Dina Temple-Raston

The Trump administration has renewed a controversial contract with a Pittsburgh company to collect key COVID-19 data from hospitals.

The Department of Health and Human Services decided to award a second $10.2 million, six-month contract to TeleTracking Technologies even though Congressional committees are investigating the process by which the contract was awarded and the HHS Inspector General is looking at how the company is securing the information it is gathering, an NPR Investigation has learned.

Despite people's fears, sophisticated, deceptive videos known as "deepfakes" haven't arrived this political season. But it's not because they aren't a threat, sources tell NPR. It's because simple deceptions like selective editing or outright lies have worked just fine.

"You can think of the deepfake as the bazooka and the video splicing as a slingshot. And it turns out the slingshot works," said Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley specializing in visual misinformation.

The Government Accountability Office is investigating the Pentagon's interest in deploying a "heat ray" to control crowds around the White House, part of a broader review of the tactics and use of nonlethal weapons that have been leveled against social justice protesters this summer, NPR has learned.

Updated at 2:51 p.m. ET

A spokesperson for Joint Forces Headquarters Command in Washington, D.C., confirmed to NPR that hours before federal police officers cleared a crowded park near the White House with smoke and tear gas on June 1, a military police staff officer asked if the D.C. National Guard had a kind of "heat ray" weapon that might be deployed against demonstrators in the nation's capital.

Federal police officers who cleared a crowded park near the White House with smoke and tear gas in June violated court-ordered regulations that spell out how demonstrators are to be warned before aggressive tactics are used against them, attorneys who helped write the agreed-upon rules say.

Louis DeJoy, depending on whom you talk to, is either a Republican political operative beholden to President Trump, or a savvy businessman who's the right person to fix what's broken at the U.S. Postal Service. When senators question him this week, they will want to know which narrative is closer to the truth — and whether he is suited to head the service at this time.

An NPR investigation has found irregularities in the process by which the Trump administration awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a Pittsburgh company to collect key data about COVID-19 from the country's hospitals.

The contract is at the center of a controversy over the administration's decision to move that data reporting function from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which has tracked infection information for a range of illnesses for years — to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Congressional investigators are launching an inquiry into a handful of companies that landed government contracts related to COVID-19, calling the deals "suspicious" because the companies lacked experience and, in some cases, had political connections to the Trump administration.

A surveillance camera is said to have recorded it all: a woman in a black t-shirt stepping out of a tan minivan; the lighting of a toilet-paper fuse, the arc of a beer bottle filled with fuel as it was thrown onto the dashboard of an empty police car. That act of vandalism, in the early hours of May 30, is why two Brooklyn lawyers are fighting federal explosives charges and could face as much as life in prison.

Thirty years ago finding a traitor required intuition, a kind of sixth-sensy feeling that something wasn't quite right. Before the Internet, widespread GPS and Google, it required paper trails, human intelligence and gumshoe investigations. Sandy Grimes experienced that firsthand, though almost by accident: She lost a source.

A few years ago, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, published the results of something called the Great Elephant Census, which counted all the savanna elephants in Africa. What it found rocked the conservation world: In the seven years between 2007 and 2014, Africa's savanna elephant population decreased by about a third and was on track to disappear completely from some African countries in as few as 10 years.

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Law enforcement has been searching for years to find a perfect algorithm for uncovering spies, but it's proven elusive. As part of an NPR special series on the technologies that watch us, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston takes a look at what exactly makes this so hard.

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The crowded room was awaiting one word: "Fire."

Everyone was in uniform; there were scheduled briefings, last-minute discussions, final rehearsals. "They wanted to look me in the eye and say, 'Are you sure this is going to work?' " an operator named Neil said. "Every time, I had to say yes, no matter what I thought." He was nervous, but confident. U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency had never worked together on something this big before.

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Debbie Scroggin and her husband live at the end of a series of gravel roads in a lonesome part of Kansas. It is the kind of place where, Debbie says, "you have to drive 15 minutes to get anywhere." Getting to the Scroggin house involves turning onto a desolate ribbon of gravel that cuts through fields as far as the eye can see. It was easy to think that someone might come here to either get lost or be forgotten. Scroggin remembers Adrian Lamo arriving on a night train with nothing but a broken suitcase and a hangdog expression.

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Marriott. Target. The Democratic National Committee. There are so many hacks so often, they may feel unstoppable. And companies are trying everything. We watch as one company grapples with being hacked, and find out that a dusty old financial tool, hundreds of years old, could solve this very modern problem.

Music: "Bring the Roof Down" and "Croisette Balade," and "Baiser Fatal."

New laws in Europe and California are forcing tech companies to protect users' privacy or risk big fines.

Now, the industry is fearing that more states will enact tough restrictions. So it's moving to craft federal legislation that would pre-empt state laws and might put the Federal Trade Commission in charge of enforcement.

Europe enacted a tough law in May which requires, among other things, that companies make data breaches public within 72 hours of discovering them.

Life changed as Sadiik Yusuf knew it about two years ago, when the FBI appeared at his front door in Minneapolis to tell him his son Abdullahi had been stopped at the airport, suspected of trying to board a flight that would take him to Syria to fight with ISIS.

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Danny Nolan was the first man to swing a wrecking ball in Manhattan in 25 years. Wrecking balls hadn't been allowed on the island for a very simple reason: The buildings are much too close together to allow a huge ball to swing back and forth.

An exception was made for Nolan because he, and the other construction workers of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14, were "working the pile" — hauling away what was left in the World Trade Center towers after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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