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Tag: judge

Judge Rules Against FBI in Reporter-Impersonation Case

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI incensed news organizations after reporters discovered the bureau used special agents to impersonate a journalist to help capture a suspect in a string of anonymous bomb threats in 2007. 

Saying the impersonation “endangers the media’s credibility and creates the appearance that it is not independent of the government,” two media groups sued the FBI for records to show how often the bureau had masqueraded as news organizations. 

The FBI responded that it had no such records.

But last week, a D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the FBI failed to adequately search and locate documents related to the practice of using undercover agents to pose as journalists to go after suspects, Courthouse News reports

Courthouse News writes:

Two media groups brought the underlying challenge based on reports about how the FBI apprehended an individual who in 2007 made a series anonymous bomb threats to a Seattle high school, causing near-daily evacuations of students, teachers and administrators.

Believing the threats were the handiwork of a narcissist, the FBI agents investigating the matter devised a plan: They would flatter the culprit into clicking a link that appeared to be press coverage suggesting he’d outsmarted the authorities.

When he did, a specialized malware would be secretly delivered to his computer and it would reveal his location. The plan worked and the individual calling in the bomb threats was arrested.

A technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union spotted the FBI’s ruse several years later while reviewing documents from an earlier records request. News of the media-impersonation tactics quickly made national headlines. The New York Times even printed a letter in justification of the ruse from FBI Director James Comey Jr.

In the wake of the controversy, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Associated Press filed three FOIA requests for documents on the FBI’s impersonation of journalists and creation of “fake news” in the course of investigations.

Hacker Accused of Stalking FBI Agent Back in Jail for Criticizing Bureau

hacking By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An alleged hacker accused of online stalking and harassment of an FBI agent is back in jail after criticizing the FBI on a blog post. 

The Texas man, Justin Shafer, had been free of jail after his March arrest on charges of online stalking and harassment of an FBI agent who was investigating a link between him and a notorious hacking group, the TheDarkOverlord

A judge said Shafer violated conditions of his release that included avoiding posts on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, The Dallas Morning News reports

But 12 days after the order, the 37-year-old criticized the FBI agent on his bog post, prompting a federal magistrate to order him held in custody until trial.

Share’s attorney claims the jailing violating his client’s rights to free speech.

“Mr. Shafer has a First Amendment right to criticize his prosecution and rebut the accusations made against him,” said his New York lawyer, Tor Ekeland, in an appeal of that judge’s order.

Other Stories of Interest

Judge Dismisses Lawsuits Requiring More Thorough Search of Clinton’s Emails

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge for the second time has dismissed a pair of lawsuits that would have required the State Department and FBI to do more to track down former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled the FBI has done all it reasonably can to recover Clinton’s emails, the Washington Times reports

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015 by two watchdogs, Judicial Watch and Cause of Action, demanded a more thorough effort to recover all of Clinton’s emails, claiming she violated open-records laws by failing to retain her messages.

“Those efforts went well beyond the mine-run search for missing federal records … and were largely successful, save for some emails sent during a two-month stretch. Even then, the FBI pursued every imaginable avenue to recover the missing emails,” wrote Judge Boasberg, an Obama appointee to the court.

It was the second time the case was dismissed, but a higher court reversed the original findings, saying the government had a responsibility to “shake loose a few more emails.”

Judge: Details on How FBI Hacked into IPhone Are Public Information

courtroomBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI does not have to publicly reveal how it hacked into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists in an attack that killed 14 people, a federal judge has ruled.

On Saturday, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled against three media outlets that sued the FBI to reveal the mystery behind the hacking, Politico reports. 

Chutkan also ruled that the FBI does not have to reveal the cost or the company it hired to breaking into the phone.

At a news conference last year, then-FBI Director James Comey suggested that the cost to hire the company would exceed his salary for the remainder of his term – about $1.4 million.

Judge: Border Patrol Agents Had Right to Use Deadly Force Against Rock Thrower

border patrolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A San Diego federal judge defended Border Patrol’s use of deadly force against rock throwers in a case involving a lawsuit filed by the family of a Mexican man killed at the border.

Border Patrol Agent Dorian Diaz fatally shot Jesus Yanez Reyes, 40, while he allegedly was throwing rocks at agents who were pursuing him.

U.S. District Judge William Hayes ruled last week that Border Patrol agents should not be held liable for Reyes’ death, the Los Angeles Times reports

“The Court concludes that the unique circumstances surrounding Yañez’s death implicate national security issues related to the security of our nation’s borders,” Hayes said.

Hayes also said Diaz is entitled to qualified immunity.

Lawyers for Reyes’ family plan to appeal.

“We feel strongly the law was clearly established on this point,” said attorney Gerald Singleton.

Judge: FBI’s Investigation of Child Pornography Unconstitutional, But Refused to Dismiss Evidence

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s controversial investigation into a “dark web” child pornography network was unconstitutional, Minnesota’s chief federal judge ruled Monday.

But U.S. District Judge John Tunheim declined to toss evidence that was used to prosecute a man from Coleraine, Minn., the Star Tribune reports

The judge rejected a magistrate judge’s recommendation to throw out evidence, including statements made by suspect Terry Lee Carlson.

Carlson was among more than 900 people arrested as part of the investigation into Playpen, a “dark web” network that provided child pornography to 150,000 users.

The Star Tribune wrote:

Tunheim’s decision mirrored numerous other federal court rulings in concluding that agents unconstitutionally exceeded the scope of a Virginia search warrant. The FBI deployed a “network investigative technique (NIT),” described by some as a form of malware, to gather IP addresses and other information on users of the porn website, which formed the backbone of federal criminal cases like Carlson’s and those of at least three other Minnesotans.

But, citing a Supreme Court precedent, Tunheim wrote that because the FBI “acted in good faith and generally followed proper procedures in requesting and executing the warrant,” evidence gathered against Carlson can stand.

The FBI arrested the operator of Playpen in 2015 and seized the website’s server. But it kept a copy of the website running while deploying its NIT to target hundreds of users around the country based on a search warrant signed by a Virginia magistrate judge.

Judge: 17 Years Is Too Long to Wait for FBI Records under FOIA

judge and gavelBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A judge slammed the FBI for saying it would take 17 years to provide public records to a documentary film filmmaker.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of Washington said the FBI’s insistence that it would take until 2034 to provide records about anti-war and civil rights activists in the 1960s and ’70s was unacceptable, Politico reports. 

The judge rejected the FBI’s proposed timeline, which is based on the bureau’s policy of release large record requests at a pace of 500 page a month. The bureau insisted that a quicker pace could shut down the FBI’s FOIA operation.

Documentarian Nina Seavy, who is 60, said she can’t wait 17 years to get about 110,000 page of records from the FBI.

Neither didn’t the judge.

“Neither proffered justification is persuasive,” the Clinton appointee wrote. “In the name of reducing its own administrative headaches, the FBI’s 500-page policy ensures that larger requests are subject to an interminable delay in being completed. Under the 500-page policy, requestors must wait 1 year for every 6,000 potentially responsive documents, and those who request tens of thousands of documents may wait decades.”

The judge also didn’t buy the argument that providing records at a pace faster than 500 pages a month would jeopardize smaller FOIA requests.

“If the FBI really wanted to demonstrate that processing larger FOIA requests would impact the processing of other requests there are numerous data points it could provide the Court,” Kessler said. “Instead, the limited data the FBI has provided suggests exactly the opposite.”

Trump’s Crackdown on Immigration Is Straining Already Backlogged Immigration Cases

File photo of a Border Patrol agent.

File photo of a Border Patrol agent.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

New federal immigration rules under President Trump are placing a heavy burden on Border Patrol agents, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys who already had been swamped.

The USA Today reports that Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which gives agents more leverage to deport undocumented immigrants, has been strain on “an immigration court system already juggling more than a half-million cases and ill-equipped to take on thousands more.”

“We’re at critical mass,” said Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio immigration attorney who works with juveniles. “There isn’t an empty courtroom. We don’t have enough judges. You can say you’re going to prosecute more people, but from a practical perspective, how do you make that happen?”

The number of backlogged immigration cases have increased from 236,415 in 2010 to 508,036 this year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research group at Syracuse University. 

The Border Patrol also is understaffed and having trouble hiring enough agents.

Other Stories of Interest