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

DoJ continues criminal investigation of NSA whistleblower

Last month, Thomas M. Tamm, a former US Justice Department official, revealed himself as the source who initially tipped off The New York Times about NSA’s operation STELLAR WIND, a domestic warrantless spying program, which was secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11. New York Times journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau eventually revealed the program in a frontĀ pageĀ article, relying on interviews with nearly a dozen undisclosed insiders. Despite numerous indications that STELLAR WIND may be unconstitutional, and despite the impending change of guard at the White House, the US Department of Justice appears to be actively pursuing its criminal investigation of Tamm. Read more of this post

US Judge allows legal challenge of warrantless wiretapping

Pete Seda, fmr head of Al-Haramain

Pete Seda, fmr head of Al-Haramain

Ever since September 2004, when they were taken to court accused of terrorist links by the US government, the directors of Al-Haramain, a Saudi-based Islamic charity with offices in Oregon and Missouri, have suspected their telephones had been tapped under the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Their suspicions were confirmed last July, when US government prosecutors mistakenly gave the charity’s legal team a classified document showing that the FBI had indeed tapped the group’s office phones. The group’s legal team used the classified document as a basis to sue the Bush Administration, claiming that warrantless wiretapping violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, the presiding Judge, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, ruled that the lawsuit rested on a classified document that Al-Haramain’s lawyers were not supposed to have access to in the first place. He therefore dismissed the case and ordered the Islamic charity’s legal team to return the document to the FBI. Read more of this post

Journalist talks about revealing NSA program whistleblower

Michael Isikoff, the Newsweek investigative correspondent who authored the recent article about Thomas Tamm, the whistleblower of NSA’s domestic spying program, has given an interview to Democracy Now. Isikoff, who wrote the article with Tamm’s consent, states in the interview that “Tamm’s lawyers have been told that US Department of Justice officials [are going to leave] the decision on whether to prosecute [Tamm] to the Obama Justice Department”. Read more of this post

Whistleblower who disclosed NSA domestic spying program comes forth

Exactly three years ago, New York Times journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed NSA’s domestic warrantless spying program, which was secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11. Nearly a dozen undisclosed insiders helped the two journalists unravel the NSA scheme. But the initial tip came from what Lichtblau describes in his book, Bush’s Law, as a “walk-in” source with intimate knowledge of the US intelligence community’s practices. That “walk-in” source has now come forth. His name is Thomas M. Tamm, a former US Justice Department official who held a Sensitive Compartmented Security clearance (“a level above Top Secret”) issued by the US government. Read more of this post

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