out, if the government's foregone conclusion is the correct conclusion, additional evidence linking Spencer to the locked devices will be unnecessary. The government should have no use for the testimony inherent in the act -- the concession that Spencer owned and controlled the now-unlocked devices, making him ultimately criminally responsible for any evidence located in them.

In terms of compelled production, passwords continue to beat fingerprints for device security, but only barely.



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How to Watch Facebook F8: Day 2

Wired - Wed, 2018-05-02 03:00
Did your invitation get lost in the mail? That's OK. You can watch the whole thing online.
Categories: Tech News

GitHub Accidentally Exposes Some Plaintext Passwords In Its Internal Logs

SlashDot - Wed, 2018-05-02 03:00
GitHub has sent an email to some of its 27 million users alerting them of a bug that exposed some user passwords in plaintext. "During the course of regular auditing, GitHub discovered that a recently introduced bug exposed a small number of users' passwords to our internal logging system," said the email. "We have corrected this, but you'll need to reset your password to regain access to your account." ZDNet reports: The email said that a handful of GitHub staff could have seen those passwords -- and that it's "unlikely" that any GitHub staff accessed the site's internal logs. It's unclear exactly how this bug occurred. GitHub's explanation was that it stores user passwords with bcrypt, a stronger password hashing algorithm, but that the bug "resulted in our secure internal logs recording plaintext user passwords when users initiated a password reset." "Rest assured, these passwords were not accessible to the public or other GitHub users at any time," the email said. GitHub said it "has not been hacked or compromised in any way."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech News

Scammers Are Using Google Maps To Skirt Link-Shortener Crackdown, Redirect Users To Dodgy Websites

SlashDot - Wed, 2018-05-02 00:00
According to security company Sophos, scam websites have been using obfuscated Google Maps links to redirect users to dodgy websites. The Register reports: The reason for this is Google's recent efforts to get rid of its Goo.gl URL-shortening service. The link-shortening site is a favorite for scammers looking to hide the actual address of pages. Without Goo.gl to pick on, scammers are now abusing a loophole in the Maps API that allows for redirects to be put into Google Maps URLs. This allows the attackers to chain the links to their scam pages within a link to Google Maps, essentially creating a more trustworthy URL that users are more likely to follow. The trick also has the benefit of being harder to catch and shut down than links made with the well-policed Goo.gl service. Because it uses Google Maps, there's no reporting structure in place to get the scammers shut down and the scammers don't have to use a Google-owned interface or API to do it.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Researchers Want To Turn Your Entire House Into a Co-Processor Using the Local Wi-Fi Signal

SlashDot - Tue, 2018-05-01 20:30
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: Researchers are proposing an idea to make your computer bigger. They are suggesting an extreme and awesome form of co-processing. They want to turn your entire house into a co-processor using the local Wi-Fi signal. Why, you may be asking, do we even want to do this in the first place? The real answer is to see if we can. But the answer given to funding agencies is thermal management. In a modern processor, if all the transistors were working all the time, it would be impossible to keep the chip cool. Instead, portions of the chip are put to sleep, even if that might mean slowing up a computation. But if, like we do with video cards, we farm out a large portion of certain calculations to a separate device, we might be able to make better use of the available silicon. So, how do you compute with Wi-Fi in your bedroom? The basic premise is that waves already perform computations as they mix with each other, it's just that those computations are random unless we make some effort to control them. When two waves overlap, we measure the combination of the two: the amplitude of one wave is added to the amplitude of the other. Depending on the history of the two waves, one may have a negative amplitude, while the other may have a positive amplitude, allowing for simple computation. The idea here is to control the path that each wave takes so that, when they're added together, they perform the exact computation that we want them to. The classic example is the Fourier transform. A Fourier transform takes an object and breaks it down into a set of waves. If these waves are added together, the object is rebuilt. You can see an example of this in the animation here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Princeton Project Aims To Secure The Internet Of Broken, Shitty Things

TechDirt - Tue, 2018-05-01 19:50

Year after year, we're installing millions upon millions of "internet of things" devices on home and business networks that have only a fleeting regard for security or privacy. The width and depth of manufacturer incompetence on display can't be understated. Thermostats that prevent you from actually heating your home. Smart door locks that make you less secure. Refrigerators that leak Gmail credentials. Children's toys that listen to your kids' prattle, then (poorly) secure said prattle in the cloud. Cars that could, potentially, result in your death.

The list goes on and on, and it grows exponentially by the week, especially as such devices are quickly compromised and integrated into massive new botnets. And as several security experts have noted, nobody in this chain of dysfunction has the slightest interest in doing much about this massive rise in "invisible pollution":

"The market can't fix this because neither the buyer nor the seller cares. Think of all the CCTV cameras and DVRs used in the attack against Brian Krebs. The owners of those devices don't care. Their devices were cheap to buy, they still work, and they don't even know Brian. The sellers of those devices don't care: they're now selling newer and better models, and the original buyers only cared about price and features. There is no market solution because the insecurity is what economists call an externality: it's an effect of the purchasing decision that affects other people. Think of it kind of like invisible pollution."

One core part of the problem is that IOT device makers refuse to provide much control or transparency over what their internet-connected devices actually do once online. Often the tools and device interfaces provided to the end user are comically simple, providing you with virtually no data on how much bandwidth your devices are consuming, or what data they're transferring back to the cloud (frequently unencrypted). As a result, many normal people are participating in historically massive DDOS attacks or having their every behavior monitored without having the slightest idea it's actually occurring.

To that end Princeton's computer science department has launched a research program called the IOT Inspector they hope will provide users with a little more insight into what IOT devices are actually up to. The researchers behind the project say they spent some time analyzing fifty different common IOT devices, and like previous studies found that security and privacy in these devices was a total shitshow. Sending private user data unencrypted back to the cloud was common:

Unfortunately, many of the devices we have examined lack even these basic security or privacy features. For example, the Withings Smart Blood Pressure Monitor included the brand of the device and the string “blood pressure” in unencrypted HTTP GET request headers. This allows a network eavesdropper to (1) learn that someone in a household owns a blood pressure monitor and (2) determine how frequently the monitor is used based on the frequency of requests. It would be simple to hide this information with SSL."

As were devices that immediately began chatting with all manner of partner services whether the user wants them to or not:

Samsung Smart TV: During the first minute after power-on, the TV talks to Google Play, Double Click, Netflix, FandangoNOW, Spotify, CBS, MSNBC, NFL, Deezer, and Facebook—even though we did not sign in or create accounts with any of them.

Again, user control and transparency is almost always an afterthought. Obviously, the creation of some unified standards is one solution. As is creating routers and hardware that alert users to when their devices have been compromised. Smarter networks and hardware are going to need to be a cornerstone of any proposed solution, the researchers note:

We are experimenting with machine learning-based DDoS detection using features using IoT-specific network behaviors (e.g., limited number of endpoints and regular time intervals between packets). Preliminary results indicate that home gateway routers or other network middleboxes could automatically detect local IoT device sources of DDoS attacks with high accuracy using low-cost machine learning algorithms.

Of course better standards are going to need to be built on the backs of a joint collaboration between governments, companies, consumers and researchers. And while we've seen mixed results on that front so far, efforts like this (and the Consumer Reports' open source attempt to make privacy and security an integral part of product reviews) are definitely a step in the right direction.



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FCC Commissioner Broke the Law By Advocating for Trump, Officials Find

SlashDot - Tue, 2018-05-01 18:25
A newly released letter from government officials finds that Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Reilly broke a federal law preventing officials from advocating for political candidates when he told a crowd that one way to avoid policy changes was to "make sure that President Trump gets reelected." The Verge reports: After he made the comments, the watchdog group American Oversight filed a letter with the Office of Special Counsel, which handles Hatch Act complaints. In response to the group's letter, the Office of Special Counsel said today that O'Rielly did, in fact, violate the Hatch Act. The letter said O'Rielly responded that he was only trying to provide an explanatory answer to how those changes in policy could be stopped, but the office rejected that reasoning. The office said it has sent a warning letter to O'Rielly this time, but will consider other infractions "a willful and knowing violation of the law" that could lead to legal action.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Apple Beats Sales Estimates Amid Reports of Poor Demand For iPhone X

SlashDot - Tue, 2018-05-01 17:45
Apple today reported revenue and profit that beat analysts' estimates and projected continued sales momentum. The results come amid reports that demand for its flagship iPhone X have fallen. Bloomberg reports: Apple revenue rose 16 percent to $61.1 billion in the fiscal second quarter. That was the fastest growth in more than two years. Profit came in at $2.73 a share, the company said Tuesday in a statement. Analysts expected sales of $60.9 billion and earnings per share of $2.64, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Fiscal third-quarter revenue will be $51.5 billion to $53.5 billion, also ahead of Wall Street forecasts. Apple sold 52.2 million iPhones in the fiscal second quarter, up 2.9 percent from a year earlier. Analysts had projected of 52.3 million, on average, although some investors expected fewer units. The average selling price was $728, versus analysts' expectations of $740. That suggested the flagship iPhone X didn't perform as well as some anticipated when it launched last year. Earlier this year, Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said iPhone revenue would grow by at least 10 percent year-over-year in the fiscal second quarter. Apple easily hit that goal, with 14 percent iPhone revenue growth in the period.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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California Leads States In Suing the EPA For Attacking Vehicle Emissions Standards

SlashDot - Tue, 2018-05-01 17:03
California, along with seventeen other states, announced a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency today over its recent rollback of Obama-era vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards. The states argue that the EPA "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in overturning the previous administration's decision. The Verge reports: The standards in question were drawn up in 2009 and adopted in 2012. They laid out a path for automakers to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by reaching an average fleet fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2024. Since the program was charting a course that stretched out more than a decade into the future, it was written into the rules that the EPA would have to perform a "mid-term evaluation" before April 1st, 2018. This review would serve two purposes: assess whether automakers were on track, and then use that information to determine if the last section of the standards (which apply to model year 2022-2025 cars) were still feasible. The EPA, under Barack Obama, kicked off this review process ahead of schedule in the summer of 2016 when it published an extensive 1,200-page technical assessment that analyzed whether the standards were working. In January 2017, the outgoing EPA wrapped this evaluation and determined that the bar was not set too high. In fact, it argued, automakers were overwhelmingly compliant. The Trump EPA's decision in April did not set new standards -- it simply argued that there were problems with the existing standards. In the meantime, the agency and the Department of Transportation are currently working together to craft and officially propose new standards. But the previous standards that the EPA said were inappropriate will technically remain in place until that happens.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Nintendo Faces Switch Patent Infringement Investigation In the US

SlashDot - Tue, 2018-05-01 16:23
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Nintendo is under investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission, and the fate of the Switch hangs in the balance. Gamevice, the company behind the Wikipad and a line of snap-on controllers for mobile devices, says the Nintendo Switch violates its patents on attachable handheld gamepads and their related accessories. Alleging violations of the Tariff Act of 1930, Gamevice is requesting a cease and desist order against Nintendo, a move that would halt imports of the Switch into the U.S. The USITC notes that while its investigation has begun, it hasn't ruled on the validity of the complaint. The commission will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Nintendo is in violation of the Tariff Act, with a final decision "at the earliest practicable time." The USITC will announce a target date for the end of the investigation within 45 days.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech News

Gig Economy Business Model Dealt a Blow in California Ruling

SlashDot - Tue, 2018-05-01 15:45
In a ruling with potentially sweeping consequences for the so-called gig economy, the California Supreme Court on Monday made it much more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The New York Times: The decision could eventually require companies like Uber, many of which are based in California, to follow minimum-wage and overtime laws and to pay workers' compensation and unemployment insurance and payroll taxes, potentially upending their business models. Industry executives have estimated that classifying drivers and other gig workers as employees tends to cost 20 to 30 percent more than classifying them as contractors. It also brings benefits that can offset these costs, though, like the ability to control schedules and the manner of work. "It's a massive thing -- definitely a game-changer that will force everyone to take a fresh look at the whole issue," said Richard Meneghello, a co-chairman of the gig-economy practice group at the management-side law firm Fisher Phillips. The court essentially scrapped the existing test for determining employee status, which was used to assess the degree of control over the worker. That test hinged on roughly 10 factors, like the amount of supervision and whether the worker could be fired without cause.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Suburban Express Sued By Illinois Attorney General For Behaving Like Suburban Express

TechDirt - Tue, 2018-05-01 15:29

We've talked quite a bit about Surban Express in these pages. The bus company chiefly works the Illinois university circuit, bussing students and others between the schools and transportation hubs like O'Hare Airport. In addition, the company also regularly sues any customers critical of its services, occasionally runs away from those suits, then refiles them, all while owner Dennis Toeppen harasses and publicly calls out these customers on the company website and its social media accounts. Also, the company has a deep history of treating non-white customers differently and poorly than others, culminating in a recent advertisement it sent out promising riders that they won't feel like they're in China when on its buses (the University of IL has a sizable Asian student population). After that advertisement, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced an investigation into the company's practices, prompting Suburban Express to apologize several times for the ad.

Well, if Toeppen had hoped those apologies would keep the AG at bay, it didn't work. Madigan has now sued the company in Chicago for discriminatory behavior and the mistreatment of its customers.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, seeks a restraining order against the company to stop it from publishing customers’ financial information, halt harassment and prevent the company from forcing riders to accept unfair contract terms. If the company does not change its practices, Madigan said, the attorney general wants the company out of business.

The company’s actions, Madigan said, constitute “flagrant and numerous violations” of Illinois’ civil rights and consumer protection laws.

“My lawsuit alleges that Suburban Express has long been engaged in illegal discrimination and harassment of college students in Illinois, particularly University of Illinois students and their families,” Madigan said at a morning news conference at the Thompson Center to announce the lawsuit.

Among the allegations is that Suburban Express harasses its critics, publishes some of their financial information in an attempt to shame them, discriminates against customers based on their race, and generally tries to make the lives of anyone that doesn't love the services they get a living hell. All of this followed a months-long investigation into the actions of the company and Toeppen himself.

In response, Suburban Express posted to its Facebook page that it merely defends itself against lying critics, before suggesting how awesome it is.

"Defending ourselves against online harrassment (sic) does not constitute harrassment (sic) of the harrasser. (sic) The complaint seems to demonstrate a lack of any sense of humor on the part of Attorney General Madigan. Tongue in cheek posts like the picture of bowing passengers cannot reasonably be inferred to mean that we have something against certain customers."

“The world is a better place as a result of Suburban Express. … We take this unfounded assault on our reputation seriously and we intend to defend this lawsuit vigorously,” the post concluded. “We’d love to hear from attorneys interested in defending us against this lawsuit.”

What attorneys will rush to the side of a company that has so clearly demonstrated exactly who and what it is will be interesting to watch. Part of Suburban Express' problem is that it engaged in so much of this harassment online, where the slate can never be truly scrubbed, and with which the AG will be able to present the court with the company's own words and actions.

Given the long history of public behavior by the company, it's hard to imagine how any of this goes well for it.



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Techdirt Podcast Episode 165: Is 'Free' Bad?

TechDirt - Tue, 2018-05-01 13:30

In the last few years, a lot of the conversation around technology in general has shifted its focus from excitement about the obvious benefits to concern about its downfalls and side effects. It even feels like there's a general sense that "technology is bad for society" in a lot of places. This comes with a lot of associated myths, including the prominent idea that "if you're not paying for something, you're the product being sold" — an idea that is, at best a massive oversimplification. So on this week's podcast we're discussing the changing cultural attitudes towards technology, especially free online services and the many myths and misunderstandings about how they operate.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.



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Facebook's New 'Dating' Feature Could Crush Apps Like Tinder

Wired - Tue, 2018-05-01 12:14
Mark Zuckerberg announced at Facebook's annual developer conference in California on Tuesday that the company is building a matchmaking service.
Categories: Tech News

Two-Man Police Department Acquires $1 Million In Military Gear

TechDirt - Tue, 2018-05-01 11:58

An ultra-safe Michigan town of 6,800 has claimed more than $1 million in military equipment through the Defense Department's 1033 program. The program allows law enforcement agencies to obtain anything from file cabinets to mine-resistant assault vehicles for next to nothing provided the agencies can show a need for the equipment. Most can "show" a "need," since it's pretty easy to type something up about existential terrorist/drug threats. Boilerplate can be adjusted as needed, but for the most part, requests are granted and oversight -- either at the federal and local level -- is almost nonexistent.

This has come to a head in Thetford Township, the fourth-safest municipality in Michigan, and home to more than $1 million in military gear and two (2) police officers.

The free material, received through a federal program, includes mine detectors and Humvees, tractors and backhoes, hydroseeders and forklifts, motorized carts and a riding lawnmower. The landlocked township also has gotten boat motors and dive boots.

While much of the gear worth $1 million has never been used by the township, some has been given to residents, township officials said.

The township supervisor and a trustee said the police have stymied their attempts to find out what equipment they have, where it’s located and why some of it has been given away. The police didn’t keep track of what they had or what they had given away, according to a township audit last year.

A belated, half-hearted audit by Police Chief Bob Kenny (supervisor of one [1] police officer) showed his department had acquired 950 pieces of equipment, including a couple of Humvees, three ATVs, a tractor, a forklift, and a number of other vehicles. More than 300 items are stored "off-site," which apparently means parked on private property and used by private citizens.

Town supervisor Gary Stevens has been trying to get to the bottom of this outsized stockpile. But he's running into resistance. Supporters of the town's two-person police force (and apparent beneficiaries of the federal program) have been pushing back. A recall campaign has been started by farmer Eugene Lehr, who has 21 pieces of military surplus equipment on his property.

A nearby sheriff's department has stepped in to perform an independent audit but has yet to release its findings. Equipment has apparently been given to citizens but no paper trail exists to track who ended up with what and how much may have been sold by the department. But what's left is still impressive. A two-man department somehow justified the acquisition of seven trucks and nine trailers over the last decade, in addition to everything else the department has stockpiled since Bob Kenny became chief.

While it may seem like most of the acquisitions are innocuous -- not the sort of thing one associates with a militarized police force -- the fact remains the program has almost zero oversight. Not until after more than $1 million in equipment was routed to a place that did not have a pressing need for the items did the DoD finally step in and suspend the department's participation in the program. Equipment that may have been put to better use elsewhere is parked on private property or has simply vanished into thin air. This is a waste of tax dollars that does nothing to make policing better or a safe township even safer.



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