TrapWire Scandal: Mainstream Media Whitewashes Facts Behind Massive Surveillance Program


The discovery of a surveillance system named TrapWire has connected state and federal law enforcement agencies with a vast intelligence infrastructure, raising questions everywhere: except in the mainstream media.

The New York Times finally brought TrapWire into discussion late Monday in an article published on their website that has journalist Scott Shane discarding initial reports made about the surveillance system as “wildly exaggerated.” A piece published hours earlier in Slate says stories about TrapWire are “rooted in hyperbole and misinformation” and “heavier on fiction than fact,” and even Cubic Corporation, the San Diego, California company reported as the parent company to developers Abraxas Corp., have been driven to dismiss that rumored relationship with a formal press release.

“Cubic Corporation acquired Abraxas Corporation on December 20, 2010,” a Monday afternoon statement from Cubic claims. “Abraxas Corporation then and now has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc.”

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United States

But four days after RT first broke the news of a nationwide surveillance system operated underneath the noses of millions of Americans — and even citizens abroad — the mainstream media and the major players are going to great lengths to abolish any and all allegations about TrapWire. As private researchers, journalists and hacktivists correspond with one another over the Web, though, the information becoming increasingly available about Cubic, Abraxas and TrapWire — facts meant to be left under wraps — is opening up details about a vast operation with strict ties to the intelligence community, the federal government, the US Defense Department contractors and countless others across the globe.

While the New York Times has indeed finally come forth with a story on TrapWire, their rushed exposé about a story sparked by “speculation” contains references to allegations that are argued directly in emails obtained from Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, the intelligence company that was hacked by the Anonymous collective last year. Emails uncovered in the attack were provided to WikiLeaks, who on their part published the trove in installments, including a dump last week. Thanks to a red flag being raised by independent researcher Justin Ferguson last week, the TrapWire system was linked to Stratfor staffers, in turn causing a colossal investigation to be launched from all corners of the Internet.

So far, that probing has proved at least one thing: that the allegations made by both Cubic and sources speaking to the Times are either dead wrong or represent a quickly snowballing attempt at a cover-up.

Speaking to the Times for Shane’s article, New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul Browne says that rumors the city’s subway system is covered by 500 cameras linked to TrapWire are false. Explicitly, Browne says, “We don’t use TrapWire,” but the Times stops short of printing a quote from the NYPD that exceeds six syllables. While Browne has not publically weighed in yet as to if the NYC surveillance cams were formerly part of the TrapWire system, emails uncovered in the Stratfor attack seem to suggest exactly that.

In an email dated September 26, 2011, Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton is believed to have responded to a memo about the NYPD’s counter-terrorism efforts by writing, “Note their TrapWire intuitive video surveillance capabilities. NYPD has done what no US Govt Agency has been able to do in the CT [counter-terrorism] arena.”

In a separate correspondence sent one year earlier on July 16, 2010, Burton writes that “TrapWire may be the most successful invention on the GWOT [Global War on Terror] since 9-11.”

“I knew these hacks when they were GS-12’s at the CIA. God Bless America. Now they have EVERY major HVT in CONUS, the UK, Canada, Vegas, Los Angeles, NYC as clients,” he adds, referring to “high-value targets.”

Contrasting the statements made by the NYPD rep and Stratfor’s VP open up nothing more than a he-said-she-said scenario that makes it impossible, at this point, to put a finger on who exactly is in the right. Since New York City has readied their own domain-awareness-system, openly admitted to conducting undercover surveillance of Muslim residents and installed thousands of cameras on the island of Manhattan alone, though, it doesn’t seem all that odd that Mayor Bloomberg would have authorized the use of TrapWire in at least some capacity during the past few years.

Also brought into question are the meits behind Cubic Corporation’s claims about their relationship with TrapWire. “Abraxas Corporation then and now has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc.,” the company claims in their press release issued this Monday. According to a 2007 report in the Washington Business Journal, though, that as well is a full-on fib.

“Abraxas Corp., a risk-mitigation technology company, has spun out a software business to focus on selling a new product,” the article reads. “The spinoff – called Abraxas Applications – will sell TrapWire, which predicts attacks on critical infrastructure by analyzing security reports and video surveillance.”

Published more than five years before the Stratfor emails prompted a probe into TrapWire and its affiliates, the Washington Business Journal article answers a lot of questions that are being asked today.

“Reston-based Abraxas Applications will seek federal, state and local government clients as [well] as companies in financial services, oil and gas, chemicals, transportation and other industries with critical infrastructure,” the article alleges.

Just as today, though, Business Journal also acknowledges a cloud of secrecy that keeps the juiciest part of TrapWire under wraps: “The 300-person company has spent millions of dollars developing TrapWire, but won’t say precisely how much,” their article reads.

Elsewhere, the Journal adds another piece to the puzzle involving the surveillance system and the NYPD: “Abraxas Applications hits the ground running. Abraxas Corp. previously won contracts to test TrapWire with the New York Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Department of Energy and Marine Corps.”

Meanwhile, current investigations conducted by RT and other outlets have suggested that TrapWire may be connected to as many as thousands of cameras in Washington, DC and others in London, Las Vegas as elsewhere.


RT, previously known as Russia Today, is a global multilingual news network that is funded by the Russian government and has been labelled as a propaganda outlet by the US State Department.

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