Tag Archives: FBI

8 Federal Agencies Sued for Records on Trump Attorney General Pick, Jeff Sessions

8 Federal Agencies Sued for Records on Trump Attorney General Pick, Jeff Sessions

WASHINGTON, DC — Multiple federal agencies are 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 Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of State (DOS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Security Agency (NSA). The suit is over the agencies’ failure to comply with Shapiro and Leopold’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Shapiro and Leopold submitted FOIA requests to the DOJ, DOS, DHS, DOD, SEC, EEOC, EPA, and NSA for records pertaining to President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General is one of the most controversial in American history. Sessions has an extensive track record of opposition to civil rights and civil rights activists, and has decried the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a “piece of intrusive legislation.” Hounded for decades by allegations of deep-rooted racism, Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 by the Senate Judiciary Committee partially on the sworn statement of a DOJ attorney who testified that Sessions spoke favorably of the Ku Klux Klan and decried the NAACP and ACLU as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” organizations. Further, the Republicans are forcing President Trump’s nominees through the confirmation process with only the most limited and superficial of hearings.

The records Shapiro and Leopold have sued over today will help shed light on the often obscured detailed of Sessions’ history as a state and federal Attorney General and as lawmaker.

1.) Records sought by Shapiro and Leopold include but are not limited to:

* Correspondence and other communications from, to, mentioning, or referring to Jeff Sessions. 

* Records authored or signed by Jeff Sessions regarding Civil Rights cases.

* Records constituting, mentioning, or referring to Civil Rights complaints involving Jeff Sessions

* Records pertaining to the conservative political action committee (PAC) Judicial Crisis Network, which is dedicated to securing confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General.

* Records pertaining to confirmsession.com, a website and project of Judicial Crisis Network dedicated to securing confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General.

2.) Due to the urgency of the matter, Shapiro and Leopold requested expedited processing of their FOIA requests. The DOJ, DOS, DHS, DOD, SEC, EEOC, EPA, and NSA failed to respond. This is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

3.) Not including this new lawsuit, Shapiro and Leopold already have four FOIA lawsuits against the FBI and other federal agencies for records on investigations involving Donald Trump.

In the first of these lawsuits, among other things, Operation 45 is suing the FBI and Secret Service for records on Donald Trump’s thinly-veiled assassination remarks regarding Hillary Clinton, and his less than veiled campaign trail call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The FBI unlawfully failed to respond to Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request, and then slow-walked an initial response to Shapiro and Leopold’s lawsuit until after the election.

Notably, the FBI’s response indicates the FBI might indeed be investigating Donald Trump for these incidents. However, in stark contrast to Director Comey’s pre-election rush to inform Congress that the FBI might re-open its investigation of Hillary Clinton, in this case the FBI dragged its feet to avoid revealing the same about Donald Trump until after the election.

4.) In the second of these lawsuits, Operation 45 is suing the FBI for all FBI records on the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, Trump Entertainment Resorts, and Trump University.

5.) In the third of these lawsuits, Operation 45 is suing the FBI for records on the FBI’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

6.) In the fourth of these lawsuits, Operation 45 is suing, the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for records on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as U.S. intelligence agency responses to Russian interference in the election.

7.) Shapiro and Leopold’s lawsuit filed today is part of the work of Operation 45. Operation 45 is a new 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded by MIT/Harvard’s Shapiro, and attorney Jeffrey Light, to ensure transparency and accountability for the incoming Trump/Pence administration.

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.

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.

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

According to Shapiro

Regarding this lawsuit:

“The American public absolutely deserves to the know the truth about the man Trump has nominated to hold one of the most powerful offices in the country, especially in light of the allegations of deep-rooted prejudice and contempt for civil liberties that have hounded Sessions for decades.”

Regarding Operation 45 (Of which this lawsuit is a part):

“Given Trump’s authoritarian aspirations and overt contempt for the Constitution and a free press, American civil liberties and privacy now face a profoundly clear and present danger.

“Trump must not be allowed to conduct his presidency from the shadows, and he must not be allowed to cripple the Freedom of Information act. The need is urgent for aggressive work to keep President Trump and his administration transparent and accountable.”

Regarding FOIA more broadly:

“Secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy.

“The democratic process cannot meaningfully function without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government.

“The Freedom of Information Act is one of the most underappreciated elements of the entire American experiment. The notion that the records of government are the property of the people, and all we need to do to get them is to ask, is radically democratic. But FOIA is broken. Sadly, this is why we now need to sue to compel FBI compliance with federal law.”

A complete copy of the complaint filed in court can be viewed HERE

To arrange an interview with Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. You can follow Jason Leopold on twitter at @JasonLeopold and Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro

CIA, FBI, DHS and ODNI Sued for Records on Russian Interference in 2016 Election

CIA, FBI, DHS and ODNI Sued for Records on Russian Interference in 2016 Election

WASHINGTON, DC — The CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are 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 yesterday against the FBI, CIA, DHS, and ODNI. The suit is over the agencies’ failures to comply with Shapiro and Leopold’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA requests and lawsuit:

Shapiro and Leopold submitted FOIA requests to the CIA, FBI, DHS, and ODNI for records pertaining to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as records pertaining to U.S. intelligence agency operations involving any such Russian interference.

Shapiro and Leopold seek these records in order to shed light on critical unknowns such as:

* What information on Russian interference did U.S. intelligence agencies possess, and when did they possess it?

* How did this information differ by agency?

* How did analysis of this information, and response proposals based upon that analysis, differ by agency?

* How did U.S. intelligence agencies communicate and coordinate with each other regarding the issue of Russian interference?

* Both officially and unofficially, how did U.S. intelligence agencies communicate and coordinate with outside entities and individuals regarding the issue of Russian interference?

1.) Records sought by Shapiro and Leopold include but are not limited to:

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”

Human Rights Watch Report Reveals Investigations & Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

Human Rights Watch Report Reveals Investigations & Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

WASHINGTON, DC — The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks, the groups found. But many others have targeted people who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them. And many of the cases involve due process violations and abusive conditions of confinement that have resulted in excessively long prison sentences.

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, who were accused of planning to blow up synagogues and attack a US military base, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent. The government, often acting through informants, then actively developed the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the targets to participate, and provided the resources to carry it out.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

Rezwan Ferdaus, for example, pled guilty to attempting to blow up a federal building and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Although an FBI agent even told Ferdaus’ father that his son “obviously” had mental health problems, the FBI targeted him for a sting operation, sending an informant into Ferdaus’ mosque. Together, the FBI informant and Ferdaus devised a plan to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol, with the FBI providing fake weaponry and funding Ferdaus’ travel. Yet Ferdaus was mentally and physically deteriorating as the fake plot unfolded, suffering depression and seizures so bad his father quit his job to care for him.

The US has also made overly broad use of material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. The courts have accepted prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part – and asserting government secrecy claims to limit challenges to surveillance warrants.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is a US citizen who alleged that he was whipped and threatened with amputation while detained without charge in Saudi Arabia – after a roundup following the 2003 bombings of Western compounds in the Saudi capital of Riyadh – until he provided a confession to Saudi interrogators that he says was false. Later, when Ali went to trial in Virginia, the judge rejected Ali’s claims of torture and admitted his confession into evidence. He was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to assassinate the president. He received a life sentence, which he is serving in solitary confinement at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

The US has in terrorism cases used harsh and at times abusive conditions of confinement, which often appear excessive in relation to the security risk posed. This includes prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on communicating in pretrial detention, possibly impeding defendants’ ability to assist in their own defense and contributing to their decisions to plead guilty. Judges have imposed excessively lengthy sentences, and some prisoners suffer draconian conditions post-conviction, including prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on contact with families or others, sometimes without explanation or recourse.

Nine months after his arrest on charges of material support for terrorism and while he was refusing a plea deal, Uzair Paracha was moved to a harsh regime of solitary confinement. Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) – national security restrictions on his contact with others – permitted Paracha to speak only to prison guards.

“You could spend days to weeks without uttering anything significant beyond ‘Please cut my lights,’ ‘Can I get a legal call/toilet paper/a razor,’ etc., or just thanking them for shutting our light,” he wrote to the report’s researchers. After he was convicted, the SAMs were modified to permit him to communicate with other inmates. “I faced the harshest part of the SAMs while I was innocent in the eyes of American law,” he wrote.

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

Read “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism ProsecutionsHERE

To arrange an interview with Naureen Shah or Tarek Ismail, contributors to this report, please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. For more Human Rights Watch reporting on counterterrorism, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/topic/counterterrorism