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Wed Sep 11, 2013, 07:32 AM

Documents: Officials misused US surveillance program


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For nearly three years, government officials got hold of data on thousands of domestic phone numbers that they shouldn't have had. And then, according to documents released today, they misrepresented to a secret spy court what they had done, in order to get the program reauthorized.

The Obama administration had to release the documents as part of a lawsuit by a civil liberties group. They show that National Security Agency analysts routinely exceeded their mission to track only phone numbers with reasonable connections to terrorism.

The administration had earlier conceded that the surveillance program scooped up more domestic phone calls and emails than Congress or the court had authorized. But many of the details weren't known until today.

The NSA told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that it had misunderstood restrictions on accessing data once it was archived. But in March of 2009, Judge Reggie Walton wrote that the explanation was hard to believe. He was so fed up with the government's overreaching that he threatened to shut down the surveillance program.

He noted that fewer than 2,000 phone numbers out of the nearly 18,000 on a list that investigators had been working with at the time had met the legal standard under which they could be accessed.

Officials say the complexity of the computer system -- and a misunderstanding of laws, court orders and internal policies -- contributed to the abuses.

There's no evidence that the NSA intentionally used its surveillance powers to spy on Americans for political purposes.

They've done enough unintentional damage

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Reply Documents: Officials misused US surveillance program (Original post)
marble falls Sep 2013 OP
OnyxCollie Sep 2013 #1
marble falls Sep 2013 #2

Response to marble falls (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 07:56 AM

1. I believe the NSA intentionally used its surveillance powers to spy on Americans


for political purposes.

The NSA gathered info on Democratic politicians that it would turn over to the FBI and US Attorneys, resulting in investigations and prosecutions, operating under "parallel construction," which would occur during close elections.


On March 6, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum regarding new procedures to apply to foreign intelligence (FI) and foreign counterintelligence (FCI) investigations conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It proposed significant changes to FISA and allowed overlapping between intelligence officers and law enforcement officers:

Prior to the USA Patriot Act, FISA could be used only for the "primary purpose" of obtaining "foreign intelligence information." The term "foreign intelligence information" was and is defined to include information that is necessary, or relevant, to the ability of the United States to protect against foreign threats to national security, such as attack, sabotage, terrorism, or clandestine intelligence activities. See 50 U.S.C. § 1801(e)(1). Under the primary purpose standard, the government could have a significant law enforcement purpose for using FISA, but only if it was subordinate to a primary foreign intelligence purpose. The USA Patriot Act allows FISA to be used for "a significant purpose," rather than the primary purpose, of obtaining foreign intelligence information. Thus, it allows FISA to be used primarily for a law enforcement purpose, as long as a significant foreign intelligence purpose remains. See 50 U.S.C. §§ 1804(a)(7)(B), 1823(a)(7)(B).

The Act also expressly authorizes intelligence officers who are using FISA to "consult" with federal law enforcement officers to "coordinate efforts to investigate or protect against" foreign threats to national security. Under this authority, intelligence and law enforcement officers may exchange a full range of information and advice concerning such efforts in FI or FCI investigations, including information and advice designed to preserve or enhance the possibility of a criminal prosecution. The USA Patriot Act provides that such consultation between intelligence and law enforcement officers "shall not" preclude the government's certification of a significant foreign intelligence purpose or the issuance of a FISA warrant. See 50 U.S.C. §§ 1806(k), 1825(k).

These procedures were changed or rejected by the FISA court and its opinion was publicly released in August 2002.

In spite of the long-accepted, constitutionally sound, independence-preserving method of appointing interim U.S. Attorneys, the appointment process was radically changed with the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2006. Removed was the interbranch appointment from the district court; the Attorney General could now make interim U.S. Attorney appointments. Also eliminated was the 120 day period that interim U.S. Attorneys could stay in office before a district court could appoint an interim U.S. Attorney to fill the vacancy. Interim U.S. Attorneys could now remain in office indefinitely, or until the President appointed a U.S. Attorney to the district. Interim U.S. Attorney appointments bypassed Senate confirmation, leaving the determination of qualification to the Justice Department.

The insertion of this new clause into the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act went unnoticed. Senators were at a loss to explain how the clause made its way into the bill. It was later determined that the Justice Department had requested Brett Tolman to insert the clause into the bill (Kiel, 2007). At the time the clause was inserted Mr. Tolman was a counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which is Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is a member. Sen. Specter responded to inquiries about his involvement with the clause by saying, “I do not slip things in” (Kiel, 2007, p. 1). According to Sen. Specter, the principal reason for the change was to resolve “separation of power issues” (Kiel, 2007, p. 2). The Senate voted to repeal the clause in February 2007 (P.L. 110-34, 2007). At the time of this writing, Mr. Tolman is a U.S. Attorney for the state of Utah.


A report from Professors Emeritus Donald C. Shields and John F. Cragan of the University of Missouri and Illinois State University respectively, shows that of 375 elected officials investigated and/or indicted, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. “U.S. Attorneys across the nation investigate seven times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops” (Shields & Cragan, 2007, p. 1).

Criminal defense lawyers demand access to secret DEA evidence

In interviews, at least a dozen current or former agents said they used “parallel construction,” often by pretending that an investigation began with what appeared to be a routine traffic stop, when the true origin was actually a tip from SOD.

Defense lawyers said that by hiding the existence of the information, the government is violating a defendant’s constitutional right to view potentially exculpatory evidence that suggests witness bias, entrapment or innocence.

“It certainly can’t be that the agents can make up a ‘parallel construction,’ a made-up tale, in court documents, testimony before the grand jury or a judge, without disclosure to a court,” said Jim Wyda, the federal public defender in Maryland, in an email.

“This is going to result in a lot of litigation, for a long time.”

"Parallel construction" is really intelligence laundering

The government calls the practice "parallel construction," but deciphering their double speak, the practice should really be known as "intelligence laundering." This deception and dishonesty raises a host of serious legal problems.


Taken together, the Fifth and Sixth Amendments guarantee a criminal defendant a meaningful opportunity to present a defense and challenge the government's case. But this intelligence laundering deprives defendants of these important constitutional protections. It makes it harder for prosecutors to comply with their ethical obligation under Brady v. Maryland to disclose any exculpatory or favorable evidence to the defense—an obligation that extends to disclosing evidence bearing on the reliability of a government witness. Hiding the source of information used by the government to initiate an investigation or make an arrest means defendants are deprived of the opportunity to challenge the accuracy or veracity of the government's investigation, let alone seek out favorable evidence in the government's possession.

The third major legal problem is that the practice suggests DEA agents are misleading the courts. Wiretaps, search warrants, and other forms of surveillance authorizations require law enforcement to go to a judge and lay out the facts that support the request. The court's function is to scrutinize the facts to determine the appropriate legal standard has been met based on truthful, reliable evidence. So, for example, if the government is using evidence gathered from an informant to support its request for a search warrant, it has to establish to the court that the informant is reliable and trustworthy so that the court can be convinced there is probable cause to support the search. But when law enforcement omits integral facts—like the source of a tip used to make an arrest—the court is deprived of the opportunity to fulfill its traditional role and searches are signed off without the full knowledge of the court.


The NSA-DEA police state tango

On the other hand, this is a genuinely sinister turn of events with a whiff of science-fiction nightmare, one that has sounded loud alarm bells for many people in the mainstream legal world. Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law professor who spent 18 years as a federal judge and cannot be accused of being a radical, told Reuters she finds the DEA story more troubling than anything in Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. It’s the first clear evidence that the “special rules” and disregard for constitutional law that have characterized the hunt for so-called terrorists have crept into the domestic criminal justice system on a significant scale. “It sounds like they are phonying up investigations,” she said. Maybe this is how a police state comes to America: Not with a bang, but with a parallel construction.

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Response to OnyxCollie (Reply #1)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 03:06 PM

2. They knew enough about it to lie and bury.

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