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Judge Orders FBI to Release Abuse Records

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the watching-the-watchmen dept.

Privacy 56

Spamicles writes "A judge has ordered the FBI to release agency records about its abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans' personal information. The ruling came just a day after the EFF urged the judge to immediately respond in its lawsuit over agency delays. This is the same case in which an internal FBI audit found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years."

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56 comments

Great! (4, Funny)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533037)

I'm sure this'll get results. The current executive branch has been pretty respectful of legislative and judicial checks on its power thus far.

And while I'm at it, I'd really like a pony.

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19533089)

OMG!!!1!!!1 checks and balances!!!1!

Problem: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19533141)

The problem is that this judge may not have very much time left as a judge, if Bush gets his way. He can't be very happy about a "liberal" judge undermining his "policy".

Re:Great! (-1, Flamebait)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533337)

I'm sure that apathy like yours will get results.

And while I'm at it, why don't you grow a brain.

Re:Great! (4, Informative)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533439)

I'd say that qualifies more as cynicism than apathy. He's not saying he doesn't care, just that he doesn't think it's going to be actually followed through on.

Given past practices, I have to say that I agree with that sentiment. I think the chances are good that the administration is just going to ignore the demands.

That's it, yes. (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534503)

Seriously, thank you for expressing that more coherently than I would have on this lazy beer-drinking Saturday afternoon.

Re:That's it, yes. (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534587)

You're quite welcome. Some people don't seem to see the difference between being cynical and being apathetic.

Then again, I sometimes think that I have have cynicism down to an artform. Somehow, though, I still hope it turns out better than I think it will. Go figure.

Re:That's it, yes. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19535569)

Then again, I sometimes think that I have have cynicism down to an artform.
Yes, I'm sure you're the epitome of cynicism and that your talents will enrich us for generations, and that soon we'll all be better off because of you...not that I really care, 'tho.

Re:Great? (1)

WannaBeGeekGirl (461758) | more than 6 years ago | (#19537687)

I'd say that qualifies more as cynicism than apathy. He's not saying he doesn't care, just that he doesn't think it's going to be actually followed through on.
Given past practices, I have to say that I agree with that sentiment. I think the chances are good that the administration is just going to ignore the demands.

Past practices... 'I can not recall' any past practices...

FWIW, chance has nothing to do with it--its completely intentional. I apologize for being so blunt, but I'm tired of walking on eggshells that are neither red nor blue.

{soapbox} (Assume ethnocentric American remarks when "us" used:) I am cynical about the situation (if I weren't I'd be non-functional), I am not apathetic at all. Its easy to just post or whine about it. Slashbots have proved good about modkilling/promoting the messengers, but its time to do something about it. Thats what I'm interested in, policy happening, not all this debate. Am I not right that 73% of us are united in not being happy with the leadership? I vote, I tell my policy makers what I think, I participate in charity. I don't just sit in front of a tv and text vote for American Idol. How long is the damn turn-around time though? (No, not for AI, I have not actually watched that.) Checks and balances seem to be awful slow this time.{/soapbox}

Re:Great! (5, Informative)

soren100 (63191) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534429)

I'm sure this'll get results. The current executive branch has been pretty respectful of legislative and judicial checks on its power thus far.


While the above might seem like cynicism, but the truth is that the FBI has been abusing its power for a long, long, time.

in 1971 the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI [wikipedia.org]raided an FBI office and published over 1000 classified FBI documents, revealing domestic political repression campaigns such as Operation [wikipedia.org] Cointelpro [whatreallyhappened.com] A year later the FBI officially terminated the program.

The public outrage led to an official Congressional investigation of the FBI which gave a report in 1976 that had this [icdc.com] to say:

"Americans are now aware of the capability and proven willingness of their Government to collect intelligence about their lawful activities and associations. What some suspected and others feared has turned out to be largely true -- vigorous expression of unpopular views, association with dissenting groups, participation in peaceful protest activities, have provoked both government surveillance and retaliation."
Sound Familiar?

The report goes on to say:

"Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone "bugs", surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous -- and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations -- have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity. Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed...
Remember, these are not "conspiracy theorists" talking -- this is an actual government report from 30 years ago documenting the behavior of the previous 40 years.

Re:Great! (2, Interesting)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534559)

Remember, these are not "conspiracy theorists" talking -- this is an actual government report from 30 years ago documenting the behavior of the previous 40 years.
And look at what a widespread change in the corrupt culture of governance that report effected.

While the above might seem like cynicism, but the truth is that the FBI has been abusing its power for a long, long, time.

Exactly. I'm not being cynical. I'm just betting the odds.

Re:Great! (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#19536429)

Geez, I thought once Frasca and Maltbie were promoted (ya know, those two clowns that sat on thousands of tipoffs of 9/11/01 terrorist attacks - along with the tipoff of the "alleged" anthrax assassin [supposed to have sat on that one for 8 monthsa until the Feebs began to investigate - ya know, until the trail was way too cold]) everything would be copasetic with the incredible FBI - what's the deal.....

Re:Great! (1)

deskin (1113821) | more than 6 years ago | (#19537055)

The current executive branch has been pretty respectful of legislative and judicial checks on its power thus far.

I hear you there. I doubt this'll actually get anywhere; at least, it won't any time soon.

The real problem isn't that the FBI is unlikely to comply with the judge's order; it is that these sort of issues happen in the first place. What country allows stuff like this? What country shrugs its shoulders when the president pushes the Patriot Act through Congress (not that he had to push very hard)? I hope that 2009 might bring a repeal of this bill, and the reversal of many injustices of the previous eight years. Considering President Bush's current approval rating, I don't doubt that there will be many reversals in the next presidency; however, the FBI has been around the block more than once, so it's probably unlikely that the vast attacks they continue to make on the rights of American citizens will ever be brought under control.

I've thought, more than once and for various reasons, that it might be wise to emigrate. Any suggestions on good countries which respect their citizen's rights, and allow the export of strong cryptography?

FBFBII (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19533049)

Time to create a Federal Bureau of Federal Bureau of Investigation Investigation.

Goatse in my FBI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19533061)

How long before the department of GOATSE will release this information all over the faces of the FBI

this is all very interesting but (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19533081)

linux is STILL for fags.

Great! (2, Interesting)

TheGreatHegemon (956058) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533091)

Normally, I'd write a deeper post, but this warrants this instead: *Dances for joy* Granted, this is still a far cry from those documents being released. Documents disappear, or hell, the FBI just ignores the ruling. Wouldn't be the first time.

Re:Great! (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533215)

At least now there's a precedent. And people can be held in contempt for non-compliance. If it's some John Q. Citizen asking for info, and the Bushocracy tells them to get lost, there's not much they can do accept file an expensive lawsuit, or mount a PR campaign.

Re:Great! (3, Interesting)

Courageous (228506) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534107)

Really, I don't understand how the FBI could "ignore" a ruling. I would think that the judge would respond by naming specific individuals at the FBI, like the Director, and holding them in contempt and in jail, in perpetuity, until compliance occurs.

C//

Re:Great! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#19535081)

Really, I don't understand how the FBI could "ignore" a ruling. I would think that the judge would respond by naming specific individuals at the FBI, like the Director, and holding them in contempt and in jail, in perpetuity, until compliance occurs.
That only works as long as there has been no pre-emptive spying on the judge and his little extra-marital affair that would be a real shame if his wife ever found out about.

Re:Great! (4, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 6 years ago | (#19535141)

Really, I don't understand how the FBI could "ignore" a ruling. I would think that the judge would respond by naming specific individuals at the FBI, like the Director, and holding them in contempt and in jail, in perpetuity, until compliance occurs.

And who, exactly, would arrest them, huh?

The DOJ? Only if the DOJ were independent of the executive branch. Thanks to GWB, it's not anymore (if it ever was). The DEA? Executive branch. The ATF? Executive branch. The military? Executive branch.

The court's power is enforced through the executive branch. If the executive branch decides it wants to ignore the court, what can the court do?

Not a damned thing, that's what.

He who controls the guns controls everything. Power over life and death is the ultimate power. The executive branch has that. The judicial branch does not.

Re:Great! (2, Insightful)

Courageous (228506) | more than 6 years ago | (#19535223)

I'm uncertain in situations involving federal cases who the court appoints to conduct their arrests for contempt. However, I am pretty certain that they do indeed command the practical authority to have their contempt charges enforced. Whether or not they would be likely to engage an individual (FBI director, unlikely) as opposed to a fine ($100K a day until you comply... more likely) is worth discussing. And I think you're wrong: he who controls the PRESS controls everything. It just so happens that the one with the guns MIGHT be also in command of the press.

BTW, while you have fine rant, the practical reality is that the FBI director won't be so for long with a warrant out for his arrest....

C//

Re:Great! (1)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 6 years ago | (#19535683)

And I think you're wrong: he who controls the PRESS controls everything.

Someone with a gun can take away the press from its owner, but the reverse isn't as true. That said, as long as the guy with the gun answers to the guy with the press, the guy with the press wins. That's the situation we have right now, and the only reason it remains that way is that we hold elections. If the elections stop, all bets are off.

Re:Great! (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 6 years ago | (#19536025)

I would opine that there are far, far too many weapons in private hands in the U.S. for any kind of dictatorship to emerge here. Look at what the IRA did to Ireland... that was 400 members in the IRA at its peak, in a country where personal possession of firearms had been illegal for decades. They had to leave the country just to train with their weapons. Here is a different story. An attempt to force a military dictatorship here would be a total bloodbath. What scares me most isn't so much the forcing of the issue, but rather a Hitleresquian rise to power (or if you prefer, an Ayatollian risoe to power), where the masses think its a fine idea just long enough for it to be too late for regrets.

Which, btw, applies in both metaphors, although more so the latter than the first.

C//

Re:Great! (2, Informative)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 6 years ago | (#19536815)

I believe that responsibility would then rest with the U.S. Marshals.

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

The USMS is the enforcement arm of the federal courts, protecting federal courts and ensuring the effective operation of the judicial system.
and

The United States Marshals Service also executes all lawful writs, processes, and orders issued under the authority of the United States, and shall command all necessary assistance to execute its duties.

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19537185)

Do you really think the US Marshalls could stand up to all the military's tanks, fighter/bomber aircraft, cruise missiles, and even nukes? The Marshalls would be crushed so fast you wouldn't even notice. There is no way anyone could stand up to Bush and the military except asymmetric warfare like in Iraq.

Re:Great! (1)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 6 years ago | (#19537233)

From the same Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org] you referred to:

The United States Marshals Service is based in Arlington, Virginia and, under the authority and direction of the Attorney General, is headed by a Director, who is assisted by a Deputy Director. USMS Headquarters provides command, control and cooperation for the disparate elements of the service.

In other words, the executive branch. So my statement unfortunately still stands. :-(

Excellent points, Courageous poster (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#19536499)

Outstanding points, except when your name is Robert Mueller "the turd" (I'm guessing that's a word play on his being the III as opposed to Junior) you too wouldn't want to be named......

Re:Great! (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19536919)

And who is going to arrest and imprison those individuals?

To add to that, if the president were found guilty of a crime and sentenced to immediate impeachment, removal, and imprisonment... who would carry out the order to do so? The police? The military?

Who is going to follow the orders of a judge over those of the FBI, or others in power?

It's just a matter of time. (5, Insightful)

Fox_1 (128616) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533219)

We know that there are records of this activity by the FBI. Now it is just a matter of time until these records come to light. The beauty of computers and email and automatic logging is that this administrations actions will be very difficult to hide. It's really amazing that the FBI and other Gov't agencies went hog-wild on peoples civil rights, and that they thought somehow that this was OK, that they would get away with it. How blind to the future consequences of their actions are these people? Seriously it's like watching the stooges play gov't.

Re:It's just a matter of time. (4, Insightful)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533475)


We know that there are records of this activity by the FBI. Now it is just a matter of time until these records come to light. The beauty of computers and email and automatic logging is that this administrations actions will be very difficult to hide. It's really amazing that the FBI and other Gov't agencies went hog-wild on peoples civil rights, and that they thought somehow that this was OK, that they would get away with it. How blind to the future consequences of their actions are these people? Seriously it's like watching the stooges play gov't.


Well, they felt that they had fixed the process enough that they had a "permanent majority" starting about 6 years ago. Fixed via either hosting sessions with DOJ and other Government officials on how they can do their part to fix elections, or getting easily edited digital election machines, or just restricting our rights to the point that we can't do shit to stop them.

Ergo, why bother holding back anymore? They are "The Government" (Tm), now and forever, right? Right?

I fear we're going to find all too many abuses of power in the upcoming decades. I've heard tell of us using White Phosphorous as a chemical weapon on civilians in Iraq, of using siege tactics on civilian cities, of all sorts of horrid crap that the US Media just won't acknowledge -- but is easily available information in the European and Asian news.

Well, until the Democrats take full control in 2009 -- then suddenly the suddenly reformed US Media will "discover" all this bad stuff, just in time to find an excuse to blame it on President Obama.

The government they deserve. (2, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534035)

While I would like to agree with your optimism about the Democrats in 2009, I can't. Politicians aren't in the buisness of giving up power, and if we get a Democratic president, then signing statements etc will become "useful tools in the right hands". I have to wonder if our nations great experiment in Democracy is showing it's flaws they way Communism did in the late 80s. Our founding fathers knew that this was the weakness in our system, and perhaps that would explain the rather elitist requirements originally need for voter eligibilty. Maybe we need to make some new requirements for voters, like a current events and history exam. Maybe a required logic course. Perhaps some critical thinking and depth of knowledge in the voter, would produce some critical thinking and depth in the candidates.

Re:The government they deserve. (1)

Thrip (994947) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534735)

Maybe we need to make some new requirements for voters
We should start by requiring them to vote.

Re:The government they deserve. (1)

tourvil (103765) | more than 6 years ago | (#19537189)

Politicians aren't in the buisness of giving up power, and if we get a Democratic president, then signing statements etc will become "useful tools in the right hands".

Exactly. The danger of the expanding executive power occurring during this administration are not limited to how much Bush can abuse power. These new powers will be available to the next president, Democratic or Republican. And the next, and the next, and every future president of this country, unless these powers are specifically taken away. I fear for the future of this country...

Re:The government they deserve. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19540411)

You're quite right. The best option for you guys right now is a Republican president. With a Democrat president and a Democrat congress, both riding on Bush's wave of anti-Republican sentiment, they'll be unstoppable. I half wonder if that wasn't the plan all along.

The judge... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19534119)

...will probably now find that his phones will be tapped for the rest of his life, his mail will arrive having been tampered with, and everywhere he drives, he'll always be followed around by a dark blue Ford Crown Vic with US Govt plates containing a pair of large, frowning, square-jawed men wearing cheap dark suits and sunglasses and earphone wires running down their necks into their jackets.

Re:It's just a matter of time. (3, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 6 years ago | (#19534923)

We know that there are records of this activity by the FBI. Now it is just a matter of time until these records come to light. The beauty of computers and email and automatic logging is that this administrations actions will be very difficult to hide. It's really amazing that the FBI and other Gov't agencies went hog-wild on peoples civil rights, and that they thought somehow that this was OK, that they would get away with it. How blind to the future consequences of their actions are these people? Seriously it's like watching the stooges play gov't.

Yes, they may "come to light", though if they do so it'll be primarily through foreign and "independent" media, rather than the "mainstream" US mass media.

And even if the general population finds out about it, you know what will happen? Nothing. Just as nothing happened with the revelation that the NSA was tapping domestic calls.

Why? The root cause is that the people make their political decisions primarily based on what the mass media tells them, and the mass media is now controlled by a very small number of very large corporations. Those who run these (and other) very large corporations favor fascism because a merger between the corporations and the state (which is what fascism is) gives the corporations the ability to create captive markets through law, something they wouldn't be able to do with a government "by the people and for the people". It also gives the people who own and run these corporations power that they can exercise without responsibility (because the stooges in government wind up taking the blame for the consequences of that exercise, and in a pseudo-democracy like the US is right now the people wind up blaming themselves since they think they have control over who winds up in office -- a fallacy since they don't have control over who winds up on the ballot).

In other words, we're way past the tipping point now, and there's no way short of massive violent revolution to put things right again. And I think violent revolution will fall on its face unless it gets the support of the military.

And that means you'd better get used to the New America, because it looks like it's going to be with us for a long time.

Re:It's just a matter of time. (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#19539955)

Jeeebus, I'm sorry and I don't wish to insult you, but what happened to Slashdot being a techie place with lots of nerdy stuff? Whole stories are filled with political discussions not related to tech at all... I'm disappointed.

Re:It's just a matter of time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19535713)

Why the delay in turning over the records? (5, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533285)

After all, as mewling pussies everywhere have reminded us ad nauseam, if the FBI isn't doing anything wrong, what do they have to worry about?

Re:Why the delay in turning over the records? (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#19536471)

Great Citizen, Man On Pink Corner, you are sooooo frigging funny - I officially mod you up 1,000,000,000,000,000 points.....

how can their possibly be _so_many_ terrorists? (3, Insightful)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 6 years ago | (#19533423)

Thousands! Of terrorists, in our own country!

And criminals! With 2,186,230 in jail and thousands investigated without due process, Americans are either the most criminal or the most oppressed people on this earth.

Re:how can their possibly be _so_many_ terrorists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19534635)

Given the recent record on presidential elections, you might want to add "the most stupid people on earth".

Re:how can their possibly be _so_many_ terrorists? (1)

Zorque (894011) | more than 6 years ago | (#19535741)

Although I agree what's happening here is wrong and we shouldn't stand for it, if you honestly believe that Americans are the most oppressed people on Earth then you have a very narrow world view.

Paraphrasing President Jackson... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19533571)

"Make me."

fbi was created to fight the mob... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19552391)

and it was made as more or less the Governments form of the mafia... it was made that way and still exists that way. Don't like it, tough. There's nothing you can do about it. It's the American form of the KGB and mobsters all rolled in to one.
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