What an Overbroad Section 215 Order Looks Like

Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 10.02.05 PMGlenn Greenwald has a tremendous scoop, for the first time I know of publishing a Section 215 warrant — in this case one asking for all US-based traffic metadata from Verizon Business Services from April until July.

Now, I think that this actually affects just a subset of all Verizon traffic: the business-focused traffic rather than Verizon Wireless or similar consumer products most people subscribe to (and if that’s so, the shitstorm that is about to break out will be all the more interesting given that rich businessmen will be concerned about their privacy for once).

Also, this does not ask for call content. It asks only for metadata, independent of any identifying data.

In other words, they’re using this not to wiretap the conversations of Occupy Wall Street activists but to do pattern analysis on the telecom traffic of (I think) larger businesses.

The request does, however, ask for location data (and Verizon does offer bundles that would include both cell and cloud computing). So maybe the FBI is analyzing where all Verizon’s business customers are meeting for lunch.

My extremely wildarsed guess is that this is part of hacking investigation, possibly even the alleged Iranian hacking of power companies in the US (those stories were first reported in early May).

I say that because cybersecurity is a big part of what Verizon Enterprise (as I believe they now go by) sells to its business customers; the infographic above, warning of data breaches when you least expect it (heh), is part of one they use to fear-monger its customers. Energy consumers are one of its target customer bases. And the case studies it describes involve several Smart Grid projects. Precisely the kind of thing the government is most freaked out about right now.

After all, aside from Medicare fraud, the government simply doesn’t investigate businesses, ever. Certainly not the kind of bankster businesses we’d like them to investigate. One of the few things they investigate business activities for is to see if they’ve been compromised. Moreover, the Section 215 order requires either a counterintelligence or a counterterrorist nexus, and the government has gone to great lengths to protect large businesses, like HSBC or Chiquita, that have materially supported terrorists.

Anyway, that’s all a wildarsed guess, as I said.

Ah well. If the government can use Section 215 orders to investigate all the Muslims in Aurora, CO who were buying haircare products in 2009, I’m sure big business won’t mind if the government collects evidence of their crimes in search of Iran or someone similar.

Update: Note, this order seems to show a really interesting organizational detail. This is clearly an FBI order (I’m not sure who, besides the FBI, uses Section 215 anyway). But the FISA Court orders Verizon to turn the data over to the NSC. This seems to suggest that FBI has NSA store and, presumably, do the data analysis, for at least their big telecom collections in investigations. That also means the FBI, which can operate domestically, is getting this for DOD, which has limits on domestic law enforcement.

Chiquita’s Alleged Victims Can Sue for Torture, But Not Terrorism

As fatster noted, Judge Kenneth Marra has allowed the suit against Chiquita for its support of Colombian terrorists to go forward. But the ruling is fascinating, because it holds that the plaintiffs can sue for Chiquita’s involvement in torture, but not for its involvement in terrorism.

Relying in part on a 1984 Robert Bork opinion finding there was ““international law and the rules of warfare as they now exist are inadequate to cope with this new mode of conflict,” Marra ruled the Alien Tort Statute doesn’t apply to terrorism. (Note, Marra also cited more recent District Court rulings on this issue.)

So in spite of our decade-long war against terrorism, it appears corporations can support terrorism in other countries and not be held liable.

But unlike terrorism, torture, extra-judicial killing, and crimes against humanity are widely recognized under international law to qualify for the ATS, so plaintiffs can sue for Chiquita’s involvement in it.

Marra also rejected Chiquita’s claim that it could not be held liable under the Torture Victims Protection Act.

Chiquita first argues that the “‘plain reading of the TVPA strongly suggests that it only covers human beings, and not corporations.’” First Mot. at 68 (DE 93) (quoting Exxon Mobil, 393 F. Supp. 2d at 28). This limitation to individuals, Chiquita contends, bars Plaintiffs’ TVPA claims against it, a corporation. Recent Eleventh Circuit precedents, however, hold that “‘an individual’ to whom liability may attach under the TVPA also includes a corporate defendant.” Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d at 1264 n.13; see also Romero, 552 F.3d at 1315 (“Under the law of this

Circuit, the Torture Act allows suits against corporate defendants.”). Thus, under the precedent of this Circuit, the Court rejects Chiquita’s first basis for dismissal.

Particularly gratifying, a key part of Chiquita’s liability was its intent to support AUC’s violence. Marra notes, for example, that plaintiffs had shown Chiquita supported AUC in part to quell labor unrest.

The AUC’s agreement with Chiquita involved forcing people to work using threats and illegal violence, as well as the quelling of labor and social unrest through the systematic terrorization of the population of Uraba.


The complaints here contain sufficient “‘factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference’” that Chiquita assisted the AUC with the intent that the AUC commit torture and killing in the banana-growing regions.

So in American courts, corporations like Jeppesen helping the US commit torture won’t be held liable for torture. But corporations like Chiquita helping terrorists and other governments torture may well be held liable!

Chiquita: The Guns and Drugs and Union Killing CNN Didn’t Mention

CNN has a report today on some of the many lawsuits victims of right and left wing violence have taken against Chiquita.

Family members of thousands of Colombians who were killed or who disappeared are suing Chiquita Brands International, alleging the produce company is liable because of its payments to paramilitaries.”We’re holding them accountable,” said Paul Wolf, a Washington-based attorney who is handling cases for family members of more than 2,000 victims.


A federal judge in Florida is weighing whether the lawsuits, which constitute more than 4,000 claims against Chiquita, will go to trial.

I’m glad CNN has called attention to the suits. But I wanted to point out some of the important details, including the following details from a suit filed last March.

There’s the way Chiquita helped the right wing AUC import 3000 AK-47s.

In 2001, Chiquita facilitated the clandestine and illegal transfer of arms and ammunition from Nicaragua to the AUC.


Instead of docking in Panama, the Otterloo [a ship registered in Panama and carrying 3000 AK-47s] instead went to Turbo, Colombia, where Chiquita, through Banadex, operated a private port facility for the transport of bananas and other cargo.

After the Otterloo docked at Chiquita’s port in Turbo, Banadex employees unloaded crates containing the assault rifles and ammunition. On information and belief, the AUC, which had free access to the port, then loaded these rifles onto AUC vehicles and took possession of them.

And there’s the way Chiquita helped the AUC export coke.

Colombian prosecutors have charged that the AUC shipped drugs on Chiquita’s boats carrying bananas to Europe.


More than one and a half tons of cocaine have been found hidden in Defendant’s produce, valued at over 33 million dollars. Two of the ships on which drugs were found were named the Chiquita Bremen and the Chiquita Belgie.

And finally, there’s the way Chiquita relied on AUC to break the unions.

After its agreement with Chiquita, the AUC understood that one goal of its campaign of terror was to force laborers to work in the plantations. Anyone who disobeyed the order knew what would happen  to them. For example, one individual who worked in Chiquita’s offices at a plantation in Urabá, was present when paramilitaries arrived at the plantation and summarily executed a banana worker who had been seen as a troublemaker because his slow work held up the production line. Another individual saw paramilitaries arrive to threaten banana workers after a salary dispute.


In addition to directly suppressing labor activity, the paramilitaries regulated the banana-growing population and protected Chiquita’s profitability by controlling the provision of medical services in the towns of Urabá. Residents of Apartadó reported that they feared seeing doctors because they believed that medical personnel were under the control of the AUC. On information and belief, this arrangement benefited Chiquita because it allowed the paramilitaries to inform the company of its employees’ medical issues that could potentially affect labor productivity, including pregnancy.

Whether or not this suit goes forward (and new documents released in April by National Security Archive make it clear that Chiquita considered their ties to terrorist groups a quid pro quo), it’s important to document what it means when corporations team up with terrorist organizations.

Obama wants to extend “free” trade with Colombia, when it’s not all that clear that these practices have ended.

Is the Obama DOJ Still Coddling Colombian Terrorists?

ProPublica had an important story a few days ago reporting that the cases of a number of Colombian paramilitaries extradited to the US on drug–not terrorism–charges have been sealed and largely disappeared.

Since 2006, more than a dozen of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary leaders have been extradited to the United States to face drug-trafficking charges in federal district court in Washington.

The extraditions stunned Colombians, who had hoped that testimony from the men, given as part of a national amnesty program, would help expose the truth about two decades of vicious murders, assaults and kidnappings. In videotaped confessions in Colombia, one had taken responsibility for more than 450 slayings.

But outrage over the extraditions reached a boiling point earlier this year, when U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton blocked public access to seven of the paramilitary leaders’ cases, erasing virtually every trace of their existence.

There is no way to know if the men have negotiated lenient sentences — or if they are even still in custody. An eighth defendant, accused in Colombia of murdering a judge, was released on his own recognizance, records show, after cousins in College Park, Md., vouched for him.

The story is important on its face–for what it reveals about judicial secrecy–but also because of our unique relationship with Colombia and its right wing terrorists.

If I’m not mistaken the accused in these cases are members of the AUC (the story says the accused in these cases are members of the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia; the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia–the AUC–is usually translated as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), a terrorist group that has been on the State Department’s list of official terrorist organizations since 2001. If that’s right, in addition to being alleged drug traffickers, these accused are also terrorists.

Yet the ProPublica story doesn’t use the word “terrorist” once.

It doesn’t consider whether, rather than being sealed to protect an ongoing investigation of drug trafficking, they might be sealed because of national security claims connected to the accused’s role as terrorists.

Most charitably, the cases might be sealed because these accused drug traffickers are helping the government find other terrorists. But I don’t buy that.

Read more

Chiquita Exec: Our Support for Terrorism Doesn’t Kill People

In an inevitable development, the families of people killed by FARC in Colombia are suing Chiquita for arming the terrorists. And in spite of the fact that the sentencing memorandum in their settlement with the government made it clear that Chiquita did support FARC from 1989 to 1997, Chiquita’s lawyer claims that the company’s support for terrorists had nothing to do with the effects–including murders–of that terrorism.

Chiquita officials disagree. In a telephone interview, Mr. Loyd said that the lawsuit’s assertion that Chiquita armed FARC rebels was “categorically untrue” and that the company would “vigorously defend” itself against the accusations.

Gary Osen, one of several lawyers for the plaintiffs, said his clients’ lawsuit — along with at least four others accusing Chiquita of complicity in killings carried out by the rebel groups — would be brought under the civil provision of the antiterrorism law.

The law states that any United States national “injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of an act of international terrorism” can sue for damages in any appropriate federal court “and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney’s fees.”


He said Chiquita was just one of many companies doing business in Colombia that paid “protection money” to rebel groups, the price of doing business in a notoriously violent country.

Ms. Julin said she and the others who lost their husbands to FARC do not see it that way.

“Chiquita was there to make money and fund these people,” she said. “How could anybody be involved in something like this without regard to the human lives lost?”

This (and the others associated with it) will be an interesting suit. I look forward to the executives who knowingly supported terrorism for over a decade arguing that support for terrorists is just a business expense.

Update: Terrorisms changed to terrorists per Frank Probst.

Update: I think Hugh’s auditioning to be Chiquita’s spokesperson.

It’s not bananas that kill people. It’s people with bananas that do.

Banana Split

The investigation into Chiquita for supporting Colombian terrorists always stank. Chiquita’s executives got some high level meetings at DOJ and–purportedly–DOJ told them they should not worry about paying protection money to terrorists, so long as they cooperated with DOJ’s investigations into the Colombia death squads. Then, no charges were filed against any of the well-connected Republican executives. But now we find out that a warrant supposedly served on Chiquita back in 2004 may never have been served (h/t Rayne).

What happened to the search warrant that the government supposedly served on Chiquita Brands International three years ago? The lead prosecutor on the case — in which Chiquita was accused of funding terrorism — has always thought that the warrant was executed. But lawyers for the company and a U.S. Department of Justice official recently said that it wasn’t. Their revelation has led to new questions: Was the warrant blocked, and if so, why?


… one highly placed Justice official confirms that no warrant was executed. This official, who spoke on the condition he not be named, wouldn’t elaborate.

In a postpublication interview, [the original prosecutor Roscoe] Howard says he still believes the warrant was obtained and executed, and that the Justice Department is "stonewalling" for reasons he doesn’t understand. He adds, "I’ve got no doubt it was executed, but someone may be covering it up for some reason." Howard and Seikaly both say that their former colleagues in Justice won’t discuss the warrant with them now, which puzzles them.


Ken Wainstein also played a key role in the Chiquita probe. At the time of the Justice deliberations over the warrant, he was chief of staff to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which would have been responsible for serving the warrant. Boyd, Wainstein’s current spokesman at the national security division, declined to comment on his boss’s involvement with the Chiquita warrant.

One source close to the Chiquita investigation, who asked to remain anonymous, says he suspects that the warrant was cancelled either by someone at the Justice Department’s main headquarters or at the FBI. If the warrant were sabotaged, it raises questions of favoritism, and even obstruction of justice. Read more