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

FBI memos

FBI memos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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

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News you may have missed #0224

  • Parts 6 and 7 of CIA defector’s writings now available. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer has published the sixth and seventh installments (chapters 2 and 3 of “The Spy’s Cookbook”) of the writings of Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who defected to the USSR in 1985 (see here for previous intelNews coverage). In part six, Howard writes about the methodology of visiting (among other places) the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC. In part seven, he advises that the only time a double agent’s handlers should call the agent’s home is to tell him or her to “get out and leave the country!”.
  • Congressional vote on US PATRIOT Act delayed. The US House of Representatives tabled on Wednesday legislation to reform US domestic surveillance law. The Senate is likewise expected to delay the matter. The delays will automatically extend provisions of the PATRIOT Act that would otherwise expire at year’s end.

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News you may have missed #0203

  • N. Koreans arrested for revealing Kim Jong-Il’s whereabouts. A number of North Koreans have been arrested and could face execution for leaking to a South Korean Internet newspaper information on the movements of Kim Jong-Il’s February 24 trip to the city of Hoeryong.
  • Authority to spy on Americans unclear as PATRIOT Act expires. Controversial provisions in the Act, which grant US the government far-reaching domestic surveillance and seizure powers, are due to expire on December 31. These provisions will have to be discussed in Congress, “but only when the Senate isn’t backlogged by health care” according to insiders.

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Senator says Obama employs Bush tactics on spy secrecy

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Democratic senator has alleged that the Obama Administration is copying the Bush Administration’s tactics by “stonewalling and road blocking” Congress on intelligence issues. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the only Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act during its first vote, said during a nomination hearing on Tuesday that he suspects the White House is still withholding information from Congressional intelligence panel members. Feingold voiced the allegation during the nomination hearing in Congress of David Gompert, incoming deputy director of national intelligence, who will serve under director of national intelligence Dennis C. Blair. In recent months, Senator Feingold has emerged as one of the most vocal Democratic critics of the Obama administration’s policies on intelligence and security. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0136

  • US Senate panel votes to extend PATRIOT surveillance powers. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a measure that would leave the controversial surveillance powers of the USA Patriot Act mostly intact.
  • So who was behind GhostNet cyberespionage? Cyber hawks in the West are eager to blame the Chinese government for the huge cyberespionage ring, managed to infiltrate nearly 1,300 mainly government and corporate computers in at least 103 countries, before it was detected last March. This is in contrast to the actual cybersecurity experts themselves, who insist that they still have no idea who was behind it.
  • US Pentagon creates website for access to secret science. The Pentagon’s Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) has announced the creation of a new password-protected portal where authorized users can gain access to restricted scientific and engineering publications.

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News you may have missed #0111

  • Obama supports extending USA PATRIOT Act domestic spy provisions. The move confirms the US President’s support for the Act, whose warrantless communications monitoring provisions he approved with his Senate vote in 2008.
  • Poland jails alleged Belarusian spy. The man, known only as “Sergei M.” was sentenced Wednesday to five-and-a-half years in prison by a Warsaw district court for spying against Poland between 2005 and 2006. Meanwhile in Belarus four local army officers are still on trial, accused of spying for Poland.
  • Tolkien was trained as a British spy. Novelist JRR Tolkien, whose day occupation was in linguistics research, secretly trained as a British government spy in the run up to World War II, new documents have disclosed.

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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