Tag Archives: James Comey

Judge Napolitano: Can the President Lawfully Investigate His Investigators?

This past weekend, President Donald Trump suggested that his presidential campaign may have been the victim of spies or moles who were FBI informants or undercover agents. He demanded an investigation to get to the bottom of the matter.

At the same time that the president was fuming over this, Republican congressional leaders were fuming about the reluctance of senior officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI to turn over documents that might reveal political origins of the current criminal investigation of the president by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Can the president intercede in a federal criminal investigation of which he himself is a subject? Can Congress intercede in a DOJ criminal investigation?

Here is the back story.

Mueller was named special counsel so he could investigate serious and demonstrable evidence of Russian government interference in the 2016 presidential election. Because the Trump campaign met with Russian intelligence officials offering campaign assistance, implicit in that investigation is an inquiry into whether the Trump campaign invited foreign interference and agreed to accept or facilitate it.

Mueller is seeking to determine whether there was an agreement between the Trump campaign and any foreign person, entity or government to receive anything of value for the campaign. Such an agreement plus a material step in furtherance of it taken by any of those who joined the agreement would itself constitute the crime of conspiracy, even if the agreed-upon thing of value never arrived.

In the course of examining evidence for the existence of this alleged conspiracy — which Trump has forcefully denied many times — Mueller’s prosecutors and FBI agents have come upon evidence of other crimes. They have obtained 19 indictments — some for financial crimes, some for lying to FBI agents and some for foreign interference in the election — and four guilty pleas for lying, in which those who pleaded guilty agreed to assist the government.

Nine of the indictments are against Russian intelligence agents, whom the president himself promptly sanctioned by barring their travel here and their use of American banks and commercial enterprises, even though he has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt.

Mueller has also come upon evidence of obstruction of justice by the president while in office and financial crimes prior to entering office, all of which Trump has denied. Obstruction of justice consists of interfering with a judicial proceeding — such as a grand jury’s hearing evidence — for a corrupt purpose.

Thus, if Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because he didn’t trust him or because he wanted his own person in that job, that was his presidential prerogative, but Trump’s purpose was corrupt if he fired Comey because Comey would not deny that the president was the subject of a criminal investigation — a basis for firing surprisingly offered publicly by one of the president’s own lawyers.

The potential financial crimes appear to be in the areas of bank fraud — making material misrepresentations to banks to obtain loans — and money laundering, or the passage of ill-gotten gains through numerous bank accounts so as to make the gains appear lawful. These, too, Trump has denied.

It seems that the deeper Mueller and his team dig the more they find. As lawyers and as federal prosecutors, Mueller’s team members have ethical obligations to uncover whatever evidence of crime they come upon and, when professionally feasible and legally appropriate, either prosecute or pass the evidence on to other federal prosecutors, as they did in the case of evidence of fraud against Michael Cohen, a former confidant and lawyer for Trump before he was president.

Now, back to Trump’s eruption about FBI spies or moles.

The president cannot interfere with criminal investigations against himself without running the risk of additional charges of obstruction of justice — interference with a judicial process (the gathering of evidence and its presentation to a grand jury) for a corrupt purpose (impeding his own prosecution or impeachment). Nor can members of Congress see whatever they want in the midst of a criminal investigation, particularly if they might share whatever they see with the person being investigated.

Prosecutors have a privilege to keep their files secret until they reach the time that the law provides for them to go public. Because Mueller is faced with the legal equivalent of assembling a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, he is not yet ready to show his cards. If his cards contain materials from confidential sources — people whose identities he promised not to reveal — or if his cards contain evidence he presented to a grand jury, he may not lawfully reveal what he has until it is time to exonerate the president, indict him or present a report to Mueller’s DOJ superiors that is intended for the House of Representatives.

Can the president investigate his investigators?

Yes — but not until the investigation of him is completed. That’s because no one can fruitfully examine the legitimacy of the origins of the case against Trump without knowing the evidence and the charges. Trump’s allegations are of extreme scandal — the use of FBI assets by the Obama administration to impede his presidential campaign. Yet if he is exonerated, those allegations will lose their sting. If he is charged with crimes or impeachable offenses that do not have their origins in politically charged spying, then his allegations will be moot.

But if he were to force the DOJ to turn over raw investigative files now to politicians who want to help him, he might very well be impeding the criminal case against him. That would be profoundly threatening to the rule of law, for it provides that no man can be the prosecutor or the judge in his own case. Even Trump’s lawyers acknowledge that he could not lawfully do that.

Watchdog Group: Emails Reveal FBI Advised Comey to Coordinate with Mueller on Congressional Testimony

Washington, D.C. – Emails obtained by government watchdog group Judicial Watch indicate that senior FBI officials advised former FBI Director James Comey to seek the advice of Special Counsel Robert Mueller prior to giving testimony to “any congressional committee” regarding alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

The emails appear to be the first evidence of reported coordination between Comey and Mueller, and reveal that Comey was advised by the FBI to consult with Mueller regarding the circumstances surrounding his firing prior to giving congressional testimony.

According to Judicial Watch in a Facebook post:

Judicial Watch released new emails from the Department of Justice showing that former FBI Director James Comey was advised by FBI officials in May 2017 to consult with Special Counsel Robert Mueller prior to testifying before any congressional committees regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and his firing as FBI director.

According to numerous news reports, Comey met directly with Mueller previous to his June 8, 2017, testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources said that Comey’s opening statement and subsequent testimony were coordinated with Mueller. At the hearing, Comey revealed that he had intentionally leaked material from a memo allegedly documenting a meeting with President Trump in order to help assure the appointment of a special counsel.

These documents show that James Comey, who was fired by the president, nevertheless had easy, friendly access to the FBI as he prepped his infamous anti-Trump testimony to the Senate. This collusion led to Comey’s attacking President Trump and misusing FBI records as part of a vendetta against the president.

The Department of Justice emails obtained by Judicial Watch appear to bolster previous reports that some of Comey’s testimony given to the Senate Intelligence Committee, including his opening statement, may have been coordinated at least partially with Mueller.

Appearing on Fox Business, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said that “it’s further confirmation that both the FBI and Mueller had coordinated on Mr. Comey’s anti-Trump, Russia testimony from last year.”

Comey admitted during his June 8, 2017 testimony that he had leaked information from memos about his meetings with President Trump while director of the FBI. Comey provided the memos, some of which reportedly contained classified information, to his associate Daniel Richman, who then leaked them to the New York Times. Comey admitted that he leaked the memos with the assumption that they would be strategically leaked to the news organization to spark a special counsel investigation of President Trump.

“I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself, for a variety of reasons,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “But I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Fitton said the fact that Comey was allowed to even discuss his conversations with President Trump was anomalous.

“Typically, former government officials or current government officials aren’t allowed to testify about communications they had with the president directly,” Fitton said on “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

The Judicial Watch president directly questioned whether the emails revealed improper collusion between former FBI Director Comey and Special Counsel Mueller.

“You have to wonder why the FBI and Mueller allowed Comey to come out there and attack the president,” he said.

John McCain Defends Giving Trump Dossier to Comey

Washington, D.C. – Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reportedly confirmed in his forthcoming book, “The Restless Wave,” (set to be released in May 22), that he personally handed then-FBI Director James Comey a copy of the now infamous dossier of opposition research on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, but defends his actions as those of a patriotic American.

“I agreed to receive a copy of what is now referred to as ‘the dossier,'” McCain wrote in his upcoming book. “I reviewed its contents. The allegations were disturbing, but I had no idea which if any were true. I could not independently verify any of it, and so I did what any American who cares about our nation’s security should have done.”

[Related: Nunes Memo Released]

According to a report by the Daily Beast, which obtained an advance copy of the book, McCain wrote that he spoke to Sir Andrew Wood, a former British diplomat, in November 2016 at the Halifax International Security Forum. Wood reportedly made McCain aware of Steele’s dossier, which subsequently resulted in David Kramer, senior director for Human Rights and Human Freedoms at the McCain Institute, traveling to London to meet with Steele. This was not Steele’s first contact with US officials, as prior to this meeting he had already met with US officials in Rome to discuss his research, according to The Washington Post.

McCain reportedly recalled that once he had procured a copy of the dossier, he put it into a safe in his office and called Comey’s office to request a meeting with the FBI director.

“I went to see him at his earliest convenience, handed him the dossier, explained how it had come into my possession,” said McCain. “I said I didn’t know what to make of it, and I trusted the FBI would examine it carefully and investigate its claims. With that, I thanked the director and left. The entire meeting had probably not lasted longer than ten minutes. I did what duty demanded I do.”

Former FBI Director Comey, during a promotional tour for his own new book, admitted that upon briefing President Trump on the existence of the dossier, he failed to mention that the document was a product of opposition research funded in part by his political enemies.

In an episode of Reality Check in February, Ben Swann examined the claim that the dossier had played a significant role in the acquisition of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application to authorize the surveillance of Carter Page, President Trump’s former campaign foreign policy adviser.


Newly Released FBI ‘Lovers’ Text Message Implies Obama Oversight in Clinton Email Investigation

Washington, D.C. — Despite claims of maintaining a hands-off policy regarding pending investigations, newly revealed text messages between alleged lovers— FBI agent Peter Strzok (of “insurance policy” text infamy) and FBI attorney Lisa Page— contain a message from Page denoting the preparation of talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey to brief President Barack Obama.

The newly released text from Page specifically notes that “potus wants to know everything we’re doing,” and comes on the heels of newly released Senate report that raises questions about Obama’s involvement in the Clinton email investigation.

This message from Page, if accurate, seemingly obscures a public statement made by then-President Obama, who on April 10, 2016, said:

“I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to the FBI directors about pending investigations.”

An interim report titled “The Clinton Email Scandal and the FBI’s Investigation of It” from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee stated:

“Although sometimes cryptic and disjointed due to their nature, these text messages raise several questions about the FBI and its investigation of classified information on Secretary Clinton’s private email server. Strzok and Page discussed serving to ‘protect the country from the menace’ of Trump ‘enablers,’ and the possibility of an ‘insurance policy’ against the ‘risk’ of a Trump presidency.

The two discussed then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch knowing that Secretary Clinton would not face charges—before the FBI had interviewed Secretary Clinton and before her announcement that she would accept Director Comey’s prosecution decision.

They wrote about drafting talking points for then-Director Comey because President Obama ‘wants to know everything we’re doing.’

Strzok and Page also exchanged views about the investigation on possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign—calling it ‘unfinished business’ and ‘an investigation leading to impeachment,’ drawing parallels to Watergate, and expressing Strzok’s ‘gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.’

The text messages raise several important questions that deserve further examination:

• Whether, and the extent to which, any personal animus and/or political bias influenced the FBI’s investigation;
• Whether, and the extent to which, the Obama Department of Justice or White House influenced the FBI’s investigation; and
• Whether, and the extent to which, any personal animus and/or political bias influenced the FBI’s actions with respect to President Trump.”

The newly released texts call into question the timeline of events surrounding the discovery of “hundreds of thousands” of emails on the computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Weiner is the husband Hillary Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, who was vice-chair of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Of specific note, on Sept. 28, 2016, Strzok texted Page:

“Got called up to Andy’s [McCabe] earlier.. hundreds of thousands of emails turned over by Weiner’s atty to sdny [Southern District of New York], includes a ton of material from spouse [Huma Abedin]. Sending team up tomorrow to review… this will never end.”

A month later, Comey told Congress that it was reopening the Clinton email investigation “due to recent developments.”

“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday…” Comey told members of Congress on Oct. 28, 2016.

The aforementioned text raises questions about when Comey became aware that emails relevant to the Clinton email investigation had been found on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, according to the Senate memo.

Wednesday, during an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Rep. Louis Gohmert questioned the recently released text message implying Obama’s involvement in the Clinton email investigation, and noted the need for an investigation to determine Obama’s involvement.

“It is extraordinary. Clearly the FBI [and Justice Department] covered for Hillary Clinton,” Gohmert told Fox.

Gohmert said that he believes transcripts of the FISA application, used to attain a warrant to surveille Trump advisor Carter Page, should be released, noting that the FISA court was presented “lies” in the FBI’s warrant application, as alleged in the House Intelligence Committee memo.

“Either the judge was duped with false information into signing a warrant or the judge is so worthless and was part of all this and didn’t care if he didn’t have the facts,” said Gohmert.

“If a fraud is presented to the court, you don’t have to have a hearing, you can just order them in contempt for six months in jail. These people should be in jail for what they did.”

GOP Rep. Calls for Prosecution of FBI, DOJ Officials; Calls Actions in FISA Memo “Treason”

Washington, D.C. — In the wake of the release of the declassified FISA memo, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) published a letter Friday, announcing that he will pursue a criminal prosecution of officials in both the Justice Department and FBI for “treason.”

The highly charged allegation of treason follows the contentious FISA memo released Friday by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which alleged misconduct through the abuse of FISA warrants to target political adversaries.

The FISA memo was composed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and other Republican lawmakers, and alleged that FBI and DOJ officials utilized unverified opposition research from a dossier, compiled by self-professed anti-Trump former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which was then used to initially acquire and subsequently renew a warrant to place a former Trump campaign official under surveillance— without informing the FISA court that the dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.

“House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Memorandum on the FBI abuse of FISA warrants wasn’t just evidence of incompetence but clear and convincing evidence of treason,” wrote Gosar.

[RELATED: WATCH: Senator Rand Paul Calls Out Government Surveillance Power on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert]

“The FBI knowingly took false information from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign and then used it to smear Donald Trump in order to hurt his campaign,” Gosar continued.

“The full-throated adoption of this illegal misconduct and abuse of FISA by James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein is not just criminal but constitutes treason,” Gosar explained.

The Congressman labeled the behavior by FBI and Justice Department officials as “third word politics where official government agencies are used as campaign attack dogs.”

Here is Rep. Gosar’s full statement on the declassified memo:

Gosar went on to write that he will be spearheading a “letter to the Attorney General seeking criminal prosecution against these traitors to our nation.”

Under the United States Constitution, if convicted of treason, FBI or Justice Department officials could be potentially be sentenced to death.

FBI Director Admits Apple’s ‘Backdoor’ Could Be Used for Other iPhones

While the FBI has formerly claimed that its order for Apple to create a “backdoor” into the iPhone was only to extract data from one specific phone used by a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting, it appears that the agency is retreating from that argument as FBI Director James Comey admitted it could set a precedent for future cases.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tx.) questioned Comey on what would stop the FBI from using the “backdoor” software created by Apple on other phones if it wins the case.

“Apple develops the software and gives it to [you for] the phone, but that’s not the only phone in question, is that correct?” Poe said. “There are other phones that the FBI has in lawful possession that you can’t get into?”

Comey replied, “Sure, law enforcement increasingly encounters phones [in] investigations all over the place that can’t be unlocked.”

Poe asked how many other phones are in lawful possession of the FBI that the agency cannot extract data from with the current software. Comey said there were several, and he did not know the exact number.

“What would prevent the FBI from then taking that software and going at all of those other phones you have, and future phones you seize?” Poe asked.

“This seems like a small difference, but I think it’s actually kind of a big difference,” Comey replied. As he continued, he said that the software would only be used on iPhones in the same predicament as the one used the San Bernardino shooting suspect.

[pull_quote_center]The direction from the judge is not to have have Apple get us into the phone, it’s to have Apple turn off—by developing software that will tell the phone to turn off—the auto erase and the delay features, so that we can try and guess the password. So in theory, if you get another 5c running iOS9, which is what makes this relief possible, I mean it when I say it’s obsolete, because I understand that [with the iPhone 6] there is no door for us to even try to pick the lock on, so it wouldn’t work, but if there were phones in the same circumstances, then sure, you could ask for the same relief from a court to try and make effective the search warrant.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: Apple Rejects Government Order to Create ‘Backdoor’ for iPhone]

Comey was later questioned by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fl.), who asked about whether the creation of a “backdoor” into the iPhone would make it susceptible to terrorists and child predators.

“When this tool is created, the fear is that it might be used by others and there are many who will try to get their hands on it, and will then put at risk our information on our devices,” Deutch said.

Comey noted, “There would be substantial risks around creating this software.”

[RELATED: Reality Check: Why McAfee Says FBI Really Wants To End Encryption, Not Hack Just One iPhone]

Deutch replied, “If that’s the case that it’s usable in more than one phone and it applies beyond there, then the public safety concerns that a lot of us have [about] if the public got access to our phones and our children’s phones, in that case, those are really valid, aren’t they?”

Comey said it is a valid concern, but claimed that it’s a question “we’re going to have litigation about is how reasonable is that concern,” adding “slippery slope arguments are always attractive.”

Comey acknowledged that the software may not be used for only the iPhone in the San Bernardino case, when he was questioned by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

“It won’t be a one-time request. It’ll set precedent for other requests from the FBI and any other law enforcement,” Goodlatte said.

“Sure, potentially,” Comey said.

[RELATED: Apple Policy Says They Won’t Unlock Devices for Government Requests]

Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell was later added to the hearing, and Comey said that in regards to the risks that would come with the creation of the software, “It’s not [Apple’s] job to watch out for public safety. That’s our job.”

Sewell told the committee that the company is not trying to look out for public safety as much as it is protecting its First Amendment rights to free speech and its Thirteenth Amendment rights to deny forced labor as a private citizen.

Sewell said the FBI’s argument that Apple is using the San Bernardino case as a marketing ploy “makes my blood boil.”

[pull_quote_center]This is not a marketing issue, that’s a way of demeaning our argument. We don’t take out billboards for our security. We don’t take out ads for our encryption. We’re doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do. To say that it’s a marketing ploy to to say that it’s about PR really diminishes a very serious conversation that should be about security of the American people.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: FBI Ordered Password Reset on San Bernardino Shooting Suspect’s iPhone]

As previously reported, the FBI admitted in February that it reset the password on the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Farook within 24 hours of the shooting.

Apple officials criticized the move, and reportedly claimed that changing the password revoked the company’s access into an auto-backup of the phone. Comey admitted that this was a “mistake,” and claimed that even if the FBI had acted differently, it still wouldn’t have been able to access everything on the phone without Apple’s help.

[RELATED: NY Judge: DoJ Cannot Force Apple to Extract Data from Locked iPhone in Drug Case]

The FBI is currently attempting to use the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify forcing Apple to extract data from iPhones in 12 different cases. In some cases, that involves using existing capabilities to pull contacts and calling information, but in other cases it would require Apple to create new software to break the iPhone’s encryption.

New York Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled Monday that in one of the cases, a criminal drug case in Brooklyn, the All Writs Act does not justify “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will.” While this ruling is not binding in any other court, it does mark the first time a federal judge has ruled in Apple’s favor.

Follow Rachel Blevins on Facebook and Twitter.

Police Officers Fear ‘YouTube Effect’ Impacting Job Performance

As police officers across the country are expressing concern over a “YouTube effect” resulting from the public’s ability to document and publish police activity with smartphones, the director of the FBI suggested this effect may be contributing to a recent rise in violent crime.

The Washington Times reported that officers from over 30 agencies gathered in San Antonio for an annual National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) convention last week, where one of the main topics highlighted how to deal with “hostile media” with examples including officer-involved fatal shootings.

Lt. Gary Vickers of the Newark, New Jersey Police Department, indicated that he fears “death by media” if a video of his performance on the job were to go viral.

“Am I going to be the next one who is put on display for doing an honest job?” Vickers said. “It really dictates how a police officer reacts today.” 

FBI Director James Comey told the Chicago Sun-Times that he believes the rise in violent crime is due to the fact that “something in policing has changed” and many officers now  “feel under siege.”

“In today’s YouTube world, there are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime,” Comey said. “Our officers are answering 911 calls, but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns.”

Comey also said when it comes to sentencing reform and lowering mass incarceration rates, he thinks Americans should debate the issue with “a fair understanding of history.” He used an example of Richmond, Virginia in the 1990s when he said that after dozens of men were incarcerated for trafficking narcotics, violence dropped in the area and citizens felt safer.

The “Youtube effect” was discussed by top law enforcement at a private meeting earlier this month. The Washington Post reported that a “unifying- and controversial- theory” was reached at this meeting, suggesting that officers have been dialing down on aggressive policing over fear of appearing on “a career-ending viral video.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the meeting that “we have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence.”

“They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.”

RT noted that while “homicides in 35 big U.S. cities are up 19 percent on average this year, and non-fatal shootings are up 62 percent, according to a police association survey,” there is also a rise in police killings.

According to a list from The Guardian, 931 people have been killed by police in the United States in 2015 thus far, with “black Americans killed by police twice as likely to be unarmed as white people.”

Cell phone footage has challenged some narratives of police officers in the cases of fatal shootings involving victims including Walter Scott, who was shot and killed while running away from an officer after a traffic stop in April, and Jeremy McDole, who was shot and killed while sitting in his wheelchair on the street in September.

In both cases, the officers’ official story of the suspect being armed was challenged by a bystander’s video that was released online.

FBI Admits Agent Impersonated Journalist

FBI director James Comey acknowledged that an FBI agent impersonated an Associated Press (AP) reporter during its investigation of a 15-year-old suspect.

Last week, news spread quickly that in 2007 the FBI had created a false AP article containing location-tracking software to lure a high school student suspected of making bomb threats into revealing his whereabouts. The Associated Press was publicly critical of the FBI’s actions and opined that the FBI was undermining AP’s reputation.

Comey, in a New York Times letter to the editor, admitted that an undercover FBI agent “portrayed himself as an employee of The Associated Press” after the agency concluded that the suspect was a narcissist. Following that determination, the agent contacted the teen online and asked him to review a “draft article” based upon the teen and the alleged bomb threats. The suspect complied and clicked on the link that contained the fake AP article which “deployed court-authorized tools” to locate the suspect.

“That technique was proper and appropriate under Justice Department and F.B.I. guidelines at the time,” wrote Comey. “Today, the use of such an unusual technique would probably require higher level approvals than in 2007, but it would still be lawful and, in a rare case, appropriate.”

“Every undercover operation involves ‘deception,’ which has long been a critical tool in fighting crime,” Comey’s letter continued. “The F.B.I.’s use of such techniques is subject to close oversight, both internally and by the courts that review our work.”

AP executive editor  Kathleen Carroll denounced the FBI’s impersonation tactics. “This latest revelation of how the FBI misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press doubles our concern and outrage, expressed earlier to Attorney General Eric Holder, about how the agency’s unacceptable tactics undermine AP and the vital distinction between the government and the press,” said Carroll in a statement.

In a letter written to the Justice Department last week, the AP requested that the Justice Department disclose other incidents when it has impersonated a news agency during an investigation. The letter also asserted that “it’s never appropriate”for a government agency to impersonate a news organization and noted that “the FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation.”


FBI Director: We Need A “Regulatory Or Legislative Fix” To Battle Phone Encryption

Washington, DC- Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey gave a speech at Washington’s Brookings Institution, warning against the consequences of smartphone encryption and discussing the disconnect between technology advancements and law enforcement abilities.

Comey titled the disconnect “Going Dark”, saying that although law enforcement has the authority to access electronic communications through court orders, certain advancements have obstructed agencies from access. With new technology “comes a desire to protect our privacy and our data—you want to share your lives with the people you choose. I sure do,” said Comey. “But the FBI has a sworn duty to keep every American safe from crime and terrorism, and technology has become the tool of choice for some very dangerous people.”

Comey was mainly referring to advancements including Apple’s iOS 8 operating system that allows users to lock their phones with a passcode that neither Apple nor the federal government can bypass. Google has also recently announced similar encryption plans on Android devices. “Encryption is nothing new. But the challenge to law enforcement and national security officials is markedly worse, with recent default encryption settings and encrypted devices and networks- all designed to increase security and privacy,” said Comey.

“In the past, conducting electronic surveillance was more straightforward,” said Comey. “We identified a target phone being used by a bad guy, with a single carrier. We obtained a court order for a wiretap, and, under the supervision of a judge, we collected the evidence we needed for prosecution.”

Today, said Comey, there are many more networks, apps and providers. “We have laptops, smartphones, and tablets. We take them to work and to school, from the soccer field to Starbucks, over many networks, using any number of apps. And so do those conspiring to harm us.”

Comey said the public’s presumption that the FBI has “phenomenal capabilities to access any information at any time—that we can get what we want, when we want it, by flipping some sort of switch” is not true, and despite following the rule of law it remains difficult to access important evidence.

Comey went on to cite examples of when accessing data such as text messages has helped law enforcement solve crimes. He noted a case in Louisiana when a sexual predator murdered a 12-year-old boy, and using the data from both phones provided enough evidence to convict the man. He also discussed a case in California where text messages revealed that a 2-year-old’s murder had been covered up by the child’s parents.

Comey said that such access can also vindicate innocent people, describing a case of several teens accused of rape being exonerated because of cell phone video evidence.

“Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction—in a direction of fear and mistrust. It is time to have open and honest debates about liberty and security,” said Comey. “Some have suggested there is a conflict between liberty and security. I disagree. At our best, we in law enforcement, national security, and public safety are looking for security that enhances liberty. When a city posts police officers at a dangerous playground, security has promoted liberty—the freedom to let a child play without fear.”

Comey said that solutions to the “Going Dark” issue involves cooperation from companies such as Apple and Google “so that criminals around the world cannot seek safe haven for lawless conduct. We need to find common ground.”

“We understand the private sector’s need to remain competitive in the global marketplace. And it isn’t our intent to stifle innovation or undermine U.S. companies. But we have to find a way to help these companies understand what we need, why we need it, and how they can help, while still protecting privacy rights and providing network security and innovation. We need our private sector partners to take a step back, to pause, and to consider changing course.”

“We also need a regulatory or legislative fix to create a level playing field,” Comey said, “so that all communication service providers are held to the same standard and so that those of us in law enforcement, national security, and public safety can continue to do the job you have entrusted us to do, in the way you would want us to.”