“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.



“N.S.A. Experiment Traced U.S. Cellphone Locations”

October 3, 2013

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

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

“WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency in 2010 and 2011 conducted a secret pilot project to test the collection of bulk data about the location of Americans’ cellphones, but the agency ultimately decided against putting such a program into play for now, according to intelligence officials.

The existence of the pilot project, which has not previously been reported, was recently declassified by James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, but it has not been publicly disclosed. It was outlined in a draft answer obtained by The New York Times and written for Mr. Clapper to read at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday if he is asked about the topic.

The answer is one paragraph long and contains scant details. It says that the N.S.A. does not currently collect locational information under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision that forms the asserted legal basis of its once-secret program that is collecting logs of all domestic phone calls from telephone companies.

“In 2010 and 2011 N.S.A. received samples in order to test the ability of its systems to handle the data format, but that data was not used for any other purpose and was never available for intelligence analysis purposes,” the draft answer says, adding that the N.S.A. has promised to notify Congress and seek the approval of a secret surveillance court in the future before any locational data was collected using Section 215.

An official familiar with the test project said its purpose was to see how the locational data would flow into the N.S.A.’s systems. While real data was used, it was never queried as part of any investigation, the official said. It was unclear how many Americans’ locational data was ingested as part of the project or whether the N.S.A. has held onto that information.

But Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who receives classified briefings as a member of the Intelligence Committee and who has raised oblique concerns about cellphone location tracking, said in a statement on Wednesday that there was more to know about the matter than the government has declassified.

“After years of stonewalling on whether the government has ever tracked or planned to track the location of law-abiding Americans through their cellphones, once again, the intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret — even when the truth would not compromise national security,” Mr. Wyden said.

Questions about what, if anything, the N.S.A. has been doing in the bulk tracking of Americans’ movements using cell-site location data have been simmering for several years. The issue flared again last week following an ambiguous exchange between Mr. Wyden and Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

Mr. Wyden has been a critic of domestic surveillance programs and filed legislation in 2011 and again this year that would require warrants for obtaining someone’s locational data for a criminal investigation, while leaving ambiguous whether a similar step was also necessary in the context of a national security investigation. It is unclear what prompted his concerns.

At the hearing, he asked Mr. Alexander “whether the N.S.A. has ever collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site information in bulk.”

General Alexander replied that the N.S.A. “is not receiving cell-site location data and has no current plans to do so” under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the secret surveillance court to issue orders for records from businesses — like telephone companies — if the records are “relevant” to an intelligence investigation.

But General Alexander also said there was other classified information that the N.S.A. had sent to the committee in July, in response to a written version of the same question, that provided “additional detail” responsive to the issue.

It is legally unclear whether long-term tracking of people’s locations and movements by the government raises privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. In a 1979 case involving small-scale collection of “metadata” about telephone calls — information related to the calls, like the number dialed and the duration, but not the contents of the communications — the Supreme Court ruled that such records were not protected by the Constitution because people have already revealed the existence of their calls to telephone companies and so have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

But in 2012, the court ruled that the police’s use of a G.P.S. tracker attached to a suspect’s car violated Fourth Amendment privacy rights. The case turned on the fact that the police had to trespass on the suspect’s property to attach the device, but five justices separately suggested that any long-term, automated collection of a person’s public movements might raise Fourth Amendment issues.”

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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 Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

————————————————————–

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.


“First Amendment rights not enough to stop feds from prosecuting polygraph operators”

August 19, 2013

RT on August 17, 2013 released the following:

“US federal officials are investigating polygraph teachers who supposedly help job applicants fib their way through government lie detector tests. The criminal inquiry is seen as the Obama administration’s latest attempt to preserve government secrecy.

Law enforcement has targeted at least two people who claim that their methods of breath control, muscle tensing, facial tics, and other techniques are reliable enough that an individual with a nefarious background will be capable of gaining employment with the US government.

Investigators accessed business records belonging to the two men, according to a McClatchy report, and then used those documents to identify roughly 5,000 people who sought advice on how to beat the test. Of that sum, 20 people applied for government and federal contracting jobs. At least ten of the 20 applicants were eventually hired by various federal entities, including the National Security Agency.

The machines were introduced in the early 20th Century, quickly gaining favor with police who observed a suspect’s physiological responses – including blood pressure, pulse, and perspiration – when questioning an individual about a crime. Multiple research studies held over the past 50 years have debated the polygraph’s dependability, though, with a 1998 Supreme Court ruling declaring, “There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable.”

Consequently, because the polygraph itself is thought to be nonsense, experts say anyone who purports their ability to beat it is themselves lying.

Despite widespread reluctance, including inadmissibility throughout the US court system, the federal government administers lie detector tests on approximately 70,000 job applicants each year. The undercover investigation at hand reportedly seeks to discourage potential whistleblowers, criminals, and spies from obtaining national security clearance and gaining access to state secrets.

“Nothing like this has been done before,” US Customs and Border Protection official Josh Schwartz said during a speech at the professional polygraphers’ conference, as quoted by McClatchy. “Most certainly our nation’s security will be enhanced. There are a lot of bad people out there…this will help us remove some of those pests from society.”

Federal authorities, McClatchy reported, have already arrested Doug Williams – a former polygrapher with the Oklahoma City Police Department who wrote a book on the subject – and Chad Dixon of Indiana, who was the inspiration for the book. Sources told the news agency that prosecutors will attempt to sentence Dixon to two years in prison for wire fraud and obstructing an agency proceeding.

Critics assert that there is simply no crime in teaching methods to defeat the polygraph. Self-proclaimed experts freely advertise their services online, in books, and on television, and have never had the need to hide their services. That is not to mention the First Amendment legal battle over impeding free speech, which government prosecutors would surely face in court.

“If someone stabs a voodoo doll in the heart with a pin and the victim they intended to kill drops dead of a heart attack, are they guilty of murder?” Gene Iredale, an attorney for one of the defendants, asked McClatchy. “What if the person who dropped dead believed in voodoo?”

“These are the types of questions that are generally debated in law school, not inside a courtroom,” Iredale continued. “The real question should be: ‘Does the federal government want to use its resources to pursue this kind of case?’ I would argue it does not.”

Dixon, 34, refused to elaborate on his legal situation but told McClatchy that he began working as a polygrapher because he could not find work as an electrical engineer. The father of four children has seen his home go into foreclosure because of the investigation and, despite having no criminal record, he expects to serve prison time.

“My wife and I are terrified,” he said. “I stumbled into this. I’m a Little League coach in Indiana…never in my wildest dreams did I somehow imagine I was committing a crime.””

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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 Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

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.


“Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA’s use of hidden intel evidence”

August 8, 2013

Reuters on August 7, 2013 released the following:

By John Shiffman and David Ingram

“(Reuters) – Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

As Reuters reported Monday, the Special Operations Division of the DEA funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. The DEA phone database is distinct from a NSA database disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Monday’s Reuters report cited internal government documents that show that law enforcement agents have been trained to conceal how such investigations truly begin – to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up the original source of the information.

DEA officials said the practice is legal and has been in near-daily use since the 1990s. They have said that its purpose is to protect sources and methods, not to withhold evidence.

NEW DETAIL

Defense attorneys and some former judges and prosecutors say that systematically hiding potential evidence from defendants violates the U.S. Constitution. According to documents and interviews, agents use a procedure they call “parallel construction” to recreate the investigative trail, stating in affidavits or in court, for example, that an investigation began with a traffic infraction rather than an SOD tip.

The IRS document offers further detail on the parallel construction program.

“Special Operations Division has the ability to collect, collate, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate information and intelligence derived from worldwide multi-agency sources, including classified projects,” the IRS document says. “SOD converts extremely sensitive information into usable leads and tips which are then passed to the field offices for real-time enforcement activity against major international drug trafficking organizations.”

The 2005 IRS document focuses on SOD tips that are classified and notes that the Justice Department “closely guards the information provided by SOD with strict oversight.” While the IRS document says that SOD information may only be used for drug investigations, DEA officials said the SOD role has recently expanded to organized crime and money laundering.

According to the document, IRS agents are directed to use the tips to find new, “independent” evidence: “Usable information regarding these leads must be developed from such independent sources as investigative files, subscriber and toll requests, physical surveillance, wire intercepts, and confidential source information. Information obtained from SOD in response to a search or query request cannot be used directly in any investigation (i.e. cannot be used in affidavits, court proceedings or maintained in investigative files).”

The IRS document makes no reference to SOD’s sources of information, which include a large DEA telephone and Internet database.

CONCERN IN CONGRESS

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, expressed concern with the concept of parallel construction as a method to hide the origin of an investigation. His comments came on the Mike Huckabee Show radio program.

“If they’re recreating a trail, that’s wrong and we’re going to have to do something about it,” said Rogers, a former FBI agent. “We’re working with the DEA and intelligence organizations to try to find out exactly what that story is.”

Spokespeople for the DEA and the Department of Justice declined to comment.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said he was troubled that DEA agents have been “trying to cover up a program that investigates Americans.”

“National security is one of government’s most important functions. So is protecting individual liberty,” Paul said. “If the Constitution still has any sway, a government that is constantly overreaching on security while completely neglecting liberty is in grave violation of our founding doctrine.”

Officials have stressed that the NSA and DEA telephone databases are distinct. The NSA database, disclosed by Snowden, includes data about every telephone call placed inside the United States. An NSA official said that database is not used for domestic criminal law enforcement.

The DEA database, called DICE, consists largely of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. DICE includes about 1 billion records, and they are kept for about a year and then purged, DEA officials said.”

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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 Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

————————————————————–

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. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement”

July 3, 2013

The New York Times on July 3, 2013 released the following:

“By RON NIXON

WASHINGTON — Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: A handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.

“Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.

“It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering’s mail but told him nothing else.

As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, but that is only a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.

Together, the two programs show that snail mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.

The mail covers program, used to monitor Mr. Pickering, is more than a century old but is still considered a powerful tool. At the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Actually opening the mail requires a warrant.) The information is sent to whatever law enforcement agency asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.

The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.

“In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” said Mark D. Rasch, the former director of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit, who worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. “Now it seems to be ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”

Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and an author, said whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy.

“Basically they are doing the same thing as the other programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren’t reading the contents,” he said.

But law enforcement officials said mail covers and the automatic mail tracking program are invaluable, even in an era of smartphones and e-mail.

In a criminal complaint filed June 7 in Federal District Court in Eastern Texas, the F.B.I. said a postal investigator tracing the ricin letters was able to narrow the search to Shannon Guess Richardson, an actress in New Boston, Tex., by examining information from the front and back images of 60 pieces of mail scanned immediately before and after the tainted letters sent to Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg showing return addresses near her home. Ms. Richardson had originally accused her husband of mailing the letters, but investigators determined that he was at work during the time they were mailed.

In 2007, the F.B.I., the Internal Revenue Service and the local police in Charlotte, N.C., used information gleaned from the mail cover program to arrest Sallie Wamsley-Saxon and her husband, Donald, charging both with running a prostitution ring that took in $3 million over six years. Prosecutors said it was one of the largest and most successful such operations in the country. Investigators also used mail covers to help track banking activity and other businesses the couple operated under different names.

Other agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, have used mail covers to track drug smugglers and Medicare fraud.

“It’s a treasure trove of information,” said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges. “Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.”

But, he said: “It can be easily abused because it’s so easy to use and you don’t have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form.”

For mail cover requests, law enforcement agencies simply submit a letter to the Postal Service, which can grant or deny a request without judicial review. Law enforcement officials say the Postal Service rarely denies a request. In other government surveillance program, such as wiretaps, a federal judge must sign off on the requests.

The mail cover surveillance requests are granted for about 30 days, and can be extended for up to 120 days. There are two kinds of mail covers: those related to criminal activity and those requested to protect national security. The criminal activity requests average 15,000 to 20,000 per year, said law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing the requests. The number of requests for antiterrorism mail covers has not been made public.

Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or foreign intelligence cases.

Court challenges to mail covers have generally failed because judges have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for information contained on the outside of a letter. Officials in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, in fact, have used the mail-cover court rulings to justify the N.S.A.’s surveillance programs, saying the electronic monitoring amounts to the same thing as a mail cover. Congress briefly conducted hearings on mail cover programs in 1976, but has not revisited the issue.

The program has led to sporadic reports of abuse. In May 2012, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor, was awarded nearly $1 million by a federal judge after winning a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his immigration raids in Arizona, who, among other things, obtained mail covers from the Postal Service to track her mail. The judge called the investigation into Ms. Wilcox politically motivated because she had been a frequent critic of Mr. Arpaio, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps. The case is being appealed.

In the mid-1970s the Church Committee, a Senate panel that documented C.I.A. abuses, faulted a program created in the 1950s in New York that used mail covers to trace and sometimes open mail going to the Soviet Union from the United States.

A suit brought in 1973 by a high school student in New Jersey, whose letter to the Socialist Workers Party was traced by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation into the group, led to a rebuke from a federal judge.

Postal officials refused to discuss either mail covers or the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program.

Mr. Pickering says he suspects that the F.B.I. requested the mail cover to monitor his mail because a former associate said the bureau had called with questions about him. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service, the F.B.I. and other agencies, saying they were improperly withholding information.

A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Buffalo declined to comment.

Mr. Pickering said that although he was arrested two dozen times for acts of civil disobedience and convicted of a handful of misdemeanors, he was never involved in the arson attacks the Earth Liberation Front carried out. He said he became tired of focusing only on environmental activism and moved back to Buffalo to finish college, open his bookstore, Burning Books, and start a family.

“I’m no terrorist,” he said. “I’m an activist.”

Mr. Pickering has written books sympathetic to the liberation front, but he said his political views and past association should not make him the target of a federal investigation. “I’m just a guy who runs a bookstore and has a wife and a kid,” he said.”

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

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

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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:

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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.