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Tag: CIA

Judge Approves $3 Million Payout to Ex-DEA Agent, But Chastises Government For Failing to Punish Anyone

Judge Lamberth

Judge Lamberth

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Ex-DEA Agent Richard Horn may have been quite happy when the government agreed to pay him $3 million late last year to settle a lawsuit in which he claimed the CIA spied on him and illegally wiretapped his conversations while he was stationed in Burma in 1993.

But  U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth of  Washington is none too happy and chastised the government in an opinion issued Tuesday for failing to punish anyone in the matter.

“Now this court is called upon to approve a $3,000,000 payment to an individual plaintiff by the United States, and again it does not appear that any government officials have been held accountable for this loss to the taxpayer,” Lamberth wrote in an opinion in which he approved the settlement. ” This is troubling to the Court.”

The government was able to invoke a “state secret privilege”. By doing so, it agreed to pay the ex-DEA agent $3 million, but not admit to wrongdoing. It also avoided airing government secrets.

“As to the allegations of wrongdoing that form the basis of Horn’s claims, while the government makes no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement, the Court is persuaded that the government must have at least found them credible to pay the plaintiff $3,000,000 to settle the case,” the judge wrote.

Lamberth asked the Attorney General whether the case will be referred to the Inspector General for internal investigation.

Read Opinion

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Fed Agents Going Undercover on Social Networks like Facebook

istock illustration

istock illustration

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department document asks the simple question: Why Go Undercover on Facebook, MySpace, etc.?

Then it goes on to explain: “Communicate with suspects/targets” … “gain access to non-public info” … “map social relationships/networks.”

The document, part of a Justice Department PowerPoint presentation, shows how some federal and local law enforcement agents are quietly creating fictitious accounts on social networks like Facebook and MySpace to get dirt on suspected criminals. The presentation recently surfaced in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court.

Some federal and local law enforcement agents are quietly creating fictitious accounts on social networks like Facebook and MySpace to get dirt on suspected criminals

“This is just the way people meet these days — electronically,” James Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told AOL News. “It wouldn’t be any different than calling someone on the phone, say, in an undercover capacity. If we can meet them on Facebook by creating a fictitious account, that’s great. ”

Even so, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco filed the lawsuit in December against about a half a dozen federal agencies to create a public dialogue on the matter and make sure agencies have guidelines for agents, according to Marcia Hofmann, a senior staff attorney for the foundation. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, Treasury, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are included in the suit.

facebook-logo

Some agencies don’t readily appear to have guidelines and some have offered to produce them in coming months to satisfy the demands in the lawsuit, according to Hofmann.

“This on one hand is a very clever use of these tools, but it makes you wonder when enterprising agents come up with these ideas, what is appropriate and what is not,” she said. “I don’t want to speculate as to what they do and they don’t do. I do think there should be a public debate whether it’s ethically sound or not. There should be some transparency.”

Initially, social networks like MySpace, which first surfaced in 2003, and Facebook, which launched in 2004, and Twitter which arrived in 2006, were simply for hip high school and college-aged kids. As social media’s popularity soared, law enforcement began to realize that there was more to these networks than idle gossip and photos of cats, dogs, proms and beer parties.

Now, some federal agents privately talk, almost in amazement, about how much information is available on social networks and how careless criminals are. They say some information can be obtained without even going undercover.

In fact, they say some criminals — and noncriminals as well — fail to select the right security settings to block non-friends from seeing photos and other personal information on sites like Facebook. And besides, anyone can see a person’s friend list without “friending” the person.

twitter4

“It’s not like we have to dig very deep,” said one federal agent who has not created fictitious accounts but knows of others who have. “Facebook is the best. They videotape themselves. They have pictures with guns, posing with gang members. There’s addresses of homes. We tend to go after what’s there.”

Another federal agent says he’s amazed how freely some criminals post information on social networks.

“I’m surprised by the recklessness of it,” the agent said. “I would think they would be smarter. That’s why we only catch the stupid ones. ”

Still, even before the recent documents surfaced publicly about fictitious accounts, some federal law enforcement agencies readily admitted to being aware of criminals using the social networks.

On Jan. 27, for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles issued a press release about the indictment of 20 suspected members of the Riverside Street Gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia. The release noted that the members use “MySpace.com to communicate about gang business, and they use rap music videos and recordings to deliver a message of violence and intimidation.”

myspace-images3

DEA Agent Sarah Pullen of the Los Angeles office said of the probe, “Any time you have visual evidence that is available, it is extremely helpful in conducting an investigation. It would be the same as a piece of mail or a photo; anything that shows evidence of a crime.”

In Washington, federal law enforcement agencies have responded to the issue of agents creating fictitious undercover accounts with carefully worded responses.

“The Department of Justice and our agents follow applicable laws, regulations and internal guidelines for investigations, regardless of whether those investigations occur online or on the street,” Laura Sweeney, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement to AOL News.

“Just as we’ve done successfully in identifying and prosecuting child predators online, we will continue to use publicly available information individuals post online about their illegal activities, or false statements to law enforcement officials, in our investigations. To do otherwise would be negligence on our part,” Sweeney said.

Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman, noted, “Simply said, law enforcement needs to be able to constantly adapt to the changing world around them while maintaining its ability to use all lawful and available tools at its disposal to gather potential leads to solve crimes.”

Interestingly, the Internal Revenue Service provided a document in the San Francisco lawsuit that states employee guidelines for the Internet. “You cannot obtain information from websites by registering … fictitious identities,” the document said.

“I think it’s interesting the IRS has drawn the line, and the Justice Department has not,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Hofmann said.

There has been limited public outcry about the prospects of agents creating undercover accounts since the Justice Department document surfaced.

But Hofmann mentioned the La Crosse, Wis., police department, which reportedly created a fake Facebook page using an attractive, blond-haired woman to lure students and find out about underage drinking. The department did not return a call for comment.

The La Crosse Tribune reported in November that Adam Bauer, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse sophomore, had nearly 400 friends on Facebook and added the attractive woman. Shortly after, police had Facebook photos of him drinking, and he was fined $227.

After his court appearance in November, Bauer told the paper, “I just can’t believe it. I feel like I’m in a science fiction movie, like they are always watching. When does it end?”

Atty. Gen. Holder Picks U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald to Probe Photos of CIA Officers Found in Gitmo Prisoner’s Cell

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has picked one of the nation’s most tenacious federal prosecutors, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, to investigate “whether defense lawyers at Guantánamo Bay compromised the identities of covert CIA officers,” Newsweek’s DeClassified column reported.

“The probe was triggered by the discovery last year of about 20 color photographs of CIA officials in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, an alleged financier of the 9/11 attacks, say three current and former government officials who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case,” Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball reported.

The magazine reports that the photos included snapshots of CIA officers on the street and in other public places.

To read full story click here.

Column: FBI And Top Spies Give Mixed Message: Shades of Bush?

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein

By Jeff Stein
Spy Talk

WASHINGTON — Which is it now — imminent terrorist threat, or no threat? Certain or uncertain?

Only last month U.S. intelligence officials were saying the Nigerian underwear bomber slipped through their nets because they didn’t think al Qaeda could or would mount another attack here.

Yesterday, they warned that a terror attack here was “certain.”

Meantime, we hear that the Miranda warning that FBI interrogators gave Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab caused the Nigerian to clam up.

But yesterday, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he was singing like the proverbial bird.

Moreover, in “case after case,” terrorists have provided actionable intelligence even after they were given their rights and charged with crimes, Mueller said.

If that weren’t enough, officials continue to contradict each other on who’s in charge of interrogating Abdulmutallab and other top-of-the-ticket terrorist suspects.

To read more click here

Ex-CIA Spy Retracts Statement About Waterboarding

spy bookBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — There’s no shortage of B.S. in this town.

Enter John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative.

Reporter Jeff Stein has penned an article in Foreign Policy magazine saying that Kiriakou’s claim that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists was simply misleading.

Stein writes that “Kiriakou, a 15-year veteran of the agency’s intelligence analysis and operations directorates, electrified the hand-wringing national debate over torture in December 2007 when he told ABC’s Brian Ross and Richard Esposito in a much ballyhooed, exclusive interview that senior al Qaeda commando Abu Zubaydah cracked after only one application of the face cloth and water.”

But Stein writes: ” Now comes John Kiriakou, again, with a wholly different story. On the next-to-last page of a new memoir, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (written with Michael Ruby), Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up.”

Ouch!

Read more »

Son of CIA Case Officer Takes Charge of FBI Salt Lake City Office

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — James McTighe, the son of a CIA case officer, will take charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Division, replacing Timothy J. Fuhrman, who was recently named special agent in charge of the Mobile, Ala. office.

McTighe had last served as special assistant for deputy director John Pistole at FBI headquarters, the FBI said.

McTighe joined the FBI in 1983 and was first assigned to the Cincinnati Division, where he worked general property crimes, public corruption, fugitives, and drug cases, the FBI said.

Read more »

Ex-DEA Agent Who Claimed CIA Spied on Him Gets $3 Million From U.S. in Lawsuit

burma map
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
Ex-DEA agent Richard Horn may have lost his privacy, but he’s a lot richer as a result.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay him $3 million to settle a lawsuit in Washington in which Horn alleged that the CIA and a U.S. diplomat spied on him  and illegally wiretapped his conversations while he worked at the U.S. Embassy in Burma more than ten years ago, Politico reported.

Politico reported that Horn’s lawsuit alleged that the CIA officer and the diplomant “conspired to place a listening device in a coffee table at Horn’s residence and that the pair then relayed information they obtained to Washington.”

To read more click here.

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