Media interest in Saudi Arabian connections to the crimes of 9/11 has centered on calls for the release of the 28 missing pages from the Joint Congressional Inquiry’s report. However, those calls focus on the question of hijacker financing and omit the most interesting links between the 9/11 attacks and Saudi Arabia—links that implicate powerful people in the United States. Here are twenty examples.
- When two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, came to the U.S. in January 2000, they immediately met with Omar Al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy and an employee of a Saudi aviation company. Al-Bayoumi, who was the target of FBI investigations in the two years before 9/11, became a good friend to the two 9/11 suspects, setting them up in an apartment and paying their rent.
- Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi then moved in with a long-time FBI asset, Abdussattar Shaikh, who was said to be a teacher of the Saudi language. Shaikh allowed them to live in his home for at least seven months, later saying that he thought they were only Saudi students. In an unlikely coincidence, both Al-Bayoumi and Shaikh also knew Hani Hanjour, the alleged pilot of Flight 77. Although Shaikh was reported to be a retired professor at San Diego State University, the university had no records of him. He was then said to be a professor at American Commonwealth University but that turned out to be a phony institution. During the 9/11 investigations, the FBI refused to allow Shaikh to be interviewed or deposed. The FBI also tried to prevent the testimony of Shaikh’s FBI handler, which occurred only secretly at a later date. Despite having a very suspicious background, the FBI gave Shaikh $100,000 and closed his contract.
- Journalist Joseph Trento claimed that an unnamed former CIA officer, who worked in Saudi Arabia, told him that Alhazmi and Almihdhar were Saudi spies protected by U.S. authorities.
- After being appointed CIA Director in 1997, George Tenet began to cultivate close personal relationships with officials in Saudi Arabia. Tenet grew especially close to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Bandar and Tenet often met at Bandar’s home near Washington. Tenet did not share information from those meetings with his own CIA officers who were handling Saudi issues at the agency. These facts are among the reasons to suspect that Tenet facilitated the crimes of 9/11.
- Bernard Kerik, the New York City police commissioner at the time of 9/11, spent three years working in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. He then spent another three years in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s as the “chief investigator for the royal family.” It was Kerik who first told the public that explosives were not used at the World Trade Center (WTC) in a news conference. It was also his police department that was said to have discovered a passport that fell from one of the burning towers, providing dubious evidence identifying one of the alleged hijackers.
- One of the two major contractors hired to manage the cleanup of debris at Ground Zero—Bovis Lend Lease—had previously built the Riyadh Olympic stadium in Saudi Arabia.
- The other primary cleanup company at Ground Zero—AMEC Construction—had just completed a $258 million refurbishment of Wedge 1 of the Pentagon, which is exactly where Flight 77 was said to impact that building. AMEC had a significant presence in Saudi Arabia for decades, working for the national oil company, Saudi Aramco.
- After 9/11, former FBI director Louis Freeh, whose agency failed to stop Al Qaeda-attributed terrorism from 1993 to 2001, became the personal attorney for George Tenet’s dubious cohort, Prince Bandar. Sometimes called “Bandar Bush” for his close relationship to the Bush family, Bandar was the Saudi intelligence director from 2005 to 2015.
- The company that designed the security system for the WTC complex, Kroll Associates, had strong connections to Saudi Arabia. For example, Kroll board member Raymond Mabus, now Secretary of the Navy, was the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. Control of WTC security speaks to the question of how explosives could have been placed in the three tall buildings that were demolished on 9/11.
- All four of the contractors that were involved in implementing Kroll’s security design for the WTC had done significant business in the Saudi kingdom. Stratesec, the company that installed the overall electronic security system at the WTC complex, had also managed security for Dulles airport, where Flight 77 took off, and for United Airlines, which owned two of the three other planes. For many reasons, the company’s managers should be primary suspects in the crimes of 9/11. Stratesec was in partnership with a large Saudi engineering and construction company to develop and conduct business in Saudi Arabia.
- Another interesting connection between Stratesec and Saudi Arabia was that, in the years leading up to 9/11, Stratesec held its annual shareholders’ meetings in an office that was leased by Saudi Arabia. This was an office in the Watergate Hotel occupied by the Saudi Embassy (run by Prince Bandar).
- The Bush and Bin Laden-financed Carlyle Group owned, through BDM International, the Vinnell Corporation, a mercenary operation that had extensive contracts and trained the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Several of Stratesec’s key employees, including its operating manager Barry McDaniel, came from BDM. In 1995, BDM’s Vinnell was one of the first targets of Al Qaeda, in Saudi Arabia.
- In the 1990s, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), run by Dick Cheney’s protégé Duane Andrews, trained the Saudi Navy and instructed Saudi military personnel at its company headquarters in San Diego. SAIC had a greater impact on counterterrorism programs in the United States than any other non-government entity and it profited greatly from 9/11.
- While SAIC was training the Saudi Navy, the Carlyle/BDM subsidiary Vinnell Corporation was training the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Simultaneously, Booz Allen Hamilton was managing the Saudi Marine Corps and running the Saudi Armed Forces Staff College.
- Salomon Smith Barney (SSB), the company that occupied all but ten floors of WTC building 7, was taken over by Citigroup in 1998 after Citigroup was taken over by Saudi Prince Alwaleed, in a deal brokered by The Carlyle Group. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney joined the advisory board for SSB just after Citigroup’s takeover and they only resigned in January 2001 to join the Bush Administration.
- The Saudi government was sued by thousands of 9/11 victim’s family members due to the suspicion that Saudi Arabia helped to finance Al Qaeda. The Saudis hired the law firm of Bush Administration insider James Baker to defend them in that lawsuit.
- The 9/11 families’ lawsuit against Saudi royals was thrown out on a technicality related to the ability to sue a foreign government and, later, the Obama Administration backed the Saudis during the appeal.
- The world’s leading insurance provider, Lloyd’s of London, filed a lawsuit alleging Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Lloyd’s dropped the lawsuit just days later without explanation.
- After 9/11, it became clear that Saudi officials were supporting terrorism. For example, in the case of the would-be “underwear bomber,” it was revealed that the suspect was working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence.
- Saudi Prince Bandar has been accused of coordinating an international ring of terrorism in his role as Saudi intelligence chief. From Egypt to Libya, and now in Syria, evidence suggests that Bandar Bush has led a network of terrorists around the globe, with U.S. support.
Therefore it is not surprising that people who hear claims of Saudi involvement in 9/11 wonder why the discussion remains so limited and always avoids the glaring implications those claims should entail.
Now that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have “reset” their rocky relationship, calls by U.S. leaders to release the “28 pages” may very well die down. Since the new Saudi King came to the U.S. a few weeks ago, the two governments have rediscovered that they are “close allies” and many new deals are in the works. It remains to be seen what cards U.S. and Saudi leaders will play in the ongoing game of terror and deception but discussions of hijacker financing will probably be left behind.
For years the FBI has performed federal criminal background checks for employers and state governments, amassing tens of millions of biometric records on people accused of no crime. If you want to be a lawyer, teacher, or even bike messenger in many parts of the United States, you’ll need to submit your fingerprints to the FBI. Every single federal employee must submit their prints before employment. Until recently, the FBI claimed it would not search these civil prints when conducting criminal print matching; a wall between the civil and criminal fingerprint databases kept these distinct sets of information separate, the Bureau claimed. But in February 2015, that all changed—very quietly.
EFF‘s Jennifer Lynch:
The change, which the FBI revealed quietly in a February 2015 Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), means that if you ever have your fingerprints taken for licensing or for a background check, they will most likely end up living indefinitely in the FBI’s [Next Generation Identification] database. They’ll be searched thousands of times a day by law enforcement agencies across the country—even if your prints didn’t match any criminal records when they were first submitted to the system.
This is the first time the FBI has allowed routine criminal searches of its civil fingerprint data. Although employers and certifying agencies have submitted prints to the FBI for decades, the FBI says it rarely retained these non-criminal prints. And even when it did retain prints in the past, they “were not readily accessible or searchable.” Now, not only will these prints—and the biographical data included with them—be available to any law enforcement agent who wants to look for them, they will be searched as a matter of course along with all prints collected for a clearly criminal purpose (like upon arrest or at time of booking).
This seems part of an ever-growing movement toward cataloguing information on everyone in America—and a movement that won’t end with fingerprints. With the launch of the face recognition component of NGI, employers and agencies will be able to submit a photograph along with prints as part of the standard background check. As we’ve noted before, one of FBI’s stated goals for NGI is to be able to track people as they move from one location to another. Having a robust database of face photos, built out using non-criminal records, will only make that goal even easier to achieve.
The FBI’s decision to start using civil prints in criminal investigations demonstrates that we should be very skeptical of all government efforts to collect and retain sensitive information about us. Today they say they won’t do X, Y, or Z with that information. But that can change very easily, and without many of the millions of people affected taking much notice.
Read more about the FBI’s plans to amass biometric information on all of us.
CIA Kept U.S. Agencies in Dark about Investigation into Possible Diversion of Uranium from U.S. to Israel
Federal agencies trying to determine if Israel’s nuclear program received uranium from the U.S. during the Cold War were kept in the dark by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Grant Smith, who runs the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, has long contended that Israel was able to develop nuclear weapons in part because it received 392 pounds of nuclear material that was lost by Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) between 1957 and 1965, according to Courthouse News Service.
A Freedom of Information Act fight with the CIA for records pertaining to NUMEC resulted in Smith getting 130 pages of documents (pdf), one of which from March 9, 1972, dealt with the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) survey of NUMEC’s loss.
The AEC found NUMEC lost 185 pounds of uranium due to inefficiencies in the refinement process, but the agency could not identify an error that led to the remaining loss, according to the memo.
Tim Ryan at Courthouse News Service wrote that other documents revealed a lack of cooperation among three agencies that investigated NUMEC.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also looked into the missing uranium. But the FBI, like the AEC, closed its investigation after meeting with NUMEC director Zalman Shapiro but without consulting the CIA, “even though the agencies knew the CIA was interested in him,” Ryan wrote. He also reported that two CIA employees who worked during the height of the investigations have said diversion of uranium occurred.
“CIA has not furnished to the FBI sensitive agent reporting…since the decision was made by directors [Richard] Helms, [William] Colby and [George H.W.] Bush that this information would not further the investigation of NUMEC but would compromise sources and methods,” according to a 1977 report by CIA Associate Deputy Director for Operations Theodore Shackley.
No criminal charges were ever filed against officials at NUMEC.
To Learn More:
Discord Apparent in Nuclear ‘Diversion’ Probe (by Tim Ryan, Courthouse News Service )
Grant F. Smith v. Central Intelligence Agency (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) (pdf)
Records Released by CIA to IRMEP via FOIA (Michael Lavergne, CIA) (pdf)
The Apollo Affair (Wikipedia)
The Boston Transportation Department has been operating a license plate tracking program seeking to identify parking scofflaws, people with expired insurance, stolen cars, and even people suspected of gang and terrorist ties, according to recently discovered documents. Up until a few weeks ago, this sensitive information about thousands of people, including every person with a Boston resident parking permit, was stored online in plain text for the world to see.
In mid-August 2015, officials in Boston were surprised to receive a phone call from journalist Kenneth Lipp, who informed them that the Boston Transportation Department’s entire license plate reader database was online and available to download for anyone with an internet connection. There was no password guarding the database, which contained a million or so license plate reader records, the home addresses of every single person with a Boston parking permit, and lists of 2,500 people the police or FBI (it remains unclear which) have designated suspected gang members or terrorists, among other data.
Through some Googling, Lipp discovered that BTD’s license plate reader system, run by the Canadian technology giant Genetec, was dumping all of its records into an online server maintained by a Xerox subsidiary for the world to see—if it knew where to look.
Included in the files available on this public facing, password-free server were records suggesting that the Boston Police Department has been piggybacking off BTD license plate reader data for years. One of the files shows what appear to be records of automated emails from the BTD server to the Boston Police department’s stolen vehicle office, alerting the police each time a car on the stolen car hotlist encountered a BTD license plate reader.
I was surprised to discover these records because in 2013, in the wake of local reporter Shawn Musgrave’s expose on privacy and civil liberties problems with the department’s license plate reader program, the Boston Police told the public that it was scrapping the program altogether. The Xerox records suggest scrapping isn’t at all what occurred. Indeed, the automated emails from BTD’s license plate reader program to the Boston Police, left on the Xerox server for anyone to download at will, appear to have started at around the same time the cops told the public they’d stopped using license plate readers. That’s to say, instead of scrapping the program as the police told the public they would, BPD appears to have bootstrapped their license plate reader program from BTD data.
While the Boston Transportation Department’s license plate reader program is primarily used for parking enforcement, the records obtained freely online reveal that the information was processed for other purposes that go well beyond hunting for stolen cars.
Lipp reports for the Dig :
In collecting data, the BTD patrols city blocks—in some cases, both literally and figuratively sweeping the street with ALPR-equipped sanitation trucks—and not exclusively in search of plates belonging to scofflaws. Files obtained in our investigation reveal that as the BTD’s software searches databases, it alerts department operators if a plate is connected to a “convicted person on supervised release,” or to someone pegged to a “protection order.” Commonly called hotlists, these compendiums are created by fusing criminal intelligence from sources like the FBI’s National Crime Information Center and the AMBER Alert program, as well as from data furnished by banks, collection agencies, and the civil court system.
It’s not clear whether or how the public is any safer when authorities use massive watchlists. In Boston, a city of approximately 600,000 people, parking enforcement has one hotlist with 720,000 hits, each of which notes a plate number, location info, and available make and model data. Among the targets listed in August: 19 license numbers classified as “immediate threats,” nearly 4,000 affiliated with “wanted persons,” 25 plates linked to bad checks, 75 tied to payment defaults, and 468,617 flagged for cancelled insurance. Also exposed were 2,500 hits on a “Gang/Terrorist Watch…”
We don’t know for certain from which list the 2,500 people identified as gang members or terrorists were so designated, or who designated them, but a likely suspect is the FBI’s Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF) database.
According to a 2007 Inspector General report, the FBI at that time included nearly half a million people in this database, assigning them one of three codes meant to inform law enforcement “whether there is an active arrest warrant, a basis to detain the individual, or an interest in obtaining additional intelligence information regarding the individual,” respectively.
It’s not certain that the 2,500 people identified as “Gang/Terrorist Watch” in the Xerox/Boston Transportation Department license plate reader database were identified as such because of their inclusion in the FBI’s VGTOF, but it seems probable. The FBI may be interested to know that information about who is a suspected terrorist is posted on the internet for anyone in the world to download and peruse.
Government agencies routinely implore the public to trust them with our sensitive information, whether it’s license plate reader records detailing our movements and life patterns or information collected about political activists for so-called “public safety” purposes. But incidents like this one demonstrate that we should be very circumspect about allowing governments and corporations to collect, share, and manipulate information about us in secret.
Journalist Kenneth Lipp found this database and exposed it to the company and transportation department, triggering an added layer of security that shielded the information from the public. We will likely never know how many other people stumbled across it, or what they might have done with the information, before then.
Ali Shukri Amin is 17-years old, a minor under American law, yet he was just sentenced to eleven years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced as an adult for providing material support for terrorists. This is a crime defined in any way the government wants it to be. Amin had a twitter account, @amreekiwitness, devoted to the group Islamic State, ISIS. He also helped a friend travel to Syria in hopes of joining ISIS. That is the substance of his crime, online opinion and facilitating travel.
The crime of providing material support for terrorists only came into existence with the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. There are now people serving very long prison terms for providing humanitarian aid, translating documents, sending money abroad, or expressing views in support of nations or groups the United States classifies as terrorist. These crimes are vaguely defined and are often of little consequence to ISIS or any other organization the federal government designates as an enemy.
The prosecutions of Amin and others are meant to make the case for continuing the “war on terror.” This is actually a war of American terror used to justify endless interventions around the world. The Department of Justice would have us believe that a teenager tweeting about making donations to ISIS via bitcoin posed a serious threat. Of course, the United States government is the biggest threat to life in the world. It is the most violent organization with the largest number of kills.
The application of the material support for terror statute is used to capture innocent or harmless people. Some are hoodwinked by agent provocateurs or, like Amin, pose little or no danger. Most importantly, ISIS would not be a credible force in Syria or Libya were it not for American machinations. The United States created the monster and now wants to punish anyone who interacts with it.
At one point Amin, who lived in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, had over 4,000 twitter followers who conversed about a variety of issues, including protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
“They cower in fear of us whilst they massacre and oppress you! It’s time to strike fear into the hearts of the oppressors. #FergusonUnderIS”
“May be time to organize Muslims in America upon haqq and mobilize to #Ferguson. Defend the oppressed, start jihad here.”
While Amin and thousands of others expressed their outrage about deadly police brutality, the State Department actually engaged in online debates with the teenager. A bizarre social media program called Think Again, Turn Away is a useless attempt to influence young Muslims who want to fight imperialism through jihad. Aside from having a name reminiscent of a love song title, the effort allowed Amin to engage in argument with and troll the State Department. When the would-be jihad deprogrammers pointed out that ISIS “slaughters innocent people,” Amin had a ready and accurate retort:
“slaughter innocents? You mean like AbdurRahman al-Awlaki, the 16 year old boy not involved with any militants? or what about the thousands killed in drone strikes weekly that make the news? The thousands that don’t? you are nothing more than criminals who betray the Muslims you claim to defend across the globe, butchering them 1.7 million in Iraq, hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan, left, right, everywhere. only an ignoramus who knows nothing about American foreign policy or any Muslim country could accept your lies.”
A few months after these embarrassing interactions, Amin’s mother and his imam unwisely reported him to the FBI in an effort to stop his online involvement with ISIS. He would not have been discovered otherwise.
Killer cops roam the streets with no fear of federal prosecution, but a confused teenager is sent to prison because he holds and expresses opinions contrary to those of the government. Prosecutors use children to make names for themselves and climb the ladder in a corrupt system. American terror is not just carried out abroad with drone strikes and invasions, but it is carried out on a daily basis by the criminal injustice system.
While the Saudis, Israelis and their allies use American money and arms to target civilians for death, anyone who crosses over the thin line of expression is at risk of prosecution and many years in prison. The hypocrisy is stunning but not really surprising. This system will use a child to make its point clear. We live in a police state and anyone who dares to speak up against it is at risk of being made an example.
The federal government does not operate any juvenile facilities. Ali Shukri Amin is now in custody in an adult facility. One need not be a follower of ISIS to see that this is a gross injustice unworthy of a country which claims to be a democracy.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
In the late morning of June 26th, 1975, two young FBI agents named Jack Coler and Robert Williams entered the property of Lakota Sioux elders Harry and Cecelia Jumping Bull while ostensibly investigating the theft of a pair of cowboy boots, and engaged in a firefight with several native activists who were camped there. Those two FBI agents and a young Indian named Joe Stuntz would be dead by mid-afternoon, slain in the South Dakota sun. Leonard Peltier, one of the activists camped at Jumping Bull that day, is currently serving back-to-back life sentences for the deaths of Coler and Williams. No investigation into the death of Stuntz was ever undertaken.
Reports of military style bunkers and strongholds and large stockpiles of weapons on the Jumping Bull property were disseminated to the American public within the days following this incident, but such reports were promptly found to be fabricated. In an enforced absence of the media during the first days after the event, the deaths of the agents were told to be execution-style murders, the work of hateful, vengeful native militants. This, too, proved to be false. The agents, it seems, did not announce themselves that day and so appeared simply as two armed white men on reservation land. A compelling case has been made that Coler and Williams drove onto that land that day and fired shots for no reason but to set into motion the chain of events which followed.
Violence against Indians on the greater Pine Ridge Reservation was entirely common at that time, and although at least some of that violence was funded and enabled by the FBI, the agency usually maintained a slightly more removed role than it did on this day. Dick Wilson, chairman of the Oglala Lakota Sioux was a militant assimilationist who had made it his mission throughout the early 1970s to suppress and punish expressions of native identity. He and his heavily armed, often drunk and extremely violent private squad of henchmen began terrorizing the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1972. Throughout his reign, uninvestigated violent deaths would befall more than one hundred residents of the reservation, and a climate of fear was pervasive. The Pine Ridge reservation, under Wilson’s rule, achieved the highest per-capita murder rate in the country and the dark clouds of alcoholism and poverty hung over everyday life there. Wilson received funds, arms, and reportedly alcohol from the federal government to operate and fuel his militia. The native activists camped on the Jumping Bull property on June 26th, 1975 were largely present as a response to these conditions, offering support and security to the residents of Pine Ridge in the face of Wilson’s thuggery.
Relations between such Native American traditionalist activists, loosely organized under the banner of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and various government agencies had become explosive through the early 1970s. AIM was inspired in part by the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panthers but uniquely mobilized around pan-native spiritual practices, identity, and a vision that sought not necessarily advancement within the broader society, but the right to exist unmolested and to live a form of traditional native life without the violence and manipulation and strategic neglect so commonly experienced at the hands of the US government.
Two-and-a-half years before the Pine Ridge shootout, supporters of AIM had assembled in the town of Custer, South Dakota to respond to the sentencing of Darold Schmitz for the murder of an Indian named Wesley Bad Heart Bull. While the two men had essentially engaged in a drunken tussle which resulted in Bad Heart Bull’s death, several witnesses testified to hearing Schmitz earlier in the evening state that “he was going to kill him an Indian.” After word got out of an involuntary manslaughter verdict and low bail, AIM leaders mobilized and dozens of supporters flooded the little town of Custer. While AIM leaders Russell Means, Dennis Banks, Leonard Crow Dog and Dave Hill were in talks with local officials, the victim’s grieving mother, Sarah Bad Heart Bull was beaten by police while attempting to enter the courthouse. The ensuing conflict between Indians and police turned into a riot in which several buildings were burned. (Sarah Bad Heart Bull was subsequently sentenced to one to five years in prison while Schmitz never served one day.)
This incident is commonly considered the impetus for the 1973 occupation of the Wounded Knee memorial site by AIM activists and the subsequent 71-day standoff between two hundred AIM supporters and an army of federal agents, U.S. marshals, Dick Wilson’s thugs, and local ranchers. Russell Means and Dennis Banks were tried in 1974 as leaders of AIM and the primary organizers of that occupation. Means and Banks were acquitted after a disastrous and circus-like trial. The presiding judge, Fred Joseph Nichol, was so astonished by the questionable prosecutorial feats that he was, as quoted in Peter Matthiessen’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, moved to words of derision for the FBI.
It’s hard for me to believe that the FBI, which I have revered for so long, has stooped so low. I am forced to conclude that the prosecution acted in bad faith at various times throughout the course of the trial and was seeking convictions at the expense of justice. [ … ] The waters of justice have been polluted, and dismissal, I believe, is the appropriate cure for the pollution in this case.”
By June of 1975, the FBI was apparently frustrated beyond clear-headedness. Matthiessen’s exhaustive account elucidates the details of the incident at Jumping Bull which would eventually result in Leonard Peltier’s conviction. Among the most striking is the fact that while agents Coler and Williams were ostensibly investigating the theft of a pair of cowboy boots, a myriad of law enforcement and paramilitary forces totaling at least 250 men were assembling within a few miles of the Jumping Bull property, which was soon surrounded.
Throughout the exchange of fire, all of the Indians involved were able to escape into the hills, except for the fallen Joe Stuntz. Leonard Peltier, who was certainly among those who fled, eventually escaped to Canada, from where he was extradited back to the U.S. and tried for the murders of agents Coler and Williams.
Peltier’s extradition and trial proved to be even more fraught with fraud than the Means-Banks trial. The prosecution depended largely on the testimony of a mentally unstable woman named Myrtle Poor Bear who later admitted that she had been threatened and coerced by the FBI. Although she was groomed to damn Peltier, she later admitted that she had never met him.
Despite this and several other witnesses’ claims of coercion at the hands of the FBI, ballistics evidence which concluded in favor of Peltier’s innocence, and a general lack of evidence, Leonard Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two back-to-back life sentences.
He remains in prison today, at the United States Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, where he was moved after being severely beaten by inmates at a facility in Canaan, Pennsylvania in 2009. He is today 70-years-old. Several presidents, including Barack Obama, have flirted with the idea of granting Peltier clemency amidst enormous pressure from the international human rights community, intellectuals, celebrities, and spiritual leaders, though none has yet followed through. Recent reports highlight Peltier’s failing health and lack of proper medical treatment.
Peltier is considered by many of his supporters to have been arbitrarily chosen for conviction after earlier attempts to convict AIM leaders failed. Although obviously a controversial and contentious subject, enough evidence has emerged in defense of Peltier over the years that he counts among his supporters the Dalai Lama, the late Nelson Mandela, the late Mother Theresa, the European Parliament, the National Lawyers Guild, Angela Davis, Amnesty International, The Human Rights Alliance, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and many others who believe that he is held as a political prisoner.
With the 1983 publication of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Peter Matthiessen was sued for libel by the FBI and related parties. As Martin Garbus explains in the afterword for the second edition of the book, the very existence of that edition is significant in the face of these legal battles.
The printing of this new edition is thus a joyful occasion for those of us who care about the dissemination of ideas, no matter how controversial, and worry about any erosion of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is a defeat for former South Dakota Governor William Janklow, for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and for FBI Special Agent David Price, all of whom tried to stop this book by filing suits in three stages, waging an eight-year litigation, and calling and threatening booksellers and book buyers. It is also a defeat for all those who wish to keep this country in the dark about abuses against its citizens in the past and present eras.”
Matthiessen’s legal victories essentially validated all accounts in the book as sound.
In addition to the 1991 edition of Matthiessen’s book, the 1992 documentary, Incident at Oglala, produced and narrated by Robert Redford, also helped to renew public interest in Peltier’s story. The Washington Post review of that film states: “Only the willfully partisan will disagree [Peltier’s] trial was anything but a government-cooked travesty.”
Efforts are ongoing to convince President Obama to grant clemency to Peltier, as are efforts to prevent just such a thing from happening. His next parole hearing is scheduled for 2024.
Five whistleblowers are suing the Justice Department, National Security Agency, FBI and their former directors for violating their constitutional and civil rights after they complained about government waste and fraud through proper channels.
According to the complaint, filed in Washington, DC’s federal district court, all five were subjected to illegal searches and seizures, raids on their homes and places of business, false imprisonment, and cancellation of their security clearances after they complained about government waste and fraud at the NSA.
Four of the five whistleblowers worked at the National Security Agency: Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney. The fifth, Diane Roark, worked at the Department of Energy. They are seeking some $100 million in damages.
The plaintiffs blew the whistle on the wasteful abandonment of a short-lived surveillance program called THINTHREAD which was being built by the NSA, but was then scuttled in favor of a more expensive program less protective of Americans’ communications.
The plaintiffs had worked on developing the THINTHREAD program, which was capable of effectively performing the technical work required by the NSA at the low cost of $4 million. The program was dumped at the direction of Lt. General Michael Hayden in favor of an outside contract for an expensive program called TRAILBLAZER, which ended up costing the government $4 billion. The TRAILBLAZER program never worked properly and was abandoned in 2006.
The plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Department of Defense arguing that, in using an outside contractor, the agency was committing fraud and wastefully misusing taxpayer dollars. The Department of Defense inspector general issued a scathing report on the abuse.
In response, the complaint argues, the NSA concocted a story claiming the whistleblowers were responsible for leaking information on the NSA’s surveillance of Americans to The New York Times. As a result, the Department of Justice conducted a series of raids that disrupted the plaintiffs’ lives and livelihoods.
The plaintiffs argue that the raids were retaliatory as the government had already determined that they had had nothing to do with the disclosures to the New York Times. The real leaker was a former lawyer who worked at DOJ with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Among the six named defendants are two former NSA directors, Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The complaint alleges that the FBI, NSA and DOJ’s actions violated the plaintiffs’ protections under the 1998 Whistleblower Protection Act, and violated their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.
The whistleblowers are seeking punitive damages in excess of $100 million in compensation for the loss of wages and employment they incurred as a result of the defendants’ alleged callous and reckless indifference.
While the raids and harassment took place in 2006 and 2007, the suit is only being brought now because the plaintiffs were only able to access all of the details concerning their case in 2013, after court documents were unsealed.
The FBI has arrested a man who allegedly wanted to detonate a bomb in what authorities describe as an ISIS-inspired terror attack, officials said.
Harlem Suarez, 23, of Key West, Florida, (pictured, and do note the Batman T-shirt) has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the United States.
So Terrorist Suarez first came onto the FBI’s radar in April, after he posted whatever “extremist rhetoric” and pro-ISIS messages are on Facebook, according to the Justice Department. Facebook, yep, everything people post on Facebook is serious sh*t, man, no boasting or false bravado online, ever. Everybody always means exactly what they say.
Anyway, after creeping Suarez on Facebook, the FBI then sent in an FBI-employed “confidential source” who for months allegedly talked with Suarez online and in person about plans to attack the United States. Not that any of that would have encouraged or emboldened someone whose previous plans would have otherwise never left his bedroom.
In May, according to the FBI, Suarez recorded his own video, declaring: “We will destroy America and divide it into two. We will raise our black flag on top of your White House and any president on duty.”
Nice touch– “any president on duty.” Man, Suarez was obviously well-informed.
The FBI said that in subsequent meetings with the FBI informant, Suarez discussed plans for an attack around the July 4 holiday and said he would “cook American in cages” — an apparent reference to the ISIS video of a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive while in a cage.
Last week, Suarez allegedly gave the informant two boxes of nails, a cell phone, a backpack and $100 to build a bomb. In the most recent discussions, Suarez talked about bombing a public beach in Key West and placing explosive devices under police cars, according to charging documents filed by the FBI.
Note that without some actual explosive material and the knowledge to build a bomb without first blowing yourself up (yeah, yeah, it’s all online, but so is a lot of stuff. Reading stuff online and actually safely handling explosives and ensuring they work remotely is a whole ‘nother story.)
And seriously, a backpack bomb, is that really a weapon of mass destruction?
Also note that at no point was anyone in America in danger in any way whatsoever.
“There is no room for failure when it comes to investigating the potential use of a weapon of mass destruction,” said Special Agent in Charge George Piro, head of the FBI’s Miami Field Office.
Yesterday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and law enforcement officials from Paris, London, and Madrid published an anti-encryption op-ed in the New York Times—an op-ed that amounts to nothing more than a blatant attempt to use fear mongering to further their anti-privacy, anti-security, and anti-constitutional agenda. They want a backdoor. We want security, privacy, and respect for the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that we be “secure” in our papers. After all, the Founding Fathers were big users of encryption.
The government’s use of horror stories to convince us that we should unlock our doors and give it free reign to pry inside our lives is nothing new. FBI Director James Comey is notorious for his examples of how cell-phone encryption will lead law enforcement to a “very dark place.” Yesterday’s op-ed adopts Comey’s signature tactic, focusing on the fatal shooting of a man in Illinois in June of this year and suggesting—without any evidence—that but for encryption built into both of the victim’s two phones (both found at the crime scene), police would have been able to track down the shooter. Never mind that of the two devices mentioned in the article, one of them (the Samsung Galaxy S6) isn’t actually encrypted by default.
The op-ed goes on to cite numerous other “examples,” again divorced from any actual facts, of cases in which encryption supposedly “block[ed] justice”—including 74 occasions over a nine-month period in which the Manhattan district attorney’s office encountered locked iPhones. Vance has touted this statistic before. But a spokesperson for his office told Wired last month that the office handles approximately 100,000 cases in the course of a year, meaning that officials encountered encryption in less than 0.1% of cases. And Vance has never been able to explain how even one of these 74 encrypted iPhones stood in the way of a successful prosecution.
The op-ed faults Apple and Google for attempting to offer their customers strong, user-friendly encryption. An iPhone with iOS8 automatically encrypts text messages, photos, contacts, call history, and other sensitive data though the use of a passcode. But contrary to the suggestion of the op-ed’s authors, Google has already backed off its promise to offer its users encryption by default, and Google would have been able to unlock the specific model of Samsung phone at issue.
But what’s more important than the op-ed’s shortage of facts is how out of touch it is with not only the fundamental importance of encryption and how encryption works, but also the U.S. Constitution.
The op-ed calls for an “appropriate balance between the marginal benefits of full-disk encryption and the need for local law enforcement to solve and prosecute crimes.” This single sentence demonstrates the numerous ways in which the authors are untethered from reality.
First, the benefits of encryption are in no way “marginal”—unless you view ensuring the privacy and security of innocent individuals across the globe as trivial goals. The authors here reveal their failure to appreciate the need for encryption to protect against not only security breaches, but also criminals (the folks they are supposed to be protecting us from) and of course pervasive and unconstitutional government surveillance.
Second, when the authors say they want an “appropriate balance,” what they are really asking for is a backdoor—or golden key—to allow government officials to decrypt any encrypted messages. As The Intercept explained in an article outlining the many things wrong with the op-ed, Vance and his counterparts in Paris, London, and Madrid are “demand[ing]—in the name of the ‘safety of our communities’—a magical, mathematically impossible scenario in which communications are safeguarded from everyone except law enforcement.”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It is technologically impossible to give the government an encryption backdoor without weakening everyone’s security. Computer scientists and cybersecurity experts agree, and have been telling the government as much for nearly two decades. And earlier this year, one Congressman with a technical background called encryption backdoors “technologically stupid.” Everyone who understands how encryption works agrees.
Third, law enforcement isn’t currently and won’t in the future “go dark” as a result of encryption. The government voiced the same concerns over encryption stifling criminal investigations during the Crypto Wars of the 1990s—i.e., Crypto Wars, Part I—which saw efforts by the government to prevent the development and distribution of strong consumer encryption technologies. (Protecting your ability to use strong encryption was one of EFF’s very first victories.) Such concerns have proven to be unfounded in the past. Just a few weeks ago, former NSA director Mike McConnell, former Homeland Security director Michael Chertoff, and former deputy defense secretary William Lynn—in a Washington Post op-ed in support of ubiquitous encryption—remarked that despite losing Part I of the Crypto Wars,
[T]he sky did not fall, and we did not go dark and deaf. Law enforcement and intelligence officials simply had to face a new future. As witnesses to that new future, we can attest that our security agencies were able to protect national security interests to an even greater extent in the ’90s and into the new century.
The same is true today. And as the former national security officials recognize, “the greater public good is a secure communications infrastructure protected by ubiquitous encryption at the device, server and enterprise level without building in means for government monitoring.”
At its core, yesterday’s op-ed demonstrates a fundamentally different vision for the future than the one we have here at EFF. Our vision is for a world where the privacy of communications are protected and where we can use the best tools possible to protect it. The vision of Vance, Comey, and others in the anti-encryption camp is for a world where no one is secure and where everyone is vulnerable. Their vision is not consistent with reality. And we hope the public is not swayed by their fear tactics.
The Department of Justice refuses to reveal its unpublished rules for spying on journalists, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation demands a look at them, in Federal Court.
The foundation sued the Justice Department on Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking expedited production of records on FBI procedures for issuing National Security Letters and exigent letters to investigate members of the media.
“Public disclosure of these protocols is necessary to deter chilling affects on the press and its sources, especially given recent years during which the Obama Administration has increased surveillance of reporters,” the foundation’s attorney Victoria Baranetsky said.
The Associated Press revealed in 2013 that the Justice Department had secretly obtained months of phone records for at least seven journalists on 20 phone lines while trying to determine which government official leaked information about a CIA operation that allegedly thwarted a terrorist plot.
Soon after, it was revealed that the Justice Department had investigated James Rosen, Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent, in connection to a possible leak of classified information by a government contractor.
In that case, Rosen was labeled as a possible “co-conspirator,” and investigators pulled his security badge records, phone logs and personal emails.
As a result of the backlash, the Justice Department in July 2013 released guidelines that supposedly bar the government from issuing subpoenas to journalists unless high standards are met.
But the guidelines did not apply to FBI agents using national security letters to get telecom companies, libraries and others to secretly hand over information, including Internet records of U.S. citizens without court oversight.
About 97 percent of national security letters come with gag orders barring the recipients from talking about it.
In 2013, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston found the letters facially unconstitutional and ordered the government to stop issuing them, but she stayed her ruling pending appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
A Justice Department spokesperson told The New York Times that procedures for national security letters are governed by an “extensive oversight regime.”
A heavily redacted August 2014 Department of Justice Inspector General report criticized the FBI’s handling of a leak investigation, in which it collected a reporter’s phone records using national security letters.
A separate Inspector General report found that the FBI had issued hundreds of exigent letters to get telephone records from three major telephone carriers. The letters were not authorized by law, flouted internal FBI policy and violated attorney general guidelines, the report said.
In January, several months after the 2014 report confirmed that the FBI had new procedures for gathering information about media, the Justice Department published another rule amending the media guidelines.
The updated policy did not include any procedures for issuing national security letters or exigent letters to get information about members of the press, the foundation says.
It filed an FOIA request in March, seeking the FBI’s unpublished procedures on how it issues national security letters or exigent letters regarding members of the media.
“The DOJ failed to provide adequate response after it acknowledged the need for expedited processing,” Baranetsky said.
Nor has the Justice Department met its deadline to reply to the FOIA, the foundation says in the complaint.
It seeks information on the extensive regime that oversees issuance of national security letters, the procedures the FBI must follow before and after issuing a national security letter to obtain records on members of the press, and any changes in FBI policy after the Justice Department reviews.
Expedited disclosure “is in the public interest and ‘[a] matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist[s] possible questions about the government’s integrity which affect public confidence,'” the foundation says in the complaint.
The Justice Department would not comment on the lawsuit.