Tag Archives: FBI

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

FBI Releases New Documents Detailing Extensive Spying on Nelson Mandela in Response to MIT Student’s FOIA Lawsuit

FBI Releases New Documents Detailing Extensive Spying on Nelson Mandela in Response to MIT Student’s FOIA Lawsuit

[CAMBRIDGE, MA] As revealed in an exclusive report by Jason Leopold for Al Jazeera America, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro has received a second batch of documents from the FBI as part of Shapiro’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records on Nelson Mandela.  In the wake of recent NSA and FBI spying revelations, the documents obtained by Shapiro shed light on decades of politically motivated FBI surveillance, including the monitoring of Mandela’s post-prison meeting with a Yugoslavian President and the surveillance of Mandela’s meetings with activists in the USA.

The first batch of documents, received by Shapiro last month, exposed FBI spying on Mandela during his historic 1990 visit to the U.S. shortly after his release from 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities.

The newly released second batch of documents provides additional evidence of FBI monitoring and surveillance of Mandela’s activities, both prior to and following his release from prison. This included FBI monitoring of Mandela’s meetings with world leaders.

Further, the newly released documents also reveal FBI investigation of the South African and U.S. anti-apartheid movements as being Communist threats to American domestic security. Notably, these FBI “Communist” threat investigations of the anti-apartheid movement continued even after U.S. imposition of trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa, after Mandela’s release from prison, and after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the political functioning of national security and the policing of dissent. His pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is also suing the NSA, CIA, and DIA over those agencies’ failure to comply with his FOIA requests for records on Mandela. Shapiro is represented by FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Six key takeaways from the FBI’s latest release of documents to Shapiro:

1. The FBI monitored Mandela’s meetings with a foreign world leader and spied on his meetings with domestic U.S. dissidents.

In the first release of documents to Shapiro, we learned that although the FBI assisted in protecting Mandela on his 1990 U.S. visit, the Bureau also took that opportunity to spy upon the newly freed iconic anti-apartheid leader. Those documents revealed the FBI developed a confidential informant within or closely affiliated with Mandela’s U.S. entourage, and this informant provided the FBI not only with logistical information about Mandela, but also political information about Mandela and his associates.

The newly released second set of documents reveal further politically-motivated FBI monitoring and surveillance of Mandela upon his release from prison, including the monitoring of a meeting between Nelson Mandela and a foreign world leader. For example, in a newly released March 1990 document that is still largely classified “Secret,” the FBI is shown to have monitored[.pdf ] a meeting in Namibia between Mandela and Janez Drnovsek, then president of Yugoslavia and leader of the Non-Aligned Countries. The Non-Aligned Countries Movement was deeply supportive of Mandela and his anti-apartheid political party, the African National Congress (ANC).

Another newly released document, this one a heavily redacted June 1990 internal FBI communication, shows the FBI authorized a Philadelphia FBI agent or a Philadelphia FBI confidential informant to travel to New York City to surveil [.pdf ] a potential meeting between Nelson Mandela and members of the Puerto Rican nationalist movement. After concluding there was “at least a possibility of a personal meeting with Mandela” and the Puerto Rican activists, both the New York City and Philadelphia FBI field offices considered surveillance of this potential meeting to be a “necessity[.]”

2. The FBI monitored Mandela even before his release from prison.

Several of the newly released documents reveal FBI monitoring [.pdf ] of foreign and U.S. newspapers for information on Mandela while Mandela was still incarcerated. For example, two formerly classified “Secret” July 1989 documents show FBI language specialists clipped, and when necessary, translated press articles discussing a possible early release from prison for Mandela. The FBI’s language specialists then forwarded this information to FBI Counterintelligence supervisors. (For more on FBI Counterintelligence programs, see #3 below.)

3. The FBI investigated the South African and U.S. movements to end apartheid and free Nelson Mandela as Communist plots.

The newly released documents reveal that, just as it did in the 1950s and 1960s with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, the FBI aggressively investigated the U.S. and South African anti-apartheid movements as Communist plots. In one newly released still partially classified “Secret” July 1984 FBI internal teletype, the FBI highlighted [.pdf ] the purported communist associations of some supporters of African American U.S. Congressman George Crockett’s (D-MI) then-pending House resolution calling for “Freedom for Nelson and Winnie Mandela.” Another document, a newly released formerly classified “Secret” January 1985 record, shows the FBI viewed a newspaper petition [.pdf ] calling upon President Reagan to condemn Mandela’s continued incarceration as evidence of Communist Party USA (CPUSA) subversive activities. And a newly released August 1990 formerly classified “Secret” FBI internal communication reveals the FBI’s insistence [.pdf ] that support for a joint 1990 House resolution calling for establishment of a “Nelson Mandela/ANC Day” was Communist-inspired. In the document, the FBI is further shown to have insisted that the congressman who introduced the joint resolution, civil rights icon Charles Hayes (D-IL), was himself “a former member of CPUSA.”

4. The FBI understood these anti-Apartheid purported communist plots to be threats to American national security.

Not only did the FBI explicitly investigate the South African and U.S. anti-apartheid movements as communist plots, the FBI viewed these plots as menacing American national security. This is evident in the investigation classification codes utilized by the FBI in the newly released documents. As can be seen again and again in the newly released documents, the two FBI investigation classification codes most commonly associated with the FBI’s “Communist” investigations of the anti-apartheid movement were “100” and “229.”

The 100 classification signifies an FBI “Domestic Security” investigation. Not only do FBI “Domestic Security” investigations definitionally pertain to FBI investigations of perceived security threats, the 100 classification was the primary classification used by the FBI during its notorious and ultimately deemed to be unconstitutional COINTELPRO campaigns (see below) against the U.S. civil rights, free speech, and anti-Vietnam War movements, among others.

The 229 investigation classification signifies an FBI “Foreign Counterintelligence Matters” investigation. Several of the newly released documents also bear the “G-3” security code classification, which also signifies a Foreign Counterintelligence Investigation. Traditionally, counterintelligence entails the prevention of espionage, however the FBI has historically used term to mean spying on and disrupting political dissidents. The most obvious example is the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO, or COunter INTELigence PROgram, in which the FBI unlawfully surveilled, infiltrated, and at times violently disrupted anti-war, civil rights, and other American political dissident movements. COINTELPRO targets included Martin Luther King, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Muhammed Ali, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the National Lawyers Guild.

5. The FBI’s understanding of the anti-apartheid movement was so warped, one FBI field office felt compelled to internally refute the FBI’s distorted facts and analysis on the subject.

An especially illuminative August 1990 formerly classified “Secret” internal FBI teletype [.pdf ] from the FBI’s Chicago field office takes the Bureau’s official understanding of the ANCand the broader anti-apartheid movement unsparingly to task. In response to an FBI memo earlier that month describing the ANC as a “known Soviet front group,” the FBI’s Chicago field office provided a stunning rebuke, noting the Bureau’s “description of the ANC as a Soviet Front is an over-simplification which fails to recognize the complex and paradoxical nature of that particular organization […] which was, of course, founded before the Russian Revolution.” Over the course of nine pages, the FBI’s Chicago field office continued an unflinching education of the Director of the FBI and numerous FBI field offices on the history, methods, and mission of the ANC. This included information on the ANC’s decades-long commitment to “non-violent activism” prior to the South African government’s banning of the ANC in 1960, the ANC’s consequent adoption of “symbolic” sabotage tactics, the South African government’s consequent “life imprisonment for sabotage” of ANC leaders including Nelson Mandela, and the fact that the ANC “turned to the Soviet Bloc for support only after failing to enlist the support of the U.S. and Western Europe in their struggle against apartheid and its attendant inequities.” The FBI’s Chicago field office further noted the South African apartheid system was characterized by “official racism” and enforced “obvious inequities[.]” Additionally, the Chicago field office admonished the broader Bureau that, “It is, at this point in time, clear that any lasting settlement of South Africa’s future will involve Nelson Mandela and the ANC.”

6. As with the previous release, the FBI has again withheld a huge amount of information, and the NSA, CIA, and DIA have yet to release any documents at all.

Not only did the FBI withhold some pages in their entirety from this release, many of the records the FBI did release are heavily redacted. One such document, a still largely classified “Secret” 1993 NY FBI foreign counterintelligence memo pertaining to Mandela, involved a confidential informant who explicitly provided [the FBI] political information[.] [.pdf ]  Additionally, The FBI justified its redactions and withholdings in this release in part by invoking FOIA exemptions pertaining to national security, the use of confidential informants, and perhaps most bizarrely, ongoing investigations.

Further, while the FBI’s latest document release is definitely problematic, the NSA, CIA, and DIA have yet to release any documents at all regarding Mandela in response to Shapiro’s FOIA requests and lawsuit. And these are the agencies most likely to posses records pertaining to U.S. intelligence community involvement in pro-apartheid South African affairs prior to Mandela’s 1990 release from prison. U.S. involvement in these affairs, including the likely involvement of the CIA in Mandela’s 1962 arrest, and the confirmed provision by the NSA of intelligence to the apartheid regime into the 1980s, are deeply shameful.

According to Shapiro:

“The newly released documents not only bring to light additional politically motivated FBI spying on Mandela, they also expose something even darker. The documents reveal that, just as it did in the 1950s and 60s with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, the FBI aggressively investigated the U.S. and South African anti-apartheid movements as Communist plots imperiling American security. Worse still, the documents demonstrate the FBI continued its wrong-headed Communist menace investigations of Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement even after U.S. imposition of trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa, after Mandela’s globally-celebrated release from prison, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ultimately, what the documents reveal is the FBI’s unflagging conflation of social justice efforts with security threats, and the FBI’s cartoonish obsession with Communist Party subversion in the United States even as the Cold War itself crumbled into obsolescence.”

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