Chinese hackers accessed sensitive information of intelligence, military personnel in second U.S. data breach

WASHINGTON — Chinese hackers have accessed the sensitive security clearance information of intelligence and military personnel in a second stunning breach of U.S. government data. The cyberthieves targeted the records collected in Standard Form 86, which includes information about applicants’ mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing sources. The forms also require information about contacts and family, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion. Social Security numbers could also be exposed. “This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official, told the news service. “That makes it very hard for any of those people to function as an intelligence officer. The database also tells the Chinese an enormous amount of information about almost everyone with a security clearance. That’s a gold mine. It helps you approach and recruit spies.” Millions of security clearance holders — including CIA, National Security Agency and military special operations personnel — are potentially exposed in the security clearance breach, the officials said. More than 2.9 million people had been investigated for a security clearance as of October 2014. The Office of Personnel Management, which was the target of the hack, has not officially notified military or intelligence personnel whose security clearance data was affected. Officials said they believe the hack into the security clearance database was separate from the breach of federal personnel data announced last week. And Friday congressional aides and federal officials said that breach was worse than originally thought. As many as 14 million current and former federal employees could have had their records stolen, up Continue Reading

FBI offers $115K reward for information on Times Square recruiting station bomber (VIDEO)

The FBI is upping the ante in its long hunt for the bike-riding bomber who set off a bomb outside a Times Square recruiting station in 2008. The agency announced Wednesday that it is offering $115,000 for any information leading to the arrest of the bomber and his co-conspirators. The reward is $50,000 more than the $65,000 last offered in 2013. “Someone knows those responsible for placing this device in the heart of New York City," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez. “We need those people to come forward to help us solve this crime before they can strike again." Investigators have said they believe the recruiting station bombing may be linked to attacks at the city’s British Consulate in 2005 and the Mexican Consulate in 2007. There was some property damage in each incident, but no one was injured, FBI officials said. NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton noted that was just good fortune. “Moments before the (Times Square) device detonated, individuals walked by, unaware of the potential danger and imminent explosion," Bratton said in a statement. At about 3:30 a.m. on March 6, 2008, a man on a blue bike rolled up to the recruiting station on W. 43rd St. and Seventh Ave., placed the explosive device in front of it, lit a fuse, and sped off. The blast damaged the front of the recruiting station. The bicyclist ditched his wheels a few blocks away, officials said. Police believe he had as many as five people working with him, acting as lookouts, agency officials said. The bomb was a retrofitted ammunition can commonly found on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was filled with black powder and detonated using a timed fuse. Investigators connected the Times Square bombing to the ones at the British and Mexican consulates because all of the explosives were delivered by a man on a bicycle between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. The Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: Parents, students to rally for new bill that would overhaul physical education information issued by city schools

Parents and students will join City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley at a City Hall rally on Wednesday in support of a bill that would mandate significant changes in physical education information issued by city schools. The bill, sponsored by Crowley (D-Queens) and backed by the advocacy group Phys Ed for All, would require city schools to report how many gym classes they offer, how many certified gym teachers they employ and whether they have dedicated gym space. It would also require schools to post gym information online so that parents and students could review it. “Parents are left in the dark when it comes to physical education,” said Crowley. “So many schools are not even meeting the basic minimum standards.” City Controller Scott Stringer found in May that 32% of city schools had no full-time, certified gym teachers and 28% had no indoor space for physical exercise, in violation of state law. City Education Department spokesman Jason Fink said agency officials look forward to discussing Crowley’s bill with the Council. Continue Reading

Auxiliary cop is accused of hacking into NYPD database to obtain information for his fake lawyer scam

A rogue auxiliary cop hacked into an NYPD database for confidential information about traffic accidents, then contacted the victims posing as an ambulance-chasing lawyer, federal authorities said Tuesday. Yehuda Katz devised an elaborate scheme inside the 70th Precinct stationhouse in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he was not only able to access law enforcement databases from a remote location, but also installed a hidden camera in a cable TV box in the traffic safety office to make sure he wouldn’t be found out. The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau launched a probe last August after precinct cops discovered the camera in the clerical office where car accident reports and copies of vehicle summonses are stored, according to a complaint unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court. Investigators found an electronic device connected to the computer had been logging into the NYPD database using the passwords of three cops on their days off. Their probe found more than 6,400 license plate numbers of vehicles involved in accidents had been queried. The complaint says one victim, identified in court papers as K.G., had received a letter from Yehuda Katz claiming to be a “legal counselor at the Katz and Katz law firm.” “I can advise you with 100% confidence that I can resolve this claim in your favor,” Katz wrote, the complaint says. “My fee is 14% only when you collect. And I know you will collect.” Katz is not affiliated with any such law firm, authorities said. Prosecutors did not spell out how Katz profited from the scheme, but numerous calls on his cellphone were associated with medical clinics, law firms and chiropractors, suggesting he was getting kickbacks for referrals. Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Katz accessed personal information of thousands of citizens “to enrich himself through fraud.” The surveillance camera had the capability to broadcast a live Continue Reading

Domestic partners of politicians should disclose financial information, poll says

ALBANY — Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers believe that the domestic partners of public officials — such as Gov. Cuomo’s celebrity chef girlfriend Sandra Lee — should have to publicly disclose their financial information, according to a new poll on Thursday. Current law requires the spouses of public officials, but not live-in significant others, to file financial disclosure forms with the state. But voters, by a 64% to 32% margin, say domestic partners should fall under the same disclosure requirement, according to the Quinnipiac University poll. Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said Wednesday that any ethics reform package considered by the Legislature should deal with the issue. But a top Cuomo aide said that’s off the table. Overall, a whopping 89% of New York voters say government corruption is a very or somewhat serious problem. By an 84% to 13% margin, they say elected officials should be required to disclose the source and amount of income from outside jobs and investments. Such disclosure is currently required, but Cuomo in the wake of recent corruption scandals wants to go further. He and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie this week agreed on a package of reforms that would require lawmakers to disclose their private legal clients and exactly what they do for their outside income. The Senate GOP has not signed on. Skelos said that any package should include more reforms that cover the governor. The Quinnipiac poll found that voters, by a 54% to 25% margin, disapprove of the way Cuomo is handling the issue of ethics in government, with 47% saying he is part of the part and 41% believing is part of the solution. Cuomo had called ethics reform his top priority this year and has threatened to hold up the state budget if he does not get an acceptable package. Voters back the threat by a 45% to 40% margin. Continue Reading

Four men ensnared by ‘To Catch a Predator’ type website sue to get personal information scrubbed from web

Four men who were ensnared by an amateur "To Catch a Predator"- type website are suing the site's operator to get their information taken down. Scott Benites, Hardy Calderon, Carlos David Roa and Daniel Amhi say they were on an adult dating website looking for a woman to hook up with when they were contacted by someone with the username "barbiesnumberonefan." "Plaintiffs initiated conversation with this user while under the impression that the user was a female over the age of eighteen since users must be over the age of eighteen to join" the dating website, called Plenty of Fish, the suit says. After they'd start chatting, the woman would then say she was actually just 14, the suit says. The creeps pressed ahead with trying to get together with "her" anyway, the suit acknowledges. "Plaintiffs were told that the user was under the age of 18. Despite this, plaintiffs continued to converse with the user," the suit says. The New York men - all in their early 20s - then wound up having the pictures and texts they sent to "barbiesnumberonefan" show up on the website "" The men then demanded the site take down their pictures and copies of their texts for the "systematic infringement, exploitation and misattribution of individual photographs to which the plaintiffs own exclusive copyrights." Their lawyer, Anastasi Pardalis, said he's had the site taken down three times, but it keeps shifting to different internet service providers and relaunching. Pardalis said the site is a "moneymaking scheme" that rakes in ad and donation money. "This website is a total scam. They're not solving crimes. They don't report people to the authorities. They're just making money," he said. He said the site is "very embarrassing" for his clients, who he insisted are not "predators." "They're angry abut it and their families are upset about it," he said. "There's no girl. It's an older guy. It's just completely conjured up." His Continue Reading

NYPD takes to Twitter for information on Upper West Side shooting that injured 23-year-old man

Police quickly took to social media following a shooting in Manhattan Sunday, appealing to Twitter users to come forward with information. “A shooting has just occurred at 110 West 109th Street. Please share any information anonymously at #1800577TIPS,” the 24th Precinct tweeted from its official account @NYPD24PCT. The tweet included instructions on how to report a crime and noted that tipsters could be rewarded with $2,000 for providing information leading to an arrest and indictment. Police said a 23-year-old man was shot once in the right leg after getting into a fight with a group of people on W. 109th St. near Columbus Ave. on the upper West Side about 2 p.m. The victim was taken to Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in stable condition, officials said. A gun was recovered at the scene, police sources said. Minutes later in Brooklyn, a 20-year-old man was shot in the left leg while on Ralph Ave. near St. Johns Pl. in Crown Heights, cops said. He was taken to Kings County Hospital in stable condition, authorities said. Descriptions of the suspects were not immediately available. No arrests have been made in either shooting and the investigations are ongoing, police said. Continue Reading

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Pentagon is withholding sex crimes information

The number of sex-related crimes occurring in U.S. military communities is far greater than the Defense Department has publicly reported, a U.S. senator said Monday in a scathing critique that asserts the Pentagon has refused to provide her information about sexual assaults at several major bases. The spouses of service members and civilian women who live or work near military facilities are especially vulnerable to being sexually assaulted, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a report. Yet they “remain in the shadows” because neither is counted in surveys conducted by the Defense Department to determine the prevalence of sexual assaults within the ranks, the report said. “I don’t think the military is being honest about the problem,” Gillibrand said in an interview. The senator said her analysis of 107 sexual assault cases found punishments that were too lenient and the word of the alleged assailant was more likely to be believed than the victim. Less than a quarter of the cases went to trial and just 11 resulted in conviction for a sex crime. Female civilians were the victims in more than half the cases, according to Gillibrand, an outspoken advocate for an overhaul of the military justice system. In its annual report on sexual assaults in the military released Friday, the Defense Department reported progress in staunching the epidemic of sexual assaults. It estimated that sex crimes are decreasing and more victims are choosing to report them — a sign that there is more confidence that offenders will be held accountable. Laura Seal, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said the department does not have authority to include civilians in its surveys. But she said other federal surveys have found that the prevalence of sexual assaults against civilian women not affiliated with the military is statistically the same for military women and the female spouses of military members. Seal did not say which agency had Continue Reading

Cuomo announces $100K reward for information on escaped felons from upstate prison, calls it a ‘crisis situation’ for NY

The two convicted murderers who pulled off a stunning escape from an upstate prison have a $100,000 bounty on their heads. Gov. Cuomo announced Sunday the reward for information leading to the apprehension or arrest of Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, saying the dangerous duo could now be anywhere in New York, neighboring states or Canada. “They are killers. They are murderers. There’s never been a question about the crimes they committed,” Cuomo said. He called the reward “an unusual step.” “Given the severity of the situation, we think it’s appropriate,” he said. Information leading to the arrest of either of the men is worth $50,000, Cuomo noted. Authorities were chasing down over 150 leads since guards at Clinton Correctional Facility discovered the men had flown the coop Saturday morning, using power tools to cut their way to freedom. The maximum security prison is less than an hour from the Canadian border. Over 250 law enforcement and corrections officials were carrying out the search, including forest rangers, U.S. marshals and the FBI. They are the first to have escaped the maximum-security portion of the prison, which was built in 1865. The penitentiary’s 30-foot walls tower over the town of Dannemora, population 1,700. The prison’s population is 2,689 inmates. “My students always ask me at school, ‘Aren’t you afraid to be living so close to the prison?’” said Francine Mitchell, 41, a local high school teacher. “I always answer, ‘No. No one ever escapes from a maximum-security prison.’ Well, until yesterday!” State Department of Corrections officials were trying to figure out just how the inmates got their hands on power tools used in their escape that took them from their cell to a manhole in a quiet neighborhood. Commissioner Anthony Annucci said Continue Reading

Former Army Gen. David Petraeus remains adviser to Obama administration, NSC despite being charged with mishandling classified information: reports

Philandering former Army Gen. David Petraeus has remained a trusted White House adviser despite copping to sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer Paula Broadwell — and lying to the FBI about it, according to reports. Petraeus, who no longer has CIA security clearance, has been advising the National Security Council and the Obama administration on Iraq and ISIS since last summer, Newsweek reported Saturday. The former CIA director and Iraq war hero has enjoyed a cushioned fall from grace after being charged with only one count of mishandling classified information in a plea green-lit by Attorney General Eric Holder this month — a move blasted by critics as a sweetheart deal. The four-star retired general, once touted as a possible presidential candidate, faces only a $40,000 fine and probation after copping to the misdemeanor charge. Expert: Gen. David Petraeus is right guy to advise White House, but still is a risky move Petraeus is due back in court for a hearing on the deal April 27, in Charlotte, N.C. Prosecutors and FBI special agents that worked the case are livid the 62-year-old military hero didn’t face felony charges. Petraeus admitted to sharing highly confidential “black books” with Broadwell, 42, and then later lying to the FBI about the security breach. Petraeus and Broadwell began an affair while working closely on the book “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.” Although unlikely, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler could toss the lenient arrangement and sentence the disgraced adulterer to up to a year in prison, a $100,000 fine and five years’ probation. Nine other lower ranking leakers have faced serious jail time. But, according to Newsweek, the administration hammered out the deal and has kept Petraeus close to dissuade him from joining other high-ranking ex-officials who have been critical of the Continue Reading