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Tag: Justice Department

FBI Seeks New Authority to Hack into Computers, Spy on Users Anywhere

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is seeking new authority to hack into computers and spy on their users, the Guardian reports.

The Justice Department is requesting that an obscure regulatory advisory board change the rules of searches and seizures. The two will meet Nov. 5.

Civil liberties groups claim the new rules would violate the first and fourth amendments and are questioning why the Justice Department is seeking the permission without public debate or congressional oversight.

“This is a giant step forward for the FBI’s operational capabilities, without any consideration of the policy implications. To be seeking these powers at a time of heightened international concern about US surveillance is an especially brazen and potentially dangerous move,” said Ahmed Ghappour, an expert in computer law at University of California, Hastings college of the law, who will be addressing next week’s hearing.

The proposed changes involve court-approved warrants, which currently require surveillance to occur in the same district as the judge who approves the warrant.

The proposed changes would eliminate that requirement and allow the FBI to hack into any computer.

The FBI has been having troubles tracking some hackers because their locations are hidden by tools such as Tor.

 

First-Amendment Lawyer: AG Eric Holder Has Some Wrongs to Correct Before Leaving

By David A. Schulz
For Washington Post

As Eric Holder reflects on his six years as attorney general, one disturbing aspect of his legacy should give him significant pause. On Holder’s watch, legal protections traditionally afforded to communications between reporters and sources have been torn down, potentially damaging for years to come the media’s ability to uncover and report on government missteps. The attorney general should acknowledge the problems and address them before leaving office.

Holder has faced harsh criticism for pursuing two related strategies that undermined reporter-source communications. The first denied that any “reporter’s privilege” exists — and just this year the Supreme Court let stand an appellate court ruling adopting Holder’s position.

That ruling came in response to a prosecutor’s demand that Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Risen disclose his source for a report on the CIA’s effort to subvert Iran’s nuclear program. Although a reporter’s privilege has been recognized for decades in other contexts, a divided court of appealsaccepted the Justice Department’s argument that no evidentiary privilege allowed Risen to refuse to identify his source in a criminal prosecution. Under this ruling, the question of whether to require a reporter to reveal a source rests with the prosecutor alone.

The ruling is an unflinching rejection of a reporter’s right to make a binding promise of confidentiality in exchange for information. It is a direct assault on the foundation of trust needed for effective investigative reporting and threatens to limit severely disclosures by government whistleblowers. That Holder’s Justice Department fought for just this ruling caused some media lawyers to label this administration “worse than Nixon” for the free press.

The impact of this ruling is compounded by a second Holder strategy: relaxing regulations limiting prosecutors’ surreptitious surveillance of reporters’ communications.
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Top-Level Vacancies in Justice Department Are Significant Challenge, Opportunity for President Obama

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Obama is faced with a significant challenge and opportunity.

The top three jobs at the Justice Department will soon be vacant, and just four of Obama’s 11 choices for assistant attorney generals have been confirmed, CBS News reports.

The vacancies leave a power vacuum at an agency that has been very active in law enforcement issues.

“It’s always a challenge because the senior-level positions require Senate confirmation, and it can be difficult to move these nominees through a confirmation vote,” Thomas Dupree, who served as deputy assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, told CBS News. At the same time, he said, “It’s an opportunity for [the president] to identify new people who will bring new energy and new ideas into the administration.”

The vacancies also offer a good opportunity for the administration “to look at the whole matrix” of skills and experience that fit the needs of the country, said Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.

Justice Department Accuses Ferguson Officials of ‘Inappropriate Effort to Influence Opinion’

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department accused some Ferguson officials of leaking information to the media in an effort to support Officer Darren Wilson, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In recent days, details of the investigation have appeared in local and national news coverage at a time when a grand jury decision is imminent on whether Wilson will be charged in the killing of an unarmed black teenager.

The Justice Department called the leaks “irresponsible and highly troubling.”

“There seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence opinion about this case.”

The information is supposed to remain a secret through the Grand Jury process.

“There is no way there should be reports from all these anonymous sources and these ‘leaks’ ….This is supposed to play out in the courts and the justice system, and not the media,” said Ferguson protester and resident Patricia Bynes. “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

 

Facebook to DEA: Setting Up Fake Accounts to Capture Suspects Violates Policies

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA’s decision to set up a fake account on Facebook by stealing a woman’s identity was a “knowing and serious breach” of the social networks’ terms and policies, the company wrote in a letter to the DEA.

Gizmodo reports that Facebook will enforce its policy of users creating accounts under proper names.

Facebook “has long made clear that law enforcement agencies are subject to these policies.”

Despite that policy, the FBI created a fake account using the stolen identity of Sondra Arquiett, who had been arrested on suspicion of being in a drug ring. The idea was to catch others in the ring by using the account.

Nazi War Criminals Continued Collecting Social Security Benefits from U.S.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

At least 38 suspected Nazi war criminals removed from the U.S. continued receiving their Social Security benefits as part of a strange deal struck with the Justice Department, the Seattle Times reports.

One of them is former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger, who fled to Germany and still collects about $1,500 a month in Social Security payments

The Social Security payments were used by the Justice Department as leverage to convince the suspected war criminals to leave the U.S.

The loophole that made it possible for the suspects to receive Social Security benefits would have been closed in legislation that was opposed by the Office of Special Investigations, which went after Nazis.

An analysis by the Associated Press found that 28 suspected Nazi criminals received $1.5 million in Social Security benefits after being removed from the U.S.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to Step Down, Take Job in Private Sector

Dep. Atty. Gen. James Cole/doj photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is about to lose another high-ranking officials.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, second-in-command, announced Thursday that he’s taking a job in the private sector, the Washington Post reports.

The Post said possible successors include Sally Quillian Yates, who is U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Cole’s job was to run the Justice Department’s daily operations.

Cole spoke to the Washington Post about the difficulties of balancing security with civil liberties.

“If you just want to keep people safe and you’re willing to sacrifice people’s constitutional rights and their civil liberties, that’s not so hard,” he said.

“If you just want to protect people’s constitutional rights and their civil liberties and you’re willing to sacrifice their safety, that’s not so hard either,” Cole said. “The hard part is to do them both.”

Justice Department Puts End to Waivers That Prevented Defendants from Appealing

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department has ended the controversial practice of asking defendants who plead guilty to waive their appellate rights over bad legal advice, CNN reports.

In a memo issued Tuesday, the Justice Department said it will ban the waivers that are still used in 35 U.S. attorney offices.

The waivers are controversial because make it difficult for defendants to have due process.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the new policy.

The Justice Department said the waivers were used to discourage frivolous lawsuits.