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CBP Drone Fleet Under Scrutiny, Kill/Capture List Published, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 1/8/2015

January 8, 2015
CBP drone take off from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)

CBP drone take off from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) caught 120,939 illegal boarder crossers in Arizona during 2013, but CBP’s fleet of 24 drones providing aerial border surveillance aided in fewer than two per cent of the apprehensions. This statistic is cited in a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general audit that found “little or no evidence” CBP’s current fleet – that surveys a mere “100 miles of the Arizona border and 70 miles of the Texas border” – warrants the agency’s planned $443 million expansion of the program. The DHS audit is released while “Congress considers whether to spend more on drone surveillance to secure the borders as part of immigration legislation.”

WikiLeaks has released a July 7, 2009, CIA analysis entitled “Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool,” highlighting the limited overall effect of “high value targeting” against the Taliban. The analysis notes “the Taliban has a high overall ability to replace lost leaders, a centralized but flexible command and control overlaid with egalitarian Pashtun structures, and good succession planning and bench strength, especially at the middle levels, according to clandestine and US military reporting.” The CIA has refused to confirm the authenticity of the WikiLeaks post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystals photo for "The Runaway General." Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/NATO.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s photo for “The Runaway General.” Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/NATO.

Der Speigel recently published the August 8, 2010, “Joint Prioritized Effects List,” the “first actual complete list” of every special operations force target in Afghanistan at a particular point in time to become available to the public. The notations in the list, commonly known as the Kill/Capture list, also reveal that Gen. Stanley McChrystal virtually banned the controversial night raids in March and April of that year after one killed two government officials and two pregnant women, only to relax the ban several months later. The list was one of the documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, and provides interesting context for Rolling Stones journalist Michael Hastings’ reporting on McChystal. Hastings’ reporting, which quoted McChystal about his contempt for civilian government officials and investigated his tactics in Afghanistan – including the controversial night raids – ultimately led to McChystal’s resignation.

The Pentagon press secretary announced this week that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) will lead a review into civilian casualties resulting from air strikes targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. CENTCOM has already investigated 18 allegations resulting in civilian casualties from the latter half of 2013 and determined 13 “were not credible;” the five remaining allegations are still under review.

Sharyl Attkisson is suing the USG for monitoring her personal and work computers. Photo: John P. Filo/CBS News

Sharyl Attkisson is suing the USG for monitoring her personal and work computers. Photo: John P. Filo/CBS News

While others have pointed out that much of what CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson argues is government surveillance appears to be “everyday technological hiccups,” Attkisson is suing the U.S. government for monitoring her personal and work computers. Attkisson has previously insinuated the government was monitoring her communications, and a recent court filing alleges surveillance of her began around the time of her reporting on the “Fast and Furious” operation, and noticeably increased after her Benghazi investigation. Attkisson’s suit argues a “computer forensics expert has identified an unauthorized communications channel opened into her Toshiba laptop directly connected to an Internet Provider (IP) address belonging to a federal agency, specifically the United States Postal Service, indicating unauthorized surveillance.”

The FBI’s Post-Adjudication Risk Management (PARM) program subjects hundreds of its employees and contractors with ties abroad – like foreign language linguists – to “aggressive internal surveillance.” The program began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks over concerns that foreign actors would coerce linguists with access to classified information, and has expanded to encompass more than 1,000 individuals. Those placed in the program “face more frequent security interviews, polygraph tests, scrutiny of personal travel, and reviews of, in particular, electronic communications and files downloaded from databases.” Subjects are informed that they have been placed in the program, but are not provided any explanations why, an appeals process, or a way out.

McClatchy reported recently that since 9/11 “More than 8,700 defense and intelligence employees and contractors have filed [whistleblower] retaliation claims with the Pentagon inspector general.” Many government employees have found that in addition to delays in processing their complaints – over which time the whistleblower can experience years of ongoing retaliation –, the legal system fails to protect them, and they are in turn punished for their actions. The report also found that less than 20 per cent of claims filed since 9/11 have been investigated, with only four per cent substantiated. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) noted the low number of substantiated complaints isn’t surprising given the “inherent bias against whistleblowers in the [Pentagon’s] inspector general’s office.”

An internal FBI investigation based on 41,000 pieces of evidence collected from FBI offices around the country found “agents in every region of the country have mishandled, mislabeled and lost evidence” and found errors “with nearly half the pieces of evidence it reviewed.” Many of the problems seem to stem from the FBI’s 2012 transition to its Sentinel computer system, despite a DOJ IG report released in September finding Sentinel “reduced the number of lost documents and made it easier to share information.” The FBI suffered from other systemic problems in addition to its technical ones, including items being taken from evidence rooms and data entry errors; the report noted the FBI has more “weapons, less money and valuables, and two tons more drugs” than on the books.

The Justice Department has released thousands of pages of documents on its internal investigation into corrupt Nevada Senator John Ensign in response to a FOIA lawsuit brought by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The documents show the extent of Ensign’s coercion of political donors and business associates, and confirms the DOJ’s “skittishness” over pursuing a corruption case after losing high-profile cases against former Senators Ted Stevens of Alaska and John Edwards of North Carolina.

The National Security Archive recently pried loose a single memo from Mexico’s attorney general after a long fight to obtain information on the San Fernando Massacre – the killing of 72 migrants, primarily from Central America, on their way to the U.S. The crime, part of a larger pattern of abuse against migrants, was attributed to the Los Zetas cartel. Los Zetas told investigators that local police officers worked for them and participated in the attacks, and the memo names 17 San Fernando police officers to bolster that claim. The memo was released shortly after the disappearance of 43 college students near Iguala, Mexico, and as the Archive’s Michael Evans told the New York Times, while it’s a good sign the Mexican government released any information, “There have to be more documents.”

This week’s #tbt document pick is chosen with Michael Hastings’ 2010 profile of Gen. McCrhystal in mind, and is one of the top “45 FOIA News Stories of 2011.” Today’s document, obtained by the New York Times through a FOIA request and reported on April 19, 2011, is the DOD IG inquiry into the Rolling Stone profile of General McChrystal that found no proof of wrongdoing by McChrystal, his military aides, or his civilian advisers.

Happy FOIA-ing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2015 5:30 pm

    Reblogged this on CCCC Project.

  2. January 29, 2015 2:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Nick Robson's Blog.

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