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Roger Stone Accuses Jerome Corsi of Lying When He Testified Stone’s Cover Story Was a Cover Story

In a conflict between some of the worst people in the world, Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, and Larry Klayman have all been in the news of late. That’s because on February 12 and 13, Klayman deposed Stone in lawsuits he and Corsi filed against Stone for defamation — basically, for tarnishing their reputation with the frothy right. I tweeted out some of the highlights of the painful deposition here. Politico edited some highlights of the video for this story. Then last night, Judge Timothy Kelly dismissed Corsi’s suit without prejudice, finding venue improper (meaning Corsi can refile it in Florida).

On top of some crazy, bitter exchanges there are some interesting details, such as that Jack Posobiec is the person who introduced Cassandra Fairbanks to Stone during the 2016 campaign, though Stone claims not to remember when that happened. There are also some curious claims (such as, at February 12 16:10 and following, that Stone has rarely deleted any comms); during Stone’s trial, an FBI agent testified they had never obtained any texts Stone sent from roughly November 2016 to November 2017, though Klayman asked Stone whether he had lost or replaced a phone that might address that, except he focused on just the last two years. There’s some debate over how to pronounce “Judas Iscariot” and “Nevada.” There’s a lot of potty mouth. There are claims Stone made — under oath, days before being sentenced for lying to Congress — that probably wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of a prosecutor with a grand jury.

But I wanted to examine a key issue behind the dispute. In his lawsuit, Corsi alleged that Stone defamed him by falsely accusing him of lying about writing a report that would serve as a cover story for his August 21, 2016 tweet about John Podesta.

18. At 2:27 in the InfoWars Video, Defendant Stone falsely and misleadingly publishes that, “He (Corsi) was perfectly willing to lie, to perjure himself saying that a memo that he had wrote me was written on the 30th for the purposes of cover-up…. which is further proof that Jerry lied under oath.”

19. At 2:55 in the InfoWars Video, Defendant Stone falsely and misleadingly publishes, “and then states that I knew about John Podesta’s emails being stolen in advance, the only proof of that is Jerry’s feeble alcohol affected memory – it’s a lie….”

20. At 3:35 in the InfoWars Video, Defendant Stone falsely and misleadingly publishes that “Jerry was prepared to stab a principle Trump supporter in the back, he was perfectly prepared to bear false witness against me, even though I had done nothing in my entire life other than help him.”

That is, Corsi’s lawsuit claims that Stone falsely accused him of perjuring himself when he gave damning testimony about Stone to Mueller’s prosecutors; that false accusation, Corsi argues, has damaged his reputation with the frothy right.

The dispute pertains to a report Corsi wrote — which Stone submitted (PDF 39) as part of the materials he shared with the House Intelligence Committee, and which is dated August 31, 2016, not August 30 — explaining why he and Corsi had been focused on Podesta on August 21 when Stone tweeted that it would soon be Podestas’ time in the barrel.

Here’s how Corsi explained that report in his book.

In my late evening telephone call with Stone on August 30, 2016, I suggested Stone could use me as an excuse, claiming my research on Podesta and Russia was the basis for Stone’s prediction that Podesta would soon be in the pickle barrel. I knew this was a cover-story, in effect not true, since I recalled telling Stone earlier in August that Assange had Podesta emails that he planned to drop as the “October Surprise,” calculated by Assange to deliver a knock-out blow to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.

On my birthday, August 31, 2016, I emailed to stone at 4:49 p.m. EST a nine page background memorandum on John Podesta that I had written that day at Stone’s request. I couched the Podesta background paper as a rejoinder Stone could use to counter a report CNN published August 15, 2016, entitled “Manafort named in Ukrainian probe into millions in secret cash.”30 The CNN article highlighted the FBI had begun an investigation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for his financial dealings regarding the consulting he had conducted for former Ukraine president Victor Yanukovych.

At Roger’s request, after a telephone conversation in March 2017 that I vaguely recall from memory—I have no recording or notes from the conversation—Roger asked me to write an article how he got his information for his Twitter post on August 21, 2016. Roger and I agreed once again that the Tweet was unspecific as to why Stone believed Podesta would be in the pickle barrel. That allowed us once again to roll out the cover-story that Stone based his comment on background information I provided Stone from public source materials on Podesta’s financial dealings in Russia while Hillary was secretary of state.

[snip]

Stone used the cover-story excuse again when he testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee on September 26, 2017. In that testimony, Stone claimed his “pickle barrel” Tweet was based on “a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi, which I then asked him to memorialize in a memo that he sent me on August 31st, all of which was culled from public records.” To stress the point, Stone attached to his testimony a copy of my background research memorandum on Podesta.

In the deposition (at February 12 at 13:14 and following) Stone defended against those claims by affirming under oath that Corsi’s testimony to Mueller’s prosecutors and the grand jury was false.

Klayman: What statement did Dr. Corsi ever make that stabbed you in the back?

Stone: The previous one that you just stated, for example. Regarding a memo that he incorrectly said that he wrote to give me a cover story at a time that I needed no cover story because the controversy regarding John Podesta’s emails, which was never mentioned in the indictment whatsoever, would not happen until six weeks after he had written said memo. So it’s just patently false.

Klayman: But you were not indicted by the Special Counsel for a cover story. You were indicted because you testified falsely to Congress, correct?

Robert Buschel (Stone’s attorney): Let’s not get into the indictments and the whole trial thing. The answer to your question, um, you know what he was indicted for.

Klayman: I’ll ask the question a different way. There’s no aspect of your indictment that deals with a cover story by Doctor Corsi on your behalf.

Buschel: It calls for a legal opinion.

Stone: No. But he certainly said that on numerous interviews and in public. So I certainly have the right to respond to it. It’s not true.

Stone makes similar comments after 16:05.

It did get quite a bit of press. As you recall Mr. Corsi went out and did a press tour in which he claimed that he had created some memo as a cover story. I suspect that that was suggested to him because it just wasn’t true.

[snip]

He portrayed a number of falsehoods in those interviews, which is certainly reason to believe that somebody had suggested this falsehood to him, since it is chronologically impossible for him to have created a memo as a cover story because there was nothing to cover.

Ultimately, we’ve got a rat-fucker and a hoaxster, arguing about which one of them perjured themselves (Corsi in the Mueller grand jury or Stone in this sworn deposition) regarding this report.

The record, though, backs Corsi’s story. Even though prosecutors presented little evidence involving Corsi at trial (both sides subpoenaed Corsi but neither side put him on the stand), the exhibits did include several pieces that suggest something substantive did occur on August 15, the date Corsi’s alleged cover story would explain away, and the first time Stone ever mentioned Podesta in a tweet.

  • July 25, 2016 Stone email to Corsi telling him to “Get to Assange” at the embassy to “get the pending wikileaks emails”
  • July 31, 2016 Stone email to Corsi telling him to call MON (August 1) and that Malloch should see Assange
  • August 2, 2016 Corsi email to Stone explaining “word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. … Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed with enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC.”
  • August 13, 2016 Corsi text to Stone directing, “I’m now back from Italy. Give me a call when you can.”
  • August 15, 2016 Corsi text to Stone directing, “Give me a call today if you can. Despite MSM drumroll that HRC is already elected, it’s not over yet. More to come than anyone realizes.”
  • August 15, 2016 Corsi email to Stone repeating the same message he had texted, “Give me a call today if you can. Despite MSM drumroll that HRC is already elected, it’s not over yet. More to come than anyone realizes.”

In addition, there were exhibits that made it clear Corsi was aware that Stone was covering things up:

  • March 24, 2017 email from Stone to Corsi (and Gloria Borger) forwarding the letter Robert Buschel sent to HPSCI; Buschel sent this letter two days after Corsi and Stone spoke about publishing the cover story and the day after Corsi did so
  • November 30, 2017 email thread between Corsi and Stone, in which Corsi responded to Stone’s request that Corsi write about Stone’s claim that Credico was his back channel by advising, “Are you sure you want to make something out of this now? … You may be defending ourself too much–raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more.”
  • April 3, 2018 email from Stone lawyer Grant Smith to Stone and cc’ing Corsi explaining that “At Roger’s request” he was forwarding “the only 2 emails on the subject between the two of you;” the subject line was “Emails about Finding information,” attached the July 25 and July 31, 2016 emails, and were sent in the wake of a surprised Ted Malloch interview and one day before Stone insisted to Credico he was the source of everything Stone learned about the WikiLeaks disclosures

Prosecutors would also have had an email Stone sent Corsi on August 30, 2016, record of Corsi’s call in response, and Corsi’s Google searches showing that he didn’t start the research for the report until after that exchange. So contrary to later claims from Corsi, prosecutors had proof that he didn’t start the report until after Stone’s August 21, 2016 tweet. Plus, before the WikiLeaks files were released in October 2016, Corsi seemed to know what they’d contain. Corsi and Stone would use that August 2016 report twice more to try to explain away Stone’s seeming advance knowledge.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is Corsi’s Mueller testimony on November 1, 2018 (PDF 34) that a column he wrote on October 6, 2016 — seemingly anticipating that WikiLeaks would soon dump emails including details about John Podesta’s ties to Joule holdings — was an attempt to force Assange to publish the emails he had not released on October 4, 2016.

Corsi published the August 31, 2016 memo on October 6, 2016. At that time, he still held himself out as the connection to WikiLeaks. The trigger for the release of the article was the publication of an article about [Paul] Manafort and [Viktor] Yanukovych. Corsi wanted to counter it with a story about Podesta, but he really wanted to provide stimulus to Assange to release whatever he had on Podesta. Corsi was angry with Assange for not releasing emails on October 4, 2016.

This was a column that got sent to the campaign between the time it was posted and when WikiLeaks dumped the emails. Posting a story on Podesta wouldn’t really “provide stimulus to Assange to release whatever he had on Podesta” unless Corsi knew that what he had pertained to Podesta.

Two of the most shameless right wing liars are in a nasty fight that — in another world — could have real legal consequences over what the two agreed to cover up with a series of lies told over three years ago.

Roger Stone and the Dozens of Search Warrants on Accounts Used to Facilitate the Transfer and Promotion of Stolen Democratic Emails

In response to Roger Stone’s bid to get a new judge, the government has submitted a filing explaining why his case is related to the GRU indictment. It explains that Stone’s alleged false statements pertained to an investigation into links between the Russians who stole Democratic emails, entities who dumped them, and US persons like Stone:

The defendant’s false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).

More interestingly, it makes clear that Stone’s communications “with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1” were found in some of the accounts used to transfer and promote the stolen emails.

In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.

To be clear: We know that Stone had (innocuous) DMs with both Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. So this passage is not necessarily saying anything new. But given that Stone’s indictment obscures precisely who his and Jerome Corsi’s go-between with WikiLeaks is, it suggests there may be more direct Stone communications of interest.

Stone will get a sealed description of what those warrants are and — eventually — get the warrants themselves in discovery.

The relevant search warrants, which are being produced to the defendant in discovery in this case, are discussed further in a sealed addendum to this filing.

Meanwhile, Amy Berman Jackson has issued a very limited gag in Stone’s case, prohibiting lawyers from material comments on the case, but gagging Stone only at the courthouse. That said, her gag includes lawyers for witnesses, which would seem to include Jerome Corsi lawyer Larry Klayman.

Counsel for the parties and the witnesses must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case

ABJ does give Stone the following warnings to shut up, however.

This order should not be interpreted as modifying or superseding the condition of the defendant’s release that absolutely prohibits him from communicating with any witness in the case, either directly or indirectly. Nor does this order permit the defendant to intimidate or threaten any witness, or to engage or attempt to engage in any conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1512.

Finally, while it is not up to the Court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself.

So the biggest news here might be that Larry Klayman has to shut up.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

The Government Spoliationing for a Fight with EFF

On November 6, 2007, Judge Vaughn Walker issued a preservation order in EFF’s challenge to what we now know to be Stellar Wind, the Shubert case (which would be applied to the Jewel case after that). Nevertheless, in spite of that order, in 2009 the NSA started destroying evidence that it had collected data outside of the categories Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly authorized way back in 2004.

Also in 2009, NSA shifted records showing 3,000 people — which highly likely included CAIR’s staff and clients — had been dragnetted without the First Amendment review mandated by Section 215 (CAIR wasn’t a plaintiff on EFF’s earlier suits but they are on EFF’s phone dragnet suit, First Unitarian United). When they did, the government even appeared to consider the existing protection order in the EFF case; I have FOIAed their deliberations on that issue, but thus far have been stonewalled.

Finally, in 2011, NSA destroyed — on very little notice and without letting their own IG confirm the destruction of data that came in through NSA’s intake process — all of its Internet dragnet data.

In other words, on three known occasions, the NSA destroyed data covered by the protection order in Northern California, one of them even after admitting a protection order might cover the data in question. In two of those cases, we know the data either exceeded FISA’s orders or violated the law.

In fact, it wasn’t until 2014, when the government started asking Judge Reggie Walton for permission to destroy the phone dragnet data and EFF complained mightily, that NSA started complying with the earlier protection order. Later that same year, it finally asked FISC to keep the Protect America Act and FISA Amendments Act data also included under that order in its minimization procedures.

These posts provide more background on this issue: postpost, post, post.

In other words, on three different occasions (even ignoring the content collection), NSA destroyed data covered by the protection order. spoiling the evidence related to EFF’s lawsuits.

Which is why I find this claim — in the January 8 filing I’ve been waiting to read, but which was just posted on March 4 (that is, 5 days after the NSA would have otherwise had to destroy everything on February 29 under USA Freedom Act).

The Government remains concerned that in these cases, absent relief from district courts or explicit agreement from the plaintiffs, the destruction of the BR Metadata, even pursuant to FISC Order, could lead the plaintiffs to accuse the Government of spoliation. In Jewel, the plaintiffs have already moved for spoliation sanctions, including an adverse inference against the Government on the standing issue, based on the destruction of aged-off BR Metadata undertaken in accordance with FISC Orders. See Jewel Pls.’ Brief Re: the Government’s Non-compliance with the Court’s Evidence Preservation Orders, ECF No. 233.

Gosh, after destroying data on at least three different occasions (again, ignoring at least two years of content they destroyed), the government is worried that if it destroyed more it might get in trouble? Please!

Elsewhere, the strategy in this filing seems to be to expand the possible universe they’d have to set aside under the three cases (plus Klayman) for which there is a protection order as to make it virtually impossible to set it aside so as to destroy the rest. In addition, having let the time when they could have set aside such data easily pass because they were still permitted to access the data (say, back in 2014, when they got caught violating their protection order), they now claim that the closure of the dragnet makes such a search virtually impossible now.

It’s a nifty gimmick. They can’t find a way to destroy the data because they already destroyed even legally suspect data. And we learn about it only now, after the data would otherwise be destroyed, but now can’t be because they didn’t find some better resolution 2 years ago.

Guy Who Worked at White House When It Self-Authorized Dragnet Thinks Dragnets Are Cool

Eleven judges from the DC Circuit denied Larry Klayman’s request to overturn the stay that a panel put on Richard Leon’s injunction against the dragnet today.

Of those 11 judges, just one decided to weigh in on the legality of the dragnet Leon had ruled unconstitutional: Brett Kavanaugh. In doing so, he laid out a condensed version of the Special Needs search used by dragnet boosters.

I vote to deny plaintiffs’ emergency petition for rehearing en banc. I do so because, in my view, the Government’s metadata collection program is entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, plaintiffs cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim, and this Court was right to stay the District Court’s injunction against the Government’s program.

[snip]

Even if the bulk collection of telephony metadata constitutes a search, cf. United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 954-57 (2012) (Sotomayor, J., concurring), the Fourth Amendment does not bar all searches and seizures. It bars only unreasonable searches and seizures. And the Government’s metadata collection program readily qualifies as reasonable under the Supreme Court’s case law. The Fourth Amendment allows governmental searches and seizures without individualized suspicion when the Government demonstrates a sufficient “special need” – that is, a need beyond the normal need for law enforcement – that outweighs the intrusion on individual liberty.

[snip]

The Government’s program for bulk collection of telephony metadata serves a critically important special need – preventing terrorist attacks on the United States. See THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT (2004). In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program.

Kavanaugh, of course, served as a White House lawyer and as Staff Secretary during the period when George Bush kept self-authorizing such a dragnet. While there’s no reason to believe he was involved in the dubious theories used to justify Stellar Wind (which were largely a version of this Special Needs argument), he may well have been consulted — as he apparently was on detainee treatment, though he claimed not to have been during his confirmation. He may also have seen the paperwork authorizing the program.

No doubt Kavanaugh would espouse this view whether or not he had worked for a guy who might face real legal trouble if this theory didn’t hold sway. But as people cite from this language in the future, they should remember that of all the judges who reviewed this decision, only Kavanaugh had this kind of personal tie to the dragnet. And only Kavanaugh saw fit to weigh in.

The Government’s Bad Faith Arguments Demanding a Dragnet Stay

As expected, the government requested an immediate stay of Richard Leon’s decision yesterday to enjoin the dragnet from collecting JJ Little’s phone records.

Their argument is noteworthy for its stubbornness — reasserting many of the same arguments Leon just ruled against — and logical inconsistency. The brief claims, for example, that termination of the dragnet would cause the government irreparable harm, even while suggesting that it’s possible they’ve stopped collecting data from Verizon Business Network Services, which they’ve just claimed would cause irreparable harm.

But the brief also argues that the only way to comply with the injunction is to shut down the entire dragnet.

As the Government Defendants have explained, however, the only practicable way for the NSA to comply with the Court’s preliminary injunction is immediately to cease all collection and queries of telephony metadata under the Section 215 program—that is, to shut the program down. That is so because the technical steps required in order to prevent the further collection of and to segregate the metadata associated with particular persons’ calls would take the NSA months to complete. Gov’t Defs.’ Opp. to Pls.’ Renewed Mot. for a Prelim. Inj. (ECF No. 150) (“Gov’t PI Opp.”) at 41-44, citing Potter Decl. (Gov’t PI Opp. Exh. 4) ¶¶ 20-27.

That’s not actually what the Potter declaration the discussion cites to says. Potter says there is a way to make Little’s records inaccessible — though it claims implausibly that it would take two weeks to accomplish.

With respect to a requirement that the NSA cease analytic access to any records about plaintiffs’ calls that may already have been collected under the Program, NSA has developed a process that can be used to prevent analytic access to metadata containing specified identifiers. This capability prevents the use of particular identifiers to conduct queries, and prevents analysts from accessing records containing those identifiers even if responsive to queries using different identifiers. NSA technical personnel estimate that eliminating analytic access to metadata associated with plaintiffs’ calls could be completed within approximately 2 weeks after receipt of the plaintiffs’ telephone numbers and the time-frames during which they were used.

This is the defeat list process I’ve discussed repeatedly, by which high volume numbers (like Verizon’s voice mail number and pizza joints) and other sensitive numbers (likely including Congress’ official numbers as well as informants) are made inaccessible to querying.

Consider me skeptical that it really takes 2 weeks to put something on a defeat list, as not doing so makes queries unusable. If it took 2 weeks, then the dragnet would frequently return crap for 2 weeks as techs tried to stay ahead of the defeat list numbers.

There’s one more thing that yesterday’s brief and the underlying declaration make clear though: The government is collecting records off telecom backbones, not off any billing system (contrary to what some reports still claim).

That’s true because the only way that the government wouldn’t be sure that Little’s records were collected under an order to VBNS is if they weren’t getting actual subscribers information. Moreover, Little’s records still show up on AT&T’s compliance, too (anytime his calls transit their backbone, not to mention any time he calls someone who uses AT&T).

That, of course, means that Larry Klayman and everyone else in the United States has standing if the Fourth Amendment injury comes with collection — because everyone’s records transit the major telecom backbones of the country. But the government has been claiming all this time they can’t be sure that’s the case.

The government will get their stay, and they will moot this decision (if not overturn it) at the end of the month. But not before engaging in some serious bad faith in claims to the court.

Richard Leon Halts the Dragnet for One Plaintiff

Judge Richard Leon has just issued an injunction on the NSA’s collection of the phone metadata of J.J. Little and his lawfirm. Little got added as a plaintiff to Larry Klayman’s suit (in which Leon earlier found the program unconstitutional but stayed his own injunction) so as to have a Verizon Business Services customer who could be certain his phone records had been collected.

The order will undoubtedly set off a bit of a scramble, not because pulling Little’s phone records really presents any difficulty for the NSA (they already defeat list so many records it’s clear they have the ability to at least make those records inaccessible to a search, though they don’t want to explain the full application of that process; hopefully this ruling will lead to more candor on this point). Rather, the NSA will want to ensure this program has constitutional sanction because it also collects so many other records of Americans (in his book, for example, Charlie Savage confirmed my earlier analysis that the Internet dragnet moved, in part, overseas rather than being shut down). And the DC Circuit is likely to respond to quickly override Leon.

That said, Leon’s order is most interesting for its analysis of the government’s claim it can carry out this program because of a Special Need. In it, he repeats efficacy arguments he made in his earlier ruling: rather than present any new evidence that the program has been useful, it has instead just said the threat environment requires it. But he also notes that this special need, unlike that of, say, a TSA check, does not have a deterrence effect. That’s interesting because the government’s own secrecy about how many calls are collected would make any deterrence uncertain (indeed, terrorists might be expected to move communications to the Internet, believing falsely that attracts less attention).

As I said, the DC Circuit is likely to overturn this. But it will give the government a few days of headaches until that point.

Delusional DOJ Claims Documents Declassified, Released Under FOIA Not Declassified, Not Authentic

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Back in March, NYT’s Charlie Savage sued to get the NSA to respond to a FOIA request asking for “copies of — and declassification review of, as necessary” a bunch of things, including IG reports on “bulk phone records collection activities under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.”

In late August, they delivered an installment of their response to that suit to him including a series of IG Reports on the 215 program. Among other things, the FOIA response included an August 2, 2010 letter to FISC Judge John Bates referring to a compliance violation in Docket BR 10-10 (the order is dated February 26, 2010). In referring to the caption of that docket (and the caption redactions in other dockets are consistent in size), it named Verizon Wireless.

As I pointed out at the time, this provides Larry Klayman and other Verizon Wireless subscribers challenging the phone dragnet basis to establish standing to sue. While in the Klayman suit, Judge Richard Leon invited Klayman just to add a plaintiff who subscribed to Verizon Business Services, in Northern CA, EFF requested the 9th Circuit take judicial notice of the document.

So now DOJ has gone a bit batshit. (Josh Gerstein first reported on this here.) It mocks that EFF head Cindy Cohn “apparently believes” it fair to conclude Verizon Wireless took part in the phone dragnet because of a reference to “a company name that includes the term ‘Verizon Wireless’ in the caption of a purported FISC filing” that happens to govern the entire phone dragnet. It suggests the accuracy of the document DOJ gave to Savage can be reasonably questioned, apparently disputing its own FOIA response to Savage. And it bitches that EFF “does not contend that this document was declassified,” even though it was given to Savage pursuant to his request for “declassification review [] as necessary.”

In short, in an effort to argue the document doesn’t say what it says (which may, I admit, not mean what it says, but such is the wackiness of the secret FISA Court and the secret phone dragnet), DOJ is saying that DOJ didn’t provide Charlie Savage authentic, declassified documents like he sued to get. DOJ uses words like “purported” to describe DOJ’s own FOIA response.

I mean, I’ll grant you, those of us outside DOJ often doubt the accuracy of their FOIA responses to us. But usually DOJ at least pretends they’re giving us authentic documents.

DOJ Threatens to Invoke State Secrets Over Something Released in FOIA

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In a hearing today, Judge Richard Leon said that Larry Klayman could pursue his dragnet challenge by adding a plaintiff who did business with Verizon Business Services. But as part of Klayman’s effort, he noted — weakly — that evidence got released showing Verizon Wireless was included in the dragnet. Klayman cited just the Charlie Savage article, not the document released under FOIA showing VZ Wireless on a FISC caption (though I presume his underlying 49 page exhibit includes the actual report — just not necessarily with the passage in question highlighted).

It was disclosed on August 12, 2015 by Charlie Savage of The New York Times that Verizon Wireless, as this Court had already ruled in its Order of December 16, 2013, at all material times was conducting and continuing to conduct unconstitutional and illegal dragnet “almost Orwellian” surveillance on Plaintiffs and millions of other American citizens. See Exhibit 1, which is a Government document evidencing this, incorporated herein by reference, and see Exhibit 2, the New York Times article.

Moreover, Klayman surely overstated what the inclusion of VZ Wireless in a phone dragnet Primary Order caption from 2010 showed. Which probably explains why DOJ said “The government has not admitted in any way, shape, or form that Verizon Wireless participated” in the Section 215 phone dragnet, according to Devlin Barrett.

The point is, they should have to explain why it is that, according to a document they’ve released, VZ Wireless was targeted under the program. Perhaps we’ll get that in Northern California, where EFF very competently pointed to what evidence there was.

Which is why the government’s threat to invoke state secrets was so interesting.

The Court should avoid discovery or other proceedings that would unnecessarily implicate classified national-security information, and the potential need to assert and resolve a claim of the state secrets privilege: Plaintiffs’ proposed amendments, in particular their new allegations regarding the asserted participation of Verizon Wireless in the Section 215 program, implicate matters of a classified nature. The Government has acknowledged that the program involves collection of data from multiple telecommunications service providers, and that VBNS (allegedly the Little Plaintiffs’ provider) was the recipient of a now-expired April 25, 2013, FISC Secondary Order. But otherwise the identities of the carriers participating in the program, now, or at any other time, remain classified for reasons of national security. See Klayman, 2015 WL 5058403, at *6 (Williams, S.J.).

At this time the Government Defendants do not believe that it would be necessary to assert the state secrets privilege to respond to a motion by Plaintiffs for expedited injunctive relief that is based on the allegations of the Little Plaintiffs, or even the proposed new allegations (and exhibit) regarding Verizon Wireless. Nor should it be necessary to permit discovery into matters that would risk or require the disclosure of classified national-security information and thus precipitate the need to assert the state secrets privilege. Nevertheless, if Plaintiffs were permitted to seek discovery on the question of whether Verizon Wireless is now or ever has been a participating provider in the Section 215 program, the discovery sought could call for the disclosure of classified national-security information, in which case the Government would have to consider whether to assert the state secrets privilege over that information.

As the Supreme Court has advised, the state secrets privilege “is not to be lightly invoked.” United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1, 7 (1953). “To invoke the . . . privilege, a formal claim of privilege must be lodged by the head of the department which has control over the matter after actual personal consideration by that officer.” Id. at 7-8. To defend an assertion of the privilege in court also requires the personal approval of the Attorney General. Policies and Procedures Governing Invocation of the State Secrets Privilege at 1-3, http://www.justice.gov/opa/documents/state-secret-privileges.pdf. The Government should not be forced to make so important a decision as whether or not to assert the state secrets privilege in circumstances where the challenged program is winding down and will end in a matter of weeks. Moreover, discovery into national-security information should be unnecessary to the extent the standing of the newly added Little Plaintiffs, and the appropriateness of injunctive relief, may be litigated without resort to such information.

If, however, discovery into national-security information is permitted, the Government must be allowed sufficient time to give the decision whether to assert the state secrets privilege the serious consideration it requires. And if a decision to assert the privilege is made, the Government must also be given adequate time to prepare the senior-level declarations and other materials needed to support the claim of privilege, to ensure that the national security interests at stake are appropriately protected. See, e.g., Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., 614 F.3d 1070, 1077, 1090 (9th Cir. 2009).

I think it’s quite possible that VZW was not turning over phone records under the Section 215 program in 2010 (which is quite another matter than suggesting NSA was not obtaining a great deal, if not most, of VZW phone records generally). I believe it quite likely NSA obtained some VZW records under Section 215 during the 2010 period.

But I also believe explaining the distinctions between those issues would be very illuminating.

Meanwhile, the threat of stalling, with all the attendant rigamarole, served to scare Leon — he wants this to move quickly as badly as Klayman does. After all, Leon will have much less ability to issue a ruling that will stand after November 28, when the current dragnet dies.

We shall see what happens in CA when DOJ attempts to make a similar argument.

Government Recently Released Information Proving Larry Klayman Has Standing

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As I noted, the DC Circuit Court reversed Judge Richard Leon’s injunction against the phone dragnet. The judges disagreed on whether Larry Klayman had standing — because he is a Verizon Wireless but not Verizon landline subscriber, which had been the only thing confirmed by the government. All agreed he had not shown he had the high certainty of standing required to uphold an injunction against the program. But the per curium opinion did agree that the case has not been mooted, because by immediately restarting the bulk program after the passage of USA F-ReDux, the government showed that the harm could recur.

That’s important, because information proving that Klayman does have standing has recently been released in an official (albeit probably inadvertent) release.

Part of the IG Reports on the phone dragnet Charlie Savage obtained by suing shows that — at least in 2010 — the Primary Order for the phone dragnet went to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon’s subsidiaries (the former MCI part of Verizon’s business, which I believe is its backbone), and “Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless.”

I’ll say more about what I think this really means in a later post — and why I think the suit against bulk surveillance needs to be, and can be, tweaked somewhat to ensure standing.

But for the moment, know that for at least one 90 day period in 2010, Verizon Wireless as well as Verizon’s landline was ordered to turn over phone records.

The Government’s Unexplained Iran Dragnet

Just the other day, I observed that the government likely has a problem with the authorities it has used to police its sanction regime against Iran. First, the government appears to have had a counterproliferation certification under Protect America Act that may have had legal issues; with FISA Amendments Act, Congress authorized such a certification as foreign intelligence. Then, at some point over the course of the phone dragnet, FISC approved the use of the dragnet with Iran under an alleged terrorism purpose. But the primary claimed Iranian terrorism in this country was propagated by DEA; clearly the NSA was using the dragnet for an inherently counterproliferation purpose.

A judge in DC just ruled for the government in a case against an Iranian American, Shantia Hassanshahi, that implicates many of these problems, and broader problems with the dragnet, though he did so by largely sidestepping the underlying issue.

Basically, the case that Hassanshahi violated sanctions stems from the following evidentiary steps:

  1. An unsolicited tip from an (apparently) paid informant
  2. A query request submitted to some unnamed database on a suspect number, which returned a single call with a number associated with Hassanshahi
  3. Based on that and 1 other call to Iran, the government stopped Hassanshahi as he returned from a trip to Iran and seized his devices in CA
  4. A forensic search of his laptop resulted in incriminating documents showing the sale of non-military energy-related goods to Iran

Hassanshahi argued that the query of the database — which he argued was either the phone dragnet database or something nearly identical and therefore just as unconstitutional — was illegal, citing Richard Leon’s Larry Klayman ruling. And he argued that everything else not only followed as fruit of the poison tree from there, but that the device search violated the 9th Circuit’s precedent requiring probable cause to conduct a forensic border search (his devices were seized in CA, not in DC). Judge Rudolph Contreras rejected Hassanshahi’s bid to have the evidence suppressed by dodging the question of the legality of the database query, treating it as unconstitutional (I think this overstates what the government was saying here).

In response, the Government sidesteps Hassanshahi’s argument by taking the position that although the NSA telephony database was not used, the Court nevertheless should assume arguendo that the law enforcement database HSI did use was unconstitutional. See Gov’t’s  Mem. Opp’n Mot. Suppress 12. Consistent with this position, the Government refuses to provide details about its law enforcement database on the basis that such information is irrelevant once the Court accepts the facial illegality of the database. See id. at 11-12. Regrettably, the Court therefore starts its analysis from the posture that HSI’s initial search of the mysterious law enforcement database, which uncovered one call between Sheikhi’s business telephone number and the 818 number linked to Hassanshahi, was unconstitutional

But based on the time that elapsed between the query he treated as unconstitutional and the border search, and based on Hassanshahi’s voluntary arrival in LAX (where a 9th Circuit ruling would require reasonable suspicion) and some really crazy details even the government didn’t argue that strongly constituted reasonable suspicion, he ruled the forensic search in LA legal.

This is where things get bizarre. Having already ruled that this was not flagrant enough to make the subsequent search improper, Contreras then throws up his hands, notes that if the government did use the NSA phone dragnet  (which is supposed to be limited to counterterrorism purposes and therefore should be inapplicable in this case) or if the dragnet it used doesn’t have the controls that the NSA dragnet does it might be a problem, he says he will require the government to submit an ex parte filing explaining the database.

But, at the same time, the Court does not know with certainty whether the HSI database actually involves the same public interests, characteristics, and limitations as the NSA program such that both databases should be regarded similarly under the Fourth Amendment. In particular, the NSA program was specifically limited to being used for counterterrorism purposes, see Klayman, 957 F. Supp. 2d at 15-16, and it remains unclear if the database that HSI searched imposed a similar counterterrorism requirement. If the HSI database did have such a limitation, that might suggest some level of flagrancy by HSI because it was clear that neither Sheikhi nor Hassanshahi was involved in terrorism activities. With so many caveats, the Government’s litigation posture leaves the Court in a difficult, and frustrating, situation. Yet, even assuming that the HSI database was misused to develop the lead into Hassanshahi, HSI’s conduct appears no more flagrant than law enforcement conduct in other “unlawful lead” cases,which still held that the attenuation exception applied nonetheless.6

66 The Government’s silence regarding the nature of the law enforcement database has made the Court’s analysis more complex than it should be. Although the Court still concludes that the attenuation exception applies in large part based on the “unlawful lead” line of cases, the Court will order that the Government provide the Court with an ex parte declaration summarizing the contours of the mysterious law enforcement database used by HSI, including any limitations on how and when the database may be used.

Of course he only requires this after ruling that the evidence can come in!

Now, I can think of four possibilities to explain the search:

  • The government searched the dragnet under its “Iranian” allowance (which only Josh Gerstein and I have ever reported), exposing what I noted above — that they’re using a CT tool for a fundamentally CP function
  • The government searched Hemisphere
  • The government searched SPMCA, the authority permitting it to contact-chain on US person data collected under EO 12333 or it originally searched on the Section 215 phone dragnet then re-ran the search under EO 12333 so it could share the link
  • There’s yet another dragnet

Something’s definitely fishy about the government’s claims, because the Homeland Security investigator in the case, Joshua Akronowitz changed his story twice in meaningful ways.

For example, the affidavit the government used to justify his arrest said he personally searched “HSI accessible law enforcement databases.” Read more