Journalist Records from the “Last Five Years”

Some weeks ago, there was some concern raised by DOJ’s response to an October 10, 2017 letter from Ron Wyden, written in the wake of an August Jeff Sessions press conference asking how many times DOJ has seized journalists’ records.

  1. For each of the past five years, how many times has DOJ used subpoenas, search warrants, national security letters, or any other form of legal process authorized by a court to target members of the news media in the United States and American journalists abroad to seek their (a) communications records, (b) geo-location information, or (c) the content of their communications? Please provide statistics for each form of legal process.
  2. Has DOJ revised the 2015 regulations, or made any other changes to internal procedures governing investigations of journalists since January 20, 2017? If yes, please provide me with a copy.

In response, in a letter claiming to provide all the “requests for information from January 2012 to the present,” DOJ pointed to the 2013 collection of AP records and the 2014 subpoena of James Risen. It also claimed,

The Federal Bureau of Investigation does not currently use national security letters to advance media leak investigations.

DOJ’s letter was written after Ali Watkins received notice, on February 13, that her phone and email records had been seized in the investigation of James Wolfe. It also comes after DOJ subpoenaed the Twitter information of Dissent Doe and Popehat last spring in conjunction with DOJ’s dumb persecution of Justin Shafer, both of whom have websites providing original content.

Whether DOJ has gotten more aggressive about seizing reporters’ phone records or content is a question I’m unsurprisingly very interested in.

All that said, DOJ may simply be playing word games, at least thus far.

Note, first of all, that Wyden only asked for the “past five years.” While DOJ claimed to present records spanning into the present, had DOJ responded to the actual request, it might have only presented past requests. Additionally, if Watkins got 90 day notice of her records being seized, the request itself would have taken place after the Wyden request.

While more specious, the May 2017 Twitter subpoena may have been deemed to be the same year as Wyden’s request.

Note three other details. First, Wyden’s letter (though not DOJ’s response) describes “targeting” journalists. Obviously, that word has a specific meaning in the context of surveillance, and I could see DOJ claiming that the Shafer investigation, for example, targeted Shafer, not his Tweeps.

Additionally, Wyden only asks about US news media and US journalists overseas. That’s not going to include an obvious target (whether or not DOJ still considers him a publisher): Julian Assange, an Australian publisher living in what counts as Ecuadoran territory.

Finally, note that DOJ specifies they don’t use NSLs for “media leak investigations.” That, too, has a specific meaning, one that probably doesn’t include the Shafer investigation on trumped up cyberstalking charges.

The Watkins case, especially, demands explanation. But finding it might just require rewording the questions.

60 replies
        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Yes, as peeps means people.

          But these days, some could be bots.

          Which makes it important to follow the followers in a leak investigation. A leaker, via carefully crafted and coded tweets may actually be dumping ‘stuff’ to bots.

          Ex: a tweet (or more likely a set of tweets) may be telling a bot a dropbox location.

          Another set may be telling the bot a decryption key for the data at the dropbox.

  1. CaliLawyer says:

    A bit off-topic, but I am curious if any of the natsec lawyers who follow Marcy know whether or not the UK will require the US to unseal his sealed indictment as part of the extradition process. If Greenwald’s right that Assange is about to be booted from the embassy, this could be a very interesting couple of weeks. I’m also curious if DOJ would at least temporarily hold off any superseding Assange indictments for that reason.

    • bmaz says:

      I would be much obliged if you could tell me what “sealed indictment” you are referring to and why you, for one second, think it really exists. Can you do that? Because I would really love to know. I too have “sources”, and have never, ever, found one that thought the Assangettes little claim of “sealed indictment” was anything more than self promoting horseshit. And I have checked them relentlessly over the years.

      If you know something different, do tell. If there is one, it is since the Trump DOJ took over, and it would have to be based on the outside of traditional First Amendment activity that Assange/WL engaged in as to proactively conspiring to acquire and publish slanted political information to affirmatively affect an election in the United States. Although I highly doubt the politically run Trump DOJ would indict that conduct.

      So, do tell what you have. Otherwise, yammering about “sealed indictments” is not just silly, it is disingenuous.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      We do not know for certain, but if true, why would Stratfor have the info? DOJ leak?

      In the email, sent to Stratfor intelligence analysts on January 26 last year [2011], the company’s vice-president for intelligence, Fred Burton, responded to a media report concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks. He wrote: “We have a sealed indictment on Assange.”

      Complicating the situation is the fact that Assange was granted Ecuadorean citizenship last December [2017].

  2. Rapier says:

    Is it a distinction without a difference to suggest that the DOJ, via the FBI  (and not to mention the NSA and the menagerie of other spook agencies) surely collects the “records” of many people including journalists, without the slightest intention of  ever using the information in the prosecution of a court case.

    Sort of like Google except for no specific purpose like profit. Instead for……… what? Well you don’t know do you but you can guess, in some daydreamed worst case scenario.  This is an overwhelming yet subtle current which must surely shape our media world.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Bet this ties to FB, SCL, CA, AIQ.

      “It seems like this is a database with pretty much every US citizen in it,” says Troia, who is the founder of his own New York-based security company, Night Lion Security. Troia notes that almost every person he’s searched for in the database, he’s found. And when WIRED asked him to find records for a list of 10 specific people in the database, he very quickly found six of them. “I don’t know where the data is coming from, but it’s one of the most comprehensive collections I’ve ever seen,” he says.

      • bmaz says:

        Again, state your basis for this conspiratorial shit that goes WAY beyond even the supposition in your linked article.

        Explain to regular people here why they should not think you are completely full of shit.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          The Exactis database would be extremely useful for a targeted Facebook operation.

          In particular, to feed misinformation and propaganda to targeted voters.

  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation does not currently use national security letters to advance media leak investigations.

    [But they may use NSLs to follow the followers]

    [that would be totally logical]

  4. Trip says:

    The only source so far on Assange being kicked out this week is RT, isn’t it?

    If he gets kicked out and nothing happens, it’ll be the biggest disappointment in his life, I think.

    • bmaz says:

      These sting programs are always planned. Maybe not at the “Chief” level, but always at the head of the vice squad level. Is it notable that they ran one on a Stormy show? Sure. But bigger city PD’s do run this crap regularly even without a Stormy in town.

    • greengiant says:

      Emails are the most easiest things in the world to spoof. Presume it is a false flag trap to disrupt Avenatti until proven otherwise.

  5. CaliLawyer says:

    Assange clearly believes there is. That’s the whole reason he’s been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy all these years. It seems highly likely there is, regardless of what you think are the merits. It could include election-related activity as well, denpending on how it’s been amended. So yeah, you’re clearly in the ball with this one.

    • bmaz says:


      Good one.

      And, by the way, it is not just what “I” think of the merits, it is what EVERY competent court of jurisdiction in Sweden and the UK, all the way up to their top, Supreme, courts have, repeatedly and universally, found. And I have paid attention from day one, including talking to people in the UK and Sweden, and studying their respective laws and treaties.

      So, please, spare me the typical internet Assange horse manure. You’ll have to do better than that crap here.

      Also, tell me, in what other cases do you think putatively established, and repeatedly so found, even at the highest levels of government court, rape victims should be blithely blown off and disregarded as to a day in court against the purported rapist? In what other cases, other than the pasty ass creep Assange, do you feel that way? Are there a lot of others??

      • CaliLawyer says:

        Assange said over and over again that he was afraid of being extradited to the US. He claimed the Swedish case was just a pretext to extradite him to the US. Stop with the frothy posts and get back on your meds, maybe? The Swedish case is long gone and he’s still hiding out.

        • bmaz says:

          Who gives a shit what that psycho rapey ass fuckhead says? And, no, you have proven you really don’t, and likely never did, understand the true nature of the case in Sweden vis a vis the EU and UK. There were never formal charges because Swedish criminal law requires the putative defendant to actually be within the jurisdiction of Sweden and their courts to be formally charged.

          That is precisely why Assange’s bleating horseshit about “come interview me here in my little broom closet” was a beyond idiotic ruse. Even when Ng and Sweden agreed to do that, it would NOT have complied with the jurisdiction and “interview” contemplated by Swedish law. It was all crap and a total ruse.

          And, just FYI, one set of charges is still within the statute of limitations and capable of being refiled; irrespective of the fact that slimy dirtbag Assange hid out beyond the statute on the other set and victim. And the Swedish Prosecutorial Authority has always made clear they could and might refile through 2020 when the second statute expires.

          So, please, don’t tell me how long that is all “gone”, because you clearly don’t know the facts and pertinent law for squat.

          • Trip says:

            I think “psycho rapey ass fuckhead” wins the official pottymouth award. Sorry @Marcy. Blowjob had a good run, though. Prepare to hand over your statue.

  6. Rusharuse says:

    Shine on you crazy shiny thing

    Audio soup! Stall investigation into Ivana divorce papers, mention Kasowitz, discuss rally appearance with Charity recipient Pam Bondi, order coke (but no triple cheeseburger and mega fries?), set up dirt purchase from the “Pecker”, drop-in/insert/overdub the word ‘Weisselberg”, get Trump on record saying the word “cash”, crash edit to teaser for next instalment –  “Hello Don, how are you?

    Shiny? Blindingly so! But, not all shiny is bad, shiny can be good, knives are shiny (and sharp)!

  7. Peterr says:

    Wyden might also want to ask what their definition of “journalist” is. Does it include bloggers like Dissent Doe, Popehat, and our own Marcy? If they bracket out bloggers (“They aren’t REAL journalists”), that’s one way to cut down on the number of subpoenas et al. issued against journalists.

  8. CaliLawyer says:

    I found the Assange reference interesting because in hindsight it seems likely that he hasn’t been passively receiving covert information like a traditional journalist. If he has been actively involved with theft there could well be reasons to charge him. Only Assange knows everything Assange has done.

    • CaliLawyer says:

      Assange and Manafort seem to be facing the same terrifying delimma re: life in prison and something more final.

      • Rusharuse says:

        Assange along with Putin and Comey won the Whitehouse for Trump. If not for those three Don would still be giving lectures at Trump U. and his conga-line of cabinet assholes would be selling hotdogs at the local fair. Republicans owe Assange a trip to Washington to dine on barbecued shrimp and cold Fosters Lager. Julian has made his mark on America, another successful Aussie expat up there with Greg Norman, Paul Hogan, Hugh Jackman and that guy at Axios.

  9. Charlie says:

    On the BBC website today, journalist Jon Sopel, in an article on gaslighting, brings up DJT’s declaration that he foresaw the result of the BREXIT referendum the day before it happened when he arrived at Turnberry, except that he arrived in Scotland the day after. Sopel then follows on with the disappearance from the WH transcript where VD says he wanted DJT to win the election. Am now wondering if DJT will phone PM May to try to have Sopel sacked which we’ll never know because DJT conversations with foreign leaders will no longer be released. As DJT said earlier this week “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”

    • Trip says:

      Hey, the impeachment of Rosenstein is based on things that happened before he became involved too. Something something time machine.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        For some reason, trump appears to be a flux capacitor.

        Always blowing something, with stored charge for next maneuver after an event.

        Of course, it may just be the Big Macs.

  10. Avattoir says:

    Re: “Tweeps”

    I was about to post props to Marcy & SLF for “Tweeps”, and add a Peabody’s Imp. History past-times ref. and tip of the whatever to Colbert for this:

    when, from the most perfunctory of online searches on “Twitter” varietals, I learned of the existence of a virtual pop-up arcade of sites dedicated to such enigmass [sic] , including:

    Those are like authorities, right?

    So, by the power of The Onion, in the Oponion of the online language police court of me:

    1. “tweeps” is a totes legit diminutive of “tweeple”.

    2. Capping the first letter of “tweeps” seems an appropriate indeed clever way of designating the subclass of “tweeps” comprised of one’s familiars.

    3. Use of “Tweeps” is as if not more legitimate, in addition to more socially acceptable at most online addresses, than the Colbert conjugation.

    • Charlie says:

      Following on from Trip’s comment, here’s a list of people associated in some way with NRA:- Mariia Butina, Wayne La Pierre, Dr. Edward Lozansky, Alexander Torshin, Konstantin Nikolaev, Svetlana Nikolaev, Andrey Nikolaev, Dmitry Rogozin, Sergei Rudov, David Keene, David Clarke, Paul Erickson, Rick Dearborn, Rick Clay, Johnny Yenason, Dana Loesch, Scott Walker, Koch bros., Stanley Fischer, Nathan Sheets, Pete Brownell, Andrew Miller, Adam Waldman, Richard Burt, Steven Mnuchin.

  11. cwradio says:

    Rusharuse: “Assange along with Putin and Comey won the Whitehouse for Trump.”

    Really? And I thought it was because of “Hope and change” Obama, with his shameless sucking up to Wall Street and his neo-liberal warmongering. And the fact that Hillary, unlike her husband, does not have a gregarious personality and had a documented 25 year history in government that could not be spun by the best BS artist, while Trump could lie his way into the office.
    As SecState, Hillary was pro-war, while Trump pretended to be against military adventures.
    The Dinosaur Democrats refused to even use the term, “socialism” and made poor Bernie Sanders stammer his fealty to their god, (Corporate) Capitalism, while they did their best to
    sabotage the only candidate who could beat Trump.
    But it’s all some pale-skinned Aussie’s fault.

      • cwradio says:

        Talk to some blue collar White people, many of whom voted for Obama the first time, but realized that the Democrats don’t care about their problems anymore than Republicans do. Trump spoke against that corrupt system, running his for-profit con. He’s still doing it and lying so brazenly that many people want to believe he’s going to make things better for them. Blaming others is the easiest way to deflect one’s own guilt. The Republicans are the masters of that art. The Democrats need to come down from their intellectual high horses and listen to the “dumbasses on the barstool” more and get behind the social populist wave, or prepare for Trump2020.




        • bmaz says:

          Your previous comment I responded to was a load of Dem hating gibberish crap. Of the exact variety that quack idiots like Jill Stein and Susan Sandon perpetuated. That is what got us Trump. As did Jim Comey. As did the Russian conspiracy. There were a lot of modalities. But if you argument is that Trump is no worse than Trump, you are bonkers.

  12. Vern says:

    FYI: Just an observation for the mods: “Reply” didn’t work on this post for me for the past day or so.  As an experiment, I added a comment at the end and once I did, the reply function worked.  I deleted the experimental comment within the edit period. Running FF and Win !0.x.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Interesting argument: “All your data are belong to us”

      Just out of a status conference on the Mariia Butina case. The government wants a protective order on 4-6 terabytes of discovery they are prepared to turn over right away. Butina’s attorneys however say that evidence belongs to her, they want no restrictions on how they use it.

      [Very unlikely she generated 4-6 terabytes of raw data herself. Of course, there are pics, and possibly videos]

  13. Rapier says:

    Waiting for the tweet explosion over news that Trump’s ‘bookeeper’, Weisselberg, has been subpoenaed.

    I don’t want to re litigate the NY Times old “redline” because Trump doesn’t have any lines. It’s all spontaneous human combustion.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Rentals of The Untouchables are about to skyrocket.  That scene where Sean Connery interrogates the dead hoodlum with a .38 will go viral.  After it goes off, the Mountie sniffily says that he doesn’t approve of Sean’s methods.  Ness’s retort, “You’re not from Chicago.”

      The SDNY guys might want to let the bookkeeper ride the elevator alone.

  14. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Lordy, there are tapes in the government’s investigation of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen — more than 100 of them. But they aren’t all of President Donald Trump.

    [And, at least one of them leads to start climbing up the food chain]

    A federal grand jury investigating President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for possible crimes has subpoenaed the chief financial officer of Trump’s company, Allen Weisselberg, to testify, a new report said Thursday.

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