Saturday, May 16, 2009

They spy on judges, too.

Over the last 9 years, particularly, it has been painfully obvious that major institutions in the US are broken. Most of the attention has been focused on the apparent lock that the executive branch has on congress and the media. The executive branch is able to do this successfully through two mechanisms. Firstly, they have their embeds in these institutions, and secondly, they spy on everyone, looking for dissenters.

Sibel has a post up discussing the embeds in the media, not only propagandists like Judy Miller, but also editors who control what gets published. Russ Tice, NSA analyst, went on Keith Olbermann on January 10, the day after Obama's inauguration, and told the public that the NSA was spying on all Americans, and that journalists were specifically targeted. (Incidentally, Tice's explosive claims were completely ignored by the media.)

It isn't difficult to imagine that one of the 'benefits' of spying on journalists is for blackmail purposes. Of course, when they find something illegal or embarassing, they can then 'turn' the journalist, and use him or her for their own purposes, whether that means turning them into a propagandist, or outing a whistleblower/source, or spying around the newsroom.

The same is true in Congress. We know that they spy on members of congress, sometimes legally, and sometimes illegally. Sometimes they find evidence of corruption, and on other occasions they might find "financial or sexual pressure points." According to FBI sources, this information may be used "to actually blackmail people within Congress." No surprises there. We've seen exactly that in the Jane Harman and Dennis Hastert cases, at a minimum, and we've seen indirect evidence of it in congressional voting records for the last 9 years.

For the Executive Branch to close the loop, they also need to control the Judiciary. In fact, it would be surprising if they weren't also spying on judges. Controlling the judges would give the government enormous power in terms of both 'throwing' cases and 'judge-shopping.' We have long suspected that this was actually happening, of course, but we have only had indirect evidence of this. In Sibel Edmonds' cases, for example, she kept getting assigned and reassigned, "with no explanation," to Judge Reggie Walton. Judge Walton, who was also the judge in the related case of Scooter Libby, granted the government's motion to dismiss Sibel's case based on the government's claim of State Secrets.

Spying on Judges
Now it seems that we actually have proof that the government was spying on judges too. In their 2007 book, Presidential Secrecy and the Law, political science professors Robert M. Pallitto and William G. Weaver write (pg 173) that a former FBI agent and electronic surveillance manager told the authors that FISA wiretaps were used to "surveil members of congress and judges."

I haven't been able to find any other reference to this particular claim - but it is remarkable, although not surprising.

The passage in the book is a little unclear as to the identity of this FBI agent, but two sentences later, they quote former Special Agent Gilbert Graham about FISA abuse. It isn't exactly clear whether Graham is the source of the information regarding the spying on judges.

Gilbert Graham, one of Sibel's bosses, who worked on "counterintelligence investigations involv(ing) espionage activities by Turkish officials and agents in the United States." In early 2002, he filed a protected disclosure (pdf) stating that "unreliable source information" was used to obtain FISA approval for spying on public officials. His official report states that the FISA request "was a subterfuge to collect evidentiary information concerning public corruption matters." In other words, they just made stuff up so that they could spy on public officials, and illegally used the rubber-stamp FISA court to get 'permission' to spy domestically on public officials, including judges.

James Bamford had a good overview of the situation in an interview with Sibel and Scott Horton:
" Well, I think (Gilbert Graham is) a very courageous whistleblower. He worked at the FBI in the counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism area and he worked on a very sensitive political investigation involving Turkey, corruption within the Bush administration and people that were dealing with Turkey, and money being passed and so forth. The FBI was investigating this, and he realized that the FBI was asking for warrants that were known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrants. These warrants, known as FISA warrants are very easy to get, it doesn’t require much in the way of evidentiary information to get them, and they were using those very easy-to-get FISA warrants in order to avoid having to show probable cause to get a regular warrant, a criminal-type warrant.

So he complained to the Inspector General’s office that this was illegal, and it is. That was the whole reason that they originally set up those two types of warrants, you have the easier warrants, the FISA warrant, in order to get intelligence information, but if you’re trying to look into a criminal case, you need a probable-cause warrant. And the FBI decided to try the easy warrant to avoid going the legal route - so he complained about that and that was a part of the case that Sibel was involved in. What makes it very interesting is the fact that the government used the State Secrets Privilege to try to hide what was going on, which was obviously illegality and used it against Sibel so she couldn’t bring any of that illegality out in her case."
As Weaver and Pallitto drily note in their book:
Presumably such activity, if it occurs, is done secretly without informing the FISA judges.
In fact, Judge Reggie Walton was no doubt aware of all of this. He was chosen, repeatedly, to adjudicate Sibel's cases because he was known to be 'friendly' to the government's desires. Judge Walton was appointed to the FISA Court in 2007 - which will no doubt ensure that the rubber-stamping will continue (The FISA court has approved all but five of 20,000 applications.)

Just as the media and congress have been compromised by spying and blackmail, so has the judiciary. Why is it never discussed?

Notes in the margin

1. William Weaver, one of the authors of the book mentioned above, is on the Board of Sibel's organization, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

2. I'm not entirely convinced that Gilbert Graham is Weaver's source that the executive branch is spying on judges. I've never heard Sibel mention anything about spying on judges.

3, Current Attorney General Eric Holder was a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Is he also being blackmailed by the same people?

Sibel gave her opinion of Eric Holder this week:
He's basically the same old dung, the same crap, putting it crudely. There is no difference between him and Ashcroft or Gonzales, and unfortunately every day that passes in these four years we are going to see that. We are already seeing this. They dropped the AIPAC court case. Who did it? Obama's Justice Department, his AG decided, despite all the evidence on these Israeli spies, that they were going to drop it. Even the Bush administration didn’t go that far - because some of the FBI agents were out there who would have screamed, and they did.
4. Weaver's co-author Robert Pallitto was on the Daily Show in 2007 discussing the book, Presidential Secrecy.

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