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Archive for December 14th, 2016

Google Releases Eight FBI Requests for Customer Data After Gag Order Lifted

google1By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Google published redacted versions of a secret eight FBI requests for customer data after a gag order was lifted.

“In our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, today we begin to make available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) we have received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations,” Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security policy wrote in a blog post on Tuesday, Intercept reports.

Major tech companies have receive several hundred thousand subpoenas a year, but rarely do they go public.

The records released by Google show the type of information the FBI is seeking and demonstrate the company’s history of fighting the subpoenas in court.

Intercept wrote:

For a long time, companies weren’t sure whether or not they could even approach an attorney to discuss the letters, let alone challenge them in court, though the FBI explicitly mentions these rights in current letters.

The use of national security letters comes with a long history of controversy and alleged abuse. Government watchdogs, technology executives, and civil libertarians have criticized their use as being overbroad, and impinging on First Amendment protected speech, while limiting people’s rights to seek redress. The Department of Justice inspector general issued several scathing reports over the years, reprimanding the FBI and suggesting reforms.

The FBI is now legally required to review the gag orders on the letters, either three years after the date they were sent, or at the conclusion of the relevant investigation. Still, the public has only seen a small handful of those letters in full.

Vice News Files FOIA Suit Against FBI for Information about Clintons, Trump, Breitbart

foiaBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Vice News filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI, demanding records that may shed light on the bureau’s disclosures, actions and apparent leaks just days before the presidential election.

Vice News hopes to get a better understanding of the timing of the disclosures and apparent leaks that many observers believe helped Donald Trump win the election. 

The FOIA lawsuit demands the release of records about:

  • ŸŸAllegations of the FBI violating the Hatch Act by allegedly using its authority to influence the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election
  • ŸŸInternal discontent at the FBI regarding the bureau’s Hillary Clinton investigations
  • ŸŸAll leaks of information by the FBI to the media and political operatives about FBI investigations of Clinton
  • All FBI communications with Breitbart News; Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon, who Trump named his chief strategist and White House counselor after Bannon served as his campaign CEO; former Trump campaign manager Corey R. Lewandowski, Fox News, and Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Sean Hannity; former New York City mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani; and Republican strategist and Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone
  • ŸŸWhite nationalist Richard Spencer, his National Policy Institute, and the “alt-right.”

The lawsuit “seeks public disclosure of specified government records to make sense of the pivotal role of the FBI, as well as of other agencies, in perhaps the most controversial presidential election in modern U.S. history,” says Vice’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by FOIA attorney Jeffrey Light.

“Despite subsequent disclosures of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, since its inception, the FBI staunchly maintained it was a purely apolitical entity,” the complaint notes. “However, numerous leading political and news media figures from across the political spectrum explicitly assert the FBI repeatedly and with significant impact affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.”

Man Charged with 1983 Murder at U. of Texas Added to FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Texas man who fled after being charged with the 1983 murder of a 22-year-old woman has been added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, with the offer of a $100,000 reward for information that leads to his capture.

Robert Francis Van Wisse was a 19-year-old college student when authorities say he sexually assaulted and strangled a janitor at the University of Texas at Austin.

The victim was married and had a 1-year-old daughter.

“No matter how much time has passed,” said Special Agent Justin Noble, a member of the FBI’s Central Texas Violent Crimes Task Force in Austin who is investigating the case, “it’s important that we finally get justice for the victim and her family.”

Van Wisse was initially a suspect, but the case went cold “because DNA and other tests were not as sophisticated then as they are today,” Noble said.

In the early 1990s, the Austin Police Department submitted crime scene evidence for DNA tests, and “the results pointed directly to Van Wisse,”Noble said.

Van Wisse fled when he learned he was a suspect. He was charged with capital murder in 1996.

“He was a college student whose parents were both professionals,” Noble said. “He grew up going to the best schools and living in the nicest neighborhood. He had the future in front of him,” Noble added, “and yet it appears he murdered a young woman making minimum wage trying to support her family and young child.”

U.S. Sen. Grassley Urges Feds to Investigate Planned Parenthood Tissue Sales

Planned ParenthoodBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is urging the FBI and Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood and three tissue-specimen companies over allegations of improperly selling tissues from aborted fetuses.

The call for an investigation came as the Senate Judiciary Committee discovered that three companies charged unlawfully high prices for fetal tissues, the Des Moines Register reports.

“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral but the seeming disregard for the law by these entities has been fueled by decades of utter failure by the Justice Department to enforce it,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “And, unless there is a renewed commitment by everyone involved against commercializing the trade in aborted fetal body parts for profit, then the problem is likely to continue.”

The Des Moines Register wrote:

At issue in the Judiciary Committee report is a 1993 law governing human fetal tissue research that bans buying or selling such tissue — with the narrow exception that suppliers can charge for the cost of transportation, processing, preservation, storage and other costs associated with a transfer.

The law means, in short, that fetal tissues may be transferred for research purposes so long as no one profits from that transfer.

In reviewing transfers from four Planned Parenthood organizations to three specimen companies, however, Grassley’s committee says it has uncovered evidence of profit-making.

Ex-Internal Affairs Chief Says Border Patrol Agents Receiving Inadequate Training

border patrol 3By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol agents are receiving inadequate training and poor screening, resulting in unnecessary use of lethal force, according to the former head of internal affairs at Customs and Border Protection.

James Tomscheck also said in a Supreme Court ruling that an agent should be held accountable for killing a Mexican teen, the Associated Press reports. The case involved the shooting of 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca in 2010.

A CBP spokesman declined to comment.

Tomscheck served as assistant commission of the CBP Office of Internal Affairs from June 2006 to June 2014, focusing on the oversight of use-of-force investigations.

“As security along the border has increased, criminal organizations seeking inroads into the United States have attempted to infiltrate the Border Patrol. And pre-hiring screening programs have been inadequate, leading the Border Patrol in some instances to hire actual cartel members as agents,” the brief, which also includes Tomsheck’s second-in-command, James Wong, states.

Tomscheck also wrote that the agency is becoming more militarized.

“Combined with inadequate field training on appropriate uses of force, these factors have led to an environment in which Border Patrol agents have unnecessarily employed lethal force on the U.S.-Mexico border,” the brief states.

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