Hacked Emails Give Access to DC Police Gang Database

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IN AUGUST 2016, an administrator for Washington, D.C.’s, Metropolitan Police Department emailed a link to a news article to a colleague in the department’s Criminal Intelligence Branch. The article was about an audit of California’s statewide database of gang members; the database, the audit found, was riddled with civil rights violations and errors, including 42 instances in which the supposed gang member’s age when they were added was less than 1 year old. The article “raised a lot of interesting issues,” the administrator said.

The email chain and spreadsheet are part of a trove of over 70,000 emails and their attachments, sent and received by Hall between 2009 and 2017 and stolen from the MPD as part of a hack by a ransomware group known as Babuk, which claimed to have downloaded 250 gigabytes of data in total. The documents were published last month by Distributed Denial of Secrets, the transparency collective behind BlueLeaks and other recent high-profile document dumps, and made searchable by the Lucy Parsons Labs, a Chicago-based collaborative. The MPD acknowledged an “unauthorized access incident” in late April, and in mid-May, the department sought public help in identifying a man for his “reposting of MPD’s illegally accessed data on social media.” Neither the MPD nor Hall responded to The Intercept’s list of questions.

Yet the gang database Hall helped build suffered from many of the same deficiencies as the California database. A spreadsheet of the MPD database shared internally the next month included a supposed gang member who was less than 1 year old, as well as 2, 3, 5, and 6-year-olds. The 2,575 names in the spreadsheet also included children as young as 14.

Other documents from the trove, reviewed by The Intercept, show how the MPD identifies supposed gang members by using hazy criteria typical of other gang databases in the United States and how the department pushes officers to frequently add names to the database. The emails also reveal that the MPD shares information from the database — including full spreadsheets of its contents — with outside agencies and larger regional gang databases and that the department uses it to inform its aggressive policing initiatives.

News Summary:

  • Hacked Emails Give Access to DC Police Gang Database
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