Domestic spying inquiry restarted at DoJ – now that bush has an attorney general that he can trust not to make him look bad…
Judge orders White House to hold e-mails – riiiight… 8/
Former FBI, CIA Employee Pleads Guilty to Computer Crime – thank you, homeland security… 8/
Domestic spying inquiry restarted at DoJ
Nov 14, 2007
By DEVLIN BARRETT
The Justice Department has reopened a long-dormant inquiry into the government’s warrantless wiretapping program, a major policy shift only days into the tenure of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
The investigation by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility was shut down last year, after the investigators were denied security clearances. Gonzales told Congress that President Bush, not he, denied the clearances.
“We recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation,” H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the OPR, wrote to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. A copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press.
Hinchey and other Democrats have long sought an investigation into the spying program to see if it complies with the law. Efforts to investigate the program have been rebuffed by the Bush administration.
“I am happily surprised,” Hinchey said. “It now seems because we have a new attorney general the situation has changed. Maybe this attorney general understands that his obligation is not to be the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country.”
The OPR investigation was begun in February 2006 but was shut down a few months later when the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the security clearances to ask questions about the program. Justice Department officials said Gonzales recommended Bush approve the clearances, but the president said no.
White House officials referred questions to the Justice Department.
The investigation “will focus on whether the DOJ attorneys who were involved complied with their ethical obligations of providing competent legal advice to their client and of adhering to their duty of candor to the court. Because this matter involves a pending inquiry, I can’t comment further,” Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said in a statement.
The Office of Professional Responsibility was created to ensure that Justice Department lawyers do not violate ethical rules. It is not authorized to investigate activities of the National Security Agency.
Bush’s decision to authorize the spy agency to monitor people inside the United States, without warrants, generated a host of questions about the program’s legal justification.
The administration has vehemently defended the eavesdropping, saying the NSA’s activities were narrowly targeted to intercept international calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the U.S. with suspected ties to the al-Qaida terror network.
A separate Justice Department internal investigation was opened last year by the agency’s inspector general. Those investigators received their security clearances around the same time the OPR investigators’ were denied, and their probe is ongoing.
Democrats have complained in the past that neither probe reviews whether the surveillance program violates the Constitution, the kind of decision usually reserved for the courts.
News of the reborn investigation comes a day before the first formal ceremony marking Mukasey’s new post as head of the Justice Department.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the ceremonial oath to Mukasey, a retired federal judge who has promised to enforce laws fairly and keep the Justice Department free of political pressure from the White House.
Bush is scheduled to speak at the ceremony, set for 10:10 a.m. EST, after which Mukasey will address his employees for the first time.
Mukasey was sworn in last Friday in a brief, private ceremony that allowed him to start receiving daily classified briefings from his national security aides.
Mukasey, the third attorney general of the Bush administration, has 14 months until the president’s term is up to turn around the beleaguered department. Gonzales resigned in September amid charges that he allowed politics to illegally interfere with personnel decisions and lied to Congress about national security programs.
A department investigation also is looking at last year’s firings of nine U.S. attorneys — and whether at least one of them was dismissed because he refused to target Democratic candidates shortly before the 2006 elections.
Mukasey, nominated by Bush the day Gonzales left the department, is a retired chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
His confirmation by the Senate hit a brief — but serious — snag after he refused to say point-blank that he considered a harsh interrogation tactic known as waterboarding to be torture.
The Senate narrowly confirmed him late Thursday, 53-40. Critics noted that marked the slimmest margin by which an attorney general was confirmed in more than 50 years.
Judge orders White House to hold e-mails
Nov 12, 2007
By PETE YOST
A federal judge Monday ordered the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails, a move that Bush administration lawyers had argued strongly against.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy directed the Executive Office of the President to safeguard the material in response to two lawsuits that seek to determine whether the White House has destroyed e-mails in violation of federal law.
The White House is seeking dismissal of the lawsuits brought by two private groups — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government and the National Security Archive.
The organizations allege the disappearance of 5 million White House e-mails. The court order issued by Kennedy, an appointee of President Clinton, is directed at maintaining backup tapes which contain copies of White House e-mails.
The Federal Records Act details strict standards prohibiting the destruction of government documents including electronic messages, unless first approved by the archivist of the United States.
Justice Department lawyers had urged the courts to accept a proposed White House declaration promising to preserve all backup tapes.
“The judge decided that wasn’t enough,” said Anne Weismann, an attorney for CREW, which has gone to court over secrecy issues involving the Bush administration and has pursued ethical issues involving Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The judge’s order “should stop any future destruction of e-mails, but the White House stopped archiving its e-mail in 2003 and we don’t know if some backup tapes for those e-mails were already taped over before we went to court. It’s a mystery,” said Meredith Fuchs, a lawyer for the National Security Archive.
CREW and the National Security Archive are seeking to force the White House to immediately explain in court what happened to its e-mail, an issue that first surfaced nearly two years ago in the leak probe of administration officials who disclosed Valerie Plame’s CIA identity to reporters.
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed early in 2006 that relevant e-mails could be missing because of an archiving problem at the White House.
The White House has provided little public information about the matter, saying that some e-mails may not have been automatically archived on a computer server for the Executive Office of the President and that the e-mails may have been preserved on backup tapes.
The White House has said that its Office of Administration is looking into whether there are e-mails that were not automatically archived and that if there is a problem, the necessary steps will be taken to address it.
Former FBI, CIA Employee Pleads Guilty to Computer Crime
Nov 13, 2997
by Grant Gross
A former employee of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency has pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and accessing a U.S. government computer system to unlawfully find information about her relatives and the Islamic organization Hizballah.
Nada Nadim Prouty, 37, originally from Lebanon, also pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. She was accused of using her fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship to gain employment with the FBI and CIA, and of using her position in the FBI to check on the information held on family members connected to Hizballah, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. government considers Hizballah a terrorist group.
Prouty faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge; one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the unauthorized computer access charge; and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the naturalization charge.
Prouty “engaged in a pattern of deceit to secure U.S. citizenship, to gain employment in the intelligence community, and to obtain and exploit her access to sensitive counterterrorism intelligence,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said in a statement.
Prouty first entered the U.S. from Lebanon in June 1989, on a one-year, non-immigrant student visa, according to court documents. After her visa expired, she remained in Taylor, Michigan, living with her sister. As a way to remain in the U.S., Prouty later offered money to an unemployed U.S. citizen to marry her, and on Aug. 9, 1990, she was married.
Prouty never lived with her fraudulent husband, but continued to live with her sister, the DOJ said.
Prouty later submitted a series of fraudulent documents to federal immigration officials to verify the validity of the fraudulent marriage in order to obtain U.S. citizenship, the DOJ said. She was granted citizenship in August 1994, and the following year, she filed for a divorce.
Between May 1992 and November 1994, Prouty was twice employed as a waitress and hostess at La Shish Inc., a chain of Middle Eastern restaurants in Detroit that was owned by Talal Khalil Chahine. During this time, Chahine wrote a letter for submission into Prouty’s immigration file attesting to the validity of Prouty’s false marriage.
Chahine is currently a fugitive believed to be in Lebanon, the DOJ said. He, along with Prouty’s sister, Elfat El Aouar, and others were charged in 2006 in the Eastern District of Michigan with tax evasion in connection with a scheme to conceal more than $20 million received by La Shish restaurants and to route funds to Lebanon.
Last month, Chahine and others were also charged in the Eastern District of Michigan in a bribery and extortion conspiracy in which federal immigration benefits were allegedly awarded to illegal aliens in exchange for money.
In April 1999, Prouty was hired as a special agent of the FBI, and she was granted a security clearance and assigned to the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office to work on a squad investigating crimes against U.S. persons overseas. During her tenure with the FBI, Prouty was not assigned to work on investigations involving Hizballah.
In August 2000, Prouty’s sister married Chahine, the owner of La Shish. A month later Prouty used the FBI’s computerized Automated Case System without authorization to query her own name, her sister’s name and that of her brother-in-law, the DOJ said. In June 2003, Prouty accessed the FBI system and obtained information from a national security investigation into Hizballah that was being conducted by the FBI’s Detroit field office.
Prouty left the FBI and joined the CIA in June 2003. She resigned from the CIA earlier this month, and she has agreed to cooperate with the CIA on any matters the CIA says is necessary to protect U.S. national security, the DOJ said.
“This case highlights the importance of conducting stringent and thorough background investigations,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy of the Eastern District of Michigan in a statement. “It’s hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud, insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government.”