Archive for the ‘Russell Tice’ Category

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Traces of Mr. Smith found in Washington

July 31, 2006

Two cheering developments on the Russell Tice front.

First, his lawyers have successfully got his Grand Jury appearance postponed, on the grounds that the subpoena did not inform him whether he was a target or a witness, and did not give him sufficient time to prepare.

Second, it may be illegal for the government to spend any money investigating him.

That conclusion is based on the interplay between two key whistleblower laws. First, under the Lloyd Lafollette Act of 1912, it is illegal to obstruct communications with Congress. For over 25 years, it has been accepted in the law that media disclosures qualify as communications with the government.

Second, the anti-gag statute shields speech protected by Lloyd Lafollette and other good government laws from any government spending on retaliatory investigations against the whistleblower. It has been passed annually in appropriations legislation since 1988. It states that free speech rights listed in certain good government laws supersede any other restrictions against unclassified disclosures. The government violates the anti-gag statute if it spends money to implement or enforce the superseded policies. Under the Anti Deficit Act, officials responsible for the illegal spending are personally liable to repay the Treasury.

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You Can’t Hear That Whistle Blow

July 29, 2006


If a whistleblower whistles in a forest, and no one is permitted to hear, does (s)he make a sound?

I’ve mentioned Russell Tice, the would-be NSA whistleblower, who knows about agency domestic spying programs yet unrevealed to Congress, and has had a hard time getting the beans properly spilled.

Tice’s closed testimony before the House Armed Services committee is probably the source of the faux indignation from Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Goosestep) on May 17, over not being told about some unspecified “program”. Hoekstra quieted down once he’d made his point, which was presumably that he’d better get an extra portion of pork for awhile, if the White House expected him to jolly their lawbreaking along.

(Hoekstra also made the front pages by acting as stage magician Rick Santorum’s lovely assistant, when Rick went before the cameras to perform his most crowd-pleasing trick: making the elephant WMDs appear. Despite the fact that every elephant on the stage was a fake, the crowd was most appreciative. Over the following weeks, the percentage of Americans deluded into the belief that Saddam actually had WMDs at the start of the war leapt from 38% to 50%.)

The entrails tell this augur that Hoekstra and the White House are back on the best of terms, and ready to work in tandem to quash all inquiry into whatever it is that Tice knows. The federal intimidation machinery cranked into high gear yesterday, issuing a subpoena to haul Tice before a Grand Jury to testify about “violations of criminal law” – which is the term the Feds now use for informing the public about the Government’s violations of criminal law.

In a statement issued by the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, of which Tice is a member, he declared “This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent.”

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The Tice testimony: a damp squib?

June 15, 2006

Russell Tice delivered his testimony to a select handful of members of the House Armed Services Committee. He says he told them “everything he knows”; the testimony was given in closed session, and they are sharing none of it with the class.

For some while the House Government Reform National Security Subcommittee, in the persons of its chair, Christopher Shays (R-CT), and its ranking member Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), has tried to get the same debriefing. The NSA is balking, withholding permission, and refusing to say why. Think Progress on June 6 (yes, I’m playing catchup here), cited CongressDaily:

Tice said his information is different from the terrorist surveillance program that President Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts last month that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. Because he worked on special access programs, however, it has not been clear on Capitol Hill which committees have jurisdiction to debrief him. Shays and Kucinich gave the NSA until Friday to explain any legal reason why they cannot interview him. But that deadline passed without a response, and a subcommittee aide today called the missed deadline troubling.

Shays and Kucinich had originally asked the NSA to give them a reason by May 26, but the agency asked for an extension until June 9.

If NSA refuses to allow Congress to do its job, Tice cannot presumably speak to the press to get the word out, since his own phones are certainly tapped (without a warrant), and so are the phones of the most influential reporters (without a warrant).

The Bush regime has pitched the Fourth Amendment, requiring warrants for searches and seizures, out the window. Others are following behind it. Used to be that “You have the right to remain silent” was a clause of the Fifth Amendment. These days, it seems to be turning into the substance of the First as well.

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Afterthought: the Poison Tree Triple Play

May 16, 2006

In my previous post, I explained why the “national security logic” demands that the NSA must be listening in without warrants to the content of purely domestic conversations. Having slept on it, I’ve decided my logic wasn’t airtight.

As we learned Monday, the feds have also been collecting the phone records of journalists – but they’ve been doing it perfectly legally. They just fork over an NSL, a National Security Letter, a dodge made legal by the USAPATRIOT Act. Certain agencies, such as the FBI, may issue NSLs and compel the production of private information, without a warrant, and it is illegal for the provider to inform anyone of the search. (In theory, these letters were to be used only to track down potential terrorists, but the language of the Act is conveniently fuzzy, and a journalist is now the same thing as a terrorist in the eyes of this particular law.)

Here, then, is the value of the phone records the NSA collects. Once they’ve located a “pattern”, they know which phones they want to bug for content. They can’t go to the FISA court with that, because they’d have to admit to breaking the law, and they’d find their spooky behinds tossed out on the pavement.

But what they can do is go to the FBI and say, “Here are some phone numbers of interest.” The FBI can then present NSLs to the phone companies, demanding phone records for those numbers. Lo and behold, the parties in question have been talking to Suspicious Characters. Now, the Hooverites trot down to the FISA court. Fortunately, our crack Tinsel Wing staff has the courtroom bugged; transcript follows.

Hooverite: “We’d like to listen in on the conversations of this individual, who is talking to some potential Bad Actors. These phone records show probable cause.”

FISA judge: “Did you get these phone records from the illegal NSA database which we, of course, know nothing about and have never heard of?”

Hooverite: “Your honor, we cannot tell a lie, we got these records from a National Security Letter, in accordance with USASNOOPONPATRIOTSACT, section this, part that, and here’s the paperwork.”

FJ: “What led you to issue this particular NSL?”

Hooverite: “Well, your honor, sometimes we just get hunches. This one panned out.”

FJ: “Sounds aboveboard to me. Where do I sign?”

It’s a classic Tinker to Evers to Chance to Tinker to Chance to that little celebrated catcher Bfstplk. The phone giant at SS passes records to NSA at 2nd: one hundred percent illegal. The NSA passes the resulting tip to the FBI at 1st: one hundred percent illegal. The FBI launders the tip by going back to the shortstop, who pass the ball, now clean as a whistle, to the FBI, who throws it home to the FISA judge. A triple play, and the stands go wild.

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Tice and the poison tree

May 14, 2006


Ever since the NSA domestic wiretapping story broke, 20-year NSA analyst Russell Tice has been petitioning Congress for a chance to testify about what the public hasn’t learned. For a long time, Congress didn’t want to know, and the big committees (intelligence and Judiciary) still prefer to be ignorant. But this week, he will speak to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. “It’s an angle that you haven’t heard about yet,” he said. … He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he “will not confirm or deny” if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites.

Perhaps thanks to Tice it will be sooner. In any case, sooner or later we are going to learn that the NSA has been listening without warrants to the content of purely domestic conversations.
How do we know this? The national security logic demands it. The whole point of the database of all US citizens’ phone calls is to look for “patterns” suggestive of terrorism. Now, suppose they find just such a pattern. Suddenly they have probable cause to believe that a domestic phone owner is taking part in a terrorist conversation. How can they use what they’ve learned?
The next step is plain. They’ve got probable cause, so they go to the FISA court and ask for a warrant to tap the phone in question. Problem is, they can’t go to the court. They violated the law when they did the surveillance that turned up the “pattern”. The court will be obliged to toss out their claim of probable cause, on the grounds that it is the fruit of the poison tree.

Therefore, once the NSA has started down this road, the only way to take advantage of having found the “pattern” is to go ahead and listen in to the purely domestic calls, without benefit of a warrant. Since they knew from the beginning that this would be the only way to utilize the intelligence coming from the phone database, they would not have bothered to set up the database unless they were planning to listen in on content. Without warrants.

Anyone care to place a bet that this isn’t what Tice will tell the Senate ASC?