DOJ IG

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.

The FBI’s Official “CAIR Has Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted]“

I had just about come to the conclusion that Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s Inspector General who took over after Glenn Fine retired in 2010, was a worthy successor. In recent weeks, Horowitz has released reports critical of DOJ’s handling of classified information, its refusal to account for drones’ unique risks to privacy, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ use of “churning” (money-making) operations.

But then I read this report — on the FBI’s Interactions with the Council on American-Islamic Relations — and I got literally sick to my stomach.

The report purports to determine whether the FBI complies with Agency guidance — the title and issuing authority for which are redacted in the report, which is why I am referring to it as the “Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted]” throughout, even where it is redacted in direct quotes — that FBI personnel are not to engage in any community outreach with people from CAIR. For results, it shows that in three of five cases where FBI personnel did engage (or almost engage!) with people from CAIR, the personnel either didn’t consult with the FBI entity the IG deems to be in charge of this policy (which is probably the Counterterrorism Division, but the IG Report redacts that too), or consulted instead with the Office of Public Affairs, which is in charge of community outreach.

In response to these shocking (!!) results, Congressman Frank Wolf has already called for heads to roll.

But what the report actually shows is, first of all, how in response to two non-criminal pieces of evidence — a meeting between men who would go on to found CAIR and Hamas, which was not yet a designated a terrorist organization, and CAIR’s designation as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case (the publication of which was subsequently deemed a violation of the group’s Fifth Amendment rights) — the FBI formulated a formal policy to treat that organization as if it has cooties.

And yet, even the language the IG repeats about this policy makes it clear that the FBI was operating on a policy of “guilty until proven innocent.”

The guidance specifically stated that, until the FBI could determine whether there continued to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, “the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner” for non-investigative activities.

That is, for the entire 5 year period versions of this policy have been in place, FBI has maintained that so long as it doesn’t develop evidence that CAIR has no ties to Hamas, then FBI will treat the organization and its officials as if they do have such ties by refusing to let them on FBI property or attend any CAIR-affiliated events. And we’re supposed to believe, I guess, that the FBI has used not a single one of their intrusive investigative methods to try to prove or disprove this allegation in the interim 5 years, and so it just will never know whether the allegation is correct or not, and so must operate on the playground Cooties standard.

Heck, in one of the “incidents” the report investigates, the local FBI office actually vetted an event participant to make sure his service on CAIR’s local board didn’t taint all his other community ties so badly that he should not participate in the event.

Yet whether or not a particular CAIR representative [redacted] is irrelevant to the Cooties Guidance Directive  [Redacted] to deny the organization access to the FBI in such non-investigative community-outreach activities.

And the IG Report — Michael Horowitz’ report — judges that vetting that found this gentleman to be innocent was not sufficient reason to ignore the Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted]. The Report seems to endorse the view that vetting notwithstanding, this guy had a formal role in CAIR that made all his other roles in the Muslim community suspect and that’s the way things work in America.

Then there’s the underlying logic. The entire policy is premised on a bizarre belief that it is exploitative for a Muslim organization to advertise its willingness to work with the FBI.

The June 2011 EC also reiterated that CAIR was not prohibited from “maintaining a relationship with the FBI regarding civil rights or criminal violations; however, civil rights and criminal squads should be cognizant CAIR has exploited these relationships in the past.”

[snip]

The end result of this incident- CAIR posting on its website of a photograph showing the SAC speaking at the event and a description of CAIR’s Civil Rights Director moderating his speech is the sort of exploitation of contact with the FBI that the Cooties Guidance
Directive [Redacted] was intended to avoid.

I don’t get it. If CAIR really were a terrorist sleeper cell, wouldn’t advertising their willingness to associate with the FBI completely ruin all their terrorist Cred, and therefore neutralize whatever threat they presented?

In any case, on the one hand, the report chronicles how the federal agency in charge of investigating civil rights abuses basically treated an entire constitutionally protected civil rights organization as guilty without charging it with any crime.

But then there’s the fact that, after responding to a request to fear-mongers in Congress, this report saw the light of day in the fashion it appears.

As noted above, the IG Report seems to accept this premise of guilty until proven innocent without noting the problem underlying it. Like, you know, the Constitution. In places, the language of the report even echos that of a presumption of guilt, as in this passage where it berates OPA for actually treating an individual with multiple formal ties to the Muslim community as such, rather than as someone branded solely by his affiliation with CAIR.

It appears that OPA provided guidance that effectively reversed the presumption against CAIR participation in non-investigatory FBI activities in this instance. OPA indicated that it wanted to ensure that there was sufficient justification for excluding the CAIR participant apart from his role in CAIR.

Then there’s the way in which this was released. While the actual Cooties Guidance  Directive [Redacted] is classified, nothing else in the report seems like it should be (though the FBI has removed the classification marks from the paragraphs to hide the basis for their claims that this is classified). In particular, FBI or DOJ or OIG has chosen to redact anything that would make it clear whether this is an actual policy, or just guidance on which CTD and OPA disagree (in their complaint about the report, the ACLU notes that it doesn’t appear to have gone through the formal policy-making process). And yet, having hidden that information, the IG presents it as if the failure to implement the Cooties Guidance Directive [Redacted] is a graver problem than the upending of presumption of innocence.

Finally, there are a few tonal issues. For example, the report presents this view — from a Chicago SAC who twice blew off the Cootie Guidance Directive [Redacted] — as if his basic civility presents a problem.

He stated that if DHS considered CAIR officials to be part of the community and invited them to the Roundtable, the FBI was not going to deny them entry at the door.

In another instance, it quotes another violating SAC as using the term “Islamophobia” (PDF 22), but presents the term in scare quotes. This is borderline McCarthyist shit, treating the language of people fighting terrorists by treating Muslims as human beings as some kind of brand against them.

Finally, there’s the timing of this. The fear-mongers requested this report in March 2012 — over 20 months after after the Section 215 IG Report that we’ve been waiting for for 1,224 days got started. Three of four of what are probably interviews with those deemed in violation of this guidance took place over the course of 8 days in August and September of 2012 (the last took place in July, which makes me wonder whether that was added to beef up an otherwise thin report.)

But then the report didn’t get released until a second state CAIR affiliate starts challenging the FBI’s killing of a Muslim person. And the IG Report got released on the very same day that CAIR released a major report on Islamophobia (or, as the IG appears to treat it, “Islamophobia.”)

The whole thing seems designed not to make the FBI a more orderly place (if that were the purpose, then it might be better to focus on how the Cooties Guidance Directive
[Redacted] became formal policy — if it did — without going through formal policy channels). Rather, it seems designed to foment a kind of McCarthyism within FBI targeted at those counterterrorism investigators who believe the best way to fight Islamic extremists is to treat Muslims as partners in rooting out violence.

The Intelligence Community’s Willful Ignorance about Americans Caught in 702 Surveillance

Given the Intelligence Community’s reluctant and partial disclosures on the Section 702 (PRISM/FAA) collection, I want to return to a squabble from last fall, before Congress reauthorized FAA.

As you’ll recall, Ron Wyden tried to get the IC to disclose the number of Americans whose communication had been reviewed under Section 702. The IC dicked around long enough to ensure Wyden didn’t get an answer in time to make a political stink about it. When they finally gave him an answer, they said providing such a number would violate the privacy of Americans.

I defer to [the NSA Inspector General's] conclusion that obtaining such an estimate was beyond the capacity of his office and dedicating sufficient additional resources would likely impede the NSA’s mission. He further stated that his office and NSA leadership agreed that an IG review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.

Ultimately, this statement seemed to be as much about resource allocation as anything else — the NSA and IC IGs would need more staff to accomplish the tast. (I must say, I do find it interesting the ICIG has time to investigate 375 leaks but not enough time to find out how many Americans are being spied on.)

But look at how closely the government is purportedly tracking US person data.

These procedures require that the acquisition of information is conducted, to the greatest extent reasonably feasible, to minimize the acquisition of information not relevant to the authorized foreign intelligence purpose.

Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a U.S. person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime.

[snip]

Any information collected after a foreign target enters the U.S. –or prior to a discovery that any target erroneously believed to be foreign was in fact a U.S. person– must be promptly destroyed unless that information meets specific, limited criteria approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The dissemination of any information about U.S. persons is expressly prohibited unless it is necessary to understand foreign intelligence or assess its importance; is evidence of a crime; or indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm.

Now, these passages ought to make people more worried about privacy than not. Stated clearly, it says the government believes it can collect and keep US person content if it deems that content “relevant” to the reason they collected the information.

Remember two things: this collection is not limited to use with terrorism; it can be used for espionage investigations, hacking, or any foreign intelligence purpose. And the government has already deemed every single one of our phone records to be “relevant” to an umbrella terror investigation, so the definition of relevance the government has developed in secret is unbelievably broad and persmissive.

That collection — the people whose content is reviewed and deemed relevant and kept — is the universe of people Wyden wanted to count. And the government is making decisions about the relevance of them in secret, but not tracking the process by which they do so.

Note too that the government can disseminate US person communications if “it is necessary to understand foreign intelligence.” This is not news (which is why it is so appalling that people were fighting over whether the government could listen to US person calls or read their emails). It is part of traditional FISA, too. (It was using that excuse that John Bolton was learning about what his rivals were negotiating with the North Koreans.) But given how much more information an analyst can access both because she is accessing all Internet activity and not just phone, but also because more associated communications are sucked up with a target, it means many more US persons’ communications might be disseminated. It’s not clear, by the way, such dissemination would exclude privileged conversations between lawyers and clients, or discussions between journalists and sources.

And this second group of people — the ones whose communications are being circulated — are counted.

Though we’re not allowed to know what those numbers are.

Here’s what the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz had to say about a statutorily required review of the 702 collection he recently completed (I think, but it’s not entirely clear, that Horowitz didn’t finish this review until after FAA was renewed last year — I know he didn’t finish it before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees passed it out).

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz of the United States Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a report examining the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008 (Act). Section 702 authorizes the targeting of non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States for the purpose of acquiring foreign intelligence information. The Act required that the Inspector General conduct a review of the Department’s role in this process and, in conjunction with this review, the OIG reviewed the number of disseminated FBI intelligence reports containing a reference to a U.S. person identity, the number of U.S. person identities subsequently disseminated in response to requests for identities not referred to by name or title in the original reporting, the number of targets later determined to be located in the United States, and whether communications of such targets were reviewed. See 50 U.S.C. 1881a(l)(2)(B) and (C). The OIG also reviewed the FBI’s compliance with the targeting and minimization procedures required under the Act.

The final report has been issued and delivered to the relevant Congressional oversight and intelligence committees, as well as leadership offices. Because the report is classified, its contents cannot be disclosed to the public.

In other words, the DOJ IG counted — because the law required him to — the following:

  • The number of US person-related communication that got disseminated in a first dissemination of intelligence 
  • The number of US persons whose identity identified in a follow-up on an original dissemination
  • The number of targets originally believed to be foreign who end up being US persons (note, the NSA conveniently doesn’t explain what the specific criteria are that would allow the government to keep these communications … I wonder why?)

But it did not count how many US persons’ communications were reviewed but not disseminated, many of which may be retained under the relevance standard.

In general, when the government chooses not to count things, there’s a reason it doesn’t want to.

Shorter DOJ: It’s No Big Deal if DEA Agents Destroy Evidence

DOJ’s Inspector General wrote Senators Collins and Lieberman a letter summarizing its investigation into DEA Agents involved in the Secret Service sex scandal in Cartagena, Colombia.

What’s getting attention is that the DEA agents arranged a prostitute for a SS Agent. All three engaged sex workers the night in question.

But what should be getting attention is that the DEA agents, when they learned about the scope of the investigation, deleted incriminating information from their Blackberries. And DOJ–in part because it conducted compelled interviews it knew couldn’t be used in a prosecution–won’t charge them.

The OIG investigation found further that all three DEA agents had deleted data from their DEA issued Blackberry devices, and that DEA agents #1 and #2 did so after learning of the scope and nature of the OIG’s investigation. DEA agent #1 admitted to the OIG that he deleted relevant data from his Blackberry after being requested to surrender his device to the OIG. DEA agent #2 stated that he “wiped” all data from his Blackberry before providing it to the OIG, but denied that he intended to obstruct the OIG investigation. He stated that he wiped all data from his Blackberry in an effort to conceal embarrassing communications between him and his wife.

The investigation was an administrative review and all of the interviews of the DEA agents were compelled. Given all of those facts and circumstances, we did not view the matter to warrant criminal prosecution.

By compelling the interviews, the IG effectively immunized the DEA Agents, ensuring they could not be charged with obstruction. Not to mention, the Scott Bloch precedent–in which he deleted evidence and now DOJ is bending over backward to make sure he doesn’t pay any price for lying about doing so–makes it clear that DOJ will never prosecute one of its own for the kind of crime they prosecute others for all the time.

Still, let it be know that DOJ doesn’t give a shit that its DEA Agents obstruct justice and delete evidence.

The Inherent Conflict Of Interest With DOJ's OPR And David Margolis

Who watches the watchers? Always a valid question; today I want to look at the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility and its conduct in the investigation of United States governmental attorneys, specifically within the Office of Legal Counsel, involved in the Bush/Cheney torture program. Aside from the facts and conclusions (discussion underway here, here and here), the report is notable for the process producing it, namely the DOJ investigating itself and, not so shockingly, exculpating itself. This will be the first in a series of more specific posts on this blog discussing the multiple, and severe, conflict of interest issues inherent in the OPR Report.

The first, and most obvious, issue of conflict with OPR is that it places evaluation and resolution of ethical complaints against DOJ attorneys in the hands of the DOJ. The power to determine whether there is any impropriety is solely within the hands of those supervising and/or ultimately responsible for the impropriety. Pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 0.39a, OPR reports directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. A vested interest if there ever was one.

Most governmental agencies have independent Inspectors General which operate independently of the agency leadership, have jurisdiction of the entire agency including legal counsel, and thus have credibility as somewhat neutral and detached evaluators and voices. Not so the DOJ, who has arrogated upon themselves the sole right to sit in judgment of themselves. This action to grab the exclusive authority for themselves and exclude the independent IG was first accomplished by Attorney General Order 1931-94 dated November 8, 1994 subsequently codified into the Code of Federal Regulations and reinforced through section 308 of the 2002 Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Just in time for the war on terror legal shenanigans!

Glenn Fine, the DOJ IG has given Congressional testimony to the US Senate regarding the inherent conflict:

Second, the current limitation on the DOJ OIG’s jurisdiction prevents the OIG – which by statute operates independent of the agency – from investigating an entire class of misconduct allegations involving DOJ attorneys’ actions, and instead assigns this responsibility to OPR, which is not statutorily independent and reports directly to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. In effect, the limitation on the OIG’s jurisdiction creates a conflict of interest and contravenes the rationale for establishing independent Inspectors General throughout the government. It also permits an Attorney General to assign an investigation that raises questions about his conduct or the conduct of his senior staff to OPR, an entity that reports to and is supervised by the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General and that lacks the insulation and independence guaranteed by the IG Act.

This concern is not merely hypothetical. Recently, the Attorney General directed Continue reading

DOD and Torture Declassification Timing

I think I’ll be doing a series of posts on the DOJ IG report on torture. In this post, I will look at some of the timing surrounding torture declassification.

The very first footnote in the 300-odd page report sticks a shiv into DOD for its stalling on this report:

The OIG has redacted (blacked out) from the public version of this report information that the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the Department of Defense (DOD) considered classified. We have provided full versions of the classified reports to the Department of Justice, the CIA, the DOD, and Congressional committees. The effort to identify classified information in this report has been a significant factor delaying release of the report. To obtain the agencies’ classification comments, we provided a draft report to the FBI, the CIA, and the DOD for classification review on October 25, 2007. The FBI and the CIA provided timely responses. The DOD’s response was not timely. Eventually, the DOD provided initial classification comments to us on March 28, 2008. However, we believed those classification marking were over-inclusive. After several additional weeks of discussion with the DOD about these issues the DOD provided revised classification comments. The DOD’s delay in providing comments, and its over-inclusive initial comments, delayed release of this report.

This is not the first we’ve heard of DOD’s stalling. In an April interview with McClatchy, Fine complained about it.

Marisa Taylor reports that DOD is stalling the release of a DOJ IG report on the FBI’s role in torture.

The release of a report on the FBI’s role in the interrogations of prisoners in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq has been delayed for months because the Pentagon is reviewing how much of it should remain classified, according to the Justice Department’s watchdog.

Glenn Fine, the Justice Department’s inspector general, told McClatchy that his office has pressed the Defense Department to finish its review, but officials there haven’t completed the process "in a timely fashion."

"Why that happened, I don’t know," Fine said in an interview this week.

Tell me, Marisa Taylor, did Fine have a smirk on his face when he said that? I couldn’t imagine why DOD would be stalling the release of this report!

Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Hateful Eight looked killer; great writeup from Kim RT @SunsetGunShot Thoughts on The Hateful Eight live read http://t.co/JnaJqVs559
19mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @laRosalind The red is the best color on the Tesla. Would look even better on the Jaguar Musk STOLE his body design from.
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bmaz @BradMossEsq @SpyTalker At any rate, this is minuscule in relative scope, but helpful in showing there can be a deal cut.
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bmaz @BradMossEsq @SpyTalker Whether it is successful, or to what extent, who knows. But it is usable infer and precedent for fashioning the arg.
46mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @BradMossEsq @SpyTalker Irrespective, you get there by making arguments; I could sure fashion this and other cases into one.
47mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @SpyTalker That is a completely different criminal jurisdiction. Also, a defense atty has to try everything he can. I'd find this useful.
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bmaz @SpyTalker Is it a "winning" argument, no of course not; is it useful for mitigation, absolutely.
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bmaz @SpyTalker What displays is govt can move downward on such charges, there IS precedent; and there are many other instances too.
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bmaz @SpyTalker They are not in scope. But if you look at general overview, both involve removal of class info, both charge espionage etc.
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bmaz @SpyTalker also, stop calling me Shirley!
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bmaz @SpyTalker Mostly, yes. But it fits into an overall defense theme I've had in mind for a while as far as plea and sentencing.
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bmaz RT @MikeScarcella: Then: Six felony counts (three under Espionage Act). Now: One misdemeanor http://t.co/G2oKpbHl2h New charging doc: http:…
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