Tag Archives: Department of Justice

Group Sues FBI for Documents on Previously Unknown Cyber-Enabled Surveillance Platform Named ‘Gravestone’

Group Sues FBI for Documents on Previously Unknown Cyber-Enabled Surveillance Platform Named ‘Gravestone’

Washington, DC — On Thursday, December 21, 2017, Property of the People filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the Bureau’s failure to comply with the group’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records on the FBI’s cyber-enabled surveillance platform named “Gravestone”.

Very little is publicly known about Gravestone. In late 2016, Property of the People located information online identified by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as “metadata” about a previously unknown FBI surveillance platform named Gravestone. The metadata was posted on the DOJ’s website data.gov [screencaptures 1, 2].

The metadata and associated information on the DOJ site revealed, “Gravestone is a system consisting of an IP based camera, routers, firewalls, and a workstation to review surveillance video. The system provides Video Surveillance data to FBI field offices and is used by case agents.”

The DOJ shortly thereafter deleted the Gravestone entry from data.gov. This deletion appears to have part of a broader DOJ data.gov purge of publicly available information about FBI systems. While it is unclear precisely when the DOJ deleted the Gravestone information, the deletion appears to have occurred sometime between December 9, 2016 and January 24, 2017.

In March 2017, Property of the People submitted five Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI for records on Gravestone. The FBI failed to comply with the organization’s requests within the statutorily-permitted 20-working day deadline, and therefore the FBI is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Consequently, earlier today, the group filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI to compel compliance with its FOIA requests.

Among other things, the transparency organization’s five FOIA requests seek FBI documents on Gravestone-related Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA), instructional and training materials, acquisition and maintenance records, and security incidents and misuse.

Under the E-Government Act of 2002, federal agencies are generally required to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments for all systems that collect personally identifiable information, and make these publicly available online. While it is unknown whether the DOJ and FBI consider Gravestone to be a National Security System, the DOJ’s own guidelines mandate that Privacy Impact Assessments be completed for all systems, including National Security Systems. Not only has the DOJ now purged all information about Gravestone from its website, but the FBI and DOJ have failed to make public any Privacy Impact Assessment for the FBI’s Gravestone system.

According to Property of the People Co-Founder, Ryan Shapiro:

“The FBI has a long, dark history of utilizing new surveillance technologies to facilitate violations of Americans’ civil liberties and privacy. In the interest of democracy and transparency, the public requires access to documents about this cyber-enabled FBI surveillance platform.”

Shapiro continues:

“The FBI has failed to make public, and possibly even to conduct, the legally mandated Privacy Impact Assessment for its Gravestone surveillance system, and also failed to comply with our Freedom of Information Act requests for documents about Gravestone. True to form, the FBI appears intent on conducting surveillance with abandon on Americans while simultaneously refusing to comply with even the most basic requirements of transparency about this surveillance.”

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People legal strategist, Gunita Singh.

The FBI is Investigating Donald Trump’s Call for Russian Hacking and Espionage

The FBI is Investigating Donald Trump’s Call for Russian Hacking and Espionage

President Trump’s May 9, 2017 letter firing now-former FBI Director James Comey in part reads, “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation[.]”

However, a recent court filing by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FBI in an ongoing FOIA lawsuit plainly indicates the FBI has an active investigation pertaining to Donald Trump’s actions related to actual or potential election-related hacking and espionage by Russia.

The lawsuit is filed by Ryan Shapiro, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate/Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University research affiliate, and Jason Leopold, Senior Investigative Journalist at BuzzFeed News.

An excerpt from Donald Trump’s termination letter to James Comey.  You can read Donald Trump’s full letter along with accompanying letters from AG Jeff Sessions, and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein HERE

On August 18, 2016, Shapiro and Leopold submitted a FOIA request to the FBI seeking “disclosure of any and all records, including investigative records, mentioning or referring to Donald J. Trump’s statement on 27 July, 2016 [regarding Secretary Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails], ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ and ‘I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’”

When the FBI did not respond in a timely manner to the FOIA request, Shapiro and Leopold sued. During the lawsuit, the FBI initially asserted that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents responsive to this FOIA request.

Excerpt from the Joint Status Report that indicates that there is an active FBI investigation.  Read the full status report HERE

However, the FBI subsequently withdrew this position and agreed to search for the requested documents. Again, the documents requested by Shapiro and Leopold are records, including investigative records, mentioning or referring to a public statement made personally by Donald J. Trump, not his advisors, surrogates, or campaign staff.

Excerpt from the Joint Status Report that indicates that there is an active FBI investigation. Read the full status report HERE

In a court filing in this case on April 6, 2017, a Justice Department attorney representing the FBI informed the Court that there is an “active, ongoing investigation” pertaining to this matter and claimed that disclosing the “records that are responsive to the Russia Request” could reasonably be expected to interfere with “enforcement proceedings.” (As noted elsewhere in the DOJ/FBI’s new filing, the term “Russia Request” refers explicitly to Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request quoted above.) The DOJ/FBI’s new court filing acknowledges the existence of records responsive to Shapiro and Leopold’s “Russia Request”, and claimed that all, or virtually all, of these documents cannot be released because of the potential to interfere with active law enforcement proceedings.

On April 7, 2017, the Court set a deadline of July 25, 2017 for the FBI to file a motion explaining the basis for its claim that release of documents responsive to “the Russia Request” would interfere with an ongoing law enforcement operation.

The lawsuit is Case 1:16-cv-01827-KBJ. It is being heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Documents

  1. Read the Joint Status Report in 1:16-cv-01827-KBJ HERE 
  2. Read Comey’s termination letter from Trump, Sessions & Rosenstein HERE

About Operation 45

Ryan Shapiro, referred to by Politico as “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”, is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) at MIT, as well as a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Shapiro is also the co-founder and president of the new transparency organization Operation 45. The Nation has described Operation 45 as “a ray of hope in these dark political times.”

Jason Leopold is an award-winning Senior Investigative Reporter at Buzzfeed News, specializing in counterterrorism and human rights. Leopold has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Shapiro and Leopold are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney, Jeffrey Light.

You can follow Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro, and Jason Leopold on twitter at @JasonLeopold.

You can support Operation 45’s efforts HERE

FBI Sued for Records on Agency’s Role in Trump Victory

FBI Sued for Records on Agency’s Role in Trump Victory

WASHINGTON, DC — The FBI is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate/Harvard Klein Center for Internet & Society research affiliate, Ryan Shapiro, filed a lawsuit this morning against the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The suit is over the FBI’s failure to comply with Shapiro and Leopold’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on the FBI’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Jason Leopold is an award-winning Senior Investigative Reporter at Vice News, specializing in counterterrorism and human rights. Leopold has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Ryan Shapiro, referred to by Politico as “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”, is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) at MIT, as well as a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Leopold and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Six key elements of Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request & lawsuit:

1.) Leopold and Shapiro submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records on a wide range of records pertaining to FBI operations involving the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This includes but is not limited to all records on:

* The FBI’s investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email & private server

* The FBI’s investigations of the Clinton Foundation

* FBI Director Comey’s communications with Congress regarding the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email & private server

* Allegations of FBI violations of the Hatch Act in the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election

* Internal discontent at the FBI regarding the FBI’s Clinton investigations

* All leaks of information by the FBI to the press and political operatives about FBI investigations of Hillary Clinton

* All FBI communications with Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, Corey R. Lewandowski, Fox News, Bret Baier, Sean Hannity; & Rudy Giuliani

* Richard Spencer, the National Policy Institute, & the “alt-right”