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Friday, January 14, 2011

Who are we? Can we be trusted?

Most of us have been in Indiana for most of our lives working in various capacities in education, business, internet communication, and for media outlets.  None of us is affiliated with traditional media, law enforcement, or an industry or other lobby group.  Most of us are grandparents and Tea Party admirers, and we are generally fed up with the widespread corruption of Democrat, Liberal, and Republican Elitists.

Many within government and large business agree with us.  Unfortunately, what we see repeatedly (and we're sure you've seen) are people working for government or powerful institutions who want to get information about corruption to the public, but can't.  Even if they had personal connections with the media or a blogger, they just don't feel comfortable passing on documents directly.  They have seen that, too many times, it might but their career in danger.

We believe that a good idea would be to set up an electronic site to allow people to anonymously upload files or send tips on issues which could be forwarded to relevant individuals.

Do we have a political agenda?
No, we are not behind any particular party.  We merely want to disseminate information to responsible people, bloggers, traditional media, or others.

We do not solicit information.  However, in certain cases, we will act as an intermediary, passing information to responsible parties.  We think we are in a good position to do this because we live, work and have deep roots in Indiana.  And, based on experience, Indiana has poor transparency, laxs ethics regulations, and lots of governmental corruption.  Lots.

We also believe that we are safer from political pressure, if we remain anonymous.  And our legal advisor believes the same - but our position will constantly be reviewed.

Connection to the media or lobbyist?
We're not connected to the media or lobbyist or law enforcement, and in the coming months that should  become obvious.  We're paying to operate this blogsite and encryption tools out of our own pockets, and we all have jobs, church activities, grandkids and lives to live outside of this project.  We see ourselves as patriots.

None of us works for a media outlet (some did but don't anymore).  We all have journalistic/communications experience one way or another and all of us have already passed leaked documents - for instance - to journalists.

We're not sure how we'll go forward with this, and we're taking a 'wait and see' approach.  If nothing comes of it, then it's a shame, but we continue working in a similar vein anyway.  What is certain is that there is an appetite out there for what we are trying to offer and one way or another, with or without us, it will be realized.

Journalists, Bloggers, & Activists
Many investigative journalists, bloggers, writers and activists, etc. are not very skilled or are not very careful at protecting the anonymity of their whistleblower sources, especially when using today's computer technology.  Some show a surprising lack of security understanding (tradecraft) and ignorance of the possibilities of forensic document sourcing/tracking examination techniques.

Even where a whistleblower knows that they will eventually have to go public, there is often a crucial time period during which they want or need to protect their anonymity.

Be careful working with the well-intentioned journalist, blogger and activist.  Your documents and emails may expose you.  But, if you decide to go directly to them, here are a few tips to help you protect yourself:

  • Make sure that your email software is set to display messages as plain text and not to display graphical images by default.
  • Do not violate U.S. postal regulations.
  • Be advised, some copiers are capable of printing tiny serial numbers on each sheet or a special series of dots that makes tracing of which machine was used to help "leak" a document.
  • Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and other files commonly contain "metadata" hidden from common view but readily accessible.  These data might include the date created, computer's identiffication, and the organizational or individual author document creator.
  • Photographs often contain the name of the owner of the device, date of the photograph, and geo location of the shot.
What drives us?
We all believe Indiana is a good place to work, go to a university, be an entrepreneur, be active in community and church, and raise a family, but we've seen too many corrupt dealings behind closed doors.  Many political leaders and appointed administrators unfairly profit from their positions and influence.  Too many elected officials and those with ties to elected officials leverage inside information for personal gain.  There are plenty of good people in powerful positions who, too often, see shocking information pass them by.  How do we know this?  We've been there to see it happen.  Much of it is legal under current law, but, it offends the sensitivities of taxpayers.

You may have information about:
  • Bid specifications that have been written to favor only one vendor
  • Municipal bond broker scheme
  • A government employee being paior working two jobs at the same time
  • Concealed criminal background
  • Bribery
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Embezzlement
This does not have to happen.  Some innocent party always knows the elements of every corruption scheme or inside deal.  If there is something that you feel needs to come out in the open, send it to us.  We prefer actual documents, including emails.  We will forward immediately (or perhaps not at all), but you can be sure we will do the right thing.  Most things are better out in the open.

What do we do with the information we receive?
We can't always work quickly.  First, we need to make sure that the information we receive appears to be true.  This often takes time, especially since this isn't a full time job for any of us.  If we are reasonably confident it is true, then we start to activate our network to find ways of getting the information out there, and out there in a right way to ensure it is for the public good.  In some instances, in exchange for the documents, we will request that the media outlet acknowledge Hoosier Leak's contributions.

All emails are destroyed beyond recovery within 90 days.  All documents are "sanitized" by our systems before passing them along, and destroyed beyond recovery shortly after forwarding them to the media.  Data storage is well away from Indianapolis.  HoosierLeaks does not send or receive snail mail.  Direct meetings or telephone meetings are not permitted.  We consider ourselves to be journalists and to be acting on behalf of a journalistic effort.

This blog is what it is.  It is not ideal and may be temporary.  However, since we are not looking to publish heavy document loads, it will suffice for now.  We are looking to build a new website, whit more secure features on outside U.S. servers.

Indiana's cities and towns are perfect places to deceive taxpayers.
Many decisions happen behind closed doors even though officials say that they will be transparent have worked to improve governmental ethics for many years.

If you work for Indiana state government, a municipal government, a business, or an institution and want to release some information in a completely secure - and anonymous, way, contact us.  We have excellent media contacts.  We endeavor to make sure the information gathered is reliable and correct, and only then do we act.

We have the network and experience to make sure the right thing is done.  We have taken the information below from Wikepedia:

Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by governmental officials for illegitimate private gain.  Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption.  Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government.  An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties.

Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement.  While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, it is not restricted to these activities.

The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction.  For instance, certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another.  In some cases, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions.  Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US dollars annually.  A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".

HoosierLeaks has no connection with WikiLeaks other than they have demonstrated the power of technology to whistleblowers.  However, HoosierLeaks will not disclose any material that would endanger U.S. security, concerns National Defense, involves U.S. relations with foreign governments, or involves personal medical information.

We do not expect "front page" revelations, but, there may be elected or appointed officials (including members of the Governor's staff, a member of the Indiana legislature, a mayor, a school superintendent, or a city council member) that are corrupt, have failed to act, or have turned a blind eye on something in particular.  We are about getting the unsolicited documents we receive out there to help fellow Hoosiers.  That's what is important to us.

Protecting yourself when you contact
There are an awful lot of questions going around regarding security.  Being completely secure online is pretty tough, but there are a few ways you can help yourself.  We believe that our email system is secure, but to cut down the risks, you can do the following:
  • Don't use your work computer for submissions.
  • Avoid public computers and password free Wifi.
  • Establish an anonymous email account using Hushmail, or similar service.
  • Use this separate email account only when communicating with HoosierLeaks.

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