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Justice Department

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FBI found ‘many connections’ between Sarasota family and 9/11

Image of Prestancia home

Many of the documents are thought to contain information about a Prestancia home where federal agents have linked phone calls to known 9/11 suspects, the Bulldog has reported. The calls were made to, or received from, alleged terrorist ringleader Mohammed Atta and 11 other terrorist suspects, the Bulldog has reported.

Originally posted at the Herald-tribune by , last updated 5/14/14

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

US pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance

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.

Image of Berkshire Manor neighborhoodCiting 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

Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

Originally posted by Human Rights Watch on 7/21/14

Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

Image of FBI agents taking Cromitie to prison

James Cromitie, center, is escorted from Federal Plaza, headquarters of the FBI in New York, by federal agents and police, early Thursday, May 21, 2009. Cromitie and three other men were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y. (Michael Appleton/The New York Times)

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

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

CIA admits to spying on Senate staffers

Originally published at The Guardian by Spencer Ackerman on 7/31/14

Image of CIA Director John Brennan

John Brennan

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, issued an extraordinary apology to leaders of the US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, conceding that the agency employees spied on committee staff and reversing months of furious and public denials.

Brennan acknowledged that an internal investigation had found agency security personnel transgressed a firewall set up on a CIA network, which allowed Senate committee investigators to review agency documents for their landmark inquiry into CIA torture.

Among other things, it was revealed that agency officials conducted keyword searches and email searches on committee staff while they used the network.

The admission brings Brennan’s already rocky tenure at the head of the CIA under renewed question. One senator on the panel said he had lost confidence in the director, although the White House indicated its support for a man who has been one of Barack Obama’s most trusted security aides.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd acknowledged that agency staff had improperly monitored the computers of committee staff members, who were using a network the agency had set up, called RDINet. “Some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between [the committee] and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to the RDINet,” he said.

Asked if Brennan had or would offer his resignation, a different CIA spokesman, Ryan Trapani, replied: “No.”

In March, the committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, accused the agency of violating… Continue reading

James Risen calls Obama ‘greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation’

Originally published at The Guardian by Joanna Walters on 8/17/14

Photo of James Risen

Journalist James Risen

The New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jail over his refusal to reveal a source and testify against a former CIA agent accused of leaking secrets, has called President Barack Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation”.

Speaking to his colleague Maureen Dowd, Risen accused the president of aggressively pursuing journalists, including himself, who report sensitive stories that reflect poorly on the US government.

Risen faces jail over his reporting of a botched intelligence operation that ended up spilling nuclear secrets to Iran. The Justice Department has long been seeking to force him to testify and name the confidential source of the account, which is contained in his 2006 book State of War.

Risen recently failed in an attempt to have the supreme court review an order for him to testify, and acknowledges that he has exhausted all his legal options against the Justice Department’s pursuit of him under the controversial Espionage Act. In the face of incarceration that could come as early as this autumn, he is resorting instead to journalistic defiance.

• Journalist refuses to reveal source of story about CIA operation
• President’s support for press freedom called ‘hypocritical’

Risen would be the first journalist to go to prison for failing to divulge sources since 2005, when the former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for contempt of court, after refusing to testify about a… Continue reading

The militarization of the police: To terrify and Occupy

Originally published at TomDispatch by Matthew Harwood on 8/14/14

How the Excessive Militarization of the Police is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents

During a 2011 investigation, reporters Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz discovered that, since 9/11, police departments watching over some of the safest places in America have used $34 billion in grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to militarize in the name of counterterrorism.

Jason Westcott was afraid.

Photo of riot police

Riot police in Oakland in 2010. (Credit: flickr/cc/Thomas Hawk)

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 pm on May 27th, the intruders arrived. Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders.  They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic.  He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The intruders, however, weren’t small-time crooks looking to make a small… Continue reading

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