Informants

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Judge William Martini Endorses Hunting for Terrorists in Muslim Girls Schools

Picture 41The AP correctly captures the jist of Judge William Martini’s rejection of a lawsuit against the NYPD for spying on Muslims.

The core of his logic is that Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo have injured NYC’s Muslim community by providing them proof of the spying targeted at them.

The ruling also singled out The Associated Press, which sparked the suit with a series of stories based on confidential NYPD document showing how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds in New York and elsewhere.

“Nowhere in the complaint do the plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of documents by The Associated Press,” Martini wrote. “This confirms that plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. … The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization. Thus the injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the city.”

But it doesn’t expose the other part of his shoddy logic clearly enough. Martini said all this spying was cool because it was designed to find Muslim terrorists hiding among Muslims.

The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. While this surveillance Program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles; the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law – abiding Muslims.

As I emphasized here, when it was first reported, NYPD wasn’t hunting for Muslim terrorists in places where the 9/11 terrorists were known to hang out — cheap hotels, gyms, cybercafes, and a bunch of other businesses catering to anonymity rather than Muslims. Rather, the NYPD was hunting terrorists in schools in Newark, including the one above teaching girls in fifth to twelfth grade, and another teaching first through fourth graders.

The NYPD was hunting terrorists in a girls school.

And Judge William Martini thinks that makes a whole bunch of sense.

Yes, Margaret, the NSA Dragnet Does Involve Infiltration

Margaret Talbot has a piece at the New Yorker comparing COINTELPRO with Snowden’s leaks (and implicitly, the theft of data that lies behind both disclosures). Here’s the key paragraph of the comparison:

In most respects, the National Security Agency’s collection of domestic phone records which Edward Snowden revealed is nowhere near as disturbing as cointelpro’s activities. It is neither ideologically motivated (the N.S.A.’s actions were initially ramped up in response to a real attack; Hoover’s were intent on destroying perceived enemies) nor thuggish (it entails surveillance but not infiltration or harassment or blackmail or smear campaigns). Yet in one regard—its technological prowess—it is worse. As the U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon wrote last month, in an opinion that strongly suggests that the metadata collection could be found unconstitutional, “Records that once would have revealed a few scattered tiles of information about a person now reveal an entire mosaic—a vibrant and constantly updating picture of a person’s life.” Leon noted that the government did not cite any instances in which the data collection proved necessary in preventing an imminent attack, and concluded that, when weighed against the “almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States,” the N.S.A.’s rationale was simply too weak. [my emphasis]

There’s a lot I might quibble with in this paragraph. The government considered the anti-war effort part of Communism’s “attack” on the “free world,” whether or not that was true, in the same way it sometimes considers many critics of US policy in the Middle East — if they are themselves Muslim — to be inspired by al Qaeda, not opposition to crappy US policy. And the NSA has itself analogized its targeting of certain people in the US as terrorists with Project Minaret, the SIGINT targeting of largely anti-war activists; if the NSA makes this comparison, who are we to question it? Further, there’s evidence (albeit still very sketchy) that NSA targeted people associated with the Iraq War, not just terrorism.

But I’m particularly concerned by Talbot’s claim that none of this dragnet entails infiltration. The government itself told the FISA Court that it uses the phone dragnet to find potential informants — it is, according to the representations the government has made to get the FISC to approve the program, one of the primary purposes of the dragnet.

From the very start of the FISC-approved program, the government maintained the dragnet “may help to discover individuals willing to become FBI assets,” and given that the government repeated that claim 3 years later, it does seem to have been used to find informants.

When you unpack the possibilities of using metadata including the phone records of all Americans to find people who might narc on their community, it becomes very scary indeed. Because the dragnet would allow the government to discover details about people — their 3 degrees of separation from people suspected of terrorist ties, sure, but also extramarital affairs or financial problems — they can use to harass or blackmail potential informants with to convince them to inform, something they’ve suggested they do with their SIGINT.

One of the only reasons why we don’t know more about this is because we’re seeing just the NSA side of these programs. The government is thoroughly redacting any details about what FBI or CIA do with the data that gets churned out of the dragnet (all while boasting of its transparency), so we can’t yet explain what happens between the time the data gets crunched and some kid gets caught in a sting or some American loses her right to fly.

But we do know what the end product of infiltrating the Muslim community looks like, both in the way FBI informants push young men until they press a button they can be arrested for, the descriptions of the extensive spying FBI’s (and NYPD’s) informants conduct, largely targeted at mosques, and in the effect it has had on the discourse that takes place within those mosques.

African-Americans in the heart of Michigan’s auto industry built the mosque I attended as a child.

[snip]

Our African-American imam took turns with others to deliver the Friday khutba (sermon). We witnessed oral traditions accented from around the globe and across the road: the khateebs(deliverers of sermons) were lyrical and inspired, awkward and soft-spoken; the congregants received the khutba differently too, from active talk back to a silent receptive posture. While varied in style, the khutba routinely offered global context and critical content. The khateebs would remind us of the poverty in Detroit’s neighborhoods and the death in Baghdad’s streets. They would preach about the importance of the Muslim ummah (global community) and the duty to speak out against injustices small and large. The khateeb would regularly call for civic engagement as he also reached for religious inspiration.

These days, when I stop in a mosque, I am struck by the new normal: no politics, no world, no nimble movement between religious ethics and social context. Today’s khutbas present the congregation religious teachings in a void. Khateebs speak of the importance of honesty, forgiveness, humility and remembrance. They ignore Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo and drones, informants and surveillance. They tell stories about Muhammad, Abraham, Moses, Mary and Jesus but leave out the universal themes of poverty, inequality and injustice.

From mosques to Muslim Student Association offices, American Muslim community spaces have been emptied of their politics, leeched of their dynamism as centers for religious and political debate. This new normal is the result of ten years of post-9/11 scrutiny combined with our government’s more recent embrace of “counter-radicalization” and “countering violent extremism” programs, which subject Muslim communities’ religious and political practices to aggressive surveillance, regulation and criminalization.

It’s easy, I think, for elite non-Muslim commentators to consider the infiltration of a political tradition they or their associates had personal involvement in, the anti-war movement, to be worse than the infiltration of mosques. I’m not sure they’re in a position to judge. But at least from what I’ve seen and heard, the infiltration of America’s Muslim communities seems designed to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox,” just as the FBI’s efforts targeting the anti-war and African-American communities aimed to do.

The NSA has told us the dragnet involves infiltration. That the NSA hands off the data it collects so the FBI can carry out the infiltration should not confuse us that it does, in fact, play a role in infiltrating communities and sowing paranoia.

The Senate Torture Report and CIA’s Lies about Hassan Ghul’s 2004 Torture

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In my last post, I noted that in his report that Hassan Ghul served as a double agent before we offed him with a drone, Aram Roston stated, without confirming via sources, that Ghul is the person whose name was not entirely redacted on the bottom of page 7 in the May 2005 Convention Against Torture (CAT) torture memo. I noted that if Ghul is the detainee (and I do think he is, contrary to what sources told AP when the CIA was hunting Ghul down with drones in 2011), then we’re going to be hearing about him — and arguing about his treatment — quite a bit more in the coming weeks.

That’s because, according to information released by Mark Udall, the detainee named in the CAT memo is one of the detainees about whose treatment the CIA lied most egregiously to DOJ. This is apparently one of the key findings from the Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report that CIA is fighting so hard to suppress.

Mark Udall’s list of torture lies

Back in August, Mark Udall posed a set of follow-up questions to then CIA and now DOD General Counsel Stephen Preston. Udall was trying to get Preston to endorse findings that appeared in the Torture Report that hadn’t appeared elsewhere (in his first set of responses about CIA’s lies to DOJ, Preston had focused on CIA’s lies about the number of waterboardings, which the CIA IG Report had first revealed). Udall noted that that lie (“discrepancy”) was known prior to the Torture Report, and asked Preston to review the “Representations” section of the Torture Report again to see whether he thought the lies (“discrepancies”) described there — and not described elsewhere — would have been material to OLC’s judgements on torture.

Udall gave Preston this list of OLC judgements that might have been different had CIA not lied to DOJ. (links added)

The 2002 memo is the original Abu Zubaydah memo, the lies in which (pertaining to who AZ was, what the torture consisted of, what had already been done to him, and whether it worked) I’ve explicated in depth elsewhere. The 2006 memo authorizes torture in the name of keeping order in confinement and the 2007 memo authorizes torture (especially sleep deprivation); both of these later memos not only rely on the 2005 memos, but on the false claims about efficacy CIA made in 2005 in their support. The lies in them pertain largely to the purpose CIA wanted to use the techniques for.

Which leaves the claims behind the 2004 letters and the 2005 memos as the key lies CIA told DOJ that remain unexplored.

The 2004 and 2005 lies to reauthorize and expand torture

I’m going to save some of these details for a post on what I think the lies told to DOJ might be, but there are two pieces of evidence showing that the 2005 memos were written to retrospectively codify authorizations given in 2004, many of them in the 2004 letters cited by Udall.

We know the 2005 memos served to retroactively authorize the treatment given to what are described as two detainees in 2004, purportedly in the months after July 2004 (though this may be part of the lie, in Ghul’s case) when DOJ and CIA were trying to draw new lines on torture in the wake of the completion of the CIA IG Report and Jack Goldsmith’s withdrawal of the Bybee Memo.

We know the May 10 Combined Memo was retroactive because Jim Comey made that clear in emails raising alarm about it.

I just finished a long call from Ted Ullyot. He said he was calling to tell me that “circumstances” were likely to require that the second opinion “be sent over tomorrow.” He said Pat had shared my concerns, which he understood to be concerns about the prospective nature of the opinion and its focus on “prototypical” interrogation.

[snip]

He mentioned at one point that OLC didn’t feel like it could accede to my request to make the opinion focused on one person because they don’t give retrospective advice. I said I understood that, but that the treatment of that person had been the subject of oral advice, which OLC would simply be confirming in writing, something they do quite often.

This memo probably, though not definitely, refers to a detainee captured in August 2004 in anticipation of what the Administration claimed (almost certainly falsely) were election-related plots in the US.

And we know the May 10 Techniques and May 30 CAT memos are retroactive because we can trace back the citations about the treatment of one detainee, the detainee who appears to be Ghul, to the earlier letters from 2004.

Just as an example, the August 26 letter cited in Udall’s list relies on the August 25 CIA letter that is also cited in the CAT Memo using the name Gul (the July 22 and August 6 letters are also references, at least in part, to the same detainee).

So we know the 2005 memos served to codify the authorizations for torture that had happened in 2004, during a volatile time for the torture program.

The description of Hassan Ghul in the lying memo

There are still some very funky things about these memos’ tie to Hassan Ghul (again, that’s going to be in a later post), notably that Bush figures referred to the Ghul of the August letters as Janat Gul, including in a Principals meeting discussing his torture on July 2, 2004; sources told the AP after OBL’s killing that this Janat was different than Hassan and different than the very skinny Janat Gul who had been a Gitmo detainee.

But this description — the timing of the initial references and the description of his mission to reestablish contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — should allay any doubts that Ghul is one of two detainees referenced in the CAT memo.

Intelligence indicated that prior to his capture, [redacted] “perform[ed] critical facilitation and finance activities for al-Qa’ida,” including “transporting people, funds, and documents.” Fax for Jack Goldsmith, III, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, from [redacted] Assistant General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency (March 12, 2004). The CIA also suspected [redacted] played an active part in planning attacks against United States forces [redacted] had extensive contacts with key members of al Qaeda, including, prior to their captures, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”) and Abu Zubaydah. See id. [redacted] was captured while on a mission from [redacted] to reestablish contact with al-Zarqawi. See CIA Directorate of Intelligence, US Efforts Grinding Down al-Qa’ida 2 (Feb 21, 2004).

Ghul was captured by Kurds around January 23, 2004, carrying a letter from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden.

So while there are a lot of details that the Senate Torture Report presumably sorts out in detail, it seems fairly clear that Ghul is the subject of some of the documents in question, and that, therefore, there are aspects of the treatment he endured at CIA’s hands that CIA felt the need to lie to DOJ about.

We’ve known for years that CIA lied to DOJ about what they had done and planned to do with Abu Zubaydah. But a great deal of evidence suggests that CIA lied to DOJ about what they did to Hassan Ghul, a detainee (the Senate Report also shows) who provided the key clue to finding Osama bin Laden before he was tortured.

If that’s the case, then I find the release of a story that, after that treatment, he turned double agent either directly or indirectly in our service to be awfully curious timing given the increasing chance we’re about to learn more about these lies and this treatment with any release of the Torture Report.

Drones and Double Agents: Hassan Ghul

On September 30, 2011, a drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a person long suspected of being a US double agent gone bad.

On October 1, 2012, a drone killed Hasan Ghul (see this post for background on Ghul), whom a new report from Aram Roston reports was a double agent gone bad.

In 2006, the U.S. sent Ghul back to Pakistan, where he was taken into custody by the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, the country’s version ofthe CIA. The next year, the ISI quietly set him free, with the full agreement of American intelligence authorities, according to a Pakistani insider. “He was released and both parties agreed on this,” he says. “Both countries were on board in releasing him.”

The insider declined to discuss Ghul’s status as an informant. But three intelligence sources with knowledge of the issue say Ghul was one of those who agreed to cooperate and provide information about terrorists if he was released.

[snip]

Yet another source says that Ghul initially agreed to the project while he was still in American custody, before he was released to the Pakistanis. “Hassan Ghul,” says one former counterterrorism official who is familiar with the case but declined to discuss it in depth, “may have been, probably, one of the highest penetrations of Al Qaeda.”

[snip]

Whatever Ghul’s agreement with the Americans or Pakistanis, by the time Bin Laden was killed, it appears to have ended. One Pakistani source with knowledge of the case says that Ghul eventually “vanished” and that “the deal was rescinded.” Yet he would not say anything about exactly when after his release Ghul lost contact with the ISI.

Now, there are a number of aspects of this story that are unclear, which (if clarified) might explain this further. For example:

  • The report does not note the chronology of Ghul’s torture. According to Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, Ghul was cooperative right after being captured in 2004. Yet we proceeded to torture him. This chronology would suggest Ghul was cooperative, then tortured, then cooperative, then not cooperative.
  • The report makes no mention of Ghul’s alleged ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a crucially important detail when you’re discussing whether the US or the Pakistanis were running him as a double agent. We would have a real incentive to recruit Ghul to inform on LET (which is, after all, what we did with David Headley and may have been what Ray Davis was trying to do, recruit LET informants). But the Pakistanis would never stand for it. If Ghul indeed was a “triple agent,” his ties to LET (and Pakistani interest in obscuring LET to us) may explain that entirely.
  • The report states, without citing any source, that Ghul is the person referred to in a May 2005 OLC memo (sources told the AP in 2011 he was not that detainee; though Roston also states he was a large man, which would support the claim). I will show why, in an follow-up post I’ve been noodling for months, why this is so crucially important. But suffice it to say that if Ghul is the detainee in the memo, anonymous sources have a very significant incentive to spin his torture positively right now (and we will be hearing far far more about him in the coming weeks).

In any case, the report presents important new explanations and questions about Hassal Ghul.

It also makes you wonder how many of our drone strikes have been used to take out our former informants.

That Pirate May Be the Missing Link We Should Drone Kill

As I mocked last night, 60 Minutes decided to use pirate data collected under EO 12333 to demonstrate how it conducts call chaining on US citizen data collected under Section 215. But the exchange is rather interesting for the way the NSA analyst, Stephen Benitez, describes finding a potentially key player in a network of pirates.

Metadata has become one of the most important tools in the NSA’s arsenal. Metadata is the digital information on the number dialed, the time and date, and the frequency of the calls.  We wanted to see how metadata was used at the NSA.  Analyst Stephen Benitez showed us a technique known as “call chaining” used to develop targets for electronic surveillance in a pirate network based in Somalia.

Stephen Benitez: As you see here, I’m only allowed to chain on anything that I’ve been trained on and that I have access to. Add our known pirate. And we chain him out.

John Miller: Chain him out, for the audience, means what?

Stephen Benitez: People he’s been in contact to for those 18 days.

Stephen Benitez: One that stands out to me first would be this one here. He’s communicated with our target 12 times.

Stephen Benitez: Now we’re looking at Target B’s contacts.

John Miller: So he’s talking to three or four known pirates?

Stephen Benitez: Correct. These three here. We have direct connection to both Target A and Target B. So we’ll look at him, too, we’ll chain him out. And you see, he’s in communication with lots of known pirates. He might be the missing link that tells us everything. [my emphasis]

Compare the language Benitez uses here with that which Gregory McNeal used to describe drone targeting back in February.

Networked based analysis looks at terrorist groups as nodes connected by links, and assesses how components of that terrorist network operate together and independently of one another.  Those nodes and links, once identified will be targeted with the goal of disrupting and degrading their functionality.  To effectively pursue a network based approach, bureaucrats rely in part on what is known as “pattern of life analysis” which involves connecting the relationships between places and people by tracking their patterns of life. This analysis draws on the interrelationships among groups “to determine the degree and points of their interdependence.” It assesses how activities are linked and looks to “determine the most effective way to influence or affect the enemy system.”

[snip]

Viewing targeting in this way demonstrates how seemingly low level individuals such as couriers and other “middle-men” in decentralized networks such as al Qaeda are oftentimes critical to the successful functioning of the enemy organization. Targeting these individuals can “destabilize clandestine networks by compromising large sections of the organization, distancing operatives from direct guidance, and impeding organizational communication and function.” Moreover, because clandestine networks rely on social relationships to manage the trade-off between maintaining secrecy and security, attacking key nodes can have a detrimental impact on the enemy’s ability to conduct their operations. [my emphasis]

That is, the language describing the process behind signature strikes closely matches the language describing NSA’s targeting for wiretapping. Both these analyses are doing the same thing: trying to find the key nodes in networks of people (though the drone targeting appears to draw in additional intelligence about someone’s observed actions and locations).

Now, as I said, when Benitez used the word “target,” he was presumably discussing only targeting for surveillance, not for drone killing (besides, thus far we haven’t drone killed any pirates I know of).

But it is very easy to see what kind of role metadata analysis would play in the early stages of targeting a signature strike, because that’s precisely how the intelligence community identify the nodes that, McNeal tells us, they’re often targeting when they conduct signature strikes. Wiretap the person at that node and you may learn a lot (that’s also probably the same kind of targeting they do to select potential informants, as we know they do with metadata), kill that person and you may damage the operational capabilities of a terrorist (or pirate) organization.

When the WaPo reported on NSA’s role in drone killing, it focused on how NSA collected content associated with a known target — Hassan Ghul — to pinpoint his location for drone targeting.

But NSA probably plays a role in the far more controversial targeting of people we don’t know for death, with precisely the kind of contact chaining it uses on US persons.

Note, in related news, Richard Leon has just ruled for Larry Klayman in one of the first suits challenging the phone dragnet (with the injunction stayed pending appeal). I’ll have analysis on that later.

DOJ’s IG Hints at Concerns about Back Door Search Issues

In addition to focusing on whether the classification of past IG Reports will limit what he can release about the Section 215 dragnet and Section 702 content collection, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz laid out one more significant civil liberties concern related to national security investigations.

Additional concerns about civil rights and liberties are likely to arise in the future. For example, significant public attention has been paid to programs authorizing the acquisition of national security information, but relatively less has been paid to the storing, handling, and use of that information. Yet after information has been lawfully collected for one investigation, crucial questions arise about whether and how that information may be stored, shared, and used in support of subsequent investigations. Similar questions arise about the impact on civil rights and liberties of conducting electronic searches of national security information and about whether and how information obtained in a national security context can be used for criminal law enforcement. As the Department continues to acquire, store, and use national security information, these issues will arise more and more frequently, and the Department must ensure that civil rights and liberties are not transgressed.

I don’t guarantee this is a reference to back door searches.

But we know that FBI has been permitted to conduct searches on content collected under traditional FISA or FISA Amendments Act since at least 2008. We know that the Intelligence Community does not believe it needs even Reasonable Articulable Suspicion — of a national security concern or of a crime — to search this data. And in the past, DOJ has argued it can use FISA-collected information to find things like evidence of rape to use to coerce people to turn informant.

So I’m going to wildarseguess that at least part of what Horowitz alludes to here pertains to whether DOJ can search this incidentally collected information in support of criminal investigations. That would of course violate the spirit of every wiretap law in the country, but given the government’s past interpretations of what the elimination of the wall between NSA and FBI means and their claims they don’t need RAS to search these databases, it is a real possibility that’s what they doing (though they may be claiming that the crimes in question are “related” to the national security claims — things like money laundering and drug sales and so forth).

I’m also interested in Horowitz’ allusion to “national security information.” Does this go beyond content? Is he worried about the use of bulk-collected data in criminal investigations?

OK, now he’s got me worried.

But note what he doesn’t say: that he’s investigating this.

Further Implications of UndieBomb II Leaker Guilty Plea

As you have likely heard by now, a former FBI agent has agreed to plead guilty to leaking material about the second underwear bomb attempt to reporters in May of 2012. Charlie Savage of the New York Times has the primary rundown:

A former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent has agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information to The Associated Press about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen last year, the Justice Department announced on Monday. Federal investigators said they identified him after obtaining phone logs of Associated Press reporters.

The retired agent, a former bomb technician named Donald Sachtleben, has agreed to serve 43 months in prison, the Justice Department said. The case brings to eight the number of leak-related prosecutions brought under President Obama’s administration; under all previous presidents, there were three such cases.

“This prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information,” said Ronald C. Machen Jr., the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, who was assigned to lead the investigation by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

In a twist, Mr. Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel, Ind., was already the subject of a separate F.B.I. investigation for distributing child pornography, and has separately agreed to plead guilty in that matter and serve 97 months. His total sentence for both sets of offenses, should the plea deal be accepted by a judge, is 140 months.

Here is the DOJ Press Release on the case.

Here is the information filed in SDIN (Southern District of Indiana). And here is the factual basis for the guilty plea on the child porn charges Sachtleben is also pleading guilty to.

So Sachtleben is the leaker, he’s going to plead guilty and this all has a nice beautiful bow on it! Yay! Except that there are several troubling issues presented by all this tidy wonderful case wrap up.

First off, the information on the leak charges refers only to “Reporter A”, “Reporter A’s news organization” and “another reporter from Reporter A’s news organization”. Now while the DOJ may be coy about the identities, it has long been clear that the “news organization” is the AP and “Reporter A” and “another reporter” are AP national security reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman (I’d hazard a guess probably in that order) and the subject article for the leak is this AP report from May 7, 2012.

What is notable about who the reporters are, and which story is involved, is that this is the exact matter that was the subject of the infamous AP phone records subpoenas that were incredibly broad – over 20 business and personal phone lines. These subpoenas, along with those in the US v. Steven Kim case collected against James Rosen and Fox News, caused a major uproar about the sanctity of First Amendment press and government intrusion thereon.

The issue here is that Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ, as a result of the uproar over the Continue reading

The Bipartisan Effort to Keep Robert Mueller on at FBI Starts

I’m watching the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Global Threats.

And I’m a bit alarmed that both Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss used their statements to suggest Robert Mueller should stay beyond the end of his already-extended term this year.

DiFi said,  “unless Congress intervenes again, this threats hearing will be the last one for Robert Mueller” and then looked at him and said, “it could happen.”

Then Saxby repeated that line, saying he would shortly approach Mueller to ask him to stay on again.

Before his statement, James Clapper also nodded to Mueller, noting he has served as Director for 12 years.

We have terms for FBI Director for good reason. Not just to prevent the rise of another J Edgar Hoover, one person with an empire over the secret information collection in the US. But also to bring a fresh approach to such things as our manufacturing of “terrorists.”

 

Imagine How Future Parents Will Respond to Concerns about Their Son’s Radicalization

While it’s hard to tell from the reporting, it appears that the government tried to claim last week that it wasn’t Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s First Amendment protected but hateful speech that triggered their investigation and entrapment of the teenager, but was instead the subsequent warning Mohamud’s father gave the FBI about his radicalization.

Agents in Charlotte, N.C., picked up on Mohamud’s name in early 2009 while intercepting email traffic of then-U.S. based al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan.

That August, FBI Special Agent Isaac DeLong was assigned to interview Mohamud’s father, Osman Barre, who feared Muslim extremists were radicalizing his son. Barre had read about Somali youths from Minnesota who were heading overseas to fight, and he worried his own son was trying to fly to Yemen to fight against the West, DeLong testified.

Barre agreed to speak to Mohamud and try to make sure he wouldn’t fly overseas. He took his son’s passport and reported back to the FBI that they had a chat.

Taking that as true (I don’t necessarily believe it, particularly given Hesham Abu Zubaydah’s claim the FBI had him tracking Mohamud even earlier than that), consider the message his father’s testimony now sends to Muslim families worried about their sons getting radicalized. (h/t Teddy, who is far more reliable at this point that Google’s increasingly useless alert system)

[Mohamud's father] Osman Barre, meanwhile, had phoned the FBI. He told agents that brainwashed Somali kids were flying overseas, and he wanted the bureau’s help. He wanted agents to prevent his boy from getting on a plane.

The agents instead asked him questions about terrorism, which struck a nerve. Osman Barre told the agents he had nothing to hide and that he was grateful to have been given refuge in the U.S. after fleeing the civil war in Somalia.

“Even I say God bless America,” Barre told jurors.

[snip]

Mohamud told his parents he wanted to study at a mosque in Yemen, Osman Barre recalled, and he showed his dad an email about a school there that would teach him Arabic.

The Barres kept talking to their son until he agreed to stay in school. There would be time to study Arabic overseas when he was a grown man, Osman Barre said. He recalled telling his son, “I brought you here to give you a life of prosperity.”

The email Mohamud showed his dad that day was from a Saudi Arabian that he had met at a Portland mosque. Neither Osman nor Mariam Barre knew that the FBI suspected the writer of that email — now identified as Amro Alali — was an al-Qaida recruiter.

FBI agents didn’t share with the Barres that they suspected Mohamud was involved with dangerous extremists, Osman Barre said. Had he been told, he would have reached out to their tight-knit community for help and gotten counseling for their impressionable son.

Barre did exactly what the FBI would hope a father would do: alert the FBI. But rather than helping the father prevent his son from being sucked in, instead the FBI (it claims) used the father’s call as the predicate to suck Mohamud further in, even while they admitted repeatedly he was floundering.

Set aside Mohamud’s guilt or innocence. The message the FBI has sent with its treatment of Mohamud is if family members alert law enforcement to concerns about radicalization, the FBI will then use it as an excuse to entrap their family member.

Just about the least productive thing to do if you want to capture actual threats.

The Disposition of Informants and Citizens

A lot of the commentary about Craig Whitlock’s Tuesday article on three alleged al Shabaab members rendered to the US focused on whether he accurately described this rendition–to a law enforcement proceeding and not, as happened under Bush, to a black site–or not.

But I was more interested in whether the treatment of these three–Swedish citizens Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohamed Yusuf and Madhi Hashi, a Somali who was raised in the UK, got citizenship there when he was 14, only to have it stripped shortly before he was detained–was indicative of the so-called disposition matrix first reported back in October then reportedly put on hold after Obama beat Mitt.

Consider the timing of both series of events. Hashi was stripped of his British citizenship in June. Shortly thereafter he disappeared from his home in Mogadishu. All three men were in detention in Djibouti by August. On October 18–five days before the first reporting on the disposition matrix–a grand jury returned a sealed indictment against the three. On November 14–conveniently after the election–the US government officially took custody of the men, thereby violating the intent of last year’s NDAA by bringing foreigners onto US soil. And on December 21, while most people were distracted by holidays and fiscal cliffs, the men were arraigned in the Eastern District (curiously, not the Southern District) of New York.

All of which took place as hints of this disposition matrix–an effort to map out contingencies for alleged extremists in a range of different positions–were reported.

“We had a disposition problem,” said a former U.S. counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix.

The database is meant to map out contingencies, creating an operational menu that spells out each agency’s role in case a suspect surfaces in an unexpected spot. “If he’s in Saudi Arabia, pick up with the Saudis,” the former official said. “If traveling overseas to al-Shabaab [in Somalia] we can pick him up by ship. If in Yemen, kill or have the Yemenis pick him up.”

In other words, the rendition of these three men–in addition to whatever else it was, and I think the case that it was a legitimate use of US law enforcement is thus far weak, though still preferable to a drone strike against the three–seems like a test drive of this disposition process.

Which is why I find it so interesting that two wired up commentators like Daniel Byman and Benjamin Wittes have rolled out what they represent to be the flow chart–they even call it the disposition matrix–the Obama Administration uses if it believes you’re a terrorist.

Because that flow chart is not just incomplete, but factually wrong on several points.

Take step 11, which asks whether a person overseas is an operational leader or not.

Propagandists, to some degree, are also protected under U.S. law. Glorifying jihad and saying that Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even living ordinary lives stateside, deserve death, is not in itself a crime. So even Anwar al-Awlaki, who inspired Americans and Western Muslims in general to take up jihad, was not aggressively targeted until he was linked to attacks on U.S. airlines and aviation targets in the United Kingdom — thus going from “propagandist” to “operator.” Non-operational figures abroad — however dangerous — will tend to be tolerated to the extent they cannot be captured.

The claim that Awlaki was “not aggressively targeted until he was linked to attacks on U.S. airlines” is false. JSOC targeted him the day before the Intelligence Community first started tying him to operations.

But the case of these three men also illustrates the grey areas of this matrix. Presumably, their path would go:

1. Where is the suspect located? Abroad.

3. Is he coming [back to] the US? No. [As far as we know, none were ever in the US]

5. Can a reliable government arrest him? Yes.

6. Will the ally transfer him to the US? Yes.

2. Arrest, indict, prosecute.

As a threshold matter, what happened before this matrix–at least for Hashi–is that the suspect was returning to the UK when his “disposition” process started. As far back as April 2009, MI5 was blackmailing Hashi and his friends to turn informants.

Five Muslim community workers have accused MI5 of waging a campaign of blackmail and harassment in an attempt to recruit them as informants.

The men claim they were given a choice of working for the Security Service or face detention and harassment in the UK and overseas.

[snip]

Madhi Hashi, a 19-year-old care worker from Camden, claims he was held for 16 hours in a cell in Djibouti airport on the orders of MI5. He alleges that when he was returned to the UK on 9 April this year he was met by an MI5 agent who told him his terror suspect status would remain until he agreed to work for the Security Service. He alleges that he was to be given the job of informing on his friends by encouraging them to talk about jihad.

After that he returned to Somalia and married. In June, he was stripped of his citizenship, and then disappeared even before he could have appealed the decision.

In June 2012, a letter delivered to Hashi’s family home in London informed him that the home secretary Theresa May had decided to strip him of his British citizenship, claiming he had been ‘involved in Islamist extremism’.

The letter added that he had four weeks to appeal, but he disappeared before he was able to act.

A man later contacted his family in Somalia claiming he had been held alongside Hashi in a Djibouti jail.

Mahdi’s father Mohamed Hashi told the Bureau: ‘He said [Hashi] was fingerprinted and his DNA was taken, and they found out that he was a British citizen and contacted the British consulate – but the British said sorry, we took his citizenship away from him and we can’t help him.’

And somewhere along the line, Hashi got transferred from Somalia (does that count as a reliable government?) to Djibouti, which has largely become an appendix to the US base there.

Then Hashi sat in Djibouti for up to four months, undergoing who knows what kind of interrogations and under whose authorities. That grey zone interrogation curiously doesn’t show up on Byman and Wittes’ matrix, though such extended interrogations leading to US prosecutions are becoming more and more frequent.

Finally, note the US focus of the matrix: US presence, “return to” US, US prosecution.

In this case, all for crimes connected with a group with which we’re not at war (though we have declared it a terrorist organization). (In his piece on renditions, Whitlock correctly points to Ahmed Warsame as a direct precedent, but in that case Warsame was conspiring with AQAP, against which we are at war.)

The indictments, too, are interesting. Not only do both the October indictment and the November superseding indictment obscure the timeline involved by stating only the alleged crimes occurred from 2008 (before the Brits started harassing Hashi) until 2012 (when he was detained). But the superseding indictment adds the weaker charge of conspiracy to commit material support, suggesting some concern about the strength of the material support charge itself. In press releases but not the indictments, the government claims the men were training at a suicide bomber camp, but even after having Djibouti detain Hashi for 5 months and then detaining him secretly here for a month, they apparently don’t tie any charge to that alleged suicide bomb training.

Given the timing of all this, I wonder whether the celebrated British-recruited Saudi-run UndieBomb infiltrator was once buddies with Hashi, and they rolled Hashi up in the aftermath of that plot?

In any case, the most likely thing that will come out of this “disposition” is that, having refused to become an informant, Hashi will spend the rest of his life living in US taxpayer funded prisions, without the government actually accusing him of plotting against the US.

Maybe he did, in which case the disposition matrix worked. But that’s why we used to demand transparency (and no five month period without due process) for this kind of thing

In short, this rendition might be an improvement over the drone strikes. But if it is, the government has not made the case it is.

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel RT @carolrosenberg: Crosby: The accused USSCole bomber had "persistent and chronic anal-rectal complaints..."
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emptywheel Odd part of hanging with @FalguniSheth: who knew that Amherst had decent Mexican and Chinese food?
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bmaz @joshgerstein Wow, that is quite a plea.
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bmaz @MikeScarcella He's rt about better shopping in Tucson; Douglas is a pit. Still, seizure+search based on non-crim+innocuous activity. Ugh.
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bmaz It is completely unacceptable for @CNN to be claiming credit for the Phoenix VA Hospital story; @azrover + @azcentral broke it first.
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bmaz @OKnox Ooops!
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bmaz @nadabakos @robertcaruso @AllThingsHLS Well, they are cops, so credibility IS an issue!
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bmaz @nadabakos @robertcaruso @AllThingsHLS I thought so too. Just relating how the livestock inspectors treated them for these purposes.
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bmaz Whether favor far greater transparency for OLC or not (I do) this paper by @ericisbeautiful looks very informative http://t.co/2eARGM8y9g
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bmaz @ericisbeautiful I have downloaded for reading, but have a feeling I will disagree!
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bmaz RT @ericisbeautiful: If you're following the recent case about the Al-Awlaki memo, might enjoy my note about downsides of OLC transparency …
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bmaz @RebekahLSanders I meant to say that yesterday, but was distracted by the arrival of Founders Beer in Phoenix. Thanks for reminding me!
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