News you may have missed #348

  • US knew Guatemalan Army was behind notorious 1982 massacre. Declassified documents released on May 7 show that US officials knew the Guatemalan Army was responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, one of Guatemala’s most shocking human rights crimes.
  • New presiding judge in US FISA court. Three years after he was first appointed to serve on the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), John D. Bates has taken over as the presiding judge. Last week, Judge Martin Feldman was appointed to serve on the secretive court, which reviews (and invariably approves) government applications for counterintelligence surveillance and physical search.
  • UAE security sector benefits from al-Mabhouh assassination. Business for security companies in the United Arab Emirates has been brisk, with some companies reporting a 40% increase in business, as hotels spend millions bolstering their security systems. Some attribute this to last January’s killing in Dubai of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, by a Mossad hit squad.

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Comment: NSA listened in on Rep. Harman secret phone deal

Jane Harman

Jane Harman

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) has been in the limelight since Sunday evening, when veteran national security correspondent Jeff Stein published an article alleging that the Democratic politician struck a quid pro quo deal with a suspected Israeli spy. In the article, Stein cites several unnamed “former national security officials” who say Harman’s incriminating telephone conversation with the suspected Israeli agent was picked up in 2005 by a FISA-authorized NSA wiretap. During the call, the agent asked Harman to pressure US Justice Department officials to show leniency toward two American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists, who were arrested in 2005 for receiving classified information by convicted Israeli spy Lawrence Anthony Franklin. The two lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are still awaiting trial.

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Secretive US court to relocate in symbolic move

Judge Lamberth

Judge Lamberth

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1978, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, US legislators attempted to curtail the government’s spying powers by instituting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The court is supposed to handle requests by US counterintelligence agencies for surveillance of suspects operating inside the US. In reality, however, the court, which operates in total secrecy, has effectively become a rubber-stamp for the government, rarely turning down a request for a surveillance warrant. It usually rejects less than 1% of all requests each year; in 2007, the court denied only three of the 2,370 applications submitted to it by government agencies wishing to conduct surveillance operations. Even in rare instances when FISC does reject a warrant or two, another body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR) re-examines the rejected cases and usually ends up granting them to the counterintelligence agencies that have requested them. Now, however, the secretive court has reportedly decided to take a symbolic step toward self-determination, by moving its headquarters from the US Department of Justice building to a newly built wing of Washington DC’s federal courthouse. Read more of this post

Secretive US review court backs warrantless surveillance

wiretappingBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews |
The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is a panel of Federal Judges tasked with overseeing requests by counterintelligence agencies for surveillance of suspected foreign intelligence agents operating inside the US. It operates in total secrecy and rarely turns down a request for a surveillance warrant –it usually rejects less than 1% of all requests each year. Even in rare instances when it does reject a warrant or two, another body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR) re-examines the rejected cases and usually ends up granting them to the counterintelligence agencies that have requested them. Last Thursday, FISCR resorted to a near-unprecedented action: it published a redacted copy [.pdf] of a legal decision it handed down last August. Read more of this post