Here’s One Way To Land On The NSA’s Watch List

This article first appeared at ProPublica on July 9, 2014.

By Julia Angwin and Mike Tigas

Last week, German journalists revealed that the National Security Agency has a program to collect information about people who use privacy-protecting services, including popular anonymizing software called Tor. But it’s not clear how many users have been affected.

So we did a little sleuthing, and found that the NSA’s targeting list corresponds with the list of directory servers used by Tor between December 2010 and February 2012 2013 including two servers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tor users connect to the directory servers when they first launch the Tor service.

That means that if you downloaded Tor during 2011, the NSA may have scooped up your computer’s IP address and flagged you for further monitoring. The Tor Project is a nonprofit that receives significant funding from the U.S. government.

Attorney General Holder Requires Recording of Interrogations, Unlike New York City

This report, written by reporter Joaquin Sapien, was originally published by ProPublica May 23.

Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered Federal law enforcement agents to record all interrogations with suspects in custody.

The policy was outlined in a memo sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

It comes at a time when the recording of interrogations has become increasingly widespread among State and local law enforcement as a means to prevent false confessions and coercion.

Currently, 18 States require interrogations to be taped, along with hundreds of local police departments and prosecutors around the country.

But the practice is not currently required by law in New York, where the failure to record interrogations has factored into several high-profile murder cases.

ProPublica: Liberal Outside Money Groups Spend Big In North Carolina

This piece, written by Theodoric Meyer and Kim Barker, was originally published by ProPublica on April 29.

Most people have come to associate outside money — the hundreds of millions of dollars from politically active nonprofits and super PACs pouring into American elections — with conservatives.

And why not? Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, conservative groups have far outspent their liberal counterparts. In the 2012 Federal election cycle alone, conservatives shelled out almost two and a half times the amount of outside money as liberal groups, including labor unions.

But an early look at spending on television ads in North Carolina, home to a hotly contested Senate race and a number of competitive State races, shows that liberals are asserting themselves as never before. They are spending almost as much as conservatives in the Senate race and pouring funds into State contests that conservatives haven’t yet spent a cent on.

ProPublica: Medicaid Programs Drowning In Backlog

This article, written by Charles Ornstein, was originally published by ProPublica on April 9.

Last week, Federal health officials celebrated two milestones related to the Affordable Care Act. The first, which got considerable attention, was that more than 7 million people selected private health plans in State and Federal health insurance exchanges. The second, which got less attention, was that some 3 million additional enrollees had signed up for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (public health insurance programs for the poor), many as a result of Medicaid’s expansion.

But there are growing signs that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is a victim of its own success, unable to keep up with demand. While about half the States have refused to expand their Medicaid programs’ eligibility, among those that have, some can’t process applications fast enough.

ProPublica Examines What The Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn’t Do

This article, written by Kara Brandeisky, was originally published by ProPublica on April 3.

Ten months after Edward Snowden’s first disclosures, three main legislative proposals have emerged for surveillance reform: one from President Obama, one from the House Intelligence Committee, and one proposal favored by civil libertarians.

All the plans purport to end the bulk phone records collection program, but there are big differences – and a lot they don’t do. Here’s a rundown.

President Obama’s proposal

What it would do: As described, the President’s proposal would prohibit the collection of bulk phone records. Instead, the government would seek individualized court orders every time it wants American phone metadata. The government would get the data from telecoms, which already keep it for at least 18 months.

As Full Disclosure Nears, Doctors’ Pay For Drug Talks Plummets

This article, written by Charles Ornstein, Eric Sagara and Ryann Grochowski Jones, was originally published by ProPublica on March 3.

Some of the Nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies have slashed payments to health professionals for promotional speeches amid heightened public scrutiny of such spending, a new ProPublica analysis shows.

Eli Lilly and Co.’s payments to speakers dropped by 55 percent, from $47.9 million in 2011 to $21.6 million in 2012.

Pfizer’s speaking payments fell 62 percent over the same period, from nearly $22 million to $8.3 million.

And Novartis, the largest U.S. drug maker as measured by 2012 sales, spent 40 percent less on speakers that year than it did between October 2010 and September 2011, reducing payments from $24.8 million to $14.8 million.

The sharp declines coincide with increased attention from regulators, academic institutions and the public to pharmaceutical company marketing practices. A number of companies have settled Federal whistle-blower lawsuits in recent years that accused them of improperly marketing their drugs.

Epic Fail: Where Four State Health Exchanges Went Wrong

This article, written by Charles Ornstein, was originally published by ProPublica on Feb. 6.

Much has been written (and will continue to be written) about the spectacular failure of health insurance exchanges in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland 2014 all blue States that support the Affordable Care Act.

All were woefully unprepared for their Oct. 1 launch, and unlike HealthCare.gov, the Federal marketplace, they are still having trouble getting back on their feet. As a result, enrollment in those four States has lagged behind other States, including many that actively oppose the health law.

The New York Times recently reported on how problems in these States could give Republican candidates an opening. “Last month, the Republican National Committee filed public-records requests in Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon seeking information about compensation and vacation time for the exchange directors, four of whom have resigned. All five States have Democratic governors whose terms end this year. Three of them – Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon – are seeking re-election,” The Times reported.