The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stopped accepting Freedom of Information Act requests by email. The agency wants requesters to use fax, standard mail, or the agency’s online portal to make things on their end more efficient. But, FOIA advocates say this puts a lot of burden on the requester.
Hey millennial FOIA nuts: Time to familiarize yourselves with the concept of a paper jam.
“The goal seems to be ‘creating a lot of extra burden. Everyone is used to emails. It creates a permanent record. It has a time-stamp on it. Everyone knows how to use it’.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has stopped accepting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by email. The agency wants requesters to use fax, standard mail, or the agency’s online portal, FBI eFOIPA.
The goal seems to be “creating a lot of extra burden,” says Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Everyone is used to emails. It creates a permanent record. It has a time-stamp on it. Everyone knows how to use it.”
The FBI says the move will help the agency expedite its backlog, which was estimated at 2,614 requests in 2015. Agency spokesperson Jillian Stickels told the Daily Caller that using an online portal will automate the processing of requests and “increase efficiency.”
But does the FBI really want to make the process more efficient? And its decision to continue accepting faxes and standard mail seems to only create headaches for requesters, who might run out of toner or have their transmission signal interrupted when someone picks up the line.
“Most mail that goes to a federal agency has to go through a screening process,” says Marshall. “Sometimes they irradiate it to make sure that there isn’t anthrax or other things in it […] So, it can take a long time for your mail to get from you to the FOIA officer who’s going to open it up and read it.” Yet the law says that the agency is required to provide a response to a FOIA request within 20 business days.
A beta version of the online portal required users to provide personal information about themselves and limited requests to one per day. The FBI backed away from these rules in response to public pressure from Muckrock and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), but the system still imposes a 3,000-character restriction. Also, the FBI says that not all types of requests can be fulfilled through the portal, though which types the agency won’t say.
There are other bureaucratic hurdles: The FBI has multiple computerized filing systems for documents. Typically, if a requester doesn’t specify which records system to search, the Bureau only queries its Central Records System (CRS) and then might fail to locate a document that it actually has on file. Marshall finds these multiple record systems “incredibly confusing” even though understanding them, he says, is part of his job. Read the rest of this entry »
Snowden’s ‘Proper Channel’ For Whistleblowing Being Booted From The NSA For Retaliating Against A WhistleblowerPosted: December 18, 2016
Members of the intelligence community and members of its supposed oversight have said the same thing repeatedly over the past few years: oh, we’d love to cut Edward Snowden a break, but he should have taken his complaints up the ladder, rather than outside the country.
As if that would have resulted in anything other than Snowden being cut loose from his job and his security clearance stripped. The NSA’s Inspector General — supposedly part of the agency’s oversight — was even more harsh in his assessment of Snowden’s actions.
During a day-long conference at the Georgetown University Law Center, Dr. George Ellard, the inspector general for the National Security Agency, spoke for the first time about the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In addressing the alleged damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures he compared Snowden to Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent and convicted spy who sold secrets to the Russians.
“Snowden, in contrast, was manic in his thievery, which was exponentially larger than Hanssen’s. Hanssen’s theft was in a sense finite whereas Snowden is open-ended, as his agents decide daily which documents to disclose. Snowden had no background in intelligence and is likely unaware of the significance of the documents he stole,” Ellard suggested.
These are the words of the “proper channel.” Ellard went on to state that had Snowden approached him with his concerns he would have pointed to the series of judicial rubber stamps that backed up the government’s post-9/11 national security assertions as they approved more and more bulk surveillance.
That Inspector General — the official channels, the oversight — is now (mostly) on his way out of the agency for actions undertaken in direct conflict with his position, as reported by the Project for Government Oversight.
[L]ast May, after eight months of inquiry and deliberation, a high-level Intelligence Community panel found that Ellard himself had previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower, sources tell the Project On Government Oversight. Informed of that finding, NSA’s Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, promptly issued Ellard a notice of proposed termination, although Ellard apparently remains an agency employee while on administrative leave, pending a possible response to his appeal from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Read the rest of this entry »
“The award justification stated that the director ‘…took extraordinary initiative to assist the Acting Chief Financial Officer in a final decision to transition the EPA to a fully automated invoice processing system…’”
“On June 25, 2015—6 weeks later—OCFO gave the Director a second award for $4,500.”
The EPA intended to give the employee, a director at the Research Triangle Park Finance Center in North Carolina, a third bonus but decided against it after the inspector general began their investigation.
The investigation began after a complaint that the newly hired director was going to be paid $250,000 because they moved for the job. The relocation bonus was not paid, though one manager was “disappointed” the EPA did not spend a quarter of a million dollars to hire the employee.
“However, the Director did receive two individual cash awards of $4,500 each within [three] months of her start date,” the inspector general said.
“[The EPA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer] OCFO’s unprecedented award of $9,000 in bonuses to a director less than [three] months after being hired raises questions about the reasonableness of the awards and how the OCFO uses the awards process,” they said.
The investigation found that the director was given the first bonus worth $4,500 in May, within six weeks of being hired. Read the rest of this entry »
Dozens of countries amass cyberweapons, reconfigure militaries to meet threat.
“The acronym was MAD—mutually assured destruction—which kept everything nice and tidy. Here you have the same acronym, but it’s ‘mutually assured doubt,’ because you can never be sure what the attack will be.”
Getting into the cyberweapon club is easier, cheaper and available to almost anyone with cash and a computer.
A series of successful computer attacks carried out by the U.S. and others has kicked off a frantic and destabilizing digital arms race, with dozens of countries amassing stockpiles of malicious code. The programs range from the most elementary, such as typo-ridden emails asking for a password, to software that takes orders from a rotating list of Twitter handles.
The proliferation of these weapons has spread so widely that the U.S. and China—longtime cyber adversaries—brokered a limited agreement last month not to conduct certain types of cyberattacks against each other, such as intrusions that steal corporate information and then pass it along to domestic companies. Cyberattacks that steal government secrets, however, remain fair game.
This comes after other countries have begun to amass cyberweaponry on an unprecedented scale. Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed rivals, regularly hack each other’s companies and governments, security researchers said. Estonia and Belarus are racing to build defensive shields to counter Russia. Denmark and the Netherlands have begun programs to develop offensive computer weapons, as have Argentina and France.
In total, at least 29 countries have formal military or intelligence units dedicated to offensive hacking efforts, according to a Wall Street Journal compilation of government records and interviews with U.S. and foreign officials. Some 50 countries have bought off-the-shelf hacking software that can be used for domestic and international surveillance. The U.S. has among the most-advanced operations.
In the nuclear arms race, “the acronym was MAD—mutually assured destruction—which kept everything nice and tidy,” said Matthijs Veenendaal, a researcher at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a research group in Estonia. “Here you have the same acronym, but it’s ‘mutually assured doubt,’ because you can never be sure what the attack will be.”
Governments have used computer attacks to mine and steal information, erase computers, disable bank networks and—in one extreme case—destroy nuclear centrifuges.
Nation states have also looked into using cyberweapons to knock out electrical grids, disable domestic airline networks, jam Internet connectivity, erase money from bank accounts and confuse radar systems, experts believe.
Large conventional militaries and nuclear forces are ill-suited to this new kind of warfare, which evens the playing field between big and small countries. Cyberattacks are hard to stop and sometimes impossible to trace. The West, as a result, has been forced to start reconfiguring its militaries to better meet the threat.
“With some countries, we’re comfortable with knowing what their capabilities are, but with other countries we’re still lost. We don’t have the visibility into their toolset.”
— Andre McGregor, a former cyber special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and now the director of security at Tanium Inc.
Access to cyberweapons, according to U.S. and foreign officials and security researchers, is far more widespread than access to nuclear weapons was at the height of the nuclear arms race, a result of inexpensive technology and the power of distributed computing.
“It’s not like developing an air force…You don’t need to have your own cyberforce to have a very robust and very scary offensive capability.”
— Michael Schmitt, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and part of an international group studying how international law relates to cyberwarfare.
More than two dozen countries have accumulated advanced cyberweapons in the past decade. Some Defense Department officials compare the current moment to the lull between the World Wars when militaries realized the potential of armed planes. Read the rest of this entry »
New lawsuit filed to reveal content of 2 Clinton emails
A new review by two intelligence agencies has backed up an earlier conclusion that at least two emails on Hillary Clinton’s personal server contained ‘top secret’ information.
Catherine Herridge reports: The review by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency went back to the original source documents, and follows the finding last month by the intelligence community inspector general that emails on the former secretary of state’s system contained information at the highest classification level. This included intelligence on special programs about North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
Fox News is told the CIA and NGA did the review because their intelligence was at issue. Only the intelligence agency that gets the information in the first place has the authority to determine its classification.
In both emails, the State Department did not generate the intelligence, and therefore did not have classification authority. The inspector general’s August report simply transmitted the classification findings of the CIA and NGA.
In a statement, Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for the intelligence community inspector general, said “the overall classification of those two emails remains unchanged. Both emails were classified when they were created and remain classified now.”
The conclusion further undercuts the Clinton campaign’s claim that the classification issue amounts to a dispute among agencies.
She said Aug. 18 in Las Vegas, “What you’re seeing now is a disagreement between agencies saying, ‘you know what, they should have,’ and the other saying, ‘no, they shouldn’t.’ That has nothing to do with me.”
In the wake of the latest intelligence review, first reported by The New York Times, it appears the Clinton campaign is sticking with that argument.
Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill told the Times, ”Our hope remains that these releases continue without being hampered by bureaucratic infighting among the intelligence community, and that the releases continue to be as inclusive and transparent as possible.”
Only the Clinton campaign and State Department are challenging the “top secret” classification. Read the rest of this entry »
Susan Crabtree reports: Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Colombia who allegedly engaged in “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels also arranged for paid sex for at least two Secret Service agents traveling to the country to protect President Obama in 2012.
The Justice Department inspector general uncovered the DEA’s sex parties after allegations arose about misconduct by the Secret Service and DEA agents in the 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia. The IG on Thursday released a 97-page report detailing the allegations, including an explosive charge that local drug cartels funded the “sex parties.”
“Many of the contacts deleted had telephone numbers that the OIG was able to link to sexual services websites in Colombia.”
While the allegations about the DEA facilitating paid sex for Secret Service agents in Colombia is not new, the Washington Examiner obtained detailed information through a Freedom of Information Act request last fall about how three DEA agents stationed in Cartagena allegedly made the arrangements.
According to a DOJ Office of Inspector General report of the investigation, on the night of April 13, 2012, three DEA agents stationed in Cartagena, Colombia, had dinner with at least two Secret Service agents at a local restaurant and invited them back to one of the agent’s government-furnished apartments for drinks afterward.
“The pair retreated to a spare bedroom where the woman performed oral sex during the massage, according to the report. The OIG determined that after the encounter took place, one of the DEA agents provided the woman a ‘wad’ of pesos in exchange for $50 in U.S. currency, which one of the agents provided the woman for her services.”
The OIG report is redacted to exclude the names of the DEA and Secret Service agents involved.
During the dinner, at least one agent was on his cell phone texting or emailing women, and two women joined the group after the meal.
Back at the apartment, one of the women offered an agent a massage, and one DEA agent interceded and negotiated a price of 150,000 Colombian pesos or $75 U.S. dollars for the massage.
According to one Secret Service agent‘s account in the report, before the pair retreated to a spare bedroom, one of the DEA agents allegedly offered the Secret Service agent two condoms “in case you need them.”
The DEA agent who rented the apartment denied providing the condoms.
“When confronted with that information, the two Secret Service agents admitted to paying for and receiving ‘erotic massages’ that included oral sex.”
The Secret Service agent in question denied being interested in sex at first and said he shoved the condoms into his pocket because he didn’t want to refuse them.
The pair retreated to a spare bedroom where the woman performed oral sex during the massage, according to the report. The OIG determined that after the encounter took place, one of the DEA agents provided the woman a “wad” of pesos in exchange for $50 in U.S. currency, which one of the agents provided the woman for her services. Read the rest of this entry »
AND YOU WEREN’T INVITED: DEA Agents Allegedly Participated in Wild ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Drug Cartels, Report FindsPosted: March 26, 2015
DEA agents allegedly participated in “sex parties” funded by drug cartels, report finds. Read more…
Hillary Clinton’s Response to Gowdy’s Letter is Due by April 4
Alex Moe and Carrie Dann report: Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has sent a letter to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attorney requesting that she turn over her private email server to the State Department‘s Inspector General or to another neutral third party.
“The Committee must have objective assurances it, and by extension the House of Representatives as a whole, has received all relevant information requested and necessary for a thorough investigation into what happened before, during and after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya,” he wrote in the letter. “More broadly, the equities in these emails extend beyond this Committee. The House of Representatives and the American people are entitled to a complete accounting of the Secretary’s official record during her time as Secretary of State.”
“The House of Representatives and the American people are entitled to a complete accounting of the Secretary’s official record during her time as Secretary of State.”
“Should Secretary Clinton continue to maintain that the server and its contents are hers alone, I will inform the Speaker of the House of Representatives so that he can use the full powers of the House to take the necessary steps to protect the best interests of the American people,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »
John Hayward reports: Hey, remember how a watchdog group called Cause of Action filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents pertaining to the investigation of taxpayer information handed over to the White House by the IRS, and the request went nowhere, so they sued, and a judge told the Treasury Department they had to cough up the documents, and then the Treasury Inspector General was all like, “Oh, wow, we’ve got 2,500 pages of documents on this deal, so we need a little more time to finish going through them before we hand them over?”
If it wasn’t so bad – if there wasn’t a ‘smidgen of corruption’ – why try so hard to keep these records silent?”
Never mind about seeing those documents, peons. The Administration has decided not to hand them over after all, citing a statute that basically says the privacy of the people whose privacy the White House violated would be violated by revealing details of the White House violation to the public. It all sounds pretty fishy to Cause of Action, as quoted in the Washington Examiner:
Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, said Treasury was using “sophisticated” lawyering to weasel out of providing the documents. And he noted that their letter said that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is now looking into “potential liability” that his tax aides broke laws in sharing taxpayer information with the White House. Read the rest of this entry »
Michelle Malkin writes; The Obama administration doesn’t have watchdogs. It has whitewash puppies.
The president’s Chicago bullies have defanged true advocates for integrity in government in D.C. from day one. So the latest report by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee on corruptocrat Charles K. Edwards, the former Department of Homeland Security inspector general, isn’t a revelation. It’s confirmation.
Investigators found that Edwards compromised the independence of his office by socializing and sucking up to senior DHS officials. “There are many blessings to be thankful for this year,” the sycophantic Edwards wrote to the DHS acting counsel on Thanksgiving 2011, “but one of the best is having a friend like you.” Geez, get them a room.
Whistleblowers outlined how Edwards cozied up to multiple DHS execs and legal staffers, who directed him to alter reports on immigration enforcement, TSA screening and the Secret Service’s dalliances with prostitutes in Argentina. Edwards failed to obtain independent legal analysis of ethics issues. The IG counsel was cut out of the loop. Edwards ordered reports to be doctored or delayed. He failed to recuse himself from audits and inspections that had conflicts of interest related to his wife’s employment. Read the rest of this entry »
In a special “management alert” made public Thursday, the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linick warned “significant financial risk and a lack of internal control at the department has led to billions of unaccounted dollars over the last six years.
The alert was just the latest example of the federal government’s continued struggle with oversight over its outside contractors.
The lack of oversight “exposes the department to significant financial risk,” the auditor said. “It creates conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file. It impairs the ability of the Department to take effective and timely action to protect its interests, and, in tum, those of taxpayers.”
[VIDEO] CNN’s Don Lemon: ‘Is It Preposterous to Think a Black Hole Caused Flight 370 to Go Missing?’Posted: March 20, 2014
CNN’s Don Lemon has been entertaining all sorts of theories about the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, including the chance something “supernatural” happened, but on Wednesday night, he actually asked panelists about the possibility a black hole was involved. Lemon brought this up along with other “conspiracy theories” people have been floating on Twitter, including people noting the eerie parallels to Lost and The Twilight Zone, and wondered, “is it preposterous” to consider a black hole as a possibility?
Michael Isikoff reports: The EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.
John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his lies were a “crime of massive proportion” that were “offensive” to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.
Beale’s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert’s bizarre tales.
“With the help of his therapist,” wrote attorney John Kern, “Mr. Beale has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were animated by a highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.” Kern also said Beale was driven “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … that are fueled by his insecurities.”
The two sentencing memos, along with documents obtained by NBC News, offer new details about what some officials describe as one of the most audacious, and creative, federal frauds they have ever encountered.
For the uninitiated, the EITC is a refundable tax credit for low to moderate-income individuals and families. An individual or family does not have to pay taxes to qualify for the credit, but must file a tax return.
According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Internal Revenue Service’s rate of improper EITC payments for fiscal year 2012 was between 21 to 25 percent. That year, EITC payments totaled $62 billion.
The NSA has released some details of 12 incidents in which analysts used their access to America’s high-tech surveillance infrastructure to spy on girlfriends, boyfriends, and random people they met in social settings. It’s a fascinating look at what happens when the impulse that drives average netizens to look up long-ago ex-lovers on Facebook is mated with the power to fire up a wiretap with a few keystrokes. Read the rest of this entry »
IRS Investigation Complete in May 2012, Report Inconvenient Prior to Election, Hidden from Congress until 2013Posted: May 22, 2013
IRS Completed Internal Investigation Into Tea Party Targeting Matter in May 2012; Hid Report from Congress
Seems this Administration didn’t want much news at all coming out between May and November of 2012.
But all of this just happened. No one’s to blame. Maybe some policies.
Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,’ Issa said. ‘While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General’s report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 – May 3 of 2012 – and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later.’
At the Hearings: Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright is pushing the “caseload doubled” falsehood, and is claiming that the problem is that the poor overburdened IRS just didn’t have enough money (aka “resources”) to carry out its tasks without resorting to political targeting.
[Update – Andy] It will, of course, shock you to learn that the above-mentioned Holly Paz donated $2,000 to Obama’s 2008 campaign.
via Ace of Spades HQ
- IRS Kept Quiet About Inappropriate Targeting For a Year (nationalreview.com)
- IRS internal investigation ended 6 months before ’12 election, was hidden from Congress… (redflagnews.com)
- IRS brass concealed abuse of power scandal for a year (humanevents.com)
- IG to conduct new IRS probe (politico.com)
Reports: IRS Spared Liberal Groups as Tea Party Languished, More Conservative Orgs Targeted Than First ThoughtPosted: May 18, 2013
Remember what we were told when this explosive story first broke less than a week ago? The IRS official in charge of tax exemptions for organizations said the improper methods employed within her division were executed by “low level workers” in Cincinnati who weren’t motivated by “political bias,” and impacted roughly 75 organizations? Wrong, wrong and wrong:
“Low Level” – Officials within the highest echelons of the agency were aware of the inappropriate targeting, including the last two commissioners — at least one of whom appears to have misled Congress on this very question. Now Politicoreports that Lerner herself sent at least one of the probing letters to an Ohio-based conservative group.
The director of the Internal Revenue Service division under fire for singling out conservative groups sent a 2012 letter under her name to one such group, POLITICO has learned. The March 2012 letter was sent to the Ohio-based American Patriots Against Government Excess (American PAGE) under the name of Lois Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations Division…at the time of the letter, the group was in the midst of the application process for tax-exempt nonprofit status — a process that would stretch for nearly three years and involve queries for detailed information on its social media activity, its organizational set-up, bylaws, membership and interactions with political officials. The letter threatened to close American PAGE’s case file unless additional information was received within 60 days.
These burdensome requests were apparently designed to bury the victimized groups in paperwork. Carol reported last night that some 58 percent of these applicants were asked for unnecessary information and data, according to the Inspector General’s review. Some inquiries asked for screenshots of organizations’ Facebook posts and even lists of what books (!) its members were reading.
“No Political Bias” – This claim was laughable on its face from the start, in light of the agency’s surreal criteria for added scrutiny and the “red flag” words and phrases that triggered investigations. Now add to the mix this scoop from USA Today:
In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows. As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
Lerner also reportedly fast-tracked an approval for a foundation operated by President Obama’s half brother, taking the extraordinary step of granting it retroactive tax-free status.
“Seventy-five organizations effected” – That number almost immediately swelled to 300. Now it’s closer to 500…
More >> Via Guy Benson