Originally published at the AP: The Big Story by Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan and Eric Tucker on 6/2/15
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country using video and sometimes cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.
The surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI says the flights are used for specific investigations. The agency says it uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft, shielding their identities from would-be suspects on the ground.
In a recent 30-day period, an AP review found, the FBI flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, including parts of Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle, and Southern California.
Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool for investigations. But the program raises questions as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.
U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for… Continue reading
Originally published at Washington’s Blog by Kevin Ryan on 6/13/15
Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.
Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.
The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA… Continue reading
Originally published at Florida Bulldog by Dan Christensen on 4/13/15
A secretive blue-ribbon panel formed by Congress to conduct an “external review” of the FBI’s post-9/11 performance – and to assess new evidence – was largely under the sway of the very agency it was tasked to examine.
The FBI 9/11 Review Commission originally was envisioned as something very different: an independent national commission with subpoena power that would hold public hearings, take testimony, receive evidence and compel government agencies to turn over information from their files.
Proposed legislation called for a chairman and vice chairman to be appointed by the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader, respectively. Staff would be hired without outside interference. The General Services Administration would provide support services.
That’s not what happened.
The FBI 9/11 Review Commission, which issued its final report March 25, held no public hearings and had no subpoena power. It was largely spoon-fed information by the FBI, whose personnel was on the commission’s staff and helped edit the final report to improve its “accuracy and clarity,” the report says.
The commission’s interviews and proceedings, its “Memorandums for the Record” and other documents on which the report is based were not made public.
FBI CHIEF PICKS 9/11 REVIEW PANEL
FBI Director James Comey, not the Speaker or the Majority Leader, chose the 9/11 Review Commission’s three members. The report says Comey did so “in consultation with Congress.”
The FBI paid… Continue reading
In 2002, the Sept. 11 victims’ families filed a lawsuit in federal court against the government of Saudi Arabia for their alleged role in funding and supporting al-Qaeda. The lawsuit floundered in 2013 amidst delays and a lack of substantial evidence, but new information has emerged that may resurrect the lawsuit.
Statements from former al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui suggest that members of the Saudi royal family had been major donors to the terrorist group as recently as the late 1990s.
Moussaoui gave his account last October to Jerry Goldman, a shareholder at Anderson Kill law firm and a lawyer for Sept. 11 victims’ families, and other lawyers from the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence.
“He has absolutely nothing to gain from this testimony, except for telling the truth,” says Goldman.
The Saudi government rejects Moussaoui’s 100-page testimony, which describes a close relationship between the government of Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda operatives who planned the 9/11 attacks. But Goldman says Moussaoui’s testimony fits within a broad historical pattern.
“The bad behavior that we allege of the Saudi royal family goes back a considerable period of time, and perhaps it’s still continuing,” he says. “That relevance is important, and most importantly, it’s relevance that the American people as a whole — not just the victims of 9/11 — need to understand what happened and [to know] that people are finally held accountable for the wrongs that they caused.”
In light… Continue reading
Originally published at Newsweek by Jeff Stein on 1/14/15
Just before Christmas, former FBI special agent Mark Rossini greeted me with his usual good cheer when we met for drinks in a midtown Manhattan restaurant. He told me his life had finally taken a turn for the better. He’s spending most of his time in Switzerland, where he works for a private global corporate-security firm. “Life’s good,” he said.
Good, but with a few major changes. Rossini was drinking club soda instead of the expensive cabernets he quaffed when I first knew him as a high-flying FBI official in Washington a decade ago, when he was a special assistant to the bureau’s chief spokesman, John Miller (now with the New York City Police Department). “I’ve cut back,” he said. “Feeling good.”
But when I ask him how he’s really doing, the light in his eyes dims. “Well, you know, I still miss the job,” he said, shaking his head. A boneheaded move—showing confidential FBI documents to his actress-flame Linda Fiorentino, who said she was researching a script about L.A. wiretapper extraordinaire Anthony Pellicano—cost him his career in 2008 and nearly landed him in jail.
“What’s past is past,” he said. But not all of it. He quickly told me of an encounter the day before on a street in Yonkers, where he keeps an apartment. He’d run into a close family friend who’d lost relatives at the World Trade Center on 9/11. “Mark,” she… Continue reading
Originally published at The Profile by Susan Dugan, Jan. 2015 Issue
Right after 9/11, I remember talking to my women’s group and saying I just don’t think this could have happened without someone knowing about it and allowing it to,” says Fran Shure. “It was totally intuitive, because I knew nothing. And that was received with a lot of censoring remarks. I just looked at them and said, you know, I have the right to think the unthinkable and I’m going to look into this. And lo and behold, a video came my way and then a book and I was in shock, like most people would be, reading about evidence that showed we were not told the truth about what happened on 9/11.”
A retired psychotherapist and landscape designer who successfully juggled both professions for 30 years, Shure grew up in Texas and has spent most of her life in Colorado. The many causes she has championed include working for a freeze on nuclear weapons, the anti-globalization movement, and recently, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment allowing communities to exclude heavy industry (such as fracking) from their communities, due to deep concerns about fracking’s largely untested consequences for the environment. Initial doubts about what really happened on 9/11 and her subsequent inquiry ultimately spurred a kind of spiritual metamorphosis that continues to this day.
FRAN SHURE WAS IMMEDIATELY SKEPTICAL THE ATTACKS OF SEPT. 11, 2001 could have taken place without some sort of advance knowledge. After studying extensive… Continue reading
Originally published at AllGov by Noel Brinkerhoff on 11/21/14
A decade after the 9/11 Commission suggested creating a unified communications network for first responders to use during emergencies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally collected enough money to move forward.
The commission recommended that the federal government create a way for police and firefighters from different jurisdictions to communicate with each other in a crisis—something they couldn’t do during the response to the 9/11 attacks.
Congress got into the act two years ago by passing legislation that authorized the FCC to reserve certain broadcast frequencies for public safety use.
The FCC, though, was left on its own to find funding for the new network, called FirstNet. So the commission auctioned off a band of wireless frequencies to telecommunications companies, which netted more than $11 billion to establish FirstNet.
The FCC only needs about $7 billion for the project, so the rest of the money is expected to go towards paying down the national debt.
Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Dish Network all registered to bid on the wireless spectrum, but the FCC has not announced the winners of the auction.
For additional background and context regarding interoperable communications, please see:
Originally published at KFOR by K. Kerry on 11/13/14
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSTU) – A federal judge in Utah has indicated that he wants an investigation into whether the FBI tampered with a witness in a trial regarding the Oklahoma City bombing.
At a hearing on Tuesday, the judge stopped short of finding the FBI in contempt of court, according to KSTU.
Instead, he indicated that he would appoint a federal magistrate judge to oversee further investigation into the claims.
However, he ruled that the FBI failed to file a report on the allegations in a timely manner.
Jesse Trentadue is suing over the death of his brother, Kenneth, who he claims was mistaken for a bombing co-conspirator and killed while in federal custody during an interrogation.
Trentadue is asking for records, including videotapes that he claims show convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh parking a truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and leaving with someone else before the bomb went off.
Trentadue has claimed that the other person was an FBI operative.
“There’s no doubt in my mind and it’s proven beyond any doubt that the FBI knew the bombing… Continue reading
Originally published at The Intercept by Cora Currier on 10/9/14
Can the government make demands for data entirely in secret?
That was the question yesterday before a federal appeals court in San Francisco, where government lawyers argued that National Security Letters — FBI requests for information that are so secret they can’t be publicly acknowledged by the recipients — were essential to counterterrorism investigations. The telecom company and internet provider that have challenged the National Security Letters (known as NSLs) still can’t even be named.
Last year, in a sharp rebuke to the government, a judge found that the gag order that comes with NSLs violated the First Amendment. The nondisclosure rule “significantly infringe[s] on speech regarding controversial government powers,” U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, of Northern California, wrote in March 2013. She also ordered that the FBI stop sending out NSLs entirely, but put the order on hold to give the government a chance to appeal.
The government, predictably, did appeal, and in arguments yesterday before the 9th Circuit, a Justice Department lawyer said that they would lose “an extremely useful tool” if the court upholds the ban on NSLs. (Documents related to the case can be found here.)
The letters, the reach of which was expanded under the Patriot Act in 2001, let the FBI get business records from telephone, banking, and Internet companies with just a declaration that the information is relevant to a counterterrorism investigation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing the… Continue reading
Originally published at whowhatwhy.com by Russ Baker on 8/28/14
Any serious student of history is on alert for “interesting accidents.” Because sometimes they are accidents. Sometimes, they’re not.
We have no opinion at the moment on the one-car-wreck that left former FBI director Louis Freeh badly injured around noon on August 25, other than to note some curious facts: the police were hours late informing the office of the governor of Vermont; Freeh was flown by helicopter to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire under armed guard, and has remained under armed guard; the hospital has refused to confirm that he is a patient, even after reports of two surgeries; at least for the first few days no one has answered the phones at his company, Freeh Group International.
From news reports available at press time, Freeh
was headed south on Vermont 12 in his 2010 GMC Yukon when he drove off the east side of the road. The vehicle struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs, then came to rest against the side of a tree, police said…
Louis Freeh epitomizes the risks attendant in a president’s decision to demonstrate bipartisanship by appointing or re-appointing figures associated with the opposing political party and/or prior regime. He also embodies the troubled legacy of the Bureau from its earliest days. (For a look at how the U.S. media cooperated with the Bureau to misleadingly burnish its image, see this)… Continue reading
Originally published at The Broward Bulldog by Dan Christensen and Anthony Summers on 5/9/14
The Justice Department late Friday made public four new, heavily censored documents confirming that by 2002 the FBI had found “many connections” between 9/11 terrorist figures and the Florida family of “an allegedly wealthy international businessman” with ties to the Saudi Royal family.
“On or about 8/27/01 his family fled their house in Sarasota leaving behind valuable items in a manner
indicating they left quickly without prior preparation,” says an FBI “case narrative” written on April 16, 2002.
The name of the international businessman, Esam Ghazzawi, is blanked out in the narrative. Ghazzawi’s name, however, is included on another page – an FBI form that accompanied a letter acquired by FBI agents in Tampa as “evidence” in July 2002. Details about the letter were not released.
The release of Ghazzawi’s name is the first time the government has confirmed Ghazzawi’s involvement in the FBI investigation that lasted until at least 2004, yet was never disclosed to the 9/11 Commission or congressional investigators.
Ghazzawi, adviser to a senior Saudi prince, owned the upscale south Sarasota home where his daughter, Anoud, and her husband, Abdulaziz al-Hijji lived prior to 9/11. Law enforcement sources have said that after 9/11 investigators found evidence – telephone records and photographs of license tags and security gate log books – showing that hijack pilot Mohamed Atta, former Broward resident and fugitive al Qaeda leader Adnan Shukrijumah and… Continue reading
Originally published at FOX13 by Ben Winslow on 7/31/14
SALT LAKE CITY — A trial over evidence and conspiracy theories from the Oklahoma City bombing wrapped up here, with a shocking twist.
As a trial over documents and videotape the FBI had from the 1995 bombing that killed 168 ended on Thursday, the man suing the federal government claimed one of his witnesses had been told not to show up — or else.
Jesse Trentadue said John Matthews, whom he claimed worked as an undercover government operative in the militia movement in the 1990s, had been contacted by an FBI agent and told “it would be best if he didn’t show up to testify.”
“He was told he should take a vacation and that if he did testify he should suffer from a case of the ‘I don’t remembers,’” Trentadue told U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups.
Trentadue told FOX 13 that Matthews had known convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh and worked for the government in an operation targeting the patriot militia movement known as “PATCON.”
“He was part of an operation the FBI ran for a decade during the ’90s where they would infiltrate, and it’s questionable whether they incited the right wing,” he told FOX 13.
Lawyers for the FBI denied the allegation and said it was Matthews who had contacted them asking how he could get out of testifying. Matthews could not be located to testify, they told the judge.
“This is a serious accusation,” Judge Waddoups said.… Continue reading
Originally posted by Human Rights Watch on 7/21/14
The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.
“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer… Continue reading
Originally published at Dig Within by Kevin Ryan on 7/27/14
After becoming Director of the CIA (DCI) in 1997, George Tenet did what Louis Freeh had done after his appointment as FBI Director. He began to cultivate close personal relationships with the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Like Freeh, Tenet grew especially close to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Bandar and Tenet often met at Bandar’s home near Washington yet Tenet did not share information from those meetings with his own officers who were handling Saudi issues at the Agency. The CIA’s Saudi specialists only learned about Tenet’s dealings with the Saudi authorities inadvertently, through their Saudi contacts. It seems that Tenet was operating within a network that surpassed the interests of the American public. Therefore the unsolved crimes of 9/11, attributed largely to young men from Saudi Arabia, should be considered in light of Tenet’s actions.
As Deputy Director for the CIA, in 1996, Tenet had worked to install one of his closest friends and confidants, John Brennan, as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. Brennan is now the DCI but, in his previous role, Brennan often communicated directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. At the time, as an apparent favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts were discouraged from questioning Saudi relationship to Arab extremists.
The unusual relationship that both George Tenet and Louis Freeh had with Saudi intelligence (and George H.W. Bush) recalls the private network that was created in the mid-1970s to accomplish covert… Continue reading
Originally published at the Guardian by Spencer Ackerman on 7/21/2014
Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the “direct involvement” of government agents or informants, a new report says.
Some of the controversial “sting” operations “were proposed or led by informants”, bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist.
The lengthy report, released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system’s ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases. It portrays a system that features not just the sting operations but secret evidence, anonymous juries, extensive pretrial detentions and convictions significantly removed from actual plots.
“In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act,” the report alleges.
Out of the 494 cases related to terrorism the US has tried since 9/11, the plurality of convictions – 18% overall – are not for thwarted plots but for “material support” charges, a broad category expanded further by the 2001 Patriot Act that permits prosecutors to pursue charges with tenuous connections to a terrorist act or group.
In one such incident, the initial basis for a material-support case alleging a man provided “military gear” to al-Qaida turned out to be waterproof socks in his luggage.
Several cases featured years-long solitary confinement for… Continue reading
On May 20, 2009, four men from the impoverished and largely African-American city of Newburgh, NY, were apprehended for an alleged terror plot. They had no history of violence or terrorist ties, but had been drawn by a Pakistani FBI informant into a carefully orchestrated scheme to bomb Jewish synagogues in a wealthy New York City suburb and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military supply planes. Their dramatic arrest, complete with armored cars, a SWAT team and FBI aircraft, played out under the gaze of major TV outlets, ultimately resulting in 25-year prison sentences for the “Newburgh Four.”
Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the case, political figures extolled the outcome as a victory in the “war on terror” and a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” though others believed the four men were victims of FBI entrapment. THE NEWBURGH STING delves deeply into this case — one of many cases across the country where people have been allegedly drawn into a plot with extreme consequences.
The Imam and assistant Imam of Mesjid al-Ikhlas, Newburgh mosque, recall their first encounters with Shahed Hussain – an undercover informant sent to Newburgh by the FBI in 2008 on a mission to find domestic terrorists. Representing himself as a businessman, Hussain drove expensive cars and made inflammatory statements about women and jihad. Suspicious, the Imams told a few of their congregants to stay away from Hussain, but one man, James Cromitie, bought into his story. Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer… Continue reading
Originally published at AP by Jack Gillum and Eileen Sullivan on 6/12/2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned.
Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment.
Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners’ account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company’s tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.
But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances… Continue reading
When the FBI investigated a Saudi Arabian family that abruptly left Sarasota weeks before the 9/11 terror attacks, it found “many connections between the (redacted) family and individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.”
The description, included in documents released Friday as part of a federal lawsuit against the agency, comes as the FBI is working to comply with a federal judge’s order to produce 27 boxes of materials.
To date, the agency said it has moved the boxes to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Florida, and spent many hours trying to delineate for U.S. District Court Judge William Zloch which documents are top secret by inserting 822 page markers into the boxes.
The agency also explained an earlier discrepancy that resulted in four additional boxes of documents. David M. Hardy, the FBI’s section chief in charge of records management, said the agency used a smaller box size to comply with the order. That and the marker pages resulted in more boxes overall.
“An 80,266 page file was received from Tampa, and the 80,266 page file was produced,” Hardy wrote.
The FBI also shipped a CD… Continue reading