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Topic Summary - Displaying 25 post(s).
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: May 20th, 2020 at 2:05pm
  Mark & Quote
Journalist Barton Gellman, who had access to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, discusses the NSA's FIRSTFRUITS program in an article titled, "Since I Met Edward Snowden, I’ve Never Stopped Watching My Back" published in The Atlantic. Excerpt:

Quote:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/edward-snowden-operation-fi...

The first time I heard the name FIRSTFRUITS, years before the Snowden leak, a confidential source told me to search for it on the internet. All I turned up were ravings on blogs about spooky plots. The George W. Bush administration, according to these accounts, had an off-the-books spying program akin to the work of the East German Stasi. FIRSTFRUITS allegedly listened in on journalists, political dissenters, members of Congress, and other threats to the globalist order. In some versions of the story, the program marked its victims for arrest or assassination. As best I could tell, these stories all traced back to a series of posts by a man named Wayne Madsen, who has aptly been described as “a paranoid conspiracy theorist in the tradition of Alex Jones.” I did a little bit of reading in these fever swamps and concluded that FIRSTFRUITS was a crank’s dark fantasy.

Then came the day I found my name in the Snowden archive. Sixteen documents, including the one that talked about me, named FIRSTFRUITS as a counterintelligence database that tracked unauthorized disclosures in the news media. According to top-secret briefing materials prepared by Joseph J. Brand, a senior NSA official who was also among the leading advocates of a crackdown on leaks, FIRSTFRUITS got its name from the phrase the fruits of our labor. “Adversaries know more about SIGINT sources & methods today than ever before,” Brand wrote. Some damaging disclosures came from the U.S. government’s own official communications, he noted; other secrets were acquired by foreign spies. But “most often,” Brand wrote, “these disclosures occur through the media.” He listed four “flagrant media leakers”: the Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Times. The FIRSTFRUITS project aimed to “drastically reduce significant losses of collection capability” at journalists’ hands.

In NSA parlance, exposure of a source or method of surveillance is a “cryptologic insecurity.” If exposure leads to loss of intelligence collection, that is “impairment.” I was fully prepared to believe that some leaks cause impairment, but Brand’s accounting—like many of the government’s public assertions—left something to be desired.

By far the most frequent accusation invoked in debates about whether journalists cause “impairment” to the U.S. government is that it was journalists’ fault that the U.S. lost access to Osama bin Laden’s satellite-phone communications in the late 1990s. It is hard to overstate the centrality of this episode to the intelligence community’s lore about the news media. The accusation, as best as I can ascertain, was first made publicly in 2002 by then–White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. After a newspaper reported that the NSA could listen to Osama bin Laden on his satellite phone, as Fleischer put it, the al‑Qaeda leader abandoned the device. President Bush and a long line of other officials reprised this assertion in the years to come.

But the tale of the busted satellite-phone surveillance is almost certainly untrue. The story in question said nothing about U.S. eavesdropping. And one day before it was published, the United States launched barrages of cruise missiles against al‑Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan, including a facility that bin Laden had recently visited. After this, bin Laden went deep underground, forswearing electronic communications that might give his location away. Blaming a news story for this development, rather than a close miss on bin Laden’s life, strained all logic. Yet somehow it became an article of faith in the intelligence community.

In 2001, according to Brand’s NSA documents, the agency “stood up” a staff of leak trackers, and the CIA director hired a contractor “to build [a] foreign knowledge database”—FIRSTFRUITS. One of its major purposes was to feed information about harmful news stories to the “Attorney General task force to investigate media leaks.”

The FIRSTFRUITS project produced 49 “crime reports to DOJ,” three of them involving me. The FBI, in turn, was left with a conundrum. What crime, exactly, was it being asked to investigate? Congress has never passed a law that squarely addresses unauthorized disclosures to reporters by public officials. The United States has no counterpart to the United Kingdom’s Official Secrets Act. Government employees sign a pledge to protect classified information; if they break that pledge, they can lose their security clearance or their job. Those are civil penalties. When it comes to criminal law, they may be subject to charges of theft or unlawful possession of government property. The nearest analogy in the law, however, and the charge most commonly prosecuted in such cases, is espionage.
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: May 21st, 2014 at 7:14pm
  Mark & Quote
In October 2013, I wrote on the AntiPolygraph.org blog about an e-mail that I received from a U.S. navy petty officer in August of that year relating that during a recent DoD polygraph, he had been presented with logs of the websites that he had visited the night before on his personal computer, in his personal home, using his personal Internet service provider. The logs showed that he had visited AntiPolygraph.org, and they went about trying to discredit this website. I took that report (along with additional information from NSA whistleblower Russ Tice) seriously, and it's why there are warnings on the home page and on this message board suggesting that visitors use the Tor Browser Bundle when visiting this site.

Last night, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist to whom NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden entrusted a large cache of NSA documents detailing the vast system of mass suspicionless surveillance that the NSA has erected in the dark, was in Amsterdam to give a talk about his new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. I found the book both fascinating and compelling, and I recommend it to all, including our friends in the polygraph community.

I was one of a fortunate few who were able to ask a question during Greenwald's presentation, and I took the opportunity to mention the communication I had received from the Navy petty officer and to ask Greenwald whether he thought that kind of thing is plausible. While he did not directly answer that question, his comments clearly indicated that yes, it is plausible. He intimated that his future reporting will show that the NSA targets activists, civil rights leaders, and foreign policy critics.

Greenwald's entire Amsterdam presentation has been posted to YouTube. The following link jumps to my question and Greenwald's reply:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ihRjmFcGxjE#t=4745
Posted by: T.M. Cullen
Posted on: Jan 23rd, 2009 at 6:01am
  Mark & Quote
New York Times?  They lost their credibility with me a long time ago.  If you want the real "dope" you have to read "Hustler"!

It's all politics.  If Obama did it, they'd find a way to cover for him!  Just like they will find a handy excuse for him when he FAILS to pull the troops out of Iraq.

They covered him pretty well during the election campaign.  We will find out soon enough what this lack of vetting will be mean for the country.

But I don't want to get political!   Smiley

TC

P.S.  I forget which of our founding fathers said it, maybe TJ.  But it was words to the effect that any politician even , in his most angelic form is but a "necessary evil", in his worse form a "curse".  The less government and politicians effect us, what ever their ilk, the better!  The best any politician can do is pick our pocket and try to control us!

Joke:  What is the difference between a prostitute and a politician?

Ans:  Well, they both take our money and screw us in the end, but at least with a prostitute, we get our rocks off!!
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: Jan 23rd, 2009 at 4:53am
  Mark & QuoteQuote
Here is the second part of Keith Olbermann's interview of Russ Tice, in which it is revealed that the NSA also collected credit card records of American citizens. Olbermann also speaks with New York Times reporter James Risen, who was the subject of government surveillance:



A text summary is available on RawStory.com.
Posted by: Fair Chance
Posted on: Jan 23rd, 2009 at 2:47am
  Mark & QuoteQuote
Gentlemen,

Even paranoids have real enemies.  Welcome to EVE,  HAL's ugly stepsister.  How close to the truth you are.  So close we better not mention it here.

Regards.
Posted by: T.M. Cullen
Posted on: Jan 23rd, 2009 at 1:42am
  Mark & Quote
I said as a side bar, since they were talking about illegally collecting on US citizens.

From what I have read about Echelon (and I had nothing to do with it when I worked in the SIGINT community, and only know what I know from what I've read on the web)  the NSA would collect on UK citizens (which would be illegal for the NSA SIGINT counterpart in the UK ?GCHQ?), then share the info with the UK government.  GCHQ, in turn, spied on americans and shared the info with the NSA.  This so as to not violate USSID 18.  The net effect was as if the NSA had actually spied on Americans.

As for the specific targeting individuals (journalists, funeral directors, gay florists...etc).  Echelon may not have specifically targeted individuals, and was just a computer driven system of collection receivers...etc. as you said,  but who knows how analysts could have sifted through the data once collected by the system.  Via meta tags...etc.   Again, UK on US citizens, US on UK citizens, with the two working together. 

Do you think OBAMA will make any changes as to polygraph policy within the federal government?   That's the million dollar question.

My point is they can get around this stuff, and have for years.  Under all administrations going way back.  As for the Oberman piece, your average viewer (say my mom) would have come away thinking, "Gee, that GW spied on us!".  Which is probably the impression he wanted to make. 

You have to take what you see on TV with a grain of salt, whether from Oberman, O'reilly, hannity, whomever.

Now, as for the CIA's giving unsuspecting soldiers LSD.....just kidding.

TC
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: Jan 22nd, 2009 at 7:43pm
  Mark & Quote
T.M. Cullen wrote on Jan 22nd, 2009 at 6:42pm:
The NSA's Project "Echelon" probably did the same kind of thing, and took place, I believe, under the CLINTON administration.  I wonder why the left leaning obermann didn't ask about that?  Even as a sidebar.  Selective journalism at it's best.   Cool

TC


I disagree. That Olbermann did not discuss Echelon (the code name of a computer system for sharing intercept information between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) is readily explained by the fact that Tice's allegations of governmental criminality do not concern Echelon. Rather, they are about the NSA's illegal interception of the communications of essentially all Americans -- even those with no terrorist connections -- as well as NSA's (also illegal) targeting of journalists. Olbermann questioned Tice about what he knew and how he knew it. And I think his commentary in this case was spot-on.

Note that Olbermann also took Barack Obama to task over the latter's support for the FISA bill granting telecommunications companies immunity from lawsuits for their complicity in the NSA's law-breaking.
Posted by: T.M. Cullen
Posted on: Jan 22nd, 2009 at 6:42pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
The NSA's Project "Echelon" probably did the same kind of thing, and took place, I believe, under the CLINTON administration.  I wonder why the left leaning obermann didn't ask about that?  Even as a sidebar.  Selective journalism at it's best.   Cool

TC
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: Jan 22nd, 2009 at 7:22am
  Mark & QuoteQuote
NSA whistleblower Russ Tice appeared on MSNBC's Countdown program with Keith Olbermann to speak more about the NSA's illegal monitoring of journalists. See "Whistleblower: NSA spied on everyone, targeted journalists" on RawStory.com. Here's the Countdown video:

Posted by: EosJupiter
Posted on: Jan 18th, 2007 at 5:06am
  Mark & Quote
To all Concerned,

It looks like the Bush Administration lost its battle to keep its domestic spying without oversite going.
Here is the link to the article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16673270/

This is a definate win for privacy and the 4th Amendment.

Text follows:

Independent body to monitor spying program

Court has already approved one surveillance request from government

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has agreed to let a secret but independent panel of federal judges oversee the government’s controversial domestic spying program, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will have final say in approving wiretaps placed on people with suspected terror links.

“Any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Gonzales wrote in the two-page letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

“Accordingly, under these circumstances, the President has determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires,” the attorney general wrote.

The Bush administration secretly launched the surveillance program in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people suspected by the government of having terrorist links.

The White House said it is satisfied with new guidelines the FISA court adopted on Jan. 10 to address administration officials’ concerns about national security.

“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has put together its guidelines and its rules and those have met administration concerns about speed and agility when it comes to responding to bits of intelligence where we may to be able to save American lives,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

Snow said he could not explain why those concerns could not have been addressed before the program was started. He said the president will not reauthorize the present program because the new rules will serve as guideposts.

The secret panel of judges, known as the FISA court, was established in the late 1970s to review requests for warrants to conduct surveillance inside the United States. The Bush administration had resisted giving the court final approval over the Terrorist Surveillance Program, even when communications involved someone inside the country.

A federal judge in Detroit last August declared the program unconstitutional, saying it violates the rights to free speech and privacy and the separation of powers. In October, a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based appeals court ruled that the administration could keep the program in place while it appeals the Detroit decision.

Additionally, the Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating the agency’s use of information gathered in the spying program. In testimony last fall in front of the Senate panel, FBI Director Robert Mueller said he was not allowed to discuss classified details that could show whether it has curbed terrorist activity in the United States.

Congressional intelligence committees have already been briefed on the court’s orders, Gonzales said in his letter. It was sent to the committee the day before he is set to testify before the panel, which oversees the Justice Department.

--------

This is how it was suppose to be done !!

Regards ....
Posted by: EosJupiter
Posted on: Aug 25th, 2006 at 7:36am
  Mark & Quote
retcopper wrote on Aug 24th, 2006 at 4:09pm:
Eos:
Yo make some good points and I respect your opinions but the leader of some of the Middle East countries like Iran are sounding just like Hitler with their vitriolic remarks about "wiping Israel off the face of the earth".  The world didn't take Hitler seriously and look what happened. I did read the Rise and Fall many yrs ago but I will have to reread it again to refresh my memory. (Too many bad concussions over the yrs.)


Retcopper,

I have no doubt that those despotic regimes will never have our best intentions, but most tolerate us as long as the $$$ keeps coming from us buying their oil.  I don't have a problem with us cleanng house either. Iran & Syria I think also need a good butt kicking. But that fight is for a later time. But we still need to watch our own government to make sure that they follow the laws too. Hence why the judge shut the NSA program down. If it had been done right with the warrants and FISA court, this whole discussion would be mute. I played football and lacrosse, and I fully understand concussions and the follow on issues that come from them.

Regards ....
Posted by: retcopper
Posted on: Aug 24th, 2006 at 4:09pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
Eos:
Yo make some good points and I respect your opinions but the leader of some of the Middle East countries like Iran are sounding just like Hitler with their vitriolic remarks about "wiping Israel off the face of the earth".  The world didn't take Hitler seriously and look what happened. I did read the Rise and Fall many yrs ago but I will have to reread it again to refresh my memory. (Too many bad concussions over the yrs.)

Cesium:

I have read many books abuot Franklin and our founding fathers  but it is my opinon that you cannot take their words and thoughts  from that period and apply them to todays world.

Thanx to both of you for your remarks regarding history. I am a history buff and ehjoy the analogies.

Have a good day.
Posted by: cesium_133
Posted on: Aug 24th, 2006 at 8:16am
  Mark & QuoteQuote
The polygraph, as a work of fiction, creates fictional security.  So does the concept of GSR monitors ar airports, VSA, and all else in the truth-telling pseudosciences.

Any sort of wiretap sans warrant, searching in houses without warrant (like by heat detection), and things of that nature erode liberty and security.  And as someone said once:

"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security."

That was Ben Franklin...

Hitler promised security, which the Jews never got to enjoy because he used his security crap to exterminate them.  His nation was wiped out in 12 years.  And he took liberty, also...
Posted by: EosJupiter
Posted on: Aug 24th, 2006 at 12:44am
  Mark & Quote
retcopper wrote on Aug 23rd, 2006 at 5:36pm:
Eos:
I am a staunch supporter of our constitutional rights. In fact I spent 30 yrs defending these rights.
(Please refer back to my post about how I supported the Miranda decision becasue of the abuse by cops in the past.)  However, there comes a time when  the safety of our country becomes more important than our rights. Common sense has to prevail. I won't go on about how I think Bush has the safety of our countyr  at hear  because you are  probably a liberal  who is anti Bush everything and I am a conservative Bush backer and we will never agree. I would rather have the Feds do  wtaps on suspected individuals who mean to do harm to us than see one of our cities become destroyed by some "dirty bomb" because we were concerned about some terrorist's constitutional rights.

Have a good day.


RetCopper,

I am neither conservative or liberal. I make my decisions on issues by what I perceive as moral, honest and correct for any given problem. GW Bush has nothing but the best interest of the country I am sure. Except he listens to his cabinet full of self important neophytes that have, since he was first elected given him bad info and advice on policies, Iraq, and homeland security.
But you bring up a good point and you show it quite well in your message. That you are willing to give up some of your liberties for security. This is dangerous as it sets us down this police state road everytime we do this. The germans did this in 1932 when they elected Hitler because he promised them security, in return he expected complete loyalty by the population. If you do not see this correlation, then I suggest reading the "Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich". The similarities to today will scare you. Especially the part where Hitler was given the powers from the Enabling Act. He guaranteed security with the giving up of liberties.

Regards ...
Posted by: underlyingtruth
Posted on: Aug 23rd, 2006 at 6:02pm
  Mark & Quote
retcopper wrote on Aug 23rd, 2006 at 5:36pm:
I would rather have the Feds do  wtaps on suspected individuals who mean to do harm to us than see one of our cities become destroyed by some "dirty bomb" because we were concerned about some terrorist's constitutional rights.


There are not very many bank robberies in Mexico.  That is because when someone tries hold up a bank, the guards start shooting everything that moves until the perpetrators are dead.  If you happen to be a customer or a worker, you better hit the floor and take cover because your life is inconsequential. They WILL get the perpetrators and anybody that gets in the way is just the cost of security.

I have no concern for a terrorist's constitutional rights, but I do have concern for individuals who are caught in the crossfire.

Does the end justify the means?

Also, wouldn’t the intelligent terrorists be using secure methods of communication that are nearly impossible to intercept?
Posted by: retcopper
Posted on: Aug 23rd, 2006 at 5:36pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
Eos:
I am a staunch supporter of our constitutional rights. In fact I spent 30 yrs defending these rights.
(Please refer back to my post about how I supported the Miranda decision becasue of the abuse by cops in the past.)  However, there comes a time when  the safety of our country becomes more important than our rights. Common sense has to prevail. I won't go on about how I think Bush has the safety of our countyr  at hear  because you are  probably a liberal  who is anti Bush everything and I am a conservative Bush backer and we will never agree. I would rather have the Feds do  wtaps on suspected individuals who mean to do harm to us than see one of our cities become destroyed by some "dirty bomb" because we were concerned about some terrorist's constitutional rights.

Have a good day.
Posted by: Dippityshurff - Ex Member
Posted on: Aug 23rd, 2006 at 1:09am
  Mark & Quote
EosJupiter wrote on Aug 23rd, 2006 at 12:58am:
RetCopper,

Its a victory for the preservation of your Constitutional Rights. The process for doing this type of surveillance was designed to use the approval & protections of the FISA courts in order to get a warrant. Bush circumvented that protection and squashed the 4th Amendment under the guise of National Security and the war effort. Everytime we lose a protection of our rights we head further into the abyss of becoming a police state with no rights. Your a retired LEO, this should be readily apparent to you, that once a right is lost it is never returned.  Bush and this administration has consistantly shown it will circumvent personal protections for its own ends. I am more than willing to accept the threat without trashing the Bill Of Rights.

Regards



I am as well.  Though I think perhaps we are going overboard in treating non-citizens with the same safeguards as citizens,  I'm always wary when any right is eroded, even though that erosion may have a built-in sunset provision.  But tough times call for tough measures and I do wish there were a little less carping from the left.  Having said that, carping for the greater good is always welcome *LOL*
Posted by: EosJupiter
Posted on: Aug 23rd, 2006 at 12:58am
  Mark & QuoteQuote
RetCopper,

Its a victory for the preservation of your Constitutional Rights. The process for doing this type of surveillance was designed to use the approval & protections of the FISA courts in order to get a warrant. Bush circumvented that protection and squashed the 4th Amendment under the guise of National Security and the war effort. Everytime we lose a protection of our rights we head further into the abyss of becoming a police state with no rights. Your a retired LEO, this should be readily apparent to you, that once a right is lost it is never returned.  Bush and this administration has consistantly shown it will circumvent personal protections for its own ends. I am more than willing to accept the threat without trashing the Bill Of Rights.

Regards
Posted by: retcopper
Posted on: Aug 22nd, 2006 at 3:37pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
George:

Why in the hell is this a victory.  Anyone living in the U.S.A. who thiks so has a deaht wish. Her ruling is an absolute disgrace and indirectly places our country in great danger.  You make it sound as if wtaps are put on any citizen fro the hell of it .That is not the case.  In any event this case will quickly go to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal wheremore resposible judges using better "judgement" will overturn it.
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: Aug 18th, 2006 at 8:32am
  Mark & QuoteQuote
EosJupiter,

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's order that the government immediately terminate its unconstitutional, warrantless wiretapping is indeed a victory for democracy and the rule of law in America. The court's 44-page decision in ACLU v. NSA may be downloaded here:

http://www.aclu.org/images/nsaspying/asset_upload_file863_26477.pdf

Let us hope that this decision will be sustained upon the government's already announced appeal.
Posted by: EosJupiter
Posted on: Aug 17th, 2006 at 7:23pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
To all concerned;

A federal judge just shutdown the program. Chalk one up for the 4th Amendment and privacy rights. NSA just got flushed.

Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14393611/

Article:
---------------------

Federal judge orders end to wiretap program
Says governments listening in without warrant is unconstitutional



DETROIT - A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs.


Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: May 15th, 2006 at 9:24pm
  Mark & Quote
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/05/federal_source_.html

Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling

May 15, 2006 10:33 AM

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials.

People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.

The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.

A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: May 11th, 2006 at 12:48pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
USA Today reports that the NSA, with the assistance of AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth, has been compiling a database of all customer calling records:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm

With such a database, it would be possible, among other things, to find out who has called reporters and whom reporters have called. Similarly find out who has called and left a message on AntiPolygraph.org's voice mail.
Posted by: polyfool
Posted on: May 1st, 2006 at 3:25am
  Mark & Quote
  Data Show How Patriot Act Used
    By Richard B. Schmitt
    The Los Angeles Times

    Saturday 29 April 2006

    The Justice Department for the first time reports on 9,254 FBI subpoenas for monitoring citizens. Some surveillance in the US has been rising.

    Washington - The FBI issued thousands of subpoenas to banks, phone companies and Internet providers last year, aggressively using a power enhanced under the Patriot Act to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens, Justice Department data released late Friday showed.

    The report given to members of Congress was the first to detail the government's use of a controversial form of administrative subpoena that has drawn fire because it can be issued by investigators without court oversight.

    The Justice Department report also disclosed that its use of electronic surveillance and search warrants in national security investigations jumped 15% in 2005.

    The data show that U.S. authorities are in some cases escalating their use of anti-terrorism statutes.

    Civil liberties groups said they found the new information worrisome. They said it raised concerns about whether investigators were being sensitive to the rights of citizens caught in terrorism-related probes.

    The report includes the first look at the use of what are known as national security letters, which let the FBI obtain phone logs, Internet traffic records, and bank and credit information about individuals without a court order.

    The Bush administration had fought the release of the information on grounds that it could imperil national security. But Congress ordered the release when it reauthorized portions of the Patriot Act this year.

    According to the new report, the FBI issued 9,254 national security letters in 2005, covering 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal foreign residents.

    The Justice Department said the data did not include what probably were thousands of additional letters issued to obtain more limited information about some individuals - such as a home address - or letters that were issued about targets who were in the U.S. illegally.

    The number of such letters previously had been provided to members of Congress on a classified basis. Data from other years aren't available, although some experts said the number probably had increased substantially.

    "Now we can see why the administration was so eager to hide the number," said Lisa Graves, a senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington.

    The original Patriot Act, enacted weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, made it easier for the FBI to issue the letters, and for the first time permitted agents based outside Washington to issue the letters.

    "These used to be fairly difficult to obtain, and now the authorities have been delegated very widely," said Michael Woods, former head of the FBI national-security law unit. "I think [the report] primarily shows that they are a lot easier to get."

    The Justice Department report also included an annual update on the number of warrants that the department had obtained through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret federal court for intelligence and terrorism investigations.

    Applications for electronic surveillance and physical search warrants - which almost always are approved by the court - rose to 2,074 in 2005, compared with 1,758 in 2004. Last year's total was more than double the number sought in 2000.

    That court is the tribunal that the Bush administration has been bypassing in a warrantless domestic surveillance program since shortly after Sept. 11.

    James Dempsey, policy director of the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, said the increased use of the secret court belied the government's contention that it needed to go outside the court to get the information it needed.

    Dempsey said he was surprised the number of warrants issued by that court had continued to grow substantially "when the war on terrorism has reached a sort of steady state."

Posted by: polyfool
Posted on: Mar 25th, 2006 at 9:35pm
  Mark & Quote
DOJ: NSA Could've Monitored Lawyers' Calls
    By Katherine Shrader
    Associated Press

    Saturday 25 March 2006

    Washington - The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.

    Responding to questions from Congress, the department also said that it sees no prohibition to using information collected under the NSA's program in court.

    "Because collecting foreign intelligence information without a warrant does not violate the Fourth Amendment and because the Terrorist Surveillance Program is lawful, there appears to be no legal barrier against introducing this evidence in a criminal prosecution," the department said in responses to questions from lawmakers released Friday evening.

    The department said that considerations, including whether classified information could be disclosed, must be weighed.

    In classified court filings, the Justice Department has responded to questions about whether information from the government's warrantless surveillance program was used to prosecute terror suspects. Defense attorneys are hoping to use that information to challenge the cases against their clients.

    Since the program was disclosed in December, some skeptical lawmakers have investigated the Bush administration's legal footing, raising questions including whether the program could capture doctor-patient and attorney-client communications. Such communications normally receive special legal protections.

    "Although the program does not specifically target the communications of attorneys or physicians, calls involving such persons would not be categorically excluded from interception," the department said.

    The department said the same general criteria for the surveillance program would also apply to doctors' and lawyers' calls: one party must be outside the United States and there must be reason to believe one party is linked to al-Qaida. The department's written response also said that these communications aren't specifically targeted and safeguards are in place to protect privacy rights.

    Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, complained about the department's evasiveness in answers to questions from the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, submitted to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. All but two of 45 answers to the House Judiciary Democrats were vague and unresponsive, Conyers said.

    He found the response regarding doctor-patient and attorney-client privilege particularly troublesome. More generally, the "need for oversight is especially glaring," he said in a statement.

    Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department "has been extremely forthcoming and clear about the administration's legal analysis through multiple briefings with Congress, three hearings with the Attorney General, multiple letters to Congress, a 42-page white paper and dozens of questions for the record."

    Responding in 75 typed pages, the department clarified some points in the three-month-old debate over the program. But it also left many questions unanswered, citing the need for national security.

    The House Democrats asked if any other president has authorized wiretaps without court warrants since the passage of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs intelligence collection inside the United States.

    Choosing its words carefully, the department said, "if the question is limited to 'electronic surveillance' ... we are unaware of such authorizations."

    The department also made clear that the program - as confirmed by President Bush - has never been suspended since it began in October 2001. That would include 2004, when reports indicate serious doubts about the program were raised by Justice Department officials.

    But the department refused to discuss, or even confirm, a meeting in 2004 at then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bed. News reports indicated that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and Gonzales, then White House counsel, needed his help to quell dissent about the program.

    Lawmakers also asked whether federal judges on a secretive intelligence court objected to the program and, if so, how the administration responded.

    The department wouldn't answer, citing the need to protect classified information. "We assure you, however, that the department keeps the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court fully informed regarding information that is relevant to the FISA process," the response said.

    The department also avoided questions on whether the administration believes it is legal to wiretap purely domestic calls without a warrant, when al-Qaida activity is suspected. The department wouldn't say specifically that it hasn't been done.

    "Interception of the content of domestic communications would present a different legal question," the department said.

 
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