I would like you to consider the following hypothetical case: There is a court in X county of Y state with eleven judges. During the past one year 1500 cases of various big corporations vs. the people have been brought before these judges. In every single case, the judges have ruled pro corporation. In every single case. 1500 rulings favoring corporations. 1500 orders against the people. Wouldn’t you expect to see a major uproar and media coverage in this hypothetical case? Wouldn’t you expect that the judges and their lives would become intensely scrutinized? Wouldn’t you suspect some sort of bribery and or extortion in play here?
Now I want you to consider a real-life case. The place- The United States of America. The court- United States Foreign Surveillance Court. The parties- US Federal Government vs. Secret Foreign Targets inside the Unites States. The purpose- for independent and judicial judges to oversee government requests for surveillance warrants, and after carefully reviewing the requests and shown causes, make decisions to grant or not to grant warrants. Last year, in 2010, the federal police agencies brought before these FISA judges 1506 such warrant requests. Last year, in 2010, the FISA Court, every single judge in the FISA Court, eleven out of eleven judges of the FISA Court, granted every single warrant requested of them by our federal police agencies. All 1506 of them. Every single request:
The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved all 1,506 government requests to electronically monitor suspected “agents” of a foreign power or terrorists on U.S. soil last year, according to a Justice Department report released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The two-page report, which shows about a 13 percent increase in the number of applications for electronic surveillance between 2009 and 2010, was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists and published Friday.“The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part,” according to the April 19 report to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
The 11-member court denied two of 1,329 applications for domestic-intelligence surveillance in 2009. The FBI is the primary agency making those requests.
Let me preempt a few possible, and possibly reasonable, arguments in favor of this real-life and real US government case. May I?
The US Federal Government, in this case mainly the FBI, must be very diligent and thorough with their targets, evidence & presentation of these cases
There have been reports after reports issued by government-leaning government investigative agencies revealing widespread abuse of power, when it comes to our federal police agencies and their unchecked surveillance and search practices. This may give you the flavor and extent of what we are talking about here:
The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions.
E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. The stream of urgent requests for phone records also overwhelmed the FBI communications analysis unit with work that ultimately was not connected to imminent threats
Or maybe this one on how the FBI presents its cases to the federal courts:
Violations of the Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Other Legal Authorities: In the third category EFF found violations which “were consistently the most brazen and egregious” ones. FBI reported that “its agents had made false statements in written declarations to courts,” in addition to using “improper evidence to obtain grand jury subpoenas.” The FBI would also use “a target’s username and password to access and download account information and a warrantless search of password-protected files.” However, it was found that these violations are often the most redacted and that redaction occurs on an inconsistent and arbitrary basis—supporting the conclusion that the FBI is withholding information.
This is not a big deal for us the citizens since the warrants allow only the surveillance of suspected foreign entities.
Okay, do you remember my State Secrets Privilege case? While I cannot divulge specifics such as the methods of intelligence gathering or target details, I can tell you this much: the FBI collects information directly and indirectly. What do I mean by that? Let’s say we have this foreign person José, and the FBI is tapping his phone and all his e-mails. This José guy in any given day talks with dozens of people over the phone, and some of these people who are either calling José or receiving calls from José are American citizens. The FBI collects everything said/written not only by José, but also everything said and written to José by everyone; including those non-suspect US citizens. Are you following me so far? Okay, good. Now, when the FBI gets what it considers ‘juicy stuff,’ not only criminal or terrorism related juicy, but even politically juicy stuff, it keeps, saves, shares and uses that information in various ways. It doesn’t matter whether the originator of the particular ‘juicy stuff’ is José the target or not. Please tell me you catch my drift!
Let me give you a real example of this. We, at FBI counterintelligence, had a certain foreign target we were monitoring 24/7 (all his/her communications). This target had intimate (financially, criminally, and in one case, sexually) relationships with several elected officials in the US Congress. The FBI had compiled thick files not only on the foreign target, but on every single congresswoman and congressman. And to add insult to injury, this was not done for the sake of justice and possible criminal prosecution, but for political leverage used in rainy days…A solid veteran FBI agent filed his documented complaint on these cases in 2001-2002:
The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) has obtained a copy of an official complaint filed by a veteran FBI Special Agent, Gilbert Graham, with the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG). SA Graham’s protected disclosures report the violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in conducting electronic surveillance of high-profile U.S. public officials.
Before his retirement in 2002, SA Gilbert Graham worked for the FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) Squad NS-24. One of the main areas of Mr. Graham’s counterintelligence investigations involved espionage activities by Turkish officials and agents in the United States. On April 2, 2002, Graham filed with the DOJ-OIG a classified protected disclosure, which provided a detailed account of FISA violations involving misuse of FISA warrants to engage in domestic surveillance. In his unclassified report SA Graham states: “It is the complainant’s reasonable belief that the request for ELSUR [electronic surveillance] coverage was a subterfuge to collect evidentiary information concerning public corruption matters.” Graham blew the whistle on this illegal behavior, but the actions were covered up by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General’s office.
Click here to read the unclassified version of SA Graham’s Official Report.
Rubber-Stamping Judges does not necessarily mean ‘Crooked Judges.’
You are wrong. In most cases it does. I have another veteran FBI agent who spent 4 years of his/her early career as an agent tasked with running background checks on to-be-appointed federal judges. Not a single candidate judge whom this agent obtained and documented various nefarious activities and or background on was excluded from judgeship. According to him/her, the DOJ-FBI shied away from ‘quirky and squeaky clean’ candidates.
Speaking of crooked and or crooked-smelling judges, let me leave you with a real-life real-judge of our current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court:
The judge who presided over the trial of vice presidential aide Lewis Libby has been appointed to the secret court that oversees U.S. intelligence wiretaps. Reggie Walton, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts effective May 19 .
So who is this Judge Reggie Walton? Well, neither he nor the federal government wants you to know. They have ensured his not very ‘squeaky clean’ past remains a secret:
What do two of the biggest national-security news stories of the century — the Valerie Plame leak scandal and the legal case of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds — have in common?
They both are being presided over by the same federal judge in the District of Colombia, Reggie Walton, a Bush appointee to the federal court and a man who appears to have a few well-kept secrets of his own.
All federal judges are required under ethics rules to file what is known as “financial disclosure reports.”
The disclosure statement filed by Walton, which was obtained through the dogged efforts of a conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch, is curious in what it does not reveal. Remember, this judge is arguably handling two of the most sensitive and potentially far-reaching challenges to the free press and the public’s right to know of our times. …
So given the high-stakes poker being played in both these cases, one civil and one criminal, why has no one in the establishment press bothered to ask what is contained in Judge Walton’s financial disclosure statement? After all, his investments and financial backers would be of keen interest in gauging his ability to hear these cases in an unbiased manner, right?
So Judge Walton seems to be in a critical role in serving as the point man in the federal judicial system for two explosive cases — the Edmonds civil case and Libby’s criminal case — both of which have vast implications for the White House and for the country in general.
So shouldn’t we know who’s buttering Walton’s bread in terms of financial backing? Why have ethics rules mandating such disclosures, if the information is not disclosed in cases, such as these, where the stakes are so high?
Well, it seems, at least according to the only document that Judicial Watch could shake loose in its public-records quest, that Walton doesn’t think so. His financial disclosure statement, the one released for public inspection through Judicial Watch, is completely redacted, every line of it.
Take a look here for yourself.
Now, ask yourself, why would that be, and what might lurk in the shadows of Judge Walton’s fiscal closet? If there nothing to hide, then there is nothing to lose by shedding some light on the retractions, is there?
I am going to answer one of Mr. Conroy’s excellent questions: “what might lurk in the shadows of Judge Walton’s fiscal closet?” My answer: It is exactly what it takes to be appointed to FISA Court as a judge