Back in 2011, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued to enforce a FOIA for documents on FBI’s investigation of WikiLeaks supporters. In response, the government cited an ongoing investigation exemption. But they also cited a statutory exemption, claiming some law prevented them from releasing the records on investigations into WikiLeaks supporters. Unusually, DOJ refused to name the law in question. For that reason, and because my suspicions of how Section 215 gets used suggested it would make a spectacular tool for investigating a group of WikiLeaks supporters, I suggested that the statute was likely Section 215.
Since then, we’ve seen indications of NSA involvement in the investigation into WikiLeaks, though without any details from before EPIC’s FOIA.
And until March 11, that’s where things stood, with the government claiming it couldn’t release records about its investigation into completely innocent supporters of a publishing outlet and the judge (who had been newly assigned to the case in April 2013) doing nothing with the government’s motion for summary judgement.
On March 11, however, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein ordered DOJ and EPIC to submit briefs updating her on the status of the investigation into WikiLeaks and with it the government’s ongoing investigation exemption, but not its claimed statutory exemption.
The Court takes judicial notice that events have transpired during that time that may cause the government’s position to to have changed. Therefore, the Court instructs the government to update its position regarding Plaintiff’s FOIA request, particularly with respect to the government’s invocation of exemption 7(A).
The language of her order suggests two things. First, if Rothstein is asking whether the 7(A) ongoing investigation exemption remains active, it suggests she’s may not accept the government’s statutory exemption 3 to completely withhold these documents. And she doesn’t say what the “events” that “have transpired” are, but it’s probably not any developments in the WikiLeaks investigation, as that’s what she says she doesn’t know. That makes it likely the Snowden leaks and related official disclosures have made the exemption 3, the basis for which she knows about from classified declarations, moot.
That’s all tea leaf reading. And even if I’ve read the tea leaves correctly, it doesn’t mean I’m right about Section 215. After all, back door searches on collection targeted at Julian Assange (who, as a foreign citizen and alleged spy, would be a legal target under Section 702 or even generally) would be a useful investigation into WikiLeaks supporters as well, though there’s abundant reason to believe dragnet queries serve as the basis for back door searches. Still, I think it’s likely that something that has been released and declassified since last April has mooted the government’s secret statutory claims.
The government, having sat on Judge Rothstein’s April 11 deadline from March 11 until Tuesday, is now stalling for time. (h/t JG; links to come shortly) On Tuesday, the lawyer who inherited this case claimed she has another case that prevents her from writing 10 pages on the status of the WikiLeaks investigation. But also that she needs more time to consult with the “defendant agencies.”
In addition, the draft supplemental brief will require review within the Department of Justice and defendant agencies before it may be filed.
EPIC’s not buying it, citing from the judge’s previous orders warning against extensions and stating clearly that business in other matters is not a good excuse. EPIC also described DOJ’s sleazy post-business hours effort to provide notice. and noted this is precisely the kind of thing Judge Rothstein had said would get a motion summarily denied.
Ms. Zeidner Marcus also did not timely notify Plaintiff’s counsel of her plans to file this Motion for Extension of Time. Ms. Zeidner Marcus first contacted Ms. McCall on April 8, 2014, the date that the filing was due, after ordinary business hours. Ms. Zeidner Marcus first emailed Ms. McCall on April 8, 2014 at 5:01 PM and followed up at approximately 5:30 PM that day with a telephone call. This did not give Ms. McCall sufficient time to consider Ms. Zeidner Marcus’ request or to consult with Ms. McCall’s co-counsel ,Mr. Rotenberg, regarding that request. Ms. Zeidner Marcus then filed her Motion for Extension of Time at 11:23 PM on the same day (April 8, 2014).
To which DOJ responded by accusing EPIC of filing an “improper” FOIA.
This case involves plaintiff’s attempts to improperly use the Freedom of Information Act to seek information about ongoing criminal investigations.
Remember, the underlying issue here is that DOJ shouldn’t be investigating innocent supporters of a publishing outlet. But DOJ believes trying to learn how and why they are doing so is an improper FOIA.
Meanwhile, DOJ sources admitted last November that they can’t really charge Assange without charging the NYT as well.
Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Which, I guess, explains the rudeness and urgent need for one more month. Because if the government loses both its ongoing investigation and its statutory exemptions, they might have to explain why they used national security tools against people exercising free speech.
Update: The Judge gave the government half the extension they requested, to April 25.
In light of the fact that the motion was not timely filed and that press of business is not an adequate reason for an extension, the Court will not grant the request for a thirty day extension. Instead, the Court will grant an extension to and including April 25, 2014. Plaintiff’s opposition shall be filed on or before May 12, 2014. The reply shall be file on or before May 19, 2014. In the future, the Court expects the parties to comply with the terms of the Standing Order in this case.
At the outset of this post, let me lay out my following assumptions (I can’t prove these points, but I suspect them):
All of that is a roundabout way of saying that Snowden could do great damage to the US, but may not have yet, and certainly hadn’t by the time he first revealed himself in Hong Kong.
If that’s right, then it seems the Obama approach has been precisely the wrong approach in limiting potential damage to national security. The best way to limit damage, for example, would be to get Snowden to a safe place where our greatest adversaries can’t get to him, where we could make an eternal stink about his asylum there, but still rest easy knowing he wasn’t leaking further secrets. Indeed, if he were exiled in some place like France, we’d likely have more influence over what he was allowed to do than if he gets to Ecuador, for example.
The most likely approach to lead to further damage, however, is to charge him with Espionage. This not only raises the specter of the treatment we’ve given Bradley Manning — giving Snowden Denise Lind’s judgement that Manning’s rights were violated to include in any asylum application — but also easily falls under what states can call political crimes, which permits them to ignore extradition requests. That is, we appear to be pursuing the approach that could lead to greater damage.
By contrast, letting Snowden get someplace safe is perfectly equivalent to letting the CIA off for torture (or, for that matter, James Clapper off for lying to Congress). It’s a violation of rule of law, but it also serves to minimize the tremendous damage the spooks might do to retaliate. Obama has chosen this path already when the criminals were his criminals; he clearly doesn’t have the least bit of compunction of setting aside rule of law for pragmatic reasons. But in Snowden’s case, he seems to be pursuing a strategy that not only might increase the likelihood of damage, but also lets China and Russia retaliate for perceived slights along the way.
All this is just an observation. I believe Obama’s relentless attacks on whistleblowers and his ruthless enforcement of information asymmetry have actually raised the risk of something like this. And he seems to be prioritizing proving the power of the US (which has, thus far, only proved our diminishing influence) over limiting damage Snowden might do.
Update: This fearmongering WaPo article nevertheless quotes a former senior US official admitting that what Snowden has released so far wouldn’t help China or Russia.
A former senior U.S. official said that the material that has leaked publicly would be of limited use to China or Russia but that if Snowden also stole files that outline U.S. cyber-penetration efforts, the damage of any disclosure would be multiplied.
One of the things DOJ is protecting from FOIA in Electronic Privacy Information Center’s suit is information other governments have shared with the US on the investigation.
According to FBI’s David Harvey, this includes classified information from foreign governments.
(45) E.O. 13526, § 1.4(b) authorizes the classification of foreign government information. E.O. 13526, § 6.1(s) defines foreign government information as: “(1) information provided to the United States Government by a foreign government or governments, an international organization of governments, or any element thereof, with the expectation that the information, the source of the information, or both, are to be held in confidence; (2) information produced by the United States Government pursuant to or as a result of a joint arrangement with a foreign government or governments, or an international organization of governments, or any element thereof, requiring that the information, the arrangement, or both, are to be held in confidence; or (3) information received and treated as ‘foreign government information’ under the terms of a predecessor order.”
(46) Many foreign governments do not officially acknowledge the existence of some of their intelligence and security services, or the scope of their activities or the sensitive information generated by them. The free exchange of information between United States intelligence and law enforcement services and their foreign counterparts is predicated upon the understanding that these liaisons, and information exchanged between them, must be kept in confidence.
(47) The release of official United States Government documents that show the existence of a confidential relationship with a foreign government reasonably could be expected to strain relations between the United States and the foreign governments and lead to diplomatic, political, or economic retaliations. A breach of this relationship can be expected to have at least a chilling effect on the free flow of vital information to the United States intelligence and law enforcement agencies, which may substantially reduce their effectiveness. Although the confidential relationship of the United States with certain countries may be widely reported, they are not officially acknowledged. (48) Disclosure of such a relationship predictably will result in the careful analysis and possible compromise of the information by hostile intelligence services. The hostile service may be able to uncover friendly foreign intelligence gathering operations directed against it or its allies. This could lead to the neutralization of friendly allied intelligence activities or methods or the death of live sources, cause embarrassment to the supplier of the information, or result in economic or diplomatic retaliation against both the United States and the supplier of the information.
(49) Even if the government from which certain information is received is not named in or identifiable from the material it supplies, the danger remains that if the information were to be made public, the originating government would likely recognize the information as material it supplied in confidence. Thereafter, it would be reluctant to entrust the handling of its information to the discretion of the United States.
(50) The types of classified information provided by foreign government intelligence components can be categorized as: (a) information that identifies a named foreign government and detailed information provided by that foreign government; (b) documents received from a named foreign government intelligence agency and classified “Secret” by that agency; and (c) information that identifies by name, an intelligence component of a specific foreign government, an official of the foreign government, and information provided by that component official to the FBI.
(51) The cooperative exchange of intelligence information between the foreign governments and the FBI was, and continues to be, with the express understanding that the information will be kept classified and not released to the public. Disclosure of the withheld information would violate the FBI’s promise of confidentiality. Continue reading
As Mike Scarcella reported yesterday, the government has moved for summary judgment in an Electronic Privacy Information Center FOIA suit for details on the government’s investigation into WikiLeaks. EPIC first FOIAed these materials in June 2011. After receiving nothing, they sued last January.
The government’s motion and associated declarations would be worth close analysis in any case. All the more so, though, in light of the possibility that the government conducted a fishing expedition into WikiLeaks as part of its Aaron Swartz investigation, almost certainly using PATRIOT Act investigative techniques. The government’s documents strongly suggest they’re collecting intelligence on Americans, all justified and hidden by their never ending quest to find some excuse to throw Julian Assange in jail.
EPIC’s FOIA asked for information designed to expose whether innocent readers and supporters of WikiLeaks had been swept up in the investigation. It asked for:
- All records regarding any individuals targeted for surveillance for support for or interest in WikiLeaks;
- All records regarding lists of names of individuals who have demonstrated support for or interest in WikiLeaks;
- All records of any agency communications with Internet and social media companies including, but not limited to Facebook and Google, regarding lists of individuals who have demonstrated, through advocacy or other means, support for or interest in WikiLeaks; and
- All records of any agency communications with financial services companies including, but not limited to Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, regarding lists of individuals who have demonstrated, through monetary donations or other means, support or interest in WikiLeaks. [my emphasis]
At a general level, the government has exempted what files it has under a 7(A) (ongoing investigation) exemption, while also invoking 1 (classified information), 3 (protected by statute), 5 (privileged document), 6 (privacy), 7(C) (investigative privacy), 7(D) (confidential source, which can include private companies like Visa and Google), 7(E) (investigative techniques), and 7(F) (endanger life or property of someone) exemptions.
No one will say what secret law they’re using to surveil Americans
But I’m most interested in how all three units at DOJ — as reflected in declarations from FBI’s David Hardy, National Security Division’s Mark Bradley, and Criminal Division’s John Cunningham – claimed the files at issue were protected by statute.
None named the statute in question. All three included some version of this statement, explaining they could only name the statute in their classified declarations.
The FBI has determined that an Exemption 3 statute applies and protects responsive information from the pending investigative files from disclosure. However, to disclose which statute or further discuss its application publicly would undermine interests protected by Exemption 7(A), as well as by the withholding statute. I have further discussed this exemption in my in camera, ex parte declaration, which is being submitted to the Court simultaneously with this declaration
In fact, it appears the only reason that Cunningham submitted a sealed declaration was to explain his Exemption 3 invocation.
And then, as if DOJ didn’t trust the Court to keep sealed declarations secret, it added this plaintive request in the motion itself.
Defendants respectfully request that the Court not identify the Exemption 3 statute(s) at issue, or reveal any of the other information provided in Defendants’ ex parte and in camera submissions.
DOJ refuses to reveal precisely what EPIC seems to be seeking: what kind of secret laws it is using to investigate innocent supporters of WikiLeaks.
By investigating a publisher as a spy, DOJ gets access to PATRIOT Act powers, including Section 215
There’s a very very large chance that the statute in question is Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act (or some other national security administrative subpoena). After all, the FOIA asked whether DOJ had collected business records on WikiLeaks supporters, so it is not unreasonable to assume that DOJ used the business records provision to do so.
Moreover, the submissions make it very clear that the investigation would have the national security nexus to do so. While the motion itself just cites a Hillary Clinton comment to justify its invocation of national security, both the FBI and the NSD declarations make it clear this is being conducted as an Espionage investigation by DOJ counterintelligence people, which — as I’ve been repeating for over two years – gets you the full PATRIOT Act toolbox of investigative approaches.
Media outlets take note: The government is, in fact, investigating a publisher as a spy. You could be next.
As I noted back in December 2010, as soon as Eric Holder declared WikiLeaks’ purported crime to be Espionage, it opened up a whole slew of investigative methods associated with the PATRIOT Act. It allowed the government to use National Security Letters to get financial and call records. It allowed them to use Section 215 orders to get “any tangible thing.” And all that’s after FISA Amendments Act, which permits the government to bulk collect “foreign intelligence” on a target overseas–whether or not that foreign target is suspected of Espionage–that includes that target’s communications with Americans. The government may well be using Section 215 to later access the US person communications that have been collected under an FAA order, though that detail is one the government refuses to share with the American people.
At no point would a judge have the opportunity to challenge Holder’s assertion that a website publishing documents offered up anonymously is engaged in Espionage. All it would take is Holder’s assertion that it was, and those investigative powers would become available.
No matter how many Americans got sucked up into that investigation.
Which is why I find it interesting that Aaron Swartz’ lawyers were asking, last summer–but got only indirect answers–about how the government had collected some of the evidence, particularly emails, turned over to the grand jury.
This paragraph asked the government to “identify the origin of any and all statements of Aaron Swartz including but not limited to emails, text messages, chats, documents, memoranda or letters, i.e., to identify the source from which each statement was received and the legal procedure used to obtain each such statement of the defendant.” Swartz has received in discovery internet memoranda and chats purporting to be from him. For example, the discovery contains a number of chats on googlegroups.com which contain entries which facially indicate that Swartz was a participant in the communications. The discovery also contains a number of emails which on their faces indicate that they were either to or from Swartz. Swartz requires the additional information requested – the source of these statements and the procedure used by the government to obtain them – to enable him to move to suppress such statements if grounds exist to do so, which he cannot determine without the requested information.
The government offered this explanation.
In Paragraph 15, the defendant would require the government to identify the origin of any and all statements of Aaron Swartz in its possession and the legal procedure used to obtain the statements. All of the emails, text messages, chat sessions, and documents containing statements provided by the defendant relevant to this case were obtained either from individuals with whom the defendant communicated or from publicly available websites stored on the Internet. No emails, texts messages, chat logs, or documents were obtained from Internet service providers using orders under 18 U.S.C. 2703(d). As previously represented to defense counsel, there was no court-authorized electronic surveillance in this case. [my emphasis]
The government admits the defense has asked for the content and origin of all Aaron’s statement in its possession. In response, it described how it had gotten Aaron’s statements relevant to this case–which may well be just a subset of Aaron’s statements in their possession. It also says that it did not obtain any of his statements (presumably referring to the larger potential universe) using 18 USC 2703(d), which is how DOJ demanded Twitter information on four WikiLeaks figures in late 2010 to early 2011. It suggests everything it got relevant to this case was either willingly from people involved in private conversations with him–though it didn’t say whether it asked for them specifically or not–or from publicly available places. And it alludes to an earlier representation to the defense about whether or not it had intercepted Aaron’s communications in this case.
I believe these are the representations in question, which comes from early discovery discussions in August 2011.
C. Electronic Surveillance under Local Rule 1 16.1 (C)(l)(c)
No oral, wire, or electronic communications of the defendant as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2510 were intercepted relating to the charges in the indictment.
D. Consensual Interceptions under Local Rule 1 16.1 (C)(l)(d)
There were no interceptions (as the term “intercept” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2510(4)) of wire, oral, or electronic communications relating to the charges contained in the indictment, made with the consent of one of the parties to the communication in which the defendant was intercepted or which the government intends to offer as evidence in its case-in-chief.
As you can see, in this statement the government made in August 2011 anticipated some of the same dodges the government was making in June 2012.
But in the earlier statement, the limitation on its assertions are even narrower than the later one. Whereas by June 2012 they were making assertions about “this case” in general, when they first discussed the issue, they discussed only the communications related to “the charges contained in the indictment” (though presumably they may have still been considering other charges).
Also, the second paragraph makes it very clear it is discussing intercepts only as defined under the Title III definition for intercept, which pertains to communications collected in transit. I’m not sure what the government considers communications collected under FISA and stored, though I would not be surprised, given all the discussions about the government yoking Section 215 onto FAA if they had some creative treatment of those US person communications.
None of that is proof that they had accessed Swartz’ communications via other means or, indeed, that they have any communications outside those pertaining directly to JSTOR downloads.
But their very careful hedges sure seem to leave that possibility open.
If, as WikiLeaks claims, Aaron Swartz:
Then it strongly indicates the US government used the grand jury investigation into Aaron’s JSTOR downloads as a premise to investigate WikiLeaks. And they did so, apparently, only after the main grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks had stalled.
(See this Verge article on the ways these tweets appear to violate WikiLeaks’ promises of confidentiality.)
As I noted in this post, when Aaron’s lawyer requested discovery last June, he wanted material that had been subpoenaed or otherwise collected but not turned over in discovery–material that does not have an obvious tie to Aaron’s relatively simple alleged crime of downloading journal articles from JSTOR.
These paragraphs request information relating to grand jury subpoenas. Paragraph 1 requested that the government provide “[a]ny and all grand jury subpoenas – and any and all information resulting from their service – seeking information from third parties including but not limited to Twitter. MIT, JSTOR, Internet Archive that would constitute a communication from or to Aaron Swartz or any computer associated with him.” Paragraph 4 requested “[a]ny and all SCA applications, orders or subpoenas to MIT, JSTOR, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Internet Archive or any other entity seeking information regarding Aaron Swartz, any account associated with Swartz, or any information regarding communications to and from Swartz and any and all information resulting from their service.” Paragraph 20 requested “[a]ny and all paper, documents, materials, information and data of any kind received by the Government as a result of the service of any grand jury subpoena on any person or entity relating to this investigation.”
Swartz requests this information because some grand jury subpoenas used in this case contained directives to the recipients which Swartz contends were in conflict with Rule 6(e)(2)(A), see United States v. Kramer, 864 F.2d 99, 101 (11th Cir. 1988), and others sought certification of the produced documents so that they could be offered into evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 803(6), 901. Swartz requires the requested materials to determine whether there is a further basis for moving to exclude evidence under the Fourth Amendment (even though the SCA has no independent suppression remedy).
Moreover, defendant believes that the items would not have been subpoenaed by the experienced and respected senior prosecutor, nor would evidentiary certifications have been requested, were the subpoenaed items not material to either the prosecution or the defense. Defendant’s viewing of any undisclosed subpoenaed materials would not be burdensome, and disclosure of the subpoenas would not intrude upon the government’s work product privilege, as the subpoenas were served on third parties, thus waiving any confidentiality or privilege protections. [my emphasis]
Given that this material (I’m particularly interested in the material Amazon returned to the grand jury, though also the Twitter and Google material, which after all, the main WikiLeaks grand jury requested for public WikiLeaks figures) had not been turned over to Aaron’s defense almost a full year after he was indicted, it’s fairly clear it did not pertain to (or certainly was not necessary to prove) the charges against him, which related to JSTOR.
Yet prosecutor Stephen Heymann had used a grand jury he was using to investigate that JSTOR download–a grand jury that appears not to have gotten started in earnest until the main WikiLeaks grand jury had stalled–to collect information that appears directly relevant to the WikiLeaks grand jury. And he collected it in a form such that could be directly entered as evidence into that WikiLeaks grand jury.
Let me clear about two things. First, I think this is perfectly within the range of what grand juries do. If the government suspected–and they appear to have–that Aaron’s JSTOR downloads were part of a larger effort, then it’s not surprising they investigated broadly to determine whether it was. That’s part of the significant power of grand juries–they can expand in secret to fish for other crimes. As judge Judith Dein said when rejecting Aaron’s effort to see what the government had gotten from these subpoenas, citing US v. Dionisio, “A grand jury’s investigation is not fully carried out until every available clue has been run down and all witnesses examined in every proper way to find if a crime has been committed.”
But even after this fishing expedition (and I hope to show in a later post just how broad it appears to have been), Heymann apparently came up with no evidence that Aaron had broken any laws related to whatever he did with and for WikiLeaks (again, assuming WikiLeaks’ assertions are correct). After investigating for over a year, Heymann added no charges pertaining to WikiLeaks.
He just ratcheted up the charges related to JSTOR.
It appears the government tried–and failed–to establish a criminal connection between Aaron and WikiLeaks. And when they failed to do that, they increased their hardline stance on the JSTOR charges.
I want to explain something about this post.
As I noted, the same day that Aaron Swartz resubmitted his FOIA on Bradley Manning’s treatment, the Secret Service got a warrant to search most of the hardware captured on the day he was arrested (a USB on his person and a laptop and hard drive found elsewhere on MIT’s campus), as well as his home (and they subsequently got a warrant to search his office at Harvard).
But whether or not there’s a connection, there’s something funky about the Swartz investigation in the first half of 2011.
He was arrested very quietly on January 6; I suspect the reason few people knew about it was because no one expected it to amount to anything.
And for a while, it didn’t.
The Secret Service officer on the case, Michael Pickett, raised the issue of warrants on January 7–the day after Swartz was arrested. But the government didn’t get around to actually getting warrants to search this hardware until February 9, over a month later.
Here’s the warrant and supporting affidavit ultimately used for the hardware (except his phone, which was also seized).
But as this defense motion makes clear, there was a further delay after that first February 9 warrant. The Secret Service let the February 9 warrants for the hardware expire, and had to get new warrants on February 24.
Here, there was a 34-day delay in obtaining the February 9, 2011, warrant, which remained unexecuted, and a total of a 49-day delay until the obtaining of the February 24, 2011, warrant pursuant to which the items were ultimately searched.
On the other side of the balance, defendant knows of no conceivable reason which could justify a delay of this magnitude.
And while it’s not central to this post, in the motion Swartz’ lawyer cited a slew of Circuit Court opinions (though none from the First Circuit) throwing out searches on computers after this kind of delay.
In other words, after getting control of this investigation, Secret Service largely let it slide, potentially fatally so for any prosecution.
Which is why it’s interesting that, when the Secret Service finally summoned the energy (or got the okay from AUSA Stephen Heymann) to start this investigation, it was more interested in investigating Swartz’ home than in investigating his hardware–the stuff that directly tied to the crime purportedly in question.
everywhere there’s a US post… there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed –Bradley Manning
Yesterday, in anticipation of Ecuador’s imminent (and now announced) official decision to offer Julian Assange, the British sent this letter to the Ecuadorans.
You should be aware that there is a legal basis in the U.K. the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act which would allow us to take action to arrest Mr. Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.
We very much hope not to get this point, but if you cannot resolve the issue of Mr. Assange’s presence on your premises, this route is open to us.
We understand the importance to you of the issues raised by Mr. Assange, and the strong public pressure in country. But we still have to resolve the situation on the ground, here in the U.K., in line with our legal obligations. We have endeavored to develop a joint text, which helps both meet your concerns, and presentational needs.
Then they sent several vans of police to the Ecuadoran embassy.
In short, the British are threatening to enter the Ecuadoran embassy, purportedly to carry out an extradition for a crime that Assange has not yet been charged with. Actually entering the mission would violate the Vienna diplomatic convention that holds that “The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.” Craig Murray reports [mirror] that the Brits have decided to do so, in response to American pressure.
I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.
The government’s calculation is that, unlike Ecuador, Britain is a strong enough power to deter such intrusions. This is yet another symptom of the “might is right” principle in international relations, in the era of the neo-conservative abandonment of the idea of the rule of international law.
I was never able to keep up with my goal of doing daily link posts last year. That said, there’s so much out today that I want to at least note that I can’t keep up with my own posting unless I dump all these here.
Steven Aftergood notes that your elected representatives are clarmoring for more leak prosecutions.
The EU just caved to US demands for EU passenger data. With Israel dictating no fly lists to Europe and Julian Assange’s lawyer being placed an an “inhibited” list with no explanation, this probably will lead to the US unilaterally dictating who can fly where in this world.
The Guardian asked pastor Terry Jones whether he bears any responsibility for the deaths he may cause if he insists on conducting another Quran burning. The Guardian doesn’t appear to have asked DOD, which is trying to convince Jones not to conduct the burning, why it doesn’t first take responsibility for ending the anti-Muslim abuses and the Quran burning committed by some troops.
In addition to the cooperation with Libya in exposing refugees in the UK, the documents liberated in Libya last year also describe how MI6 collaborated with Moammar Qaddafi to set up a radical mosque in some Western European country to use as bait for Islamic extremists.
Obama just issued an Executive Order basically saying that Syria and Iran should not be able to use tech to crack down on the opposition in the same we the US does.
Apparently we don’t have enough spies so now DOD is rolling out a new (actually, newly renamed) Clandestine Service.
Micah Zenko addresses the stupidity behind refusing to acknowledged our Third War–the drone one–publicly.
As Jack Goldsmith notes in Charlie Savage’s piece describing Obama’s increasing reliance on executive orders to do the work of business, “This is what Presidents do.” Congress has, with its capitulation to big money and greed, basically turned itself into a rump institution doing no more than channeling money into DC’s main industry. I think Obama, with his congressional majority in 2008, might have been able to begin to reverse that if he had actually used his majority rather than pissing it away in a bid for bipartisan crap rather than effective legislation. But he didn’t.
Evgeny Morozov explains why Anonymous’ structure and disparate goals has led to increased surveillance rather than less. I think his analysis suffers from the classic chicken-and-egg fallacy, and fails to account for the degree to which these choices are probably being dictated by FBI-directed double agents. But it worthwhile analysis.
File this news–that half of Iran’s super-tanker capacity is sitting anchored in the gulf with no place to go–in the “whatever could go wrong?” file. If we’re lucky it will involve nothing more than pirates and not fully-laden tankers sunk and draining into the gulf.
Jose Padilla’s mom has appealed her suit against Donald Rumsfeld for torture to SCOTUS. This case is the best set of facts–but the least empathetic plaintiff–of several suits trying to hold the government accountable for torturing American citizens.
In a post at the Document Exploitation blog, Douglas Cox reminds us of how Crazy Pete Hoekstra and Rick Santorum pressured the government to make all of Saddam’s documents–including a plan for a nuke–available on the InterToobz.
The drive towards this unprecedented doc dump arose in earnest in late 2005 and early 2006 when the continuing public debate over the justifications for the 2003 Iraq invasion turned towards the possibility of untapped evidence in the captured documents from Iraq. Could they contain, for instance, “smoking gun” evidence of links between Saddam and al-Qaeda? Stephen F. Hayes at the Weekly Standard, for example, had an impressive series of pieces during this period on his attempts to obtain access to some of the captured Iraqi documents both via the Pentagon press office and via repeated FOIA requests. He also covered growing calls in Congress for the release of the material. See in particular his “Where Are the Pentagon Papers?” in November 2005, “Down the Memory Hole: The Pentagon sits on the documents of the Saddam Hussein regime” in December, and both “Saddam’s Terror Training Camps: What the documents captured from the former Iraqi regime reveal — and why they should all be made public” and “Read All About It: Prewar Iraqi documents are of more than academic interest” from January 2006.
In March 2006, both then-Rep. Pete Hoekstra and then-Sen. Rick Santorum took action by introducing nearly identical bills in the House and Senate that required the “Director of National Intelligence to release documents captured in Afghanistan or Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
This led Gawker to make the obvious analogy to WikiLeaks.
Catholic scold Rick Santorum thinks Julian Assange is a “terrorist”—and ought to be prosecuted as such—for his role in releasing thousands of pages of classified documents on the internet. He ought to know: In 2006, Sen. Rick Santorum literally forced the U.S. government to dump thousands of pages of classified records concerning Iraq onto the web, including detailed plans for building a nuclear weapon, so that right-wing bloggers could search them for evidence of Saddam Hussein’s phantom WMD.
No less an authority than former Bush chief of staff Andrew Card said at the time that the release was stupid, and that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte had opposed Santorum’s push for release: “John Negroponte warned us that we don’t know what’s in these documents, so these are being put out at some risk, and that was a warning that he put out right when they first released the documents.”
ODNI of course took the documents down, but not before they were grabbed by anyone and everyone who may have been interested in designing a nuclear weapon.
A spokesman for Santorum did not respond to a request for comment.
Maybe now that he has effectively called himself a terrorist Santorum will start campaigning against Obama’s use of drones to target American citizens?
(Max Sawicky gets full credit for the post title.)