OSINT FOR GOOD & SELF-TAUGHT SKILLS - LEARNING TO BE BRAVE
In 2007 a Congressional Hearing was held to address a matter of concern that had existed for decades and was only very recently brought to light. Lead by then CA (D) Senator George Miller the "Hearing on Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse at Residential Treatment Facilities" managed to finally take place during that year on October 10th.
The testimonies and findings presented by the Government Accountability Office were nothing short of horrifying.
"These allegations range from neglect to torture, a word I do not use lightly...", Miller established in his opening statement leading the hearing. "Today we will hear about neglect and abuse cases where the outcome was the worst one imaginable, the death of a child."
Understandably and perhaps out of a sort of hopeful skepticism some members of Congress were hesitant to believe the use of the word "torture" to be an accurate description. That the death of a child was certainly just a one time accident. Little did these members of congress anticipate the findings to be presented and the scale of the issue much less how absolutely severe it truly was. Whether at the time they knew this industry had been existing and even thriving for decades is not likely based on the responses from politicians typically resistant to enacting this sort of legislation at a federal level.
However what they failed to understand was the lack of legislation at any level pertaining to what was an industry consisting of privately owned and operated treatment centers who had successfully dodged accountability for years due almost entirely to loopholes found in certain states. An example being exemption for religious based programs which allowed Lester Roloff homes to exist in multiple southern states protected by state specific laws such as TACCCA or the Texas Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies. To suggest there was a conflict of interest by the agency being run by a long time admirer of Roloff, Pastor David Blaser, should go without saying.
The hearing itself is deserving of it's own coverage separate from presenting what one of the primary influences of this work was. The bill intended to address the concerning matters heard in 2007 was presented in a 2008 hearing with a focus on the deceptive marketing tactics utilized that, in essence, defrauded parents and families promising treatment they could not provide. From a later iteration of this bill was a section regarding the "Dissemination of Information" which called for the Assistant Secretary to create and maintain a website fulfilling several criteria.
No version of this bill was ever put into effect despite yearly efforts to try to pass it again and again up until 2015. Despite the lack of funding it would otherwise receive the creation of a website fulfilling the requirements outlined within each bill is entirely possible to create.
During the year 2020 the data collection and and initial plan of a necessary infrastructure to maintain such a task began. This specific effort was initiated by a survivor of this exact industry with over 20 years of experience in web development that was entirely self-taught. Additional technical skills ranged from digital design & editing, some insight into penetration testing, personal opsec, elements of social engineering utilized by cyber criminals, and not knowing there was a term for it, OSINT analysis.
Having spent almost three years of their childhood falsely imprisoned without human or civil rights they brought invaluable tacit knowledge to this work. Feeling it was their moral obligation having both the personal insight and appropriate technical skill they decided this was now their life work and they were determined to deliver. With the help of an initial party that decided to take civil action against the very facility where this survivor was placed the kind of research done to assist litigious efforts was also, in part, usable data for the site development.
Other survivors had been making bits of data available online for over a decade with some providing comprehensive information on specific facilities or organizations responsible for a significant part of the industry. There was a substantial amount that had been archived via the Wayback Machine from sites that even began creating awareness as early as 2003. However the process of collecting data in a central resource with all findings held to rigorous standards of preservation, authentication, and organization had not yet been realized.
Without the time and effort spent by those survivors preserving and documenting the facilities they attended so much of this would not have been possible. The IPYT Index would not exist in the way it has managed to accomplish had it not been for the work of survivors who utilized that emerging technology to publish their own investigative work. Many of these groups have not been active for quite some time yet their contributions managed to be archived and preserved allowing for an exceptional amount of data to be available.
By adhering to OSINT methodologies and the protocol developed by the UC Berkeley School of Law regarding Digital Open Source Investigations the IPYT Index functions ethically and with respect to privacy especially as it pertains to minors and victims of abuses found to have occured, allegedly or otherwise, within this industry. From data collection and organization of findings the working infrastructure became more apparent defining the way in which the site presents information and shows the source of its findings.
DATASETTE-A TOOL FOR EXPLORING DATA DEVELOPED BY SIMON WILLISON
Visit datasette here to learn more about the tool.
Initially developed for use in the research process used by the IPYT Index, ArchivEye is an open source investigative utility with accessibility and security in mind. ArchivEye works offline with PDF files on your local or personal PC. Implementing an OCR reading process against any collection of PDF files it makes it possible to find keywords and names within them.
What lead to the functions of this utility came from needs found in legal and investigative industries for users of even an entry level understanding of tech. Often there is an overwhelming amount of files collected for discovery that have to be sorted, indexed, and searched. In some cases, especially in litigation, these documents can be highly sensitive. To provide an offline option that makes these investigations possible with significantly less risk to victim identity and privacy is incredibly valuable.
Story in progress...to be continued