Love False Positives – The Day The Bank Said I Bought A Heavy Machine Gun Online

On the 15th November 2013 I made a wire transfer using Permanent TSB Open24. Open24 is an online banking service. For those of you who do not know, Permanent TSB is a retail bank that operates in the Republic of Ireland.

Worthy of note is that retail banking in the Republic is characterised by spectacular systems malfunctionsoutages, IT meltdowns and downright thievery.

But that’s ok because the government of Ireland loves banks and they can really do or not do (as is often the case) what they like – without fear of sanction. Oh, and when they lose their shirts gambling with their customers money then the Irish tax payer gets to pay for it. But I digress.

When Kids Try To Be Adults

I first became aware of my international arms purchasing activities when I received a phone call on my cell phone from a private number. I answered and was greeted by a what sounded like a teenage girl who informed me that an intermediary bank, used by Permanent TSB for payments to South East Asia, had sent an email to the bank requesting information about an international payment that I had made a few days previously.

Before describing the contents of the email, the clearly worried banker (worried because she was talking to an international arms dealer who buys his weapons over the open internet (who needs the Dark Web)), stated that I had bought a heavy machine gun and that I had asked that it be mailed to the address of one of our corporate apartments in Dublin, Ireland. As you do.

The intermediary bank was CitiBank in Frankfurt she informed me. They had contacted the Treasury Department and they in turn were dealing directly with the beneficiary bank in Singapore who were the first to flag the transaction.

The email read:


The beneficiary Bank sent the below SWIFT message to our treasury department via CitiBank:


      1. FULL NAME.

I trust the above is in order.

Kind Regards,


She informed me that the Bank could not facilitate international arms purchases and that law enforcement had been informed including the local police station to the bank branch from which my transaction emanated, the Organised Crime Unit, and of course Security & Intelligence. The latter is the central point of contact for An Garda Síochána with all external agencies – both law enforcement and security/intelligence – with regard to international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The Very Boring Reality

The transfer that caused this international “counter-terrorism / counter organised crime” flurry of activity between one local bank, two international banks and law enforcement in three countries was made by me to an organisation called SERVCORP.

SERVCORP is a company in SINGAPORE that provide a telephone answering service for my company TMG Corporate Services. The actual mandate for the transfer had been set up months previously by Permanent TSB themselves at the request of TMG Corporate Services Accounts Department. The same payment had been made on several previous occasions.

The transfer they said was for the purchase of an automatic weapon namely a BROWNING M2 Machine Gun TMG F70.

And how had they come to this conclusion? Well, simply because the reference on the payment was TMGF70. The reference was TMGF70 because that was the reference used by SERVCORP on the invoice that they had issued for that months services.

“TMG” being an acronym for The Mediator Group and F70 some internal reference for SERVCORP.

The Browning M2

The Browning M2 is a chain-fed, air-cooled heavy machine gun (TMG) in caliber 12.70 x 99 mm NATO , produced by the American manufacturer Browning at the end of World War II. The rifle has a maximum range of 7,500 meters and an effective range of 1,800 meters and can use different types of ammunition: full sharp, armor, armor fire and tracer.

Here I am proudly modelling a “Ma Deuce” I managed to buy in the duty free shop at Heathrow Airport.

Ma Deuce

Bargain Hunter

What was even more impressive about my purchase was that I acquired this impressive weapon for SGD$70 or EUR€45.25 at todays spot rate on XE.COM.



The First Bombs in Damascus

Those first days of the war in Damascus were the scariest. The little vegetable shop though stayed shuttered, I walked past often expecting to see him sitting in the patch of sun on the other side of the alley, his pot of tea and cigarettes on a little wooden table. The old man died under the first bombs, I never knew his name and never bought vegetables from his shop.

John Wreford Photographer

I never bought vegetables from his shop, I’d pass by several times a day and would always say hello, always promising myself to buy something from him one day, I never did, there were lots of similar shops and some even closer to my house. Did he mind I often wondered?

Those first days of the war in Damascus were the scariest, we knew it was coming, sometimes we were anxious, other times it seemed it could never happen on such a beautiful day, then almost overnight it arrived, all the shops closed and the streets emptied, gunfire filled the night sky and small mortar bombs landed in the narrow streets around my house, nobody came to collect the rubbish.

The shock and adjustment took a few days to sink in, the kids came out and collected the rubbish, shops were re-stocked and open again, life slowly emerged from behind…

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Syrian Resilience, A Portrait. — John Wreford Photographer

iraqi Rasqia

This photo reminded me of those lovely trips we used to make in the spring from Baghdad to that land between the two rivers south of Mosul. I can picture the lovely flowers as in monet’s poppies. My Grand Father used to meet his team of shepherds who cared for his sheep. They used to follow the rain between Syria and Iraq. He had a large Bedouin tent, smoked Hubble-bubble and wear a hand made coat made from sheep skin. At dawn you hear the lambs calling their mums after the Bedouin milk them. We had a breakfast of a lovely fresh yogurt with a choice honey and date syrup.

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Lynching in Bolivia

Some very strange and disturbing local customs and vigilantism in Bolivia – apparently there were 41 cases of lynching in 2014, of which 13 resulted in death writes Andreas Moser.

The Happy Hermit

In many places in Bolivia, I saw life-size dolls dangling from lamp posts, power poles, walls and even next to the church. I was unable to figure out what they were supposed to represent.


When I asked about it, I always received evasive replies referring to “custom” or limited to explanations that explain absolutely nothing, like “that’s what people do around here”. At first, I thought my Spanish was too bad to understand, but over time it became obvious that nobody wanted to talk about it. Until I met a girl in La Paz who explained quite openly, while we were walking around El Alto, that the dolls serve as a warning: “In this part of town, we’ll hang you if we catch you stealing.”


And these are no empty threats. Take this woman and her two children for example. They were accused of stealing a car and tied to…

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The advice Trump got from Abbas

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” and “Dunning-Kruger should cause people to reflect on themselves”.

Ever since Donald J. Trump was elected president, David Dunning’s phone has been ringing off the hook. Dunning, a social psychologist, is one of the lead authors of “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology based on the results of a study he and a student, Justin Kruger, conducted at Cornell in 1999.

As the title suggests, what they found was the existence of a cognitive bias in which the less able people are, the more likely they are to overestimate their abilities. Or as Dunning put it recently over the phone from the University of Michigan, where he now teaches:

“People don’t know what they don’t know.”

The Happy Hermit

Abbas:  Hey, Mr President, you know when I had my last election?

Trump:  Um, um, I am not so good with history. I’ll have to ask Stephen.

Abbas:  I’ll tell you. I was elected in 2005.

Trump:  And you’re still in office now?

Abbas:  Obviously.

Trump:  Wow, that’s a loooong term, that’s yuuuuge. That’s like, um, um, a lot of years definitely.

Abbas:  That’s 12 years – without another election! But you know what’s the best thing about it?

Trump:  No.

Abbas:  It’s unconstitutional. My original term was 4 years. Just like yours. *wink, wink*

Trump:  How did you get around that?

Abbas:  I simply cancelled the elections. You have to find some reason, of course, like terrorism or national security or some bla bla. But hey, what can people do? You’re the President!

Trump:  Can you stay for lunch? I’d like you to meet some of my smarter guys and…

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The Media, Crime, & Criminal Justice in Ireland

In 2017, in the Republic of Ireland, the relationship between the media, crime, and criminal justice is fundamentally different than what was the case a half century ago. A functioning independent media operating in the public interest and a transparent criminal justice system are notionally the cornerstones of an effective democracy.

Both should have clear demarcations on authority and demonstrable respect, without exception, for civil liberties. Both should respect “a social contract that sets out the expectations, the rights, and the responsibilities of all parts of society – individuals, institutions and government.” (Reference 1), the statute book and the constitution. A society “where Government works in the interest of all” (Reference 2)

The Dark Triad

The relationship between these elements has changed in recent history as a result of the normalisation of sensationalism in the media and an exaggeration by the media of the levels of serious domestic criminal activity.

Both of these phenomena have resulted in an erosion of civil liberties and a skewed public perception of the threat level that serious crime presents domestically. As a result bills have been proposed and laws passed that deliver disproportionate criminal justice powers to the State.

To a large degree the majority of the public are unaware of the potential pitfalls of this kind of legislation and have rather been led into a position of inertia by an irresponsible media.

“Influencing” Public Opinion

Public attitude to crime is substantially informed by the consumption of print, TV, radio and digital media and as “an issue of major public interest it is therefore covered extensively in the media.” (Reference 3)

Media coverage is a major influence on the public perception of crime and the administration of criminal justice.

The media affects public attitudes to different types of crime, to certain sectors of society, to the perception of the levels of criminal activity within society, to the expectation with respect to the burden of proof thats rests with the State in criminal trails, to the checks and balances that exist within the system, to the willingness of the public to surrender civil liberties in the face of alleged threats and “in the tabloid media in particular, it dominates and dictates the news agenda.” (Reference 4)

“The relationship between media presentations and crime is dependent on characteristics of the message and the audience.” (Heath and Gilbert (1996)). Chiricos et al (2000) finds that local and national news are related to fear of crime and have a direct effect on the willingness of constituents to consider a reduction in their personal freedoms in order to allow new legislation that more “effectively” combats the perceived threat.

The “Contract” Between The Media & The Public

The poor quality and reliability of output in certain sections of the media is detrimental to the effective administration of criminal justice and rather “the media should endeavour to ensure that stories of crime accurately reflect the nature and extent of their true occurrence.” (Reference 5)

A by-product of a broken “media-crime-criminal justice” relationship has been the erosion of certain civil liberties. In particular the presumption of innocence, the rules of habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial, the fundamental right to silence and the right to trial by jury in an ordinary Court for non-terrorist offences.

There is a “growing insignificance of the presumption of innocence for accused persons such that its “tangible benefits [appear] little in evidence in our criminal justice system.” (Reference 6)

In conjunction with media scare-mongering that is disproportionate to the threat posed the fallout “has been global in scope – in particular, in the battering taken by international human rights standards and even the Geneva Conventions.” (Reference 7)

The Dublin-Limerick Effect

During the 1990’s, Dublin and Limerick became the focal point for domestic media crime reporting especially amongst the tabloids. Specialised law enforcement units evolved in response to this relatively new type of threat to state security. Due to the changes in the nature of offences being brought before the Courts there was a drive to author new legislation as a unique set of legal challenges began to appear when investigating these offences.

It also became clear that gangs and gang members were proving difficult to tackle and existing legislation made gathering evidence to support trials difficult. The Criminal Justice Act 2006, legislated for during the tenure of Michael McDowell as the Minister for Justice, created a new offence of membership of an organised crime gang, or “criminal organisation”, and made it an offence to assist the activities of an organised crime gang.

Evolving this legislation the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 provided for the use in criminal trials of material obtained during covert surveillance. The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill further defined membership of a criminal organisation and made it an offence to direct the activities of one.

There were also a host of newly created scheduled offences contained in the legislation which allowed gang members to be tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court. In Section 8 of the Bill a declaration was made that the ordinary courts were inadequate and were not in a position to effectively administer justice as there was a pervasive threat of jury tampering and intimidation.

Despite this there was no evidence that the ordinary courts had previously failed repeatedly to justify such a sweeping alteration of the normal rules of habeas corpus, the right to silence (removed by the introduction of “inferences”), the right to trial by jury and the fundamental right of the presumption of innocence.

To support this view that the legislation was ill-conceived and introduced to reduce the workload and evidence required in securing convictions in these cases Central Criminal Court Judge Mr. Justice Paul Carney stated that when gang members were brought before a jury in his court there were no difficulties in securing convictions.

Maintaining Integrity & Accuracy

The interactions between the media and criminal justice should to be governed by a clear understanding of boundaries and acceptable authority. There should also be an attempt to maintain independence from political influence and any vested interest bias.

Restricting reporting to verifiable fact on matters of fundamental importance is paramount. Instead there has been “a surrender to an exaggerated, media-driven perception of the levels of crime or the threat posed by certain types of crime.” (Reference 8)

Mandated commentators – journalists – were historically, to a greater or lesser degree, controlled and restricted according to their professional standards and ethics. The concept of a trusted press was based on the premise that facts formed the basis of reporting.

Developing commentary and drawing conclusions from those facts was to be a task fulfilled by those who possessed subject matter expertise, experience and independence.

Rather we have experienced “hysteria in the media about crime” (Reference 9) which “has caused a moral panic and calls for extreme measures such as zero tolerance.” (Reference 9). This has led to questions as to whether “vested interests have turned a manageable problem into a crisis?” (Reference 10)

The Effect Of Poor Standards

Over time “opinion pieces”, “columnists”, “editorials”, “investigative journalism” and “news anchor monologues” became the means by which competing media outlets in an increasingly crowded market vied with each other for market share where even non-commercial bloggers now vie for the public’s eyeballs.

This is in stark contrast to what was the case previously. There has been an erosion of the boundary between what is delivered as fact and what is offered as opinion. It is often not clear which is which.

Personal opinion, political alignment, individual or organisational prejudice or vested interest factors have increasingly influenced media output and the production of opinion pieces, as fact, is de rigueur.

The combination of these phenomenon has produced an often misinformed public view of crime and criminality and by extension criminal justice.

There have been several seismic shifts that have evolved the relationship between the media, crime, and criminal justice. The catalysts for these shifts are myriad and include complex changes in social norms, a more diverse society as an outcome of membership of the EU and in more recent times immigration, advancements in technology, a lowering of the bar with respect to fact-checking and independence and a number of external influencers that previously did not exercise control – whether direct of indirect – on the operations of sovereign states in Europe such as The European Court of Human Rights and other external bodies which exercise extra-national legislative influence.

The role of the media in society has naturally evolved over the last century. A free and independent media in a democracy was to be catalyst for positive change.

A relatively free press and a notionally independent judiciary emerged in the first quarter of the 20th century. Media became a liberal and in part, socially crusading, part of society during the third quarter of the 20th century.

With the emergence and evolution of digital media in the latter part of the 20th century until the present – the media – became every person who possessed a keyboard and with that journalistic integrity became diluted. So too did media freedom. Media is influenced by vested interests and by extension so too are the public.

The Loss of Self-Imposed Governance

The relationship between the media and court officials, members of the judiciary, law enforcement, law makers or politicians was at one point to a greater or lesser degree governed by what was once self-imposed governance.

Acceptable practice, and adherence to a set professional standards were respected. Sometimes as a result of a moral compass and sometimes as a result of the threat of potential sanction.

By extension the media ability to influence public opinion on social phenomena, such as crime, without necessarily adhering to legislation or citizens rights as enshrined in statute and the constitution has been blurred.

Data Protection, Confidentiality & Due Process

Chinese Walls, acting as an insurmountable barrier to the passage of confidential information, between the media and criminal justice has all but ceased to exist.

The age of the “leak” which is normally a self serving exercise and the “whistleblower” which is normally in the public interest defines to a great extent the current relationship between the media and criminal justice and the reporting and perception of crime.

The recent alleged extreme rise in violent crime nationally and gun violence between organised criminal gangs has been used by the political parties, An Garda Siochana and lobby groups to ridicule legitimate opposition to the illegal practises of the non-jury Special Criminal Court apparatus in particular.

The Media, Like An Garda Siochana, Are Held To Increasingly Low Standards

I reference a recent article in the Independent with the title “ Highly Sophisticated Eastern European Thieves Making A Fortune In Burglaries Targeting Rural Ireland” (Reference 11).

This article is a prime example of poor journalistic standards facilitating the shoddy application of criminal justice and the poor performance of An Garda Siochana.

It offers transparent sensationalism and embellished fact to facilitate the creation of an impression in the public’s mind. The impression that the article creates is an impression that is simply not true and it is published by what is considered to be one of the main news outlets in the Republic of Ireland.

It is a prime example of the phenomenon and a poster-boy for quantity not quality as the driver for news production in 21st Century Ireland.

The article refers to “the international professional burglary gang which has carried out robberies with “military precision” in Munster”. On examination of this statement it appears that the only evidence of organisation and precision was a time limit the burglars generally imposed upon themselves during their robberies which was deduced from the observation that they looked at “their watches at regular intervals”.

The author then describes how the gang weaponised their vehicles by “transforming “cheap” cars into battering rams, capable of smashing through the premises.”. In fact this impressive sounding planning and preparation actually involved the removal of a seat and its replacement with some concrete blocks.

When the man who was convicted of the crimes was being arrested by armed members of An Garda Siochana the journalist states that “a man “accompanying” him was shot in the face”.

The use of quotes around the word “accompanying” gave this reader the impression that the journalist was insinuating that while the man was never arrested or charged with a crime that he was somehow complicit.

The headline of this article is calculated to draw the attention of the reader and suggests that large amounts of burglaries had been carried out and that vast amounts of monies had been generated by the criminals from the proceeds of their crimes.

The far less sensational reality is that over a two year period during three documented robberies that €150,000 of goods were stolen and not a single member of the public was physically harmed.

Reference Index

1 “Ireland’s Social Contract Is Broken And An Alternative Is Now Required: Social Justice Ireland”. [online] Retrieved from: now-required-social-justice-ireland-786142.html N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

2 “Ireland’s Social Contract Is Broken And An Alternative Is Now Required: Social Justice Ireland”. [online] Retrieved from: now-required-social-justice-ireland-786142.html N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

3 Crime In Ireland (2016) “Crime In Ireland”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

4 Crime In Ireland (2016) “Crime In Ireland”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

5 “Fear of Crime in Ireland and its Impact on Quality of Life”. %20in%20Ireland.pdf/Files/Fear%20of%20Crime%20in%20Ireland.pdf. N.p., 2016. Web 27 Mar. 2017.

6 Hamilton, Dr. C. “The Presumption Of Innocence In Irish Criminal Law: Recent Trends And Possible Explanations”. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

7 McLintock, Michael. “Erosion Of Human Rights Sets Bad Example”. human-rights-sets-bad-example-1.1095225 The Irish Times. N.p., 2002. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

8 Walsh, Professor Dermot. “The Criminal Justice Act, 2006: A Crushing Defeat For Due Process Values?”. [online] Retrieved from: Judicial Studies Institute Journal. N.p., 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

9 O’Connell, Dr. Mick. “Crime And Media Hysteria: Tone Down The Headlines | Politico”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 1998. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

10 Kerrigan, Gene & Shaw, Helen. “Crime Hysteria”. Magill 1985: 7-12. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

11 Raleigh, David. “‘Highly Sophisticated’ Eastern European Thieves Making A Fortune In Burglaries Targeting Rural Ireland – Independent.Ie”. [online] Retrieved from: eastern-european-thieves-making-a-fortune-in-burglaries-targeting-rural-ireland-35605436.html., 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.


A. Ashworth, “Four Threats to the Presumption of Innocence” (2006) 10 E. & P. 241-279

An Garda Síochana (2015). An Garda Síochana Annual Report . [report] Ireland: An Garda Síochana

C. Hamilton, Whittling the Golden Thread: The Presumption of Innocence in Irish Criminal Law (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2007)

Crime In Ireland (2016) “Crime In Ireland”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

Department of Justice & Equality. “Publication Of Commission Of Investigation (Certain Matters Relative To The Cavan/Monaghan Division Of An Garda Síochána) Final Report – The Department Of Justice And Equality”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform. “Fear of Crime in Ireland and its Impact on Quality of Life”. [online] Retrieved from: %20in%20Ireland.pdf. N.p., 2016. Web 27 Mar. 2017.

Dowler, Kenneth. “Media Consumption And Public Attitudes Toward Crime And Justice- JCJPC,Volume 10, Issue 2”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Hamilton, Dr. C. “The Presumption Of Innocence In Irish Criminal Law: Recent Trends And Possible Explanations”. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

H. Kennedy, Just Law: The Changing Face of Justice and Why it Matters to Us All (London: Chatto and Windus, 2004).

Kerrigan, Gene & Shaw, Helen. “Crime Hysteria”. Magill 1985: 7-12. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

M. O’Halloran, “Ahern rejects claim that Asbo system is a ‘failure’” Irish Times (26 February 2009)

McLintock, Michael (2002). “Erosion Of Human Rights Sets Bad Example”. [online] Retrieved from: The Irish Times. N.p., 2002. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

O’Connell, Dr. Mick. “Crime And Media Hysteria: Tone Down The Headlines | Politico”. [online] Retrieved from: N.p., 1998. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

Raleigh, David. “‘Highly Sophisticated’ Eastern European Thieves Making A Fortune In Burglaries Targeting Rural Ireland – Independent.Ie”. [online] Retrieved from: eastern-european-thieves-making-a-fortune-in-burglaries-targeting-rural-ireland-35605436.html., 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Statute Book, Irish. “Criminal Justice Act 2006”. Office of the Attorney General, 2006. [online] Retrieved from: 4 Apr. 2017.

Statute Book, Irish. “The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009”. Office of the Attorney General, 2009. [online] Retrieved from: 4 Apr. 2017.

Various, “Ireland’s Social Contract Is Broken And An Alternative Is Now Required: Social Justice Ireland”. [online] Retrieved from: alternative-is-now-required-social-justice-ireland-786142.html N.p., 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Walsh, Professor Dermot. “The Criminal Justice Act, 2006: A Crushing Defeat For Due Process Values?”. [online] Retrieved from: Judicial Studies Institute Journal. N.p., 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.



Some Members of Congress Are Trying To Invoke “CRA” To Sell Your Data

Congress is trying to strip away your online privacy rights.

Internet service provider knows a lot about you: the webpages you visit, the things you purchase, the people you talk to, and more. Last year, the federal government updated rules to ensure that the companies that act as gatekeepers to the Internet can’t compromise your privacy to make a profit. Those rules are set to go into effect this year.

Now some members of Congress are trying to change that.

Using a little-known tool called a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, some lawmakers want to not only repeal your privacy protections but also effectively prohibit the FCC from creating similar rules in the future.

That could leave consumers without a federal agency to protect online privacy rights.

You need to let your representatives in Congress know that they can’t put ISPs’ demands ahead of their constituents’ privacy.

Please call your lawmakers today and tell them to oppose the CRA resolution to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules.

Posted on behalf of Electronic Frontier Foundation.