Royce Lamberth

Center for Democracy and Technology’s James Dempsey on “the Wall,” Then and Now

Remember “the wall” that used to separate intelligence from criminal investigations and was used as an excuse for intelligence agencies not sharing intelligence they were permitted to share before 9/11?

It was demolished in 2001 — when the PATRIOT Act explicitly permitted what had been permitted before, sharing of intelligence information with the FBI – and 2002 — when the FISA Court of Review overruled presiding FISA Judge Royce Lamberth’s efforts to sustain some Fourth Amendment protections in criminal investigations using minimization procedures.

Nevertheless, the specter of a wall that didn’t prevent the Intelligence Committee from discovering 9/11 rising again is one of the things lying behind PCLOB’s weak recommendations on back door searches in its report on Section 702.

Of particular note, that’s what the Center for Democracy and Technology’s James Dempsey cites in his squishy middle ground recommendation on back door searches.

It is imperative not to re-erect the wall limiting discovery and use of information vital to the national security, and nothing in the Board’s recommendations would do so. The constitutionality of the Section 702 program is based on the premise that there are limits on the retention, use and dissemination of the communications of U.S. persons collected under the program. The proper mix of limitations that would keep the program within constitutional bounds and acceptable to the American public may vary from agency to agency and under different circumstances. The discussion of queries and uses at the FBI in this Report is based on our understanding of current practices associated with the FBI’s receipt and use of Section 702 data. The evolution of those practices may merit a different balancing. For now, the use or dissemination of Section 702 data by the FBI for non-national security matters is apparently largely, if not entirely, hypothetical. The possibility, however, should be addressed before the question arises in a moment of perceived urgency. Any number of possible structures would provide heightened protection of U.S. persons consistent with the imperative to discover and use critical national security information already in the hands of the government.546 

546 See Presidential Policy Directive — Signals Intelligence Activities, Policy Directive 28, 2014 WL 187435, § 2, (Jan. 17, 2014) (limiting the use of signals intelligence collected in bulk to certain enumerated purposes), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/17/presidential-policy-directive-signals-intelligence-activities.  [my emphasis]

Dempsey situates his comments in the context of the “wall.” He then suggests there are two possible uses of back door searches: “national security matters,” and non-national security matters, with the latter being entirely hypothetical, according to what the FBI self-reported to PCLOB.

Thus, he’s mostly thinking in terms of “possible structures [that] would provide heightened protection of US. persons,” to stave off future problems. He points to President Obama’s PPD-28 as one possibility as a model.

But PPD-28 is laughably inapt! Not only does the passage in question address “bulk collection,” which according to the definition Obama uses and PCLOB has adopted has nothing to do with Section 702. “[T]he Board does not regard Section 702 as a ‘bulk’ collection program,” PCLOB wrote at multiple points in its report.

More troubling, the passage in PPD-28 Dempsey cites permits bulk collection for the following uses:

(1) espionage and other threats and activities directed by foreign powers or their intelligence services against the United States and its interests;

(2) threats to the United States and its interests from terrorism;

(3) threats to the United States and its interests from the development, possession, proliferation, or use of weapons of mass destruction;

(4) cybersecurity threats;

(5) threats to U.S. or allied Armed Forces or other U.S or allied personnel;

(6) transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion related to the other purposes named in this section;

Ultimately, this represents — or should — an expansion of permissible use of Section 702 data, because its discussion of  terrorism and cybersecurity do not distinguish between those with an international nexus and those without. And the discussion of transnational crime might subject any petty drug dealer selling dope from Mexico to foreign intelligence treatment.

That this is what passes for the mushy middle on PCLOB is especially curious given that Dempsey was one of the first PCLOB member to express concern about back door searches. He did so in November’s Section 215 hearing, and even suggested limiting back door searches to foreign intelligence purposes (which is not the standard for FBI, in any case) was inadequate. Nevertheless, in last week’s report, he backed only very weak protections for back door searches, and did so within the context of national security versus non-national security, and not intelligence versus crime.

Now, I don’t mean to pick on Dempsey exclusively — I’ll have a few more posts on this issue. And to be clear, Dempsey does not represent CDT at PCLOB; he’s there in his private capacity.

But I raised his affiliation with CDT because in that capacity, Dempsey was part of an amicus brief, along with representatives from ACLU, Center for National Security Studies, EPIC, and EFF, submitted in the In Re Sealed Case in 2002, in which the FISA Court of Review reversed Lamberth and permitted prosecutor involvement in FISA warrants. That brief strongly rebuts the kind of argument he adopted in last week’s PCLOB report.

Continue reading

Judge Lamberth Takes DOJ to Woodshed; DOJ Moves Peas Under Different Pods

CryingJusticeThere was an interesting, albeit little noticed, order issued about ten days ago in the somewhat below the radar case of Royer v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Royer is a federal inmate who has served about half of his 20 year sentence who in 2010 started bringing a mandamus action complaining that he was improperly classified as a “terrorist inmate” causing him to be wrongfully placed in Communication Management Unit (CMU) detention. The case has meandered along ever since.

Frankly, beyond that, the root case facts are not important to the January 15, 2014 Memorandum and Order issued by Judge Royce Lamberth in the case. Instead, Lamberth focused, like a white hot laser, on misconduct, obstreperousness and sheer incompetence on the part of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who represents the Defendant BOP in the case.

Here are some samples straight off of Royce Lamberth’s pen:

Plaintiff’s discovery requests were served on June 19, 2013. Defendant failed to respond on July 19, 2013, as required, nor did defendant file a motion for extension of time. Defendant’s first error, therefore, was egregious—arrogating to itself when it would respond to outstanding discovery.

and

Defendant’s fourth error was on August 5, 2013, when it filed its responses to interrogatories and produced a few additional documents. The answers to interrogatories contained no signature under oath, with untimely objections signed by counsel. Even novices to litigation know that answers to interrogatories must be signed under oath. Any attorney who practices before this Court should know that this Court does not tolerate discovery responses being filed on a “rolling” basis

Lamberth then goes on to grant the inmate plaintiff pretty much all his discovery motion and hammers the DOJ by telling plaintiff to submit its request for sanctions in the form of award of Continue reading

Why Has John Bogdan Not Yet Been Relieved of Command at Guantanamo?

Bogdan was clearly put out by having to host Special Envoy Clifford Sloan, the new leader of the U.S. State Department's Office of Guantanamo Closure when he visited on July 2. I'm guessing he's upset at the whole idea of closing Gitmo.

Bogdan was clearly put out by having to host Special Envoy Clifford Sloan, the new leader of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Guantanamo Closure, when he visited on July 2. I’m guessing he’s upset at the whole idea of closing Gitmo. (Defense Department photo)

It has been clear for some time that the current hunger strike crisis at Guantanamo can be laid squarely at the feet of John Bogdan, who heads the Joint Task Force Guantanamo Detention Group. In other words, he is the head of the guard force. As I noted in this post, Shaker Aamer’s attorney, in a statement to Andy Worthington, clearly blamed Bogdan for the actions that precipitated the hunger strike.

Yesterday, Judge Royce Lamberth dealt a severe setback to Bogdan, striking down one of his most needlessly abusive practices. From Charlie Savage at the New York Times:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the military to stop touching the groins of detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, when they are moved from their cells to speak with lawyers. The procedure had led some prisoners to stop meeting with or calling their lawyers.

In a 35-page opinion, Judge Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, called the searches — which included guards wedging their hands between the genitals and thighs of the detainees as many as four times when moving them to a meeting and back to their cells — “religiously and culturally abhorrent” to Muslims. He portrayed the procedure as unnecessary and intended to “actively discourage” meetings with lawyers.

He said the warden, Col. John Bogdan, must return to a longtime procedure in which guards shake the underwear of detainees by the band to dislodge any contraband, but do not to touch their buttocks or genitals.

Savage goes on:

He also directed the military to allow detainees who are weak from hunger strikes to meet with their lawyers in the same buildings in which they are housed, and to stop using new transport vans that have low roofs that detainees had said required them to be painfully crouched while shackled.

Julie Tate at the Washington Post has more:

Lawyers for detainees had argued that the motivation for the search procedure was not to enhance security but to isolate detainees from their attorneys in an effort to crush a growing hunger strike at the base. The hunger strike began in February as a reaction to guards searching detainees’ Korans. More than two-thirds of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo are participating in the protest, with more than 40 being force-fed.

Lamberth said the military’s action had to be judged in light of previous actions that limited the ability of attorneys to meet with their clients.

“As petitioners’ counsel correctly noted during this Court’s hearing, ‘[t]he government is a recidivist when it comes to denying counsel access,’ ” Lamberth wrote.

Recall that when public pressure finally got high enough over the abusive treatment of Bradley Manning at the Quantico Brig (where he was forced to stand naked) the government replaced the Brig Commander and then transferred Manning from Quantico to Leavenworth, where his treatment dramatically improved.

In the case of Guantanamo, many of the hunger-striking prisoners Bogdan is abusing (see this post from Marcy for more abusive practices) are already cleared for release, so the government should move quickly to release them to get them away from further abuse. However, considering Bogdan’s shaky background (I have mused that he may well have trained death squads in Iraq) and the public attention generated by the ICRC showing up at Guanantamo ahead of its scheduled date due to widespread knowledge of the latest round of abusive practices, it is clear that one of the most affirmative actions the US could take toward diffusing the situation would be to relieve Bogdan of command immediately.

Do Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel have the courage to the right thing and send Bogdan packing? I’m not holding my breath.

Update July 14: I am very embarrassed to have missed this important development Jason Leopold reported on May 23:

Military attorneys representing former CIA captives detained in a top secret camp at Guantanamo have called on Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to examine whether the head of the prison’s guard force is fit for command.

Col. John Bogdan, the commander of Guantanamo’s Joint Detention Group, has been singled out by the defense lawyers for revamping dormant policies, such as inspections of Qurans and genital patdowns, that gave rise to a hunger strike, now entering its fourth month.

“Although we represent so-called ‘high value detainees, many of our concerns relate to the treatment of all prisoners, to include men whose internment appears to be indefinite” states a 13-page letter and signed by nineteen attorneys, including several who represent self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the alleged architect behind the USS Cole bombing, sent to Hagel on Monday. “There has been a serious degradation in the quality of life for detainees in Guantanamo Bay over the past year. This change appears to have coincided with the arrival of the new Joint Detention Group Commander, Col. John V. Bogdan.”

The letter was also reported on by MSNBC, where their article also cited a Seton Hall study and made the suggestion that Bogdan has perjured himself.

The Torture That Underlies FISA Court’s “Special Needs” Decisions

At the core of the expanding dragnet approved in secret by the FISA Court, Eric Lichtblau explained, is the application of “special needs” to “track” terrorists.

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. [my emphasis]

That’s actually not entirely secret. We see the beginnings of the process in the 2002 In Re Sealed Case decision by the FISC Court of Review, which thwarted FISA Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth’s attempt to limit how much FISA information got shared for criminal prosecutions. In approving the “significant purpose” language passed in the PATRIOT Act which made it far easier for the government to use FISA information to justify criminal investigations, the decision pointed to the post-9/11 threat of terrorism to justify FISA as a special needs program (though as I lay out in this post, they also pointed to the judicial review and specificity of FISA to deem it constitutional, which should have presented problems for the dragnet programs that followed).

FISA’s general programmatic purpose, to protect the nation against terrorists and espionage threats directed by foreign powers, has from its outset been distinguishable from “ordinary crime control.” After the events of September 11, 2001, though, it is hard to imagine greater emergencies facing Americans than those experienced on that date.

We acknowledge, however, that the constitutional question presented by this case–whether Congress’s disapproval of the primary purpose test is consistent with the Fourth Amendment–has no definitive jurisprudential answer. The Supreme Court’s special needs cases involve random stops (seizures) not electronic searches. In one sense, they can be thought of as a greater encroachment into personal privacy because they are not based on any particular suspicion. On the other hand, wiretapping is a good deal more intrusive than an automobile stop accompanied by questioning.

Although the Court in City of Indianapolis cautioned that the threat to society is not dispositive in determining whether a search or seizure is reasonable, it certainly remains a crucial factor. Our case may well involve the most serious threat our country faces. Even without taking into account the President’s inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance, we think the procedures and government showings required under FISA, if they do not meet the minimum Fourth Amendment warrant standards, certainly come close. We, therefore, believe firmly, applying the balancing test drawn from Keith, that FISA as amended is constitutional because the surveillances it authorizes are reasonable. [my emphasis]

Even in one of the only two FISA opinions (this from the Court of Review) that we’ve seen, then, the courts used the urgent threat of terrorism post-9/11 to justify searches that they found to be very close constitutional questions.

Terrorism was “the most serious threat” our country faces, the argument went, so this seeming violation of the Fourth Amendment was nevertheless reasonable.

Or at least close, a per curium panel including longtime FISA foe Laurence Silberman argued.

And in fact, this argument has always been built into the larger dragnet programs. Jack Goldsmith’s 2004 memo on the illegal program describes how it is premised on intelligence — gathered largely from interrogations of al Qaeda operatives — showing al Qaeda wants to attack in the United States.

As explained in more detail below, since the inception of [the program] intelligence from various sources (particularly from interrogations of detained al Qaeda operatives) has provided a continuing flow of information indicating that al Qaeda has had, and continues to have, multiple redundant plans for executing further attacks within the United States. Continue reading

What Happened to that Third Branch Oversight?

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is pissed.

After spending 2002 to 2006 as Chief Judge of the FISA Court struggling to keep parts of the American legal system walled off from a rogue surveillance program, she read the classified account the NSA’s Inspector General wrote of her efforts. And while that report does say Kollar-Kotelly was the only one who managed to sneak a peek at a Presidential Authorization authorizing the illegal program, she doesn’t believe it reflects the several efforts she made to reel in the program.

“In my view, that draft report contains major omissions, and some inaccuracies, regarding the actions I took as Presiding Judge of the FISC and my interactions with Executive Branch officials,” Kollar-Kotelly said in a statement to The Post.

[snip]

Kollar-Kotelly disputed the NSA report’s suggestion of a fairly high level of coordination between the court and the NSA and Justice in 2004 to re-create certain authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that created the court in response to abuses of domestic surveillance in the 1960s and 1970s.

“That is incorrect,” she said. “I participated in a process of adjudication, not ‘coordination’ with the executive branch. The discussions I had with executive branch officials were in most respects typical of how I and other district court judges entertain applications for criminal wiretaps under Title III, where issues are discussed ex parte.”

The WaPo story reporting on her objections makes no mention of the role one FISC law clerk — who got briefed into the program before any of the other FISC judges — played in this process, something I’m pretty curious about.

It does, however, recall two incidents where Kollar-Kotelly took measures to crack down on the illegal program, which Carol Leonnig reported back in 2006.

Both [Kollar-Kotelly and her predecessor Royce Lamberth] expressed concern to senior officials that the president’s program, if ever made public and challenged in court, ran a significant risk of being declared unconstitutional, according to sources familiar with their actions. Yet the judges believed they did not have the authority to rule on the president’s power to order the eavesdropping, government sources said, and focused instead on protecting the integrity of the FISA process.

[snip]

In 2004, [DOJ Office of Intelligence Policy and Review Counsel James] Baker warned Kollar-Kotelly he had a problem with [a "federal screening system that the judges had insisted upon to shield the court from tainted information"]. He had concluded that the NSA was not providing him with a complete and updated list of the people it had monitored, so Justice could not definitively know — and could not alert the court — if it was seeking FISA warrants for people already spied on, government officials said.

Kollar-Kotelly complained to then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, and her concerns led to a temporary suspension of the program. The judge required that high-level Justice officials certify the information was complete — or face possible perjury charges.

In 2005, Baker learned that at least one government application for a FISA warrant probably contained NSA information that was not made clear to the judges, the government officials said. Some administration officials explained to Kollar-Kotelly that a low-level Defense Department employee unfamiliar with court disclosure procedures had made a mistake.

Though the NSA IG Report mentions violations that occurred before 2003, it makes no mention of these violations.

What good is an IG Report that gives no idea of how often and persistent violations are?

That said, today’s WaPo story provides this as the solution to our distorted view of the FISA Court’s role in rubber-stamping this massive dragnet.

A former senior Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity, said he believes the government should consider releasing declassified summaries of relevant opinions.

“I think it would help” quell the “furor” raised by the recent disclosures, he said. “In this current environment, you may have to lean forward a little more in declassifying stuff than you otherwise would. You might be able to prepare reasonable summaries that would be helpful to the American people.”

Back in 2006, Leonnig noted that the judges didn’t believe they had the authority to intervene to stop the dragnet. So what good does a ruling — even two as broad and stunning as the ones that used Pen Registers and Business Records to collect the contact records of all Americans — do to depict the role the Court is in?

The Administration keeps pointing to this narrowly authorized court as real court review. But that’s not what it is. And until we have a better sense of how that manifested in the past (and continues to — I’ll bet you a quarter that they’ve moved the Internet data mining to some area outside of court purview), we’re not going to understand how to provide real oversight to this dragnet.

We’d be far better off having the FISC provide its own history of these surveillance programs.

Judge Lamberth Upholds Gitmo Detainees’ Right to Counsel

I’m a bit cranky, so reading this scathing opinion from Royce Lamberth rejecting the government’s effort to impose a new Memorandum of Understanding concerning Gitmo detainees’ right to counsel was just the ticket. The operative ruling reads,

The court, whose duty it is to secure an individual’s liberty from unauthorized and illegal Executive confinement, cannot now tell a prisoner that he must beg leave of the Executive’s grace before the Court will involve itself. The very notion offense the separation-of-powers principles and our constitutional scheme.

But the part where Lamberth lists the differences between the existing Protective Order and the MOU the government proposed.

For example, the Protective Order assumes that counsel for the detainees have a “need to know,” which allows them to view classified information in their own and related Guantanamo cases. Counsel for detainees are also specifically allowed to discuss with each other relevant information, including classified information, “to the extent necessary for the effective representation of their clients. And, the Protective Order assures that counsel have continuing access to certain classified information, including their own work-product.

The MOU, on the other hand, strip counsel of their “need to know” designations, and explicitly denies counsel access to all classified documents or information which counsel had “previously obtained or created” in pursuit of a detainee’s habeas petition. Counsel can obtain access to their own classified work product only if they can justify their need for such information to the Government. “Need to know” determinations for this and all other classified information would be made by the Department of Defense Office of General Counsel (DoD OGC), in consultation with the pertinent classification authorities within DoD and other agencies. However, there is no assurance that such determinations will be made in a timely manner. As this Court is keenly aware from experience, the inter-agency process of classification review can stretch on for months. It is very likely that this provision would result in lengthy, needly and possibly oppressive delays. It would also require counsel to divulge some analysis and strategy to their adversary merely to obtain their past work-product.

[snip]

While this Court is empowered to enforce the Protective Order, all “disputes regarding the applicability, interpretation, enforcement, compliance with or violations of” the MOU are given to the “final and unreviewable discretion of the Commander, Commander, Joint Task Force-Guantanamo Bay” (JTF-GTMO). The MOU further gives the JTF-GTMO Commander complete “authority and discretion” over counsels’ access to classified information and to detainees, including in-person visits and written communications. Apparently, the MOU also gives the Government to unilaterally modify its terms.

[snip]

Unlike the Protective Order, which repeatedly states that the Government may not unreasonably withhold approval of matters within its discretion, the MOU places no such reasonableness requirement on the Commander of JTF-GTMO. Because the MOU does not come into effect until countersigned by the Commander at JTF-GTMO, the Commander could presumably refuse to sign the MOU, leaving a detainee in the lurch without access to counsel. The MOU also states that both the “operational needs and logistical constraints” at Guantanamo as well as the “requirements for ongoing military commissions, periodic review boards, and habeas litigation” will be prioritized over counsel-access. This provision is particularly troubling as it places a detainees’ access to counsel, and their constitutional right to access the courts, in a subordinate position to whatever the military commander of Guantanamo sees as a logistical constraint. [citations removed]

This is a better summary of all the potential abuses in the new MOU than any I’ve seen in commentary on this issue. Rather than treating the government as an entity that has always acted in good faith in the history of Gitmo litigation (and other counterterrorism cases), Lamberth lays out all the big loopholes that the government would use to infringe on habeas corpus.

It’s worth a read. Cause I’m sure the government will appeal, and who knows what this will look like after someone like Janice Rogers Brown gets ahold of it.

Using Domestic Surveillance to Get Rapists to Spy for America

The reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act focused a lot of attention on the fact that the Administration is interpreting the phrase “relevant to an authorized [intelligence] investigation” in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act very broadly. As Ron Wyden and Mark Udall made clear, the government claims that phrase gives it the authority to collect business records on completely innocent people who have no claimed tie to terrorism.

There’s something that’s been haunting me since the PATRIOT reauthorization about how the government has defined intelligence investigations in the past. It has to do with Ted Olson’s claim–during the In Re Sealed Case appeal in 2002–that the government ought to be able to use FISA to investigate potential crimes so as to use the threat of prosecuting those crimes to recruit spies (and, I’d suggest, informants). When Olson made that claim, even Laurence Silberman (!) was skeptical. Silberman tried to think of a crime that could have no imaginable application in an intelligence investigation, and ultimately came up with rape. But Olson argued the threat of a rape prosecution might help the Feds convince a rapist to “help us.”

OLSON: And it seems to me, if anything, it illustrates the position that we’re taking about here. That, Judge Silberman, makes it clear that to the extent a FISA-approved surveillance uncovers information that’s totally unrelated — let’s say, that a person who is under surveillance has also engaged in some illegal conduct, cheating –

JUDGE LEAVY: Income tax.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: Income tax. What we keep going back to is practically all of this information might in some ways relate to the planning of a terrorist act or facilitation of it.

JUDGE SILBERMAN: Try rape. That’s unlikely to have a foreign intelligence component.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: It’s unlikely, but you could go to that individual and say we’ve got this information and we’re prosecuting and you might be able to help us. I don’t want to foreclose that.

JUDGE SILBERMAN: It’s a stretch.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: It is a stretch but it’s not impossible either. [my emphasis]

Olson went on to claim that only personal revenge in the guise of an intelligence investigation should be foreclosed as an improper use of FISA.

JUDGE SILBERMAN: In your brief you suggested only that the face of the application indicated something was wrong. I don’t quite understand what would be wrong though. The face of the application, suppose the face of the application indicated a desire to use foreign surveillance to determine strictly a domestic crime, that would be — but then you wouldn’t have an agent, you wouldn’t have an agency. You must have some substantive requirement here if significant purpose is given its literal meaning, you must have some logic to the interpretation of that section which falls outside of the interpretation of an agent of a foreign power.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: And I suppose if the application itself revealed that there was a purpose to take personal advantage of someone who might be the subject of an investigation, to blackmail that person, or if that person had a domestic relationship and that person was seeing another person’s spouse or something like that, if that would be the test on the face of things. In other words, I’m suggesting that the standard is relatively high for the very reason that it’s difficult for the judiciary to evaluate and secondguess what a high level executive branch person attempting to fight terrorism is attempting to do.

This is not just Ted Olson speaking extemporaneously. The government’s appeal actually makes its plan to use FISA-collected information to recruit spies (and informants), in the name of an intelligence investigation, explicit:

Although “foreign intelligence information” must be relevant or necessary to “protect” against the specified threats, the statutory definition does not limit how the government may use the information to achieve that protection. In other words, the definition does not discriminate between protection through diplomatic, economic, military, or law enforcement efforts, other than to require that those efforts be “lawful.” 50 U.S.C. 1806(a), 1825(a). Thus, for example, where information is relevant or necessary to recruit a foreign spy or terrorist as a double agent, that information is “foreign intelligence information” if the recruitment effort will “protect against” espionage or terrorism.

[snip]

Whether the government intends to prosecute a foreign spy or recruit him as a double agent (or use the threat of the former to accomplish the latter), the investigation will often be long range, involve the interrelation of various sources and types of information, and present unusual difficulties because of the special training and support available to foreign enemies of this country. [my emphasis]

Ultimately, the FISA Court of Review rejected this broad claim (though without discounting the possibility of using FISA to get dirt to use to recruit spies and informants explicitly).

The government claims that even prosecutions of non-foreign intelligence crimes are consistent with a purpose of gaining foreign intelligence information so long as the government’s objective is to stop espionage or terrorism by putting an agent of a foreign power in prison. That interpretation transgresses the original FISA. It will be recalled that Congress intended section 1804(a)(7)(B) to prevent the government from targeting a foreign agent when its “true purpose” was to gain non-foreign intelligence information–such as evidence of ordinary crimes or scandals. See supra at p.14. (If the government inadvertently came upon evidence of ordinary crimes, FISA provided for the transmission of that evidence to the proper authority. 50 U.S.C. 1801(h)(3).) It can be argued, however, that by providing that an application is to be granted if the government has only a “significant purpose” of gaining foreign intelligence information, the Patriot Act allows the government to have a primary objective of prosecuting an agent for a non-foreign intelligence crime. Yet we think that would be an anomalous reading of the amendment. For we see not the slightest indication that Congress meant to give that power to the Executive Branch. Accordingly, the manifestation of such a purpose, it seems to us, would continue to disqualify an application. That is not to deny that ordinary crimes might be inextricably intertwined with foreign intelligence crimes. For example, if a group of international terrorists were to engage in bank robberies in order to finance the manufacture of a bomb, evidence of the bank robbery should be treated just as evidence of the terrorist act itself. But the FISA process cannot be used as a device to investigate wholly unrelated ordinary crimes. [my emphasis]

Understand what this exchange meant in 2002: the government claimed that it could use FISA to collect information on people that they could then use to persuade those people to become spies or informants. That all happened in the context of broadened grand jury information sharing under PATRIOT Act. Indeed, the FISA application in question was submitted at almost exactly the same time as OLC wrote a still-secret opinion interpreting an “implied exception” to limits on grand jury information sharing for intelligence purposes.

[OLC] has concluded that, despite statutory restrictions upon the use of Title III wiretap information and restrictions on the use of grand jury information under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), the President has an inherent constitutional authority to receive all foreign intelligence information in the hands of the government necessary for him to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities and that statutes and rules should be understood to include an implied exception so as not to interfere with that authority. See Memorandum for the Deputy Attorney General from Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: Effect of the Patriot Act on Disclosure to the President and Other Federal Officials of Grand Jury and Title III Information Relating to National Security and Foreign Affairs 1 (July 22, 2002);

It seems possible the government was hoping to take grand jury allegations, use FISA to investigate them, and in turn use what they found to recruit spies and informants. The one limit–and it is a significant one–is that the government would first have to make a plausible argument that the potential target in question was an agent of a foreign power.

Of course, at precisely that same time–and apparently unbeknownst to Ted Olson (I have emailed Olson on this point but he did not respond)–the government was using new data mining and network analysis approaches to establish claimed ties between Americans and al Qaeda. And the bureaucracy Royce Lamberth and James Baker had implemented to prevent such claimed ties to form the basis for FISA applications–an OIPR chaperone for all FISA applications–was rejected by the FISCR in this case. So while FISA required the government show a tie between a target and a foreign power, there was little to prevent the government from using its nifty new data mining to establish that claim. And remember, NSA twice explicitly chose not to use available means to protect Americans’ privacy as it developed these data mining programs; it made sure it’d find stuff on Americans.

(Interesting trivia? Olson used the phrase “lawful” to describe the limits on what FISA allows the President to do at least 6 times in that hearing.)

Moreover, while the FISCR ruling held (sort of–but probably not strongly enough that John Yoo couldn’t find a way around it) that the government couldn’t use FISA to gather dirt to turn people into spies and informants, it never actually argued the government couldn’t use other surveillance tools, including the PATRIOT Act, to dig up dirt to use to recruit spies and informants, at least not in this FISCR ruling. The limit on using FISA for such a purpose came from court precedents like Keith, not any apparent squeamishness about using government surveillance to dig up dirt to recruit spies.

The Senate Intelligence Committee presumably had what was supposed to be a meeting on the government’s very broad interpretation of data it considers “relevant to an authorized [intelligence] investigation” today. We know that one of the concerns is that the government claims it can use Section 215 to collect information on people with no ties to terrorism. Ted Olson’s claim we could use FISA to recruit informants make me wonder how they’re using the information they collect on people with no ties to terrorism. After all, the ability to collect bank records on someone–or geolocation–might provide an interesting evidence with which to embarrass them into becoming an informant.

Royce Lamberth: Let’s Make a Deal

Royce Lamberth appears to be having a split the baby moment in the Richard Horn suit.

As you recall, back in the Clinton era, a DEA official sued the government for illegal spying on him. He alleged that State and CIA conspired to thwart his efforts to cooperate with the Burmese government on drug eradication by spying on him and using information collected to trump up reasons to get him ousted from his post. The suit had been drawing on for years, most recently through the improper invocation of state secrets. Judge Royce Lamberth went ballistic last year when he discovered the CIA and DOJ had been lying to sustain their invocation of state secrets. As predicted, in response DOJ decided to settle the suit, not least because any decision on this case was going to imperil their effort to hide behind state secret to get away with illegally wiretapping al-Haramain. Since last fall, Lamberth has been deliberating whether to let them settle the suit, and/or whether he should go on with investigations into the government’s misconduct in the suit itself.

As Josh Gerstein reports, Lamberth has proposed an implicit deal with the government: if it will treat the case as it would have under Eric Holder’s new state secrets policy, he will allow the government to settle. His proposed deal is this:

  • Al-Haramain will be permitted to submit their amicus curiae brief opposing the vacating of Lamberth’s earlier opinion in the suit, but he will allow the settlement anyway (see this post for more background on the issue)
  • Horn will get his $3 million settlement and taxpayers will, as they did with the Hatfill settlement, pay to make up for the misconduct of government officials
  • DOJ will refer the misconduct of the CIA and DOJ in this case to the Inspectors General of those agencies
  • DOJ will also alert Congress to details of the case, in particular regarding “disturbing evidence” from a sealed motion “indicating that misconduct occurred in the Inspector General’s Offices at both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency”

Aside from the injustice (which Lamberth is bugged about, but not bugged enough to refuse the settlement) that taxpayers have to pay because government officials engaged in misconduct, this proposition will pretty much guarantee that the government gets away with its scheme to avoid legal consequences by invoking state secrets.

Plus, there’s a tremendous level of irony here. Some of the documents over which the government had invoked state secrets were IG Reports. Yet Lamberth’s proposal to make this right is to do more IG Reports? And while the CIA Inspector Generals has turned over at least twice since the misconduct in question, Lamberth is literally proposing that having CIA’s Inspector General investigate wrongdoing by CIA’s Inspector General will somehow make this right.

Update: I’ve been informed that there is a practice of having other IGs investigate when an agency’s IG is accused of misconduct.

DOJ Circumvents Judge Walker; Attempts To Further Correct Previous Falsities

In what can only be described as a curious filing, the US Government, through the DOJ has submitted a pleading to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the previously terminated al-Haramain appeal originally filed in 2006. In this appeal, on November 16, 2007, the 9th generally upheld the government’s state secrets assertion, but remanded the case to Judge Walker “to consider whether FISA preempts the state secrets privilege and for any proceedings collateral to that determination.” (Walker has so ruled and those proceedings are indeed ongoing and awaiting the Court’s decision of Plaintiffs’ Motion For Summary Judgment). The 9th Circuit’s mandate issued on January 16, 2008.

The new submission filed in the 9th Circuit is nothing short of a brazen attempt to subvert Judge Walker’s trial court authority and jurisdiction by an end run, and is entitled “NOTICE OF LODGING OF IN CAMERA, EX PARTE DECLARATION OF DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE”

The Government hereby respectfully notifies the Court and counsel that it is lodging today with the Court Security Officer copies of an in camera, ex parte classified declaration, dated November 8, 2009, of the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair.

We are making the lodging because an issue arose regarding an inaccuracy in an earlier Government submission in the district court that was part of the record before this Court in an interlocutory appeal in this matter bearing the above caption. The case has been remanded to the district court and an appeal is no longer pending before this Court. The lodging does not call for any action by this Court but is intended to ensure that this Court is informed of the earlier inaccuracy and has available to it classified details with respect to the issue. The Government has informed the district court of the issue, has offered to make available to that court additional classified details in camera, ex parte, and is informing that court that the Government is making the lodging in this Court.

Here is the document. Now the government had just submitted an unclassified declaration of ODNI Blair to the trial court in September, and references said declaration in their new little filing, but does not seem to attach it. Instead, they submit a new classified ex parte declaration from Blair.

Because the inaccuracy was in an earlier Government submission that was part of the record when the case came before this Court on interlocutory appeal, we are today lodging with the Court Security Officer copies of an in camera, ex parte classified declaration, dated November 8, 2009, of Director of National Intelligence Blair. That declaration provides additional classified information regarding the matter. As noted, the lodging ensures that this Court is informed of the issue and has available to it classified details concerning the issue.

Well now, it would seem that Jon Eisenberg has struck a raw nerve with his putative entry into the Horn v. Huddle case as an amicicus urging Royce Lamberth to leave his opinions in place and in force. After having been blistered by Continue reading

Obama DOJ Continues To FlimFlam Judge Lamberth On State Secrets

The state secrets doctrine was born on the wings of fraud and lies by the US government in the case of US v. Reynolds in 1953. As Congress struggles to rein in the unbridled use of the doctrine to cover up illegality by the Executive Branch (see here, here and here), it is a good idea to keep focus on just how addicted the Executive Branch has become to this unitary ability to quash inquiry into their malfeasance.

It took over four decades for the outright lie in Reynolds to surface and be exposed. The government was well on their way to covering up their similar dishonesty in Horn v. Huddle for decades, if not eternity, when a relentless plaintiff was finally able to demonstrate to Judge Royce Lamberth the fraud being perpetrated upon the court, nearly a decade after the original state secrets assertion. After giving the government multiple opportunities to come clean, Judge Lamberth blistered the DOJ with an opinion literally finding their acts a fraud upon the court.

After being exposed on the record by Judge Lamberth, the government suddenly decided to settle with the plaintiff, with a non-disclosure and no admission of wrongdoing agreement of course, and then moved the court to vacate its rulings against them. The DOJ literally wants to erase the record of their fraud.

But not everybody is quite so excited about the thought of the DOJ wiping the record of their time worn proclivity to dishonesty in state secrets assertions. It important for there to be such a record, with written opinions of the court behind it, because the government is still out there seeking to shirk accountability for illegality and Constitutional malfeasance in critically important cases such as al-Haramain and Jeppesen.

In this regard, the attorney for al-Haramain, Jon Eisenberg, has just taken the extraordinary step of seeking leave to file an amicus brief to Judge Lamberth in the Horn v. Huddle case objecting to the government’s attempt to vacate the court’s opinions. The amicus filing by Eisenberg is brief, but a thing of beauty. And he nails the government for continuing dishonesty with the court by pointing out Continue reading

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