Tag Archive: Freedom of Information Act


Why Did FBI Monitor Occupy Houston, and Then Hide Sniper Plot Against Protest Leaders?

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** FILE ** Associated Press

** FILE ** Associated Press

Maryland state police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigative journalist for The Washington Times who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department’s Federal Air Marshal Service.

Reporter Audrey Hudson said the investigators, who included an agent for Homeland’s Coast Guard service, took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act during a predawn raid of her family home on Aug. 6.

The documents, some which chronicled her sources and her work at the Times about problems inside the Homeland Security Department, were seized under a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun” suspected of belonging to her husband, Paul Flanagan, a Coast Guard employee. Mr. Flanagan has not been charged with any wrongdoing since the raid.

The warrant, obtained by the Times, offered no specific permission to seize reporting notes or files.

The Washington Times said Friday it is preparing legal action to fight what it called an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment.

“While we appreciate law enforcement’s right to investigate legitimate concerns, there is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter,” Times Editor John Solomon said. “This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work.

“Homeland’s conduct in seizing privileged reporters notes and Freedom of Information Act documents raises serious Fourth Amendment issues, and our lawyers are preparing an appropriate legal response,” he said.

Maryland State Police declined comment, except to say that “evidence and information developed during this investigation is currently under review by both the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and the United State’s Attorney’s Office,” and that a determination has yet to be made on any charges.The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed it seized and reviewed Ms. Hudson’s documents but insisted it did nothing wrong.

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Committee to Protect Journalists

The Obama Administration and the Press

Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists. A CPJ special report by Leonard Downie Jr. with reporting by Sara Rafsky

Barack Obama leaves a press conference in the East Room of the White House August 9. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Barack Obama leaves a press conference in the East Room of the White House August 9. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Published October 10, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.
In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues.

Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.

Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans’ telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources. “I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts,” he said.

“I think we have a real problem,” said New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane. “Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They’re scared to death. There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It’s having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.”

At the same time, the journalists told me, designated administration spokesmen are often unresponsive or hostile to press inquiries, even when reporters have been sent to them by officials who won’t talk on their own. Despite President Barack Obama’s repeated promise that his administration would be the most open and transparent in American history, reporters and government transparency advocates said they are disappointed by its performance in improving access to the information they need.

“This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.

Obama and host Jay Leno tape 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' at NBC Studios on August 6 in Burbank, California. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Obama and host Jay Leno tape ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ at NBC Studios on August 6 in Burbank, California. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

The Obama administration has notably used social media, videos, and its own sophisticated websites to provide the public with administration-generated information about its activities, along with considerable government data useful for consumers and businesses. However, with some exceptions, such as putting the White House visitors’ logs on the whitehouse.gov website and selected declassified documents on the new U.S. Intelligence Community website, it discloses too little of the information most needed by the press and public to hold the administration accountable for its policies and actions. “Government should be transparent,” Obama stated on the White House website, as he has repeatedly in presidential directives. “Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing.”

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DHS raids Human Events alumnus, seizes list of whistleblowers

DHS raids Human Events alumnus, seizes list of whistleblowers

HUMAN EVENTS alumnus Audrey Hudson was the target of a Department of Homeland Security raid in August that was ostensibly related to firearms, but in a new interview with the Daily Callershe revealed that DHS and the Maryland State Police also just happened to confiscate her files and notes… which included information about whistleblowers inside Homeland Security.

Hudson says the files were taken without her knowledge, and without a subpoena.  The Daily Caller confirmed that the search warrant pertained to firearms and ammunition.  Even that part of the story seems rather flimsy, but then we get to all those juicy files that got hoovered up during the raid:

At about 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 6, Hudson said officers dressed in full body armor presented a search warrant to enter the home she shares on the bay with her husband. She estimates that at least seven officers took part in the raid.

After the search began, Hudson said she was asked by an investigator with the Coast Guard Investigative Service if she was the same Audrey Hudson who had written a series of critical stories about air marshals for The Washington Times over the last decade. The Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security.

Hudson said that investigator, Miguel Bosch, identified himself as a former air marshal official.

But it wasn’t until a month later, on Sept. 10, that Hudson was informed by Bosch that five files including her handwritten and typed notes from interviews with numerous confidential sources and other documents had been taken during the raid.

“In particular, the files included notes that were used to expose how the Federal Air Marshal Service had lied to Congress about the number of airline flights there were actually protecting against another terrorist attack,” Hudson wrote in a summary about the raid provided to TheDC.

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Published on Apr 4, 2013

An American activist says the US is branding the Occupy Wall Street movement as a domestic terrorism threat just as it has always labeled all anti-regime opposition movements and figures in the country as terrorists. The comment comes as new documents show that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spied on peaceful Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters during the height of the anti-capitalist movement in the country. The documents released by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) on Tuesday revealed that the DHS routinely spied on peaceful First Amendment activities and required daily briefing on the extent of media attention being given to OWS activities. The PCJF obtained the 252 pages of documents under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing with the DHS, the sprawling Federal agency ostensibly created to combat terrorism after the September 11 attacks.

Press TV has conducted an interview with John Parker with the International Action Center to further discuss the issue.

 

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Enemies of the Warfare State: Government Spying on Peaceful Political Dissidents

John Glaser, April 03, 2013

2012-01-31-hq-napolitano-and-obama-in-oval-office

Just-released declassified documents reveal new details about government surveillance of peaceful political activism in the name of fighting terrorism:

Government documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) through its FOIA records requests reveal that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an agency created after the September 11 attacks under the rubric of combating terrorism, conducts daily monitoring of peaceful, lawful protests as a matter of policy.

Functioning as a secret political police force against people participating in lawful, peaceful free speech activity, the heavily redacted documents show that the DHS “Threat Management Division” directed Regional Intelligence Analysts to provide a “Daily Intelligence Briefing” that includes a category of reporting on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations” along with “Domestic Terrorist Activity.” (p. 68)

The nationwide surveillance system has become the contemporary version of J. Edgar Hoover’s Gestapo-style FBI, watching, subverting, and harassing political dissenters in an extra-legal environment that disregards the First Amendment.

The DHS has used the inflated powers granted to it post-9/11 to expand the definition of “domestic terrorist” to anyone who disagrees with the government and acts on it. Senate investigations on what are called “fusion centers” – essentially DHS intelligence-sharing centers – concluded they did not act to disrupt terrorist plots and spent most of their time monitoring and trying to disrupt political dissidents, specifically “Ron Paul supporters, the ACLU, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters and advocates of gun rights.”

Muslim communities across the nation have been acutely spied on, intimidated, and persecuted by the FBI and DHS, as revealing Associated Press investigations have repeatedly demonstrated. More than that, as Trevor Aaronson’s new book The Terror Factory painstakingly documents, Muslims have also served as a scapegoat under an elaborate system of entrapment that targets vulnerable lowlifes with little capacity to do harm absent FBI enabling.

In the summer of 2011, The Washington Post reported on “a mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation [by the FBI] with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers.”

The apparent targets, all vocal and visible critics of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South America, deny any ties to terrorism. They say the government, using its post-9/11 focus on terrorism as a pretext, is targeting them for their political views.

They are “public non-violent activists with long, distinguished careers in public service, including teachers, union organizers and antiwar and community leaders,” said Michael Deutsch, a Chicago lawyer and part of a legal team defending those who believe they are being targeted by the investigation.

Think of the resources – billions of dollars and massive human effort – wasted on abridging the free speech rights of America’s political dissidents. This is what happens when the government is given the power and a blank check to perform seemingly legitimate functions like protecting us from terrorists.

 

Read Full  Article Here

 

 

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CIA must respond to request about secret drone program

RT

Published time: March 15, 2013 14:54

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a FOIA request with the United States’ top spy agency in January 2010, and in September of the following year a district court said the agency could stay silent. The court agreed at the time that the CIA was not required to describe the existence of any official drone records within the agency and was given the go ahead to issue a “Glomar” response, a reaction which permits an agency to “refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records” in limited circumstances. Now, however, an appeals court says that ruling was wrong.

The ACLU filed an appeal to the Glomar response, and on Friday the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a response in which it overturns the earlier ruling that favored the CIA.

“The question on appeal is whether the Agency’s Glomar response was justified under the circumstances of this case. We conclude that it was not justified and therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings,” finds the court [.pdf].

 

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eff-drone-map

View EFF’s updated Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations in a larger window. (Clicking this link will serve content from Google.)

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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Defending your rights in the digital world

Drone Flights in the U.S.

Politics, Legislation and Economy News

Justice Department Uses Red Tape To Delay Release Of Required Information On Domestic Spying Until Well After It Matters

from the most-transparent-administration-in-history! dept

A couple of months ago, Julian Sanchez wrote about the ridiculous situation in which he filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to reveal the latest semi-annual report from the Justice Department concerning how it was implementing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. As we’ve been discussing, for a while, how the FISA Amendments Act broadly expanded the ability of federal law enforcement, in particular the NSA, to spy on everyone. While there is some language that suggests it’s only supposed to be used on foreigners, it’s been revealed that there is a secret interpretation of the bill, that likely allows them to use a loophole (plus the secret interpretation) to collect and review tons of data on Americans. The FAA is up for renewal, and it’s likely that Congress will rush through a five year extension — despite overwhelming evidence that many in Congress don’t know how the NSA is interpreting the bill (and even making statements that directly contradict the evidence of how the bill is being used).

The law does require the “semi-annual” report mentioned above, and thanks to a lawsuit by the ACLU, the courts have said that the government is required to release redacted versions of those documents. Which is why it was crazy when Sanchez initially filed his FOIA request to see the most recent versions, arguing (quite reasonably) that such documents were inherently important in the debate over the FAA’s renewal, that the DOJ initially told him that it had to deny his request because it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in these files responsive to your request.” That was obviously bullshit. Once again: the report is required by law, and the courts have already said that the content is subject to FOIA requests. Thankfully, after Sanchez went public with the ridiculousness of the situation, the DOJ quickly admitted the original response was a mistake, and promised they’d get right on finding the documents.

Sanchez now has an update of the situation, which is almost as ridiculous as the original story.

 

Read Full Article Here

Crossroads News : Changes In The World Around Us And Our Place In It

IT  :  Security – Collection of Personal Data – Social Networks – Invasion Of Privacy

Feds snooping on email activity and social networks, without warrants – and it’s on the rise

 

Private investigator, courtesy of ShutterstockCrime-fighting authorities in the United States can snoop upon your email activity, who you are instant messaging, and what you are up to on Facebook, Google Plus and other social networks in real-time, not only without your permission – but without even requiring a warrant.

And, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this real-time access by federal investigators to your online activity is on the rise.

Documents released by the ACLU on Thursday show that law enforcement agencies in the United States have greatly increased surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications, and often the surveillance happens without a warrant or judicial oversight.

The documents were released by the U.S. Department of Justice in response to a February 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) by the ACLU.

They show a sharp rise in the use of two types of surveillance in the last five years: “trap and trace” and “pen register”.

Orders for pen registers and trap and trace devices used to spy on phones increased by 60% between 2009 and 2011, from 23,535 to 37,616. The number of individuals whose communications were the subject of surveillance more than tripled in the same period, from approximately 15,000 to 45,000, ACLU said.

Requests to eavesdrop on electronic communications such as email and network data jumped during the same period, also. Trap and Trace requests for electronic data, for example, increased from just over 100 in 2009 to 800 in 2011, the ACLU found.

Graph from ACLU

Pen registers capture outgoing data from a subject over telecommunications lines. Trap and trace surveillance tools capture incoming data.

Historically, the tools were physical devices attached to telephone lines in order to covertly record the incoming and outgoing numbers dialed. Today, no special equipment is required to record this information, as interception capabilities are built into the call-routing hardware of telecoms firms.

According to the ACLU, the surveillance requests do not require a warrant, because American courts consider the data in question – phone numbers, the “to” and “from” addresses in an email, records about IM conversations, etc – to be “non-content” information, which is not covered by the Constitution’s 4th Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

Man with magnifying glass, courtesy of ShutterstockTo initiate pen register or trap and trace surveillance under the act, therefore, law enforcement can simply request approval from a judge by saying that the information they are likely to obtain is “relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation”.

Judges don’t get to weigh the merits of that claim.

The ACLU took the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to court in May to force the government to release the data about its electronic surveillance activities. The ACLU said that the DOJ is required to release the surveillance statistics to Congress each year, but rarely does so.

Past FOIA requests by the ACLU also document the sharp increase in surveillance requests. A 2010 request covering 2006 to 2009 showed that original requests for pen register and trap and trace doubled in that period, as well, from 11,000 to 24,000.

Together with the data released this week, the evidence suggests that law enforcement surveillance requests have more than tripled between 2006 and 2012.

The ACLU said that legislation is needed to toughen the requirement for the government to regularly update the public about its surveillance activities.

The civil liberties group also said that courts should reconsider the 1979 ruling (Smith v. Maryland) that set a lower standard for pen register and trap and trace monitoring than for traditional wire taps.

ACLU wrote:

The distinction from which these starkly different legal requirements arise is based on an erroneous factual premise, specifically that individuals’ lack a privacy interest in non-content information... Non-content information can still be extremely invasive, revealing who you communicate with in real time and painting a vivid picture of the private details of your life... The low legal standard currently applied to pen register and trap and trace devices allows the government to use these powerful surveillance tools with very little oversight in place to safeguard Americans’ privacy.

You can view the Pen Register and Trap and Trace documents online here.