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Nadler: FBI’s Not Done on Amerithrax

I know that Rush Holt has already called for further investigation in the anthrax case, but having a Sub-Committee Chair at HJC make the same call might carry different weight.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, reiterated his call for an independent investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks which killed five people and sickened 17.  He issued the following statement:

“Despite the FBI’s assertion that the case of the anthrax attacks is closed, there are still many troubling questions.  For example, in a 2008 Judiciary Committee hearing, I asked FBI Director Robert Mueller whether Bruce Ivins was capable of producing the weaponized anthrax that was used in the attacks.  To this day, it is still far from clear that Mr. Ivins had either the know-how or access to the equipment needed to produce the material.  Because the FBI has not sufficiently answered such questions, I join Congressman Holt in urging an independent investigation of the case.”

The FBI's Non-Emergency Exigent Letters

The WaPo has a story out describing how the FBI, from 2002 until 2006, used exigent letters to collect phone records without the proper underlying terrorist justification.

The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions.

[snip]

FBI officials told The Post that their own review has found that about half of the 4,400 toll records collected in emergency situations or with after-the-fact approvals were done in technical violation of the law. The searches involved only records of calls and not the content of the calls. In some cases, agents broadened their searches to gather numbers two and three degrees of separation from the original request, documents show.

MadDog has helpfully linked to a collection of all the emails included individually in the WaPo story.

There are a couple of details I find particularly interesting in this story. First,the exchange showing top FBI officials trying to collect phone records “related to a terrorist organization with ties to the US,” based on an underlying cable that FBI refused to share internally.

Separately, Kopistansky in the FBI general counsel’s office learned in mid-December 2004 that toll records were being requested without national security letters. She handled a request that originated from then-Executive Assistant Director Gary Bald, who had “passed information regarding numbers related to a terrorist organization with ties to the US” and obtained toll records, the memos show.

The communications analysis unit asked Kopistansky to “draw up an NSL” to cover the search, but she was unable to get superiors to tell her which open terrorism case it involved.

Call me crazy, but since we know the FBI and NSA were illegally wiretapping organizations like al-Haramain in 2004, you have to wonder whether this was an attempt to clean up poison fruit from earlier, even more illegal surveillance.

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Mueller ALREADY Reviewing Shortcomings of Hasan Investigation

Here’s an interesting detail. Robert Mueller is already launching a review into shortcomings of earlier investigations into Nidal Hasan.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has ordered a review of what might have been done differently in the case.

Mind you, it’s not that I think the FBI shouldn’t review what they did to make sure they didn’t ignore any warning signs that Hasan might represent a danger to Americans. I think such a review is necessary.

It’s just that–a week ago–I wrote a post reporting Mueller’s continued refusal to review the Anthrax investigation. As a reminder, here’s the excuse he gave for not welcoming an outside investigation.

There is also ongoing criminal and civil litigation concerning the Amerithrax investigation and information derived therefrom, and an independent review of the FBI’s “detective work” at this time could adversely affect those proceedings.

So, two unexpected attacks, both raising questions about the FBI’s diligence. Both with multiple murders and further injuries. Both exposing vulnerabilities in our military infrastructure. Both with ongoing investigations (purportedly, in the case of the Anthrax case).

But Mueller’s only willing to review the FBI’s detective work in one case.

FBI’s Robert Mueller Still Engaging in an Anthrax Cover-Up

photo: hqhwtr via Flickr

photo: hqhwtr via Flickr

Steven Aftergood has just published Robert Mueller’s responses to questions for the record he received from the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring. Chuck Grassley asked Mueller several questions about the anthrax investigation. (The questions start on page 42 of these QFRs.) Mueller’s answers make it clear the FBI was–and is still–trying to cover up details about its investigation of the anthrax attack.

Delaying the Exoneration of Stephen Hatfill

Grassley starts by asking why it took the FBI two years to publicly clear Stephen Hatfill after it had eliminated him as a suspect.

[In a reply to an earlier inquiry I made] the Justice Department said that Dr. Stephen Hatfill was conclusively eliminated as a potential suspect in the Spring of 2006. That’s four years after the government publicly branded him a “person of interest” and instructed his federally funded employer to fire him in 2002. Yet, two more years passed after the FBI knew he was innocent before anyone bothered to inform Dr. Hatfill in 2008 that he had been cleared.

After Mueller basically concedes the point, Grassley asks whether the delay had anything to do with Hatfill’s lawsuit. Mueller indirectly concedes that the FBI did not inform Hatfill because they were still litigating Hatfill’s Privacy Act suit.

Grassley: Is it a coincidence that Dr. Hatfill’s lawyer was informed of the FBI’s findings only after he had settled the case against the government for nearly $6 million?

Mueller: The settlement of Hatfill v. Mukasey, et al. (DDC), resolved complex litigation that had been pending since 2003. The lawsuit included constitutional tort claims against Federal officials in their personal capacity and Privacy Act claims against DOJ and the FBI. THe constitutional tort claims were dismissed in 2005 (including the claim against former AG Ashcroft based on his having publicly referred to Dr. Hatfill as a “person of interest”). The Privacy Act claims (which alleged improper leaks, among other things) remained pending at the time of the settlement.

Mueller’s non-answer basically confirms that the FBI let Hatfill hang out there, virtually unemployable, for two years so that they could settle his suit before admitting to him they had already confirmed he wasn’t the anthrax killer.

Refusing to Investigate FBI’s “Detective Work”

Grassley then goes on to ask about the National Academy of Sciences review of the FBI’s scientific analysis of the FBI’s anthrax case. After Mueller reviews that, Grassley asks whether the FBI would be willing to have an independent review of its “detective work” in the case. Mueller basically says, “no.”

Grassley: Are you opposed to an independent review of the FBI’s detective work, in addition to a review of the scientific evidence?

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Alberto Gonzales Tells the Tale We've Been Waiting For

Alberto Gonzales did a long interview with NPR’s Michel Martin on his tenure as Bush’s Fredo. As part of it, he gave a long discussion of his actions on March 10, 2004 and thereafter, starting with his insistence that he was not trying to take advantage of Ashcroft when he was in ICU (my transcript–apologies in advance for any errors). 

AGAG: Neither and or I, and obviously, I can’t really speak for Andy, but I’m comfortable saying that neither Andy or I would have gone there to take advantage of someone who was sick. Um, Andy and I both, in fact, talked about the importance of satisfying ourselves as we talked with General Ashcroft that he was in fact competent. We talked about it over at the White House and talked about it in the sedan over to the hospital. We were concerned about that. We were sent there on behalf of the President of the United States. We had just left a very important meeting with the Congressional leadership about a very important intelligence program that the Congressional leadership agreed with the President should continue because it was a particularly heightened period of threats against the United States and against our allies. And I might remind your listeners that the very next morning, you had the Madrid train bombings. It was a very serious period of time, we had a very important program, and everyone–the Congressional branch leadership and the Executive branch leadership seemed to feel that this was something that should continue.

MM: Are you saying the President told you to go?

AGAG: What I’m saying is I was sent there on behalf of the President of the United States. The Chief of Staff, the Counsel to the President, we went to the hospital on behalf of the President to make sure that General Ashcroft had this information. That’s why we went to the hospital.

MM: You mean had information about the Madrid bombing or had information that this was of importance to the President and the Congressional leadership?

AGAG: The Madrid bombing had not happened yet. That would happen then the next morning. We went to the hospital to make sure that the Attorney General had information about the approval of the Congressional leadership. We felt that as a former Member of Congress that that would make a difference for him and as someone who had been involved in the reauthorization of the program for three years we felt that that would make a difference. Read more

Robert Mueller Visits Senate Judiciary Committee

Oops, missed Pat Leahy’s opening statement, but the hearing is being streamed here. After babbling about how poor Curt Weldon was the victim of a nasty FBI leak, Specter is at least asking some specifics about the anthrax investigation.

Leahy interrupts Mueller just as he’s pitching his great anthrax investigation.

Leahy: I’ve thought about throughout this time. You briefed me in Vermont. These weapons that were used against the American people and Congress–are you aware of any facility in the US that is capable of making the anthrax besides Dugway in UT and Batelle in OH? Other than those two?

Mueller: Fifteen in the US and 2 overseas. 

Leahy: Are there any other facilities capable of making this anthrax?

Mueller: I do believe there are. I would have to get back to you.

Leahy: At some point we’re going to take a break and please get me that information, because I know of no others besides those two. I’m aware of the article from September 4 reporting a program of secret research on biological weapons, project has been embraced by Bush Administration. Weapons used against Americans were right after that. 

Now into questions.

Leahy: You commented on corporate scandals. There will be investigations regarding possible fraud or lawbreaking in those areas?

Mueller: 1400 investigations and 24 investigations looking at larger corporations who may have engaged in "misstatements."

Leahy: The USG is on the hook for 800 billion to 1 trillion–almost as much as the Iraq war–and I suspect that everyone wants to know if there was fraud.

Leahy: New guidelines. You say no broad new authorities. We’re unable to get a review of that, we have not been briefed. It’s been as superficial briefing as possible. I was surprised by your statement. Under the proposed guidelines, line FBI agent would be able to use several new intrusive methods at threat assessment level. 

Specter: Did you personally review the evidence and conclude there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Mueller: Yes.

Specter: WRT the hairs on the mailbox, why no effort to swab Ivins for DNA until the time he committed suicide.

Mueller: I would have to get back to you.

Specter: I’m going to send you a letter. When you anticipate designating an independent group of experts. 

Mueller: We are asking NAS to identify experts to serve on panel.

[Note: what about the non-scientific evidence???]

Mueller: I will consider whether you can name people.

Specter: What’s there to consider.

Mueller: I’m not familiar with how NAS does these reviews.

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Robert Mueller Visits House Judiciary Committee

On CSPAN3 and via the Committee website (though the latter didn’t work for me).

The two big issues will be the new guidelines for FBI investigations–which may allow racial profile–as well as the laughable case the FBI made that Bruce Ivins was the sole killer in the anthrax attack.

In an opening stated, Jerrold Nadler revealed that the FBI would not give staffers on HJC the new guidelines–they were able to see the guidelines, but not keep a copy. Nadler made a back-handed suggestion that the FBI had done so to prevent Congress from providing influence on those guidelines.

Mueller says the new guidelines are in the process of implementation and says they have [with emphasis] been briefed to HJC’s staff. 

I guess input would be too much to ask. 

Mueller on Ivins: "Special concern for the victims of the mailings … provide special information … included information about science developed for the investigation…. developed for the investigation … we have initiated discussions with National Academy of Sciences to undertake a review of the scientific approach … have provided as much information as we can."

Conyers starts out impatient: This has been months we’ve been trying to get a response to the seven questions I put to you."

Mueller: I’ve always made myself available … when it comes to QFRs, it goes through review and there is some delay. We worked to get to it back to you as soon as we could yesterday. We do our level best to get you responses as soon as we can. I will also sit down and discuss issues that may be on your mind.

Conyers talking about a raid conducted by 200 officers to find out who paid for the Cuyahoga County Dem Chair’s driveway paving. Mueller will get back to Conyers.

Nadler: Congratulations for your role in standing up against abuse of power [referring to Gellman’s exceprts of Angler]. In understanding bottom line of investigation and how accurate we can take it to be, it’s important to understand murder weapons: contained silica. Some observers say it may have been sophisticated additive, requires special expertise, former boss of Ivins says he did not have. Briefing last month, govt scientists say anthrax contained no additives. Scientists say a percentage higher than 1/2 of 1 percent has never been found naturally. What was the percentage of weight of silicon?

Mueller: I’d have to get back to you.

Nadler: You can tell us what Read more