“Lavabit, Snowden’s E-Mail Service, in a Legal Tug of War”

October 3, 2013

The New York Times on October 2, 2013 released the following:

By NICOLE PERLROTH and SCOTT SHANE

“DALLAS — One day last May, Ladar Levison returned home to find an F.B.I. agent’s business card on his Dallas doorstep. So began a four-month tangle with law enforcement officials that would end with Mr. Levison’s shutting the business he had spent a decade building and becoming an unlikely hero of privacy advocates in their escalating battle with the government over Internet security.

Prosecutors, it turned out, were pursuing a notable user of Lavabit, Mr. Levison’s secure e-mail service: Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents that have put the intelligence agency under sharp scrutiny. Mr. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Mr. Snowden’s e-mail account; he had complied with similar narrowly targeted requests involving other customers some two dozen times.

But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much.

“You don’t need to bug an entire city to bug one guy’s phone calls,” Mr. Levison, 32, said in a recent interview. “In my case, they wanted to break open the entire box just to get to one connection.”

On Aug. 8, Mr. Levison closed Lavabit rather than, in his view, betray his promise of secure e-mail to his customers. The move, which he explained in a letter on his Web site, drew fervent support from civil libertarians but was seen by prosecutors as an act of defiance that fell just short of a crime.

The full story of what happened to Mr. Levison since May has not previously been told, in part because he was subject to a court’s gag order. But on Wednesday, a federal judge unsealed documents in the case, allowing the tech entrepreneur to speak candidly for the first time about his experiences. He had been summoned to testify to a grand jury in Virginia; forbidden to discuss his case; held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 for handing over his private encryption keys on paper and not in digital form; and, finally, threatened with arrest for saying too much when he shuttered his business.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. said they had no comment beyond what was in the documents.

Mr. Levison’s battle to preserve his customers’ privacy comes at a time when Mr. Snowden’s disclosures have ignited a national debate about the proper limits of surveillance and government intrusion into American Internet companies that promise users that their digital communications are secure.

Much of the attention has been focused on Internet giants like Microsoft and Google. Lavabit, with just two employees and perhaps 40,000 regular users, was a midget by comparison, but its size and Mr. Levison’s personal pledge of security made it attractive to tech-savvy users like Mr. Snowden.

While Mr. Levison’s struggles have been with the F.B.I., hovering in the background is the N.S.A., which has worked secretly for years to undermine or bypass encrypted services like Lavabit so that their electronic message scrambling cannot obstruct the agency’s spying. Earlier in September, The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian wrote about the N.S.A.’s campaign to weaken encryption. Mr. Levison’s case shows how law enforcement officials can use legal tools to pry open messages, no matter how well protected.

Mr. Levison said he set up Lavabit to make it impossible for outsiders, whether governments or hackers, to spy on users’ communications. He followed the government’s own secure coding guidelines, based on the N.S.A.’s technical guidance, and engineered his systems so as not to log user communications. That way, even if he received a subpoena for a user’s communications, he would not be able to gain access to them. For added measure, he gave customers the option to pay extra to encrypt their e-mail and passwords.

Mr. Levison, who studied politics and computer science at Southern Methodist University, started Lavabit in April 2004, the same month Google rolled out Gmail. To pay his bills, he worked as a Web consultant, helping develop Web sites for major brands like Dr Pepper, Nokia and Adidas. But by 2010, the e-mail service had attracted enough paying customers to allow Mr. Levison to turn to Lavabit full time.

The agent did not mention at first who the government was pursuing, and Mr. Levison will not name the targets of the government’s investigation. The name was redacted from the court order unsealed Wednesday, but the offenses listed are violations of the Espionage Act, and the timing of the government’s case coincides with its leak investigation into Mr. Snowden, which began in May when he fled Hawaii for Hong Kong carrying laptops containing thousands of classified documents.

By then, Mr. Snowden’s Lavabit e-mail address was already public. He had listed his personal Lavabit e-mail address in January 2010, and was still using a Lavabit address this July, when he summoned reporters to a news conference at the Moscow airport.

That e-mail invitation proved to be an unintended endorsement for Lavabit’s security. Before that, Mr. Levison said that, on average, Lavabit was signing up 200 new users daily. In the days after Mr. Snowden’s e-mail, more than 4,000 new customers joined each day.

But a month before the news conference, court documents show, Mr. Levison had already received a subpoena for Mr. Snowden’s encrypted e-mail account. The government was particularly interested in his e-mail metadata — with whom Mr. Snowden was communicating, when and from where. The order, from the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., required Mr. Levison to log Mr. Snowden’s account information and provide the F.B.I. with “technical assistance,” which agents told him meant handing over the private encryption keys, technically called SSL certificates, that unlock communications for all users, he said.

“It was the equivalent of asking Coca-Cola to hand over its secret formula,” Mr. Levison said.

By July, he said, he had 410,000 registered users. Similar services like Hushmail, a Canadian encrypted e-mail service, had lost users in 2007 after court documents revealed that the company had handed 12 CDs’ worth of decoded e-mails from three Hushmail accounts to American law enforcement officials through a mutual assistance treaty.

“The whole concept of the Internet was built on the idea that companies can keep their own keys,” Mr. Levison said. He told the agents that he would need their request for his encryption keys in writing.

A redacted version of that request, which was among the 23 documents that were unsealed, shows that the court issued an order July 16 for Lavabit’s encryption keys. Prosecutors said they had no intention of collecting any information on Lavabit’s 400,000 other customers. “There’s no agents looking through the 400,000 other bits of information, customers, whatever,” Jim Trump, one of the prosecutors, said at a closed Aug. 1 hearing.

But Mr. Levison said he spent much of the following day thinking of a compromise. He would log the target’s communications, unscramble them with the encryption keys and upload them to a government server once a day. The F.B.I. told him that was not enough. It needed his target’s communications “in real time,” he said.

“How as a small business do you hire the lawyers to appeal this and change public opinion to get the laws changed when Congress doesn’t even know what is going on?” Mr. Levison said.

When it was clear Mr. Levison had no choice but to comply, he devised a way to obey the order but make the government’s intrusion more arduous. On Aug 2, he infuriated agents by printing the encryption keys — long strings of seemingly random numbers — on paper in a font he believed would be hard to scan and turn into a usable digital format. Indeed, prosecutors described the file as “largely illegible.”

On Aug. 5, Judge Claude M. Hilton ordered a $5,000-a-day fine until Mr. Levison produced the keys in electronic form. Mr. Levison’s lawyer, Jesse R. Binnall, appealed both the order to turn over the keys and the fine.

After two days, Mr. Levison gave in, turning over the digital keys — and simultaneously closing his e-mail service, apologizing to customers on his site. That double maneuver, a prosecutor later told his lawyer, fell just short of a criminal act.

He hopes to resurrect the business he spent a decade building. “This wasn’t about one person,” Mr. Levison said. “This was about the lengths our government was willing to go to conduct Internet surveillance on one person.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Justice Department Targets Retired Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright in Leak Probe

June 28, 2013

The Washington Post on June 27, 2013 released the following:

By Greg Miller and Sari Horwitz

“A retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as the nation’s second-ranking military officer is a target of a Justice Department investigation into a leak of information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Obama administration official said.

Retired Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was part of President Obama’s inner circle on a range of critical national security issues before he retired in 2011.

The administration official said that Cartwright is suspected of revealing information about a highly classified effort to use a computer virus later dubbed Stuxnet to sabotage equipment in Iranian nuclear enrichment plants.

Stuxnet was part of a broader cyber campaign called Olympic Games that was disclosed by the New York Times last year as one of the first major efforts by the United States to use computer code as a destructive weapon against a key adversary.

Cartwright, who helped launch that campaign under President Bush and pushed for its escalation under Obama, was recently informed that he was a “target” of a wide-ranging Justice Department probe into the leak, according to the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Justice Department officials declined to comment on the case, as did Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland, which is in charge of the investigation.

Neither Cartwright nor his attorney, former White House counsel Greg Craig, responded to requests for comment.

The revelation, which was first reported by NBC News, means that an administration that has already launched more leaks prosecutions than all of its predecessors combined is now focused on one of its own. Since Obama took office, the Justice Department has prosecuted or charged eight people for alleged violations of the Espionage Act.

Cartwright was a regular participant in meetings of top national security officials at the White House and was thought to have significant influence with Obama before being passed over as a possible candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A target is a suspect in a criminal case who has not yet been indicted but is expected to be. Federal prosecutors are not required to tell targets that they are under investigation but it is not uncommon for them to do so in cases when an indictment is likely.

The investigation into the Stuxnet leak was launched in June 2012 by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and gained momentum in recent months amid indications that prosecutors were putting pressure on a range of current and former senior officials suspected of involvement.

The leaks surrounding Stuxnet exposed details about what had been one of the most closely held secrets in the U.S. intelligence community, an ambitious effort by the National Security Agency in collaboration with the Israeli government to devise computer code that could cripple Iran’s alleged effort to pursue a nuclear bomb.

The malware was designed to infiltrate Iranian computer networks and cause the nation’s centrifuges to spin out of control, causing damage to critical equipment and sowing confusion among Iranian scientists.

The campaign is believed to have destroyed as many as 1,000 of Iran’s 6,000 centrifuges at the time. But the virus also escaped those closed systems and was subsequently discovered on the Internet, raising concern about the potential that government-sponsored viruses could cause widespread and unintentional harm.

Cartwright, who previously served as head of U.S. Strategic Command, was a principal architect of the campaign. His role, a former senior official said in an interview last year, “was describing the art of the possible, having a view or vision.”

Cartwright, 63, went on to be named to the Pentagon’s No. 2 military post, moving him to the center of policy issues ranging from Iran to the pursuit of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Yemen.

As vice chairman, Cartwright was scorned by many fellow senior generals for opposing a plan in 2009 to dispatch tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, putting him at odds with former peers, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, but earning him favor with senior Obama national security aides.

Although Obama forged a quick rapport with Cartwright — White House officials referred to him as the president’s favorite general — the president chose not to promote him to chairman in 2011, in part because of concern that Cartwright had frayed his relationships with too many senior generals during the surge debate. Within the Pentagon, “he wasn’t seen as a team player,” said a senior military official who worked on the Joint Staff.

After retiring, Cartwright took a position at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and has spoken frequently on national security issues. He has emerged as a growing critic of the Obama administration’s expanded use of drones to counter the al-Qaeda threat.

At at event in Chicago in March, Cartwright said that the United States was beginning to see “blowback” from that targeted killing campaign. “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Edward Snowden Charged by a Federal Criminal Complaint With Espionage Over NSA Leaks

June 22, 2013

CNN on June 21, 2013 released the following:

“U.S. charges Snowden with espionage

By Chelsea J. Carter and Carol Cratty, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Federal prosecutors have charged Edward Snowden, the man who admitted leaking top-secret details about U.S. surveillance programs, with espionage and theft of government property, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Friday.

The United States has asked Hong Kong, where Snowden is believed to be in hiding, to detain the former National Security Agency contract analyst on a provisional arrest warrant, The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

Hong Kong police did not confirm whether they received an arrest request, but Commissioner Andy Tsang said Saturday if they did, authorities would process it in accordance with law.

The complaint charges Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person. The latter two allegations amount to espionage under the federal Espionage Act.

Snowden, 30, has admitted in interviews he was the source behind the leak of classified documents about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Those leaks were the basis of reports in Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post this month. The Guardian revealed Snowden’s identify at his request.

The documents revealed the existence of top-secret surveillance programs that collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and monitor the Internet activity of overseas residents.

The revelation rocked the Obama administration and U.S. intelligence community, raising questions about secret operations of the NSA and whether the agency was infringing on American civil liberties.

Obama, top legislators and national security officials defend the surveillance programs as necessary to combat terrorism and argue that some privacy must be sacrificed in a balanced approach.

They say the law allows collection of metadata, such as the time and numbers of phone calls, and that a special federal court must approve accessing the content — listening to the call itself.

Snowden is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, where he said in interviews earlier this month he fled with the classified documents after taking a leave of absence from his job as an intelligence analyst for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamiliton. The company has since fired him.

A series of blog posts this week purportedly by Snowden said he leaked classified details about U.S. surveillance programs because President Barack Obama worsened “abusive” practices, instead of curtailing them as he promised as a candidate.

However, Obama “closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge,” a blog post said. The Guardian newspaper and website identified the author as Snowden.

Snowden said that he had to get out of the United States before the leaks were published by the Guardian and The Washington Post to avoid being targeted by the government.

In the interview with the South China Morning Post, he said he plans to stay in Hong Kong to fight any attempt to force him to return to the United States because he has “faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law.”

The complaint against him was filed under seal on June 14 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, but it was unclear from the document whether the United States has asked or will be asking Hong Kong to detain Snowden.

There have been “some preliminary” discussions with Hong Kong authorities, a U.S. official with knowledge of the process told CNN.

The U.S. signed an extradition treaty with Hong Kong in 1996, just seven months before the then British colony was handed back to Beijing. Hong Kong’s extradition laws had previously been governed by the United States-United Kingdom extradition treaty.

This new treaty established an agreement under Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” that allows Hong Kong autonomy from Beijing in all matters apart from defense and foreign policy.”

As Federal Criminal Lawyer Douglas C. McNabb predicted, the U.S. has charged Mr. Snowden in a Federal Criminal Complaint. He was charged on June 14, 2013 with the following federal crimes:

  • 18 USC 641 – Theft of Government Property
  • 18 USC 793(d) – Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
  • 18 USC 798(a)(3) – Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person

A copy of the Snowden Federal Criminal Complaint may be found here.

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“Edward Snowden Charged With Espionage Over NSA Leaks”

June 22, 2013

The Huffington Post on June 21, 2013 released the following:

Reuters

“By Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) – The United States has filed espionage charges against Edward Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who admitted revealing secret surveillance programs to media outlets, according to a court document made public on Friday.

Snowden, who is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, was charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, said the criminal complaint, which was dated June 14.

The latter two offenses fall under the U.S. Espionage Act and carry penalties of fines and up to 10 years in prison.

A single page of the complaint was unsealed on Friday. An accompanying affidavit remained under seal.

The charges are the government’s first step in what could be a long legal battle to return Snowden from Hong Kong and try him in a U.S. court.

Two U.S. sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was preparing to seek Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong, which is part of China but has wide-ranging autonomy, including an independent judiciary.

The Washington Post, which first reported the criminal complaint earlier on Friday, said the United States had asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant.

There was no immediate response to requests for comment from Hong Kong’s security bureau.

Snowden earlier this month admitted leaking secrets about classified U.S. surveillance programs, creating a public uproar. Supporters say he is a whistleblower, while critics call him a criminal and perhaps even a traitor.

He disclosed documents detailing U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance efforts to the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The criminal complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is located.

That judicial district has seen a number of high-profile prosecutions, including the spy case against former FBI agent Robert Hanssen and the case of al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui. Both were convicted.

‘ACTIVE EXTRADITION RELATIONSHIP’

Documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of Internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.

They also showed that the government had worked through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gather so-called metadata – such as the time, duration and telephone numbers called – on all calls carried by service providers such as Verizon.

President Barack Obama and his intelligence chiefs have vigorously defended the programs, saying they are regulated by law and that Congress was notified. They say the programs have been used to thwart militant plots and do not target Americans’ personal lives, they say.

U.S. federal prosecutors, by filing a criminal complaint, lay claim to a legal basis to make an extradition request of the authorities in Hong Kong, the Post reported. The prosecutors now have 60 days to file an indictment and can then take steps to secure Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong for a criminal trial in the United States, the newspaper reported.

The United States and Hong Kong have “excellent cooperation” and as a result of agreements, “there is an active extradition relationship between Hong Kong and the United States,” a U.S. law enforcement official told Reuters.

An Icelandic businessman linked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said on Thursday he had readied a private plane in China to fly Snowden to Iceland if Iceland’s government would grant asylum.

Iceland refused on Friday to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden.”

As Federal Criminal Lawyer Douglas McNabb predicted, the U.S. has charged Mr. Snowden in a Federal Criminal Complaint. He was charged on June 14, 2013 with the following federal criminal violations:

  • 18 USC 641 – Theft of Government Property
  • 18 USC 793(d) – Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
  • 18 USC 798(a)(3) – Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person

A copy of the Snowden Federal Criminal Complaint may be found here.

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. v. Edward J. Snowden – Federal Criminal Complaint

June 21, 2013

As Mr. McNabb predicted, the U.S. has charged Mr. Snowden in a Federal Criminal Complaint. He was charged on June 14, 2013 with the following federal criminal violations:

  • 18 USC 641 – Theft of Government Property
  • 18 USC 793(d) – Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
  • 18 USC 798(a)(3) – Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person

A copy of the Snowden Federal Criminal Complaint may be found here.

“U.S. charges Snowden with espionage”

The Washington Post on June 21, 2013 released the following:

By Peter Finn and Sari Horwitz,

“Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents about top-secret surveillance programs, and the United States has asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant, according to U.S. officials.

Snowden was charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” according to the complaint. The last two charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.

The complaint, which initially was sealed, was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, a jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered and a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications. After The Washington Post reported the charges, senior administration officials said late Friday that the Justice Department was barraged with calls from lawmakers and reporters and decided to unseal the criminal complaint.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Snowden flew to Hong Kong last month after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii with a collection of highly classified documents that he acquired while working at the agency as a systems analyst.

The documents, some of which have been published in The Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, detailed some of the most-
secret surveillance operations undertaken by the United States and Britain , as well as classified legal memos and court orders underpinning the programs in the United States.

The 30-year-old intelligence analyst revealed himself June 9 as the leaker in an interview with the Guardian and said he went to Hong Kong because it provided the “cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained.”

Snowden subsequently disappeared from public view; it is thought that he is still in the Chinese territory. Hong Kong has its own legislative and legal systems but ultimately answers to Beijing, under the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

The leaks have sparked national and international debates about the secret powers of the NSA to infringe on the privacy of Americans and foreigners. Officials from President Obama on down have said they welcome the opportunity to explain the importance of the programs and the safeguards they say are built into them. Skeptics, including some in Congress, have said the NSA has assumed the power to soak up data about Americans that was never intended under the law.

There was never any doubt that the Justice Department would seek to prosecute Snowden for one of the most significant national security leaks in the country’s history. The Obama administration has shown a particular propensity to go after leakers and has launched more investigations than any previous administration. This White House is responsible for bringing six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the 1917 Espionage Act. Snowden will be the seventh individual when he is formally indicted.

Justice Department officials had already said that a criminal investigation of Snowden was underway and was being run out of the FBI’s Washington field office in conjunction with lawyers from the department’s National Security Division.

By filing a criminal complaint, prosecutors have a legal basis to make the detention request of the authorities in Hong Kong. Prosecutors now have 60 days to file an indictment, probably under seal, and can then move to have Snowden extradited from Hong Kong for trial in the United States.

Snowden, however, can fight the extradition effort in the courts in Hong Kong. Any battle is likely to reach Hong Kong’s highest court and could last many months, lawyers in the United States and Hong Kong said.

The United States has an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and U.S. officials said cooperation with the Chinese territory, which enjoys some autonomy from Beijing, has been good in previous cases.

The treaty, however, has an exception for political offenses, and espionage has traditionally been treated as a political offense. Snowden’s defense team in Hong Kong is likely to invoke part of the extradition treaty with the United States, which states that suspects will not be turned over to face criminal trial for offenses of a “political character.”

Typically in such cases, Hong Kong’s chief executive must first decide whether to issue a warrant for the accused’s arrest. But the extradition treaty also says that in exceptional cases a provisional warrant can be issued by a Hong Kong judge without the chief executive’s approval. The judge must give the chief executive notice, however, that he has issued the warrant.

A spokesperson at the office of Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying said there was no information on Snowden’s case. The police department did not respond to calls or e-mails. At the police station for Central District in Hong Kong Island, police officers on duty said they had not heard anything about Snowden.

If Snowden is arrested, he would appear before a judge. Bail would be unlikely and, instead, Snowden would be sent to the Lai Chi Kok maximum-security facility in Kowloon, a short drive from the high-end Mira Hotel, where he is last known to have stayed in Hong Kong.

Snowden could also remain in Hong Kong if the Chinese government decides that it is not in the defense or foreign policy interests of the government in Beijing to have him sent back to the United States for trial.

Another option would be for Snowden to apply for asylum with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which handles most asylum requests in Hong Kong. The UNHCR was closed Saturday morning and did not immediately respond to requests for comment via e-mail and phone. The asylum application process can take months or even years because Hong Kong has a severe backlog. The Hong Kong government cannot formally surrender individuals until their asylum applications have been processed.

Snowden also could attempt to reach another jurisdiction and seek asylum there before the authorities in Hong Kong act.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


New FBI Probe of Bomb Plot Highlights Administration’s Tough Stance on Leaks

May 18, 2012

National Journal on May 16, 2012 released the following:

“By Yochi J. Dreazen and Olga Belogolova

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the Associated Press had first reported that a recent bomb plot had been foiled by an undercover Saudi Arabian intelligence operative. That was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

The FBI has launched a criminal probe designed to identify the government officials who leaked key details of a foiled al-Qaida bomb plot, the latest indication of the Obama administration’s unrelenting push to find and punish those sharing classified information with the media.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, said that the agency was trying to identify which officials had spoken to reporters about the foiled attack, helping the Associated Press report that the scheme was part of an al-Qaida plot to down a U.S.-bound airliner with an sophisticated underwear bomb. The agency is also looking for who told media outlets that the plot was broken up with the help of an undercover agent working for the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, a detail first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

The Saudi assistance doubtlessly saved significant numbers of American lives, and Mueller — like other Obama administration officials — warned that future cooperation could be hampered by the disclosure of the Saudi role.

“Leaks such as this threaten ongoing operations, puts at risk the lives of sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources, and damages our relationships with our foreign partners,” Mueller said. “And consequently, a leak like this is taken exceptionally seriously, and we will investigate thoroughly.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pressed Mueller on whether the information had been leaked by the administration for political gain, likening the details on the bomb plot to what he described as the “authorized leaks from the White House about the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.” The FBI director declined to answer the question.

The hearing offered an unusually vivid illustration of the Obama administration’s hard-line approach to the news media.

The administration took office with a promise of unprecedented transparency, including – in a sharp change from the Bush administration — posting the names of those visiting the White House onto its website. The White House also offered strong support for a so-called shield law preventing reporters working national-security stories from being forced to identify confidential sources.

But those moves have been increasingly outweighed by the administration’s aggressive effort to crack down on those responsible for sharing classified information with the news media.

The White House’s main tool has been the Espionage Act, a 1917 law passed during the height of World War I as a way of finding and punishing officials passing useful information to enemy countries. The legislation had been used to bring cases against suspected leakers a grand total of three times in the previous 91 years; the Obama administration has invoked it to prosecute six such cases in the past three years alone. If the FBI believes it has found the official or officials who spoke to the AP, that tally will increase to seven.

The first case brought under the Espionage Act targeted Thomas Drake, a whistle blower from the National Security Agency who was indicated for giving a reporter information detailing massive waste, fraud, and inefficiencies at the secretive agency. The Justice Department’s case against Drake fell apart days before the trial was set to begin last summer, highlighting the difficulties of winning convictions in such cases.

That hasn’t stopped the administration from trying. In January, the Justice Department indicted John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer accused of providing classified information about waterboarding and other controversial interrogation methods to journalists and misleading the agency while trying to get permission to publish a memoir about his time there. The case is ongoing.

The others facing potential prison time for their dealings with the media are former FBI translator Shamai Leibowitz, State Department contractor and analyst Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, and Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of leaking thousands of classified military and State Department documents to online whistle-blower WikiLeaks. Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison in 2010 for leaking classified information to a blogger regarding Israel’s efforts to influence Congress and public opinion; the other cases are continuing.

The new investigation began earlier this month when news leaked that the CIA had helped to foil a Yemeni-based attempt to use a sophisticated underwear bomb to bring down a Western airliner. The Los Angeles Times soon reported that an undercover Saudi agent had penetrated the al-Qaida affiliate there, volunteered for the supposed suicide mission, and then secreted the bomb safely into the hands of other intelligence operatives.

The leak infuriated the Saudis, who said it put the agent at risk and endangered other undercover operatives elsewhere in the field. The unnamed agent and his family were subsequently placed into protective custody. The anger was felt just as fiercely in Washington, where an array of powerful lawmakers warned that disclosing the source and method of the information would make the Saudis less likely to work with the U.S. in the future and make it harder to foil new plots.

The AP has defended its reporting, with spokesman Paul Colford saying in a written statement that the news service “acted carefully and with extreme deliberation in its reporting on the underwear bomb plot and its subsequent decision to publish.”

That argument fell on deaf ears on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with Mueller saying that he didn’t want to say the leak would have a “devastating” impact on U.S. intelligence gathering efforts — but then effectively saying just that.

“The relationship with your counterparts overseas are damaged and which means that an inhibition in the willingness of others to share information with us where they don’t think that information will remain secure,” he said. “So it also has some long-term effects which is why it is so important to make certain that the persons who are responsible for the leak are brought to justice.”

Those who leaked the new information may or may not be caught. But the ferocity of Mueller’s comments mean that the administration’s war against those who disclose such information won’t wind down anytime soon.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


US ‘Assange hunt’ chokes air for whistleblowers

March 27, 2012

RT on March 27, 2012 released the following:

“Washington’s relentless pursuit of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and alleged whistle-blower Bradley Manning, is no secret. But the fate of the two men has got US journalists worried, that they too could soon find themselves behind bars.

Julian Assange’s life resembles a game of chess. He is an Australian citizen in the custody of Britain fighting extradition to Sweden. But no one wants the king of WikiLeaks more than America. Washington has had secret plans for Assange since at least January 2011.

Ironically, the secret was uncovered earlier this month after five million confidential emails from the global intelligence company Stratfor were published by WikiLeaks.

“It’s done frequently when a defendant is outside the US. They’ll get an indictment, which is secret. They’ll seal the charging document of the indictment. They will ask for an arrest warrant and that will also be sealed. That way, the US stands behind a big large boulder, if you will, and then jumps out from that boulder and arrests someone,” says Douglas McNabb, federal criminal defense attorney and extradition expert.

Under house arrest for more than a year, Assange has not been charged with any crime in any country, though Sweden wants to question him over sex-related allegations. The US meanwhile, is determined to punish the forty-year old.

Apparently, it is payback for exposing confidential cables repeatedly shaming America by shining a spotlight on illegalities in overseas military operations and on some embarrassing tactics and opinions from the State Department.

Washington says publishing the documents has created a national security risk. The Justice Department has reportedly mounted an unprecedented investigation into WikiLeaks, aimed at prosecuting Assange under the espionage act.

“They’re going to continue going after Mr. Assange to make a point that we’re tough and we’re not going to let anybody threaten America, whether it’s Al-Qaeda or it’s an Australian national,” believes journalist James Moore.

And some say they’ll go to any lengths to make the point.

“The US government within the federal arena likes to charge others – that have either aided and abetted or assisted or were full blown co-conspirators – likes to go after those in order to flip them. To get them to co-operate with the US government against the major players, in this case Mr. Assange,” McNabb says.

The US is now apparently working on flipping none other than Private Bradley Manning. The US soldier is facing 22 federal charges for allegedly leaking 700,000 documents and videos to WikiLeaks. He’s one of six Americans, the Obama administration has charged with espionage.

“If one of those cases makes it to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court upholds the Espionage Act as an act which essentially criminalizes any whistleblower, anybody who exposes war crimes, anybody who challenges the official narrative of the lies of the state, then that’s it. Because that would mean that any leaker could automatically be sent to prison for life. And at that point any idea of freedom of information is over. We will only know what the state wants us to know,” Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author told RT.

“It’s supposed to be about protecting the national security of the United States. But that is not the way the journalism industry will view it. They will view it as being a message to them. ‘Be careful who you talk to. Be careful what you write because you can be next.’ I think a number of reporters will say ‘I am not risking it,’” Moore believes.

Critics say the Obama administration’s unprecedented “war on whistleblowers” may ultimately deliver a death sentence to freedom of the press in the US. If people and or publishers are criminally convicted and jailed for exposing the truth, more journalists may prefer to abandon First Amendment privileges and reserve the right to remain silent.

Julian Assange’s show ‘The World Tomorrow’ is to premiere on RT later this month.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.