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Tag: FOIA

Homeland Security Reaches Agreement with Washington Times After Improper Record Seizure

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Homeland Security reached a rare settlement with a newspaper after seizing a reporter’s notes and records from her home while executing a warrant for information on guns allegedly possessed by her husband, the Washington Times reports.

The agency agreed to reimburse some of the legal bills accred by the newspaper and the reporter, Audrey Hudson, whose home was raided in August 2013 and her notes and records on the problems inside the Federal Air Marshal Service seized.

“While the settlement payments cover just a fraction of the legal bills we accrued, the fight was, in the end, about protecting a journalist’s right to keep her sources confidential and to engage in the First Amendment protected activity of reporting without unwarranted government intrusion,” said Larry Beasley, the president and chief executive officer of The Times.

Hudson said she hopes the settlement puts an end to similar seizures.

“The importance of this case was that we just were not going to let it stand, the idea that federal officers at will could confiscate a reporter’s notes without any sort of subpoena or search warrant seeking the notes or even directed at the reporter,” Ms. Hudson said.

Homeland Security also returned documents and other notes to Hudson.

Homeland Security did not return calls from the Washington Times for comment.

Flood Wipes Out Significant Portion of FBI Documents on Civil Rights, KKK

FBI photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A flood has wiped out a good portion of the FBI’s documents on the civil rights era.

IO9 reports the discovery was made recently after a professor had requested documents related to the Ku Klux Klan.

Those documents – and many more – were destroyed when the FBI’s archives in Alexandria, Va., were flooded.

Hundreds of thousands of pages of other documents were destroyed. They include 41 volumes on the National Negro Labor Council, 23 volumes on Claude Lightfoot, 19 volumes on the Nation of Islam and eight volumes on Detroit’s civil rights issues.

The professor, Trevor Griffey, wrote in his blog:

A more important question, however, is: why are these archives in the possession of the FBI at all? Why does the FBI continue to retain millions of pages of historically significant files, many of which are over 50 years old, that have no relevance to its contemporary law enforcement mission? Why have these files not already been transferred to the National Archives?

Many of the historically significant files destroyed in the Virginia flooding included a series of files that were supposed to have been transferred to the National Archives during George W. Bush’s second term….Almost ten years later, these files should not still be in the FBI’s possession.

Other files of major significance to the study of racial justice, the left, and U.S. foreign policy— particularly the FBI’s 105 series files, which include hundreds of thousands of pages of files on the Black Panther Party— remain in the FBI’s possession and decades away from ever being declassified or transferred to the National Archives.

These and other historically significant files that sit in secret FBI warehouses are vulnerable to more than just flooding. Decades-old standards for determining historical significance that tend to treat local history as unimportant, combined with wide latitude granted to FBI records management staff, have resulted in tragic and reckless destruction of many historically significant files.

Judge Admonishes FBI for Silly Argument for Not Releasing Public Records

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s argument for resisting an inmate’s Freedom of Information Act request is “transparently implausible,” a federal judge said in admonishing the bureau, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The FBI made the bizarre argument that the “FOIA request need not be disclosed because they reside on two CDs and a thumb drive.”

The FOIA requests by Gregory Bartko, who is serving prison time for conspiracy, mail fraud and selling unregistered securities, seek records involving the federal prosecutor who handled his case.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said the FBI must turn over the documents.

“The Bureau’s rationale seems to be that the electronic media in question are not ‘records’ for FOIA purposes because they are physical items that were presented to prosecutors as evidence,” Boasberg wrote. “Why this reasoning would exclude CDs that hold documents in digital form but not, say, the printer paper that will eventually hold this Opinion is beyond the Court.”

“In any case,” Boasberg continued, “no sophistry is necessary here, as Congress, with commendable technological foresight, amended FOIA in 1996 to cover records ‘maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format.’”

U.S. Releases Justice Department Documents Justifying Killing of U.S. Citizen in Yemen

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. did not violate the constitution or other laws by killing American citizen Anwar Awlaki in Yemen without due process of law, the Justice Department argues in a previously secret memoir release by a federal court Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The memo was written in 2010, a year before a U.S. drone strike killed Awlaki.

The documents were released after the ACLU and New York Times sued.

The memo is unusual because it advocates killing of an American citizen without the opportunity of due process. It was written by former Obama Justice Department official David Barron

“In the present circumstances, as we understand the facts, the U.S. citizen in question has gone overseas and become part of the forces of an enemy with which the United States is engaged in an armed conflict; that person is engaged in continual planning and direction of attacks upon U.S. persons from one of the enemy’s overseas bases of operations; the U.S. government does not know precisely when such attacks will occur; and a capture operation would be infeasible,” Barron wrote.

Man Sues NSA, FBI, DIA Over Investigations Involving Ex-South African Leader Nelson Mandela

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Did a CIA tip lead to Neslon Mandela’s 1962 arrest and subsequent 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa?

A Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ryan Shapiro, filed suit Tuesday against the NSA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency for failing to turn over records with a Freedom of Information Act Request, the Huffington Post reports.

Shapiro is investigating the extent to which the U.S. played a role in Mandela’s arrest

“The failure of the NSA, FBI, DIA, and CIA to comply with my FOIA requests for records on Mandela highlights that FOIA is broken and that this sad reality is just one component among many of the ongoing crisis of secrecy we now face,” Shapiro told The Huffington Post.

Mystery Behind Disappearance of Civil Rights Activist in Wounded Knee Is Revealed in FBI Records

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has finally confirmed that a civil rights activist who disappeared while supporting Native Americans in South Dakota four decades was murdered, the Buffalo News reports.

Roy Robinson went missing after arriving at Wounded Knee to support the American Indian Movement’s fight against the federal government.

The discovery wasn’t easy for his wife, Cheryl Robinson.

Two lawyers were forced to file Freedom of Information Act requests to access the information, which shows the FBI suspected AIM was behind the murder.

“They confirm the rumors that have been floating out there for years,” said Michael Kuzma, one of the Robinson family’s lawyers. “The only missing part of the puzzle is where Ray’s buried.”

Appeals Court: FBI Does Not Have to Release Memo Granting Permission to Gather Phone Records

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A confidential Justice Department legal opinion on the extent of the FBI’s surveillance authority does not have to be released to the public, a federal appeals court ruled, the Washington Post reports.

The January 2010 memo gave the FBI permission to gather phone call records from telecommunications companies.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the memo was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

“The District Court correctly concluded that the unclassified portions of the OLC Opinion could not be released without harming the deliberative processes of the government by chilling the candid and frank communications necessary for effective governmental decision-making,” the court said in its opinion written by D.C. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards.

Civil Rights Group Gets Access to Phone Secret Surveillance Unit Information

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

New documents reveal more about the FBI’s cell phone surveillance group, which has the technology to listen to anyone’s calls, Slate reports.

The surveillance method was revealed in new documents received by the civil rights group, Electronic Privacy Information Center, using the Freedom of Information Act.

The technology, most commonly referred to as “Stingrays” are portable surveillance transceivers that trick phones into transferring onto a fake network, Slate wrote.

The FBI maintains it uses the phones to track information of individual suspects, but the group believes the surveillance may violate the federal Communications Act because it interferes with the cellphone signals.