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Tag: Wiretaps

Justice Department Defends Legally Questionable Eavesdropping Program

courtroomBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is defending the DEA’s legally questionable, disbanded eavesdropping program that often was used by drug officials in the Los Angeles suburbs.

The USA Today reports that the Justice Department implored a judge not to toss out the wiretaps that were used in a marijuana trafficking case, despite earlier objections from government lawyers who believed the practice may have been illegal.

The Justice Department aid the wiretaps were “authorized in accordance with state and federal law.”

The surveillance was used so often that it once counted for nearly a fifth of all U.S. wiretaps.

The surveillance allowed federal authorities to intercept millions of calls and text messages with a single state court’s approval.

Defense lawyers in the marijuana case said the prosecutors approved “illegal wiretaps with astounding frequency” and urged a judge to dismiss the surveillance.

FBI Pumps Up Enforcement of U.S. Companies That Win Contracts Through Bribery

bribeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has pumped up its enforcement of overseas bribes made by U.S. companies to win contracts.

Bloomberg reports the bureau has added 40 lawyers and agents who will sniff out foreign bribes.

Anti-bribery units have begun working to uncover crooked deals in places like Africa, Asia and South America.

“We’re trying to leverage” companies into reporting suspected bribes by their workers “because often only they have the ability to get that information,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We expect that with new agents and our prosecutors out there,” companies “will think significantly about self-reporting.”

The FBI is using wiretaps and informants to help infiltrate crooking dealings.

“I’m a big fan of all sorts of tactics, including wiretaps, to build a case,” George Khouzami, the assistant special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office, said in an interview. “We’ve had significant success in recent public corruption cases where it’s easy to play the tape and prove the crime. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that now when doing FCPA cases?”

FBI to Step Up Wiretaps, Other Surveillance After Terrorist Attacks in Paris

Data securityBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

After Islamic State supporters attacked Paris, killing more than 125 people, the FBI plans to use more wiretaps and other monitoring techniques on suspected sympathizers of the terrorist organization, The Week reports. 

The FBI emphasized, however, that the increased surveillance is out of caution, not a specific threat.

The idea is to determine whether new information would warrant more monitoring.

FBI Director James Comey previously said it’s a drain on resources to monitor suspected ISIS supporters 24/7.

DEA More Than Triples Use of Wiretaps, Other Surveillance Over Past Decade

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA’s use of wiretaps and other electronic surveillance more than tripled in the past decade, often bypassing courts and federal prosecutors, according to newly obtained records, the USA Today reports.

The DEA used electronic surveillance 11,681 times in the last fiscal year, compared to just 3,394 a decade ago.

The increase comes as the DEA has begun taking more of its cases to local prosecutors and judges, as opposed to federal ones, because they are finding an easier time getting approval.

State and federal laws are vastly different when it comes to wiretaps. On the federal level, a senior Justice Department official must approve. But state courts don’t have the same rules.

“That law exists to make sure that wiretap authority is not abused, that it’s only used when totally appropriate,” said Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s a burden. And if there’s a way to get around that burden, the agents are going to try to get around it.”

Other Stories of Interest


Judge Chastises FBI for Listening to Too Much, But Won’t Ban All Recordings

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge on Wednesday chastised the FBI for listening to wiretapped conversations that were private or irrelevant, calling the agency’s action “unnecessary”, “voyaeuristic” and “disgraceful.” But  he refused a request by the defense to bar all tapes from being used in an upcoming insider trading trial in Manhattan.

Defendant Craig Drimal, a former Galleon Group hedge fund trader, had asked that all tapes  be barred because the FBI listened to “scores” of  personal conversations with his wife, “some of a particularly intimate and personal nature,” according the judge’s ruling. The government is supposed to stop listening to wiretapped conversations when it determines the  talk is personal or irrelevant.

“As these eight calls illustrate, for at least portions of the wiretaps, the government failed to take appropriate steps to ensure that unnecessary intrusions into the private lives of its targets were kept to a minimum,” U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan wrote.

“While the majority of these calls were not particularly lengthy — indeed, most were under two minutes — in each of these calls it should have been apparent within seconds that the conversation was privileged and non-pertinent. As the Court stressed at the hearing, given the deeply personal nature of several of these conversations, the agents’ failure to minimize was nothing short of ‘disgraceful.'”

But Sullivan added:  “Nevertheless, viewing the wiretap as a whole, the Court cannot find that the government’s conduct was so unreasonable that it warrants the ‘drastic and excessive’ remedy of total suppression.”

“Given the wiretap’s scope and the substantial manpower needed to sustain it, the Court concludes that, on the whole, the wiretap was professionally conducted and generally well-executed,” Sullivan wrote.

Drimal’s attorney JaneAnne Murray told Reuters: “This litigation prompted the U.S. Attorneys’ Office to review its wiretap procedures. Hopefully, the deeply troubling privacy intrusion Sullivan found here will not occur again.”

A spokesperson for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment, according to Reuters.

Read Judge’s Ruling

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI’s Mueller Pushes to Expand Telecom Wiretap Laws

Robert Mueller III / file fbi photo

Robert Mueller III / file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III is pushing to update laws to help agents keep up with the rapidly changing technology so they can effectively conduct surveillance of communications in anti-terrorism and other cases.

At a conference of intelligence experts in Washington, Mueller said there have been instances in which companies have not been able to comply with court orders and turn over electronic communications.

“One lesson we have learned in recent years is the need to ensure that the laws by which we operate keep pace with new threats and new technology,” he said.

“By way of example, let us turn to court-ordered intercepts,” he said. “In some instances, communications providers are not able to provide the electronic communications we seek in response to a court order.

“Many providers are not currently required to build or maintain intercept capabilities in their operating systems. As a result, they are often not equipped to provide timely assistance,” he said.

He cited one example in which “a Mexican drug cartel was making use of a communications system that we were not able to intercept. We had to use other investigative techniques that were far more risky.”

Some civil liberties groups are concerned about the FBI expanding its reach. But Mueller said that there is a balance that needs to be struck.

” Some have suggested there is an inherent tension between protecting national security and preserving civil liberties, ” Mueller said. ” I do disagree. Yes, we have a right to privacy. But we also have a right to ride the subways without the threat of bombings.”

FBI’s Pete Cullen Who Ran Blago Wiretaps Retires at 61 as Most Senior Agent in the Nation

FBI agent Pete Cullen should have retired in 2006 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 57. But the FBI wanted to keep him around for his expertise.  He ended up running the wire taps on ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is currently on trial. Last week, after getting extensions to stay, he finally retired at age 61, which made him the most senior FBI agent in the country.

fbi logo largeBy Natasha Korecki
Chicago Sun-Times

It was a historic day on Dec. 9, 2008; Illinois’ sitting governor had just been arrested and FBI supervisor Pete Cullen found himself keeping watch over Rod Blagojevich.

“He was in his running suit. He was stretching, running in place, animated. I couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t sit still,” Cullen said. “He kept combing back his hair.

“It was almost like he’s awaiting going on camera. But we were just here [in the FBI office] — no one was going to see him.”

For more than two months preceding the arrest, Cullen spent every night coordinating more than 100 agents who, in shifts, monitored at least nine different phone lines belonging to Blagojevich and those in his inner circle.

By FBI rules, Cullen shouldn’t have even been there. He reached the FBI’s mandatory retirement age of 57 in 2006.

But again and again, Chicago’s FBI chief Robert Grant had something else in mind for the longtime agent and supervisor.

To read the full story click here.

Fed and State Wiretaps Jumped 26 Percent in 2009

federal and state wiretaps/source: u.s. courts

federal and state wiretaps/source: u.s. courts

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Court authorized wiretaps issued by federal and state judges in criminal cases jumped 26 percent from 2008 to 2009, and not one request was turned down, the website WIRED reported.

Citing a report released Friday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, WIRED reported that courts authorized 2,376 wiretaps in 2009.

Of those, 96 percent were for mobile phones in drug cases, the report said, according to WIRED. Federal investigators requested 663 of the wiretaps, 24 states acquired 1,713 in all.

The report said each wiretap caught the communications of an average of 113 people, WIRED reported, and only 19 percent of intercepted communications were incriminating. The surveillances included text messages and phone calls.

WIRED reported that about 268,000 people had their text messages and phone calls intercepted in 2009, an all time record.

To read more click here.

Read Full Report