DEA Uses Woman’s Intimate Photos for Fake Facebook Page in Drug Investigation, the FBI’s National Security Letters Under Judicial Scrutiny Again, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/10/2014
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday that it will review federal law enforcement practices after reports surfaced that a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent impersonated a young woman on Facebook, posting racy photos of her and pictures of her underage son and niece on the social media site as part of a drug investigation. DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen created the fake Facebook profile after obtaining photos from Sondra Arquiett’s cell phone while she was awaiting trial for her participation in a drug ring (she was ultimately placed on probation), and even sent a “friend request” to a wanted fugitive from the fake account. Arquiett is now suing Sinnigen for violating her privacy and placing her and her family in danger. The DOJ contends, however, that even though Arquiett did not give express permission for her photos to be used in the face Facebook page, she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in . . . ongoing criminal investigations.” Facebook has taken down the fraudulent page for violating the site’s “community standards” policy.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether or not the gag orders that prevent recipients of the FBI’s National Security Letters (NSL) from discussing them constitute a violation of the First Amendment. The NSLs, which demand business records from a wide array of organizations for national security investigations, have been a long-standing concern for privacy advocates in part because of their insufficient judicial oversight and draconian nondisclosure agreements. In 2004 Judge Victor Marrero ruled in Doe v. Ashcroft that the NSLs violate the Fourth Amendment, which led to revisions of the USA Patriot Act that allowed for greater judicial review and clarifications to the non-disclosure clauses. However, there are still no requirements to seek approval or judicial review when sending an NSL, and the non-disclosure provisions prevent the full extent of the NSL program from becoming known.
Twitter is suing the U.S. government for the right to disclose more information about the government requests for user data it receives. The U.S. government relaxed some data disclosure rules for technology companies at the beginning of this year, prompting Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to drop their lawsuits arguing for the right to disclose “the volume and types of national security requests” they received before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The new rules allow technology companies to disclose the existence of the FISC orders they receive (though not the exact numbers), publish that information every six months (with a six-month delay), and release the number of “selectors” (user names, email addresses or Internet addresses) the government requested information about. Twitter, however, “opted not to participate in that agreement,” choosing instead to fight to share more specific data on the number and types of requests it receives.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ruled that an Albanian man who pled guilty in 2012 to a terrorism charge for sending money to a militant group in Pakistan may withdraw his guilty plea after the Justice Department provided him a notice of warrantless surveillance. This is the fifth case the DOJ has issued such a notice for after the department determined last year that criminal defendants should be notified of such surveillance.
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler recently ordered the government to prepare 28 videos showing Guantanamo detainee Abi Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed for public release. Kessler found the government’s argument that the tapes needed to be kept secret to protect national security “unacceptably vague, speculative, lack[ing] specificity or are just plain implausible,” and said the government’s assertion that the release of the tapes would help detainees develop “countermeasures” to the feedings “strains credulity.” Kessler also wrote that the government’s argument that the release of the tapes would violate the third Geneva convention to “protect detainees from public curiosity” turns “the third Geneva convention on its head.” The Department of Defense admitted in May it has video recordings of force-feeding Guantanamo Bay detainees, at the same time detainees accused the U.S. of manipulating data on inmates’ hunger strikes, including how many times inmates are subjected to force feedings to keep strike numbers artificially low.
The U.S. Cyber Command announced its plan to recruit “6,000 cyber professionals and create 133 teams across the country to support the Pentagon in defending the nation’s cyber infrastructure,” even though it’s still unclear which branch of the military is primarily responsible for responding to cyber threats. The recruitment notice comes shortly after a recent Washington Post report found an “exodus” of top-level employees at the Department of Homeland Security, noting specifically that cybersecurity professionals at the agency had the highest turnover rates due to more lucrative opportunities in the private sector.
The Air Force is fighting back against a recent Pentagon Inspector General report that accuses the Air Force of possibly wasting $8.8 billion on unnecessary Reaper drones. The IG report “said that officials did not receive appropriate approval for an increase in quantity. The Air Force also failed to perform a proper analysis to justify the amount needed.” In a rare rebuttal of a DOD IG report, the Air Force posted a response on its website arguing the IG report relied on year-old data.
The Department of Energy has, for the first time, declassified the full transcript of the 1954 J. Robert Oppenheimer Atomic Energy Commission hearing. The hearing – triggered by concerns over his loyalty – ultimately stripped Oppenheimer, who led the Manhattan Project in producing the first atomic bomb, of his security clearance. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists noted that the hearing “represented a breakdown in relations between scientists and the U.S. government and within the scientific community itself.” The DOE had previously released redacted portions of the hearing in response to FOIA requests, and has finally declassified it in full as part of “a continuing series of DOE declassifications of historical records of documents of particular historic value and public interest.”
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Archive’s lawsuit to save Reagan administration White House emails from destruction. To celebrate, this week’s #tbt (ed note: my bad we’re late!) document pick is a collection of the intriguing excerpts of the highest-level White House communications on the most secret national security affairs of the United States during the 1980s – that never would have seen the light of day without the suit brought by the Archive and allied historians, librarians, and public interest lawyers. The excerpts capture candid thoughts from National Security Council member from Oliver North on his “depressing” April 1986 trip to El Salvador, a June 26, 1986, note from National Security Adviser John Poindexter on how to ensure Iraq’s success in the Iran-Iraq war, and much more.