News you may have missed #727

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►US government-authorized wiretaps increased in 2011. The US Justice Department sought 1,745 secret wiretapping warrants in 2011, an increase of 239 over 2010, according to correspondence sent to Congressional leaders and oversight committees. The secret warrants are governed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and are used in terrorist and espionage investigations by the FBI. The letter, dated April 30, 2012, also notes that the FBI issued 16,511 National Security Letters (NSLs) to obtain certain records and information in investigations. It further asserts that the requests were for investigations relating to 7,201 different US persons. The number of NSLs declined dramatically from 2010 when the FBI had sought 24,287.
►►Australia axes spy agency funding. Large budget cuts by the Australian Labour government, which is trying to engineer a federal budget surplus, are expected to affect funding for the country’s intelligence agencies. The six agencies of the Australian intelligence community have been given a collective budget of $81 million over four years, a figure that is $20.4 million lower than previous budgets. The government said that savings will be “redirected to support other national intelligence priorities”.
►►Canada spy case adjourned until June. The case of Jeffrey Delisle, a Halifax naval intelligence officer accused of espionage, has been adjourned until next month because his lawyer has not yet received all of the files in the case. Delisle is charged with communicating information to a foreign entity —probably Russia— that could harm national interests. Until 2010, Delisle worked for both Canada’s Chief of Defence Intelligence and at the Strategic Joint Staff, which oversees virtually every major aspect of the military’s domestic and international plans and operations.

FBI wiretaps broke the law thousands of times from 2002 to 2006

FBI memos

FBI memos

Considering the extent of illegal domestic telephone surveillance practiced by US intelligence agencies after 9/11, the disclosure of yet another wiretap scandal can hardly surprise anyone. But the latest revelation by The Washington Post points to an alarming collusion between FBI agents, their supervisors, as well as telephone industry employees, all of whom consciously disregarded even the severely lax standards of the USA PATRIOT Act. The paper says it acquired several internal FBI memos (.pdf), through “a government employee outside the FBI, who gained access to them”. These memos appear to show widespread abuse of more than 2,000 US telephone call records (but not content, it appears), which FBI agents obtained between 2002 and 2006, by presenting telephone companies with fake National Security Letters (NSLs). The NSLs claimed the records were required for emergency counterterrorism investigations. But in reality these investigations bore no connection to terrorism, and the NSLs were never followed up with actual subpoenas, as they were supposed to. Read more of this post

US federal appeals court upholds National Security Letters

National Security Letters (NSLs) are types of warrantless subpoenas issued by US government agencies. They are typically used to force organizations or companies to surrender information pertaining to individuals or groups. In the late 1970s, NSLs were used in rare instances by the FBI during investigations. The 2001 USA PATRIOT Act marked an unparalleled expansion of the power of NSLs, allowing their use against American citizens even in cases when they are not targets of criminal investigations. The USA PATRIOT Act also ratified a gag order provision preventing NSL recipients from disclosing the letter’s existence. The CIA, FBI and the US Department of Defense are all known to have issued several NSLs in recent years. Read more of this post

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