Updated: Jan 18
(This story was updated at 5:33 pm on 1/11/22 in order to provide greater context and clarity for the reader. No material changes were made to the article)
Two Thousand Five Hundred Dollars.
On April 9, 2020 The Nevada Commission on Homeland Security convened for their first official meeting since the state had shut down less than a month prior due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time one paragraph, on the second page of a 608 page pdf the Commission compiled, would have been the most chilling aspect of the tome to a casual observer.
Referencing Emergency Directive 06, it discussed the suspension of in person public attendance and participation at the meeting due to the “Covid-19 emergency.” And while much less harrowing, the section concluded by stating the Chair, Governor Steve Sisolak, had the right to combine items at his discretion and that any item could be “pulled or removed from the agenda at any time.”
In retrospect however, a small entry on page 72 of that same document would shed light on an event that is potentially responsible for a much greater threat to the safety of law enforcement personnel operating in and around the state of Nevada than the aforementioned Covid-19 virus.
Additionally the same event has led to significant questions from groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and ACLU as to whether the Constitutional protections granted through the restraints on tyranny afforded by the collective basket of civil liberties were intentionally and maliciously trampled on, while also broaching the possibility that the fundamental rights of due process and privacy were ignored in many cases. These concerns converged to highlight the possibility of a blatant disregard for the rule of law at the highest levels of government in Nevada based on data breach reporting requirements as prescribed under NRS 603A.220.
Combined with the above, that one line item, totaling $2500, called into question the decision making ability and leadership skills of two of Nevada’s most well known and powerful men: the aforementioned Governor and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Almost $700,000 was requested for the 2020 fiscal year by the Nevada Threat Analysis Center, funds provided through a grant from the US Department of Homeland Security. NTAC operates as “an entity within the Nevada Department of Public Safety (DPS) – Investigation Division,” while also acting as a fusion center in Nevada for all counties besides Clark. A fusion center, according to the DHS, “is a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity." Part of the budgetary breakdown included the need for web hosting services. The sole company specified by name was Netsential. The cost? $2500.
Shortly thereafter disaster struck.
In a massive security breach, described in Salon Magazine as the, “largest published hack of American law enforcement agencies; in law enforcement history,” almost 270 gigabytes of information totaling more than a million files was taken by an individual alleging themselves to be a member of the activist collective Anonymous. The files were given the moniker of “BlueLeaks” and made available for broad distribution by DDOSECRETS.
As previously reported in Political.tips, the egregious operational failure which is suspected to have taken place due to a simple flaw exploited by “decades old software,” exposed incredibly delicate information including personally identifying data such as full driver’s license and social security numbers, along with the unmasking of undercover agents and informants. Upon realizing the extent of the damage, the feds moved swiftly to contain the fallout from the episode. Domestically they pressured Twitter to censor, then erase traces of the “BlueLeaks” files, while working with authorities in Germany to shutdown servers in that country which hosted DDOS’ original uploads.
Despite the clear danger and grievous security implications associated with the information which was taken, and the weighty seriousness given the matter by the US officials who moved with stunning speed to curtail the First Amendment rights of DDOS, very little coverage was given to the matter by large news outlets with broader audiences. A notable exception being The Intercept which consistently followed the saga and many of the ancillary issues surrounding it.
Contrasting with dearth of coverage by the national press outlets, in the days and weeks after the files were taken, several local news organizations whose communities were affected by the disparate findings inside of the documents did in fact look closely at the contents and report on them in depth.
On Christmas Eve I wrote an article about the nature of the police state in Las Vegas, while touching on the fusion center program in Clark County, and the lack of transparency surrounding it. My timing was fortuitous but not prescient. When publishing that first story, not only had I never heard of the “BlueLeaks” hack, it was beyond fanciful to me that such an intrusion would be allowed to occur knowing even a portion of the information being collected by the centers.
Yet, less than two weeks later, I not only learned that the event had taken place but uncovered specific confirmation as to which of the multiple agencies across the #WeMatter State - municipal, county, state, and federal - were affected by the actions, or lack thereof, of Nevada’s leaders, Anonymous and DDOS during the Covid centric spring and summer of 2020.
In a smoky east Las Vegas lounge, as the Nevada Republican Gubernatorial debate unfolded on a small phone screen propped against a couple of glasses, a unique source peppered me with commentary, tales, opinions, and a few leads. One was that a possible hack affecting government officials falling victim to a financial fraud ring had been covered up by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.
From that throwaway tidbit, an obsessive journey to discover what actually had transpired led me into the dark web. And it was there, after many false starts, that I was able to glean confirmation that both my city and state had been affected by the shocking intelligence debacle.
To be clear, Political.tips is in possession of the “BlueLeaks” release in full.
Beginning very soon and continuing over the next months we will be publishing a variety of posts, articles, and essays on the contents we have. Furthermore, all editorial decisions will be made in the normal course of the news cycle regardless of any outside pressure applied by local, state, or federal law enforcement. Nor will we erase, or otherwise turnover, any copies of the protected material to them.
Under any circumstances.
In addition to the NTAC, the Northern Nevada Regional Intelligence Center, the Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the Northern Nevada Retail Crime Alliance, and the Nevada Cyber Exchange all saw information lost.
Currently, our focus is on the following areas:
The heavy use of private businesses in Las Vegas, and throughout the state, being deployed as police informants and intelligence assets. This is including, but not limited to, casinos, transportation companies, hotels, stores, and more.
The ability of users from foreign IP addresses to access Nevada LEO computers, including at least one from Russia.
Attempts by Nevada based law enforcement to intimidate both “left” and “right” wing protestors along with First Amendment activists.
Training tools confirming a suspected bias is in fact encouraged against Black and Latino males.
FOIA request denials by Nevada DPS and LVMPD as related to the data breach, along with any reasoning for why NRS was not followed in reporting the exposure of copious amounts of sensitive personal identifying information belonging to both the police and private citizens.
What role the Covid pandemic may have played in allowing for this story to be overlooked at best, covered up at worst.
What leadership position, if any, the Federal Government takes in conjunction with Nevada law enforcement when working with local sheriffs and those agents and officers under the direction of the Governor.
Moving forward we have made the decision not to release any raw data directly, nor will we expose any individual mentioned in the leaks using any personally identifiable attributes unless there is an overwhelming public interest in doing so.