Judge orders Trump admin to speed up a search for legal documents, if any, about legal basis, if any, for April airstrike against Syria

Yesterday, Federal District Court Judge Christopher Cooper issued an unusual 14-page ruling in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by Protect Democracy and a preliminary injunction ordering the government to expedite its processing of the matter. The lawsuit is seeking documents laying out the Trump administration’s legal rationale for the United States’ April 6 airstrike against Assad regime forces in Syria as punishment for using chemical weapons. As a development, this is too incremental for a New York Times story, but it’s worth noting for executive power specialists — especially given some striking language the judge used.

A bit of background: One of the mysteries of the Trump administration’s first six months in power has been what the government was thinking, legally, when Trump ordered that airstrike. Congress had not authorized the U.S. government to use military force against the Syrian government as a matter of domestic law, and the United Nations Security Council had not done so as a matter of international law. Moreover, Syria had not attacked the United States and was not threatening to do so, so there was no self-defense claim. I wrote a New York Times article working through those war-powers legal puzzles on April 7, and on May 8 I wrote another NYT article about a newly filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Protect Democracy seeking documents. On June 20, I noted in another NYT article that the April 6 strike had been followed by several other violent encounters between the United States and Syrian government forces who were said to be threatening rebel militias that the United States is supporting — raising fears that the U.S. is sliding into war with Syria itself; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., had claimed the authority for that subsequent combat stemmed from the 2001 authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of 9/11 because the American military presence in Syria was predicated on fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State there.

Against that backdrop, yesterday Judge Cooper wrote:

if production is unduly delayed, both Protect Democracy and the public at large will be “precluded . . . from obtaining in a timely fashion information vital to the current and ongoing debate surrounding the legality of” a high-profile government action, …—namely, military strikes against the Syrian government. Being closed off from such a debate is itself a harm in an open democracy. … But there is another potential harm, too: The possibility for the strikes to recur without legal justification. By then, any damage will have been done. … In short, because Protect Democracy has demonstrated a “compelling need” for the information it requested, the Court finds that the organization is likely to prevail on the merits of its expedited processing claim. (internal cites omitted)

Here is the ruling:



Protect Democracy FOIA Syria war powers expedited processing (Text)

What Has Changed in the New, “Definitive” Power Wars

[Cross-posted to Lawfare]

Today, Hachette is publishing the paperback edition of my history of Obama-era national-security legal policymaking, Power Wars, which is also replacing the text future e-book buyers will receive. I have systematically updated and revised the book since its hardcover publication in November 2015.

A few months ago, over coffee in Cambridge, Jack Goldsmith generously proposed that when this edition came out I should write something for Lawfare explaining what is different about it. So below I will briefly explain its navigational, cosmetic, and substantive improvements, including its new Trump-focused preface .

The TLDR takeaway is that this is a much-refined director’s cut, and going forward it should stand as the definitive edition of Power Wars.

NAVIGATIONAL

Some scholars, journalists, and national-security lawyers have been using Power Wars as a reference. Two structural enhancements to the paperback should make it more useful for this purpose. First, its table of contents now incorporates the 20 or so subchapter headings from each chapter, making it easier to jump around in. Second, the paperback includes a printed index. The hardcover has an index, too, but it only exists online, which is cumbersome – and some people do not realize it is there.

COSMETIC

Hachette has added a picture of the White House to the cover, and where the hardcover is subtitled “Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency,” the paperback has a less time-pegged subtitle: “The Relentless Rise of Presidential Authority and Secrecy.” Between the covers, I massaged and smoothed out the writing in numerous small ways after re-reading it from a distance and discovering flaws, like referring to people only by their last names even though they had not been mentioned for many pages.

SUBSTANTIVE

The main text is also salted with improvements based on more or better information that became available after the hardcover went to print. (In order to preserve the existing index, these additions required tightening the text on the same pages.) Among the categories of such revisions:

  • Stories have endings: The hardcover leaves off with events as they stood in the summer of 2015. For example, Guantanamo has 116 detainees and it’s not yet clear whether Obama will succeed or fail in closing the prison; at Fort Leavenworth, Chelsea Manning is staring down 30 more years of hard time; and the F.B.I. is refusing to make public its contemporaneous “302” reports showing what the underwear bomber told interrogators about Anwar al-Awlaki in January 2010. The paperback, revised in the spring of 2017, completes such narratives with events through the final 18 months of Obama’s presidency and a bit beyond.
  • Accounts are more complete: After the hardcover text closed, the government declassified more information about some of the episodes it recounts, and participants in the behind-the-scenes meetings and conversations it describes read the book and told me additional details. For example, in response to one of my Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, the government disclosed a third legal problem the Justice Department had identified in the spring of 2004 about the Stellarwind surveillance and bulk data collection program, meaning the hardcover’s account of the “hospital room” crisis, which describes only two – one the public already knew about, and one that Power Wars first reported – is missing something important. The paperback is enriched with such subsequently available information.
  • Errors are corrected, nuances adjusted: Inevitably, there were places where I came to believe that I had missed the mark in the hardcover, so the paperback fixes those problems. For example, when the four lawyers working on the hypersecret planning for the Osama bin Laden raid cleared the way for Obama to order it as an explicit kill mission, subject to a requirement that the SEAL Team Six operators accept any surrender offer if feasible, it was not those lawyers who construed feasibility so narrowly that the administration did not bother to come up with a real disposition plan in case bin Laden survived and was taken prisoner. Rather, that narrow construction came from existing military rules of engagement for Special Operations Forces raids on potentially booby-trapped terrorist compounds.

THE NEW PREFACE

There is a now-glaring omission in the hardcover edition: while most of the serious G.O.P. contenders for the 2016 nomination make cameo appearances, Donald Trump’s name does not appear in it. That is because in 2014 and early 2015, when I wrote the book, Trump looked like a novelty candidate and it was beyond my imagination that he would succeed Obama as commander-in-chief. The paperback edition opens with a new 3,000-word preface that frames the book’s account of Obama-era national-security policymaking in terms of what came next. It recounts what Trump said and did about national-security legal policy issues both during the campaign and the chaotic first months of his administration, while analyzing differing views about how to assess the Obama administration’s record in hindsight, drawing on post-election interviews I conducted with Obama legal team veterans like Greg Craig, Avril Haines, and Marty Lederman, and critics like Anthony Romero of the A.C.L.U.. Here is a taste:

…It is the story of how and why Obama, a liberal constitutional law teacher who was widely expected to roll back George W. Bush’s war on terror, ended up instead merely adjusting it — and in the process curated an immense arsenal of presidential powers and legal precedents that he then found himself handing off to Trump. And it is the story of Obama’s team — a group of national security legal policy specialists who believed that they were looking around corners to take into account future risks and put into place safeguards against them but did not anticipate that Trump and his team would inherit their handiwork. …

With no prior government experience, Trump surrounded himself with advisers who appeared ready to open the throttle on hard-power approaches to fighting terrorism, including accepting greater risk of civil-liberties violations at home and civilian casualties abroad. As a result, Trump’s rise created a new and unexpected vantage point from which to understand the legacy of Obama’s post-9/11 presidency. … The results of the 2016 election significantly raised the stakes of what happened on Obama’s watch — and the need to understand it.

In sum, there are enough improvements that if you make ongoing use of Power Wars, you may wish to acquire a paperback version. Certainly, if you already own it in e-book format, there is every reason to delete it from your device and then re-download the latest version. If you are a professor considering assigning excerpts to your students – thank you! – you may wish to ask them to get the paperback specifically.

FOIA: Some newly declass’d FISA Court stuff from the 2011 Bates MCT/702 case

Here are some newly declassified documents from a FISA lawsuit that add to the historical record of the MCT issue that arose in 2011. They provide a little bit more information about the sequencing of the case before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the questions that Judge John Bates was asking. I don’t immediately see a stand-alone New York Times news story in them so I’m just posting them here in case they are of interest to specialists.

Context: In August 2013, early in the wave of declassifications of FISA Court rulings following the Snowden disclosures, the government made public two rulings from October and November 2011 by Judge John Bates. They were about the FISA Amendments Act Section 702 program’s upstream system and the problem of multi-communication transactions, or MCTs, that resulted in purely domestic messages being collected without a warrant. That’s of course been in the news again lately because it turned out the fix Bates agreed to, to make this reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, was never properly implemented by the N.S.A, and this spring the agency decided to end “about the target” collection, which will significantly cut down on the number of MCTs it will ingest.

One of the important things in the declassified 2011 Bates opinions that has been oft cited in surveillance legal policy writings ever since is that the N.S.A. had told him it collected “more than 250 million Internet communications” a year via the FISA Amendments Act, of which about 91 percent came from the Prism system (from Silicon Valley firms like Google) and about 9 percent came from the upstream system (from telecoms like AT&T). Last year, I came to suspect that something about this number may be wrong – that it is possible Bates may have misunderstood something – and decided to FOIA for the other materials in the docket, which the government had not released when it put out his opinions.

With help from David McCraw, the NYT FOIA lawyer, we filed suit, combining this request with several other outstanding ones for national-security related documents in the possesion of the Justice Department. Here is the first tranche of files related to the 2011 FISC/MCT case stemming from that lawsuit. It’s not the good stuff yet, but rather some low-hanging fruit. So stay tuned for future tranches, which will be more difficult for them to agree on how and what to declassify.

ODNI transparency report nerding: 151 million “call detail records”

Several people have blogged things trying to make sense of the disclosure this week that the USA Freedom Act system (which replaced the Patriot Act Section 215 bulk calling records program) collected 151 million call detail records in 2016, even though the intelligence court had approved two-hop collection surrounding only 42 suspects. To be sure, this number, 151 million, is small compared to the billions of records per day the old system was sucking in, but it is nevertheless surprisingly large on its face. I wanted to make two in-the-weeds points – one about the math in general, and one a response to Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel.

I was told there would be no math

As people try to crunch the numbers of how to get to 151 million, a crucial thing to grasp is that a Freedom Act order is not merely a two-hop pen register, in which the N.S.A. gets prospective logs of all the new messages of its target and everyone in contact with him. Rather, it’s also a request for historical billing records still in the providers’ possession. So that’s potentially years of logs of phone calls (and probably SMS text messages) for each person in the suspect’s social circle, even though the government only collected those records during the calendar year of 2016. This factor will dramatically expand not just the number of calls a suspect would have, but also the number of social-link people who will contribute their own universe of second-hop records.

Another important insight is what it means that the government warns about duplication within the 151 million database: a lot of those 151 million records are redundant. For example, if the suspect, Joe the AT&T Customer, called his friend, Mary the Verizon Customer, the government would receive two records stemming from that single call – one from AT&T and one from Verizon. This problem extends to second-hop records: if Joe also called his other friend Fred the Sprint Customer, and Fred and Mary are also friends and separately called each other, the government would receive redundant records of Fred’s and Mary’s call from both Verizon and Sprint.

Another wildcard is that we don’t know is how much garbage is in the system from contacts with businesses and other entities that make a lot of phone calls to unrelated people, creating a potentially larger second-hop universe than an ordinary contact would – like if Joe called an auto body shop or a restaurant etc. which separately called or received calls from thousands of other customers over the years. Presumably the N.S.A. system is set up to invalidate the most commonly called numbers before requesting the second-hop records, lest they generate so much random noise that it would drown out the signal they are hunting for. But there must be some mid-sized entities that haven’t been added to the block list or that investigators wanted to keep for some particular reason – like, say the trunk line for the business where a suspect works. So this factor, too, could help get us to 151 million.

Response to Emptywheel

At Emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler has written an analysis of the 151 million number that has some elements I think are valuable contributions but also some that I am more skeptical about. Her introduction frames it as correcting misconceptions purportedly created in part by my New York Times article about the ODNI report. I reached out to her by email, but she wanted to have the conversation in public.

About half of her piece is devoted to showing how the math to generate 151 million call events within a year is implausible. Eventually, after hundreds of words, she reveals that this premise was a red herring because it is actually about historical records, not just prospective ones. Well, yes. My article said this was about “calling histories” involving “years” of phone records, so it created no such misconception, I hope.

Marcy also states that this is about more than just calls – it’s also about texts. I had only discussed “calls” in my article, but I think it’s likely right that SMS texts are also part of the mix since phone companies keep track of those for billing purposes and they serve the same purpose of identifying social links between people. Texts might also help get us to 151 million: a single conversation consisting of 10 SMS texts could be logged as 10 separate records, or 20 if duplicated between two carriers.

But Marcy then puts forward the idea that the 151 million message records in the ODNI report likely go beyond phone company records of calls and SMS texts and include other stuff, too, like websites visited on a cell phone’s browser and message logs from apps like WhatsApp and iMessage (both “certainly,” in her view) and Signal (“possibly” in her view). Indeed she says the latter is “necessarily true” for two reasons: because members of Congress have expressed concerns about electronic communications service providers that don’t keep records past 18 months, and because a lawmaker has said a large list of companies receive orders under the Freedom Act system.

Sometimes when Marcy speculates about things, she labels it a “wild-arsed guess,” but there is no such caveat here and she seems to be putting it forward as something her readers should treat as a fact. I am skeptical that this claim should be treated as a fact. Everything I have heard is that the Freedom Act system as it now exists, at least, is just about traditional telecom-based telephony (i.e. calls and SMS texts), echoing the predecessor Patriot Act program. I am aware of no evidence supporting the idea that the Freedom Act system has expanded to web browsing or app-based services from internet companies.

Importantly, the ODNI transparency report talks about the 151 million records coming from “telecommunications providers,” not electronic communications service providers generically speaking. Telecoms are a type of electronic communications service provider (defined here and here) that is generally understood to be phone and network companies, like AT&T, that transmit users’ signals and are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission under the Telecommunications Act of 1934. Messaging services that use the Internet but do not operate it, like WhatsApp, are a different type of electronic communications service provider and are generally not called telecoms.

I also do not see how the two pieces of purported evidence Marcy points to prove that metadata from WhatsApp-style services are nevertheless part of the 151 million records.

It is true that some members of Congress are interested in firms that do not keep their records longer than 18 months, but the context of that interest was rooted in traditional telephony: the F.C.C.’s regulation requiring phone companies to hold onto billing records for at least that time is understood to apply only to landline services, not cell phone services. Part of the debate about the Freedom Act was whether to impose a new data retention requirement on cell phone services to make sure relevant records would be there if the N.S.A. wasn’t storing its own copy.

It is also true that a lawmaker has said a sizable number of companies are receiving Freedom Act orders, but that also can be consistent with a telecom-only universe. As far as we know, only the three biggest telecoms were part of the old Patriot Act system – AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon – because the N.S.A. did not trust smaller telecoms to keep its existence a secret. Since the new system is not a secret, the government can obtain orders for all telecoms if it wants, and there are a ton – here’s a list – more than enough to make the number of those receiving Freedom Act system orders large and significant.

Does that mean the government could not ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to interpret the words of the statute as justifying Freedom Act orders to internet messaging services? I would not rule it out as impossible. But I am aware of no evidence it has happened yet, and I don’t think it’s necessary to get to 151 million records collected in 2016.

 

Here’s a previously top secret 2005 Bush Justice Department memo on Stellarwind surveillance and prosecutors’ discovery obligations

In response to one of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits I am fighting with The New York Times’ lawyer David McCraw and our annual First Amendment Fellow, Ian MacDougal, the government has turned over a May 2005 memorandum by Patrick Rowan, who was then a top national-security prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. This memo is about the government’s discovery obligations arising from the Stellarwind warrantless surveillance and bulk metadata program. One of the inspector general reports about Stellarwind that we liberated through previous FOIA litigation had a section about the drafting and contents of this memo, so I FOIA’d for it. (I’ve put that section of the IG report into the same Document Cloud file posted below.)

Rowan’s memo is fairly heavily redacted. (I’m sure we’ll challenge some of the redaction markings at a later stage of the lawsuit.) It’s a little hard to tell what’s going on as a result, but it looks like the thrust was about a scenario in which the Justice Department is prosecuting a terrorism case and the National Security Agency has, via Stellarwind, an intercepted conversation that might help his defense. Does the government have to turn it over? Of course most prosecutors didn’t even know Stellarwind existed at that point, so the matter turned in part on whether and when they had an obligation to ask the intelligence community to search its files generally just in case, etc. It looks like Rowan’s memo did not so much reach definitive conclusions as identify issues that would have to be addressed if DOJ came up with some kind of process for dealing with terrorism cases that might have secret surveillance evidence arguably subject to so-called “Brady” disclosure — the constitutional requirement that prosecutors turn over information in the government’s possession that could be helpful to the defense. Since this was described in the inspector general report already, I’m not sure there is a news story here. But I’ll put it out there for fellow surveillance nerds.

Notably, it does not look like Rowan, at least in these unredacted sections, was addressing the issue that arose in 2013 within the Justice Department regarding its Brady obligations and the FISA Amendments Act program that descended from Stellarwind. The 2013 fight was instead about whether DOJ had to notify defendants that they were facing evidence derived from FISA Amendments Act warrantless surveillance, meaning they had standing to challenge the legality of the underlying surveillance through a motion to suppress that evidence.

As an aside: Neither the IG report nor the memo have, in their unredacted sections, an explanation about why Rowan would be looking into the topic in the spring of 2005, but my guess is that the question occurred to them because of the accidental provisioning to lawyers representing al-Haramain, a defunct Oregon-based charity accused of funneling money to terrorists in Chechnya, a document containing copies of conversations between a leader of the charity and his attorneys apparently picked up (it was later alleged) via Stellarwind. Later in 2004 the FBI had demanded those records back, and in February 2005 Pete Seda, an officer in the charity, was indicted.

Of course, in December 2005, my future colleagues at the Times, Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau, published their famous article disclosing the warrantless wiretapping component of Stellarwind and the Bush administration acknowledged it. In the al-Haramain matter, Seda had later tried on appeal to say evidence obtained via a search warrant should be suppressed because the investigation derived from Stellarwind, but the Ninth Circuit didn’t buy it. Separately,back in March 2006, al-Haramain’s lawyers filed a lawsuit challenging the program and citing that record they had been shown in 2004 as giving them standing, but the judiciary wouldn’t let them use it. They later filed a different case over that surveillance and won at the district court level, but lost on appeal.

[I revised this post a bit after first posting it, adding the reference to Pete Seda, and reordering it to make it flow a little more coherently.]

 



Savage-NYT FOIA Rowan Stellarwind Discovery Obligations Memo (Text)

 

More Gitmo military commissions action at the Supreme Court: Bahlul cert petition filed

Defense lawyers for Ali Hamza al-Bahlul have filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to take his appeal of his conviction before a military commission of the non-war crime of “conspiracy.” It should be docketed tomorrow.

Bahlul’s case has created one of the most complex appellate matters arising from the tribunals system. It went up and down several times between a three-judge panel and the en banc Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and it led to an internal split in the Obama adminsitration. In Power Wars, see Chapter 10 (“Wounds that Won’t Heal: Captives 2011-2015”), Section 8 (“War Crimes, Real and Imagined”).

It comes fast on the heels of a cert petition in the Nashiri case. So lots  of interesting military commissions action at the Supreme Court is coming, potentially. If they take them.

Here’s my article about the most recent Bahlul ruling at the D.C. Circuit level, from last fall. And here is the cert petition, which should be docketed tomorrow:

 

Trump administration releases Obama-era Gitmo Detainee Review Task Force guidelines, Vaughn index of withheld dossiers in FOIA case

One of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits I am fighting against the government with The New York Times is seeking the factual sections about 240 dossiers about the Guantanamo detainees who remained at the wartime prison when President Obama took office in 2009. Obama created a six-agency task force that went back over the intelligence about each man, and in many cases it found that some of what had been in earlier Bush-era threat assessment dossiers — the files that Chelsea Manning leaked via WikiLeaks — was inaccurate. but the Obama-era dossiers, which were the basis of the lists of those recommended for transfer, prosecution, or continued detention, have not been made public. I have argued in this essay, whose headline I do not like, that it makes sense for policy reasons for the government to make these dossiers public, since much of the information is already public via the Manning disclosures and if the government now believes some of that information was inaccurate, it should correct the record.

The government has now filed its response to the FOIA case, asking Judge Berman to dismiss the case. The main thrust of its argument is that even the factual matters should fall under the deliberative process exemption because the task force’s selection of facts was a deliberative choice. Plus classified info, etc. We’ll argue, of course, that the factual sections are distinct from the policy recommendation sections and that the government relied upon the dossiers in putting together its recommendation lists and so waived the privilege.

Two things are especially notable in the government’s response. First, it includes the task force’s guidelines, which I do not believe have previously been made public. Second, it includes a Vaughn index describing the dossier about each detainee, including the number of pages each man’s file has.

 



Govt Response to FOIA for 2009 Gitmo Detainee Task Force Assessments (Text)

 

Edward Snowden’s Hong Kong barrister authenticates hotel records debunking mystery gap claim

In the New York Review of Books, I have been engaged in a debate with Edward Jay Epstein about his book, “How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft,” which lays out the case that Snowden was an espionage source for the Russians or Chinese masquerading as a whistleblower. I wrote a very critical essay-review of this book, concluding that wherever one falls in the spectrum of views about Snowden’s actions, Epstein’s book is not credible because his methodology is to indulge in speculation and insinuations anchored to “facts” that are themselves dubious (and, as a separate matter, he gets all kinds of basic facts about surveillance wrong).

That being said, I have always been fascinated by cases involving whistleblowing. In case you did not know, whistleblowing occurs when a worker reports specific types of wrongdoing. The wrongdoing that is disclosed must be in the public interest. So, the information being shared should affect others, including the general public for instance. As a whistleblower, you are also protected by law. This means that you should not be treated unfairly or lose your job as a result of whistleblowing. You can discover more about whistleblowing law by checking out some of the useful resources at DhillonLaw.com. Ultimately, for his part in the biggest intelligence leak in the history of the NSA, Edward Snowden has become one of the most widely known names in the world.

Anyway, one of the examples I selected to illustrate my argument was the heavy and sinister significance he puts on the “fact” that Snowden only checked into the Mira Hotel on June 1, 11 days after his arrival in Hong Kong, leaving his prior whereabouts in that city a mystery. Epstein’s reporting is the primary source of this claim – first in a June 2014 Wall Street Journal column, then in his book. He has also claimed that he has anonymous sources who told him that American investigators could find no hint in hotel and credit card records about where Snowden was staying earlier. In my review, I suggested that given the available information to date, this “fact” was vaporous. And after some further back and forth, I concluded in the most exchange:

Perhaps someday the Mira’s records will emerge into public view and we will have more solid information to evaluate this question. Either way, my central point remains unchanged: Epstein treated the check-in claim as a factual anchor for his insinuations about what Snowden might have been doing earlier, but at the time he wrote his book (and still today) the evidence for this claim was insufficient to establish it as a proven fact. This is part of a recurring pattern with his methodology.

Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyers have now finally obtained his hotel records, which Glenn Greenwald first reported at The Intercept and I have posted below. They show that Snowden checked into the Icon Hotel on May 20 and spent one night there, then moved to the Mira Hotel, where he checked in on May 21 until he checked out on June 10. (He was initially set to check out on May 31, but extended for one night to June 1, and then extended for another 10 days.)

I am not aware of anywhere that it has previously been reported that Snowden had stayed in a different hotel his first night in Hong Kong. But in any case, the documents showed he stayed in both the Icon and then, starting on May 21st, the Mira, under his own name, using his own credit cards. So there is no mystery gap, and the credit card records obviously were readily available to American investigators all along.

Origin and chain of custody of the documents

Greenwald got the documents from Snowden, who obtained them from his lawyers in Hong Kong. I reached out to Robert Tibbo, a barrister working for Snowden in Hong Kong, and showed them to him. He confirmed that they are the same ones that the two hotels had turned over, and that he had transmitted to Snowden. Specifically, he told me:

After lengthy efforts on behalf of Mr. Snowden, we were able to secure his hotel records from the ICON and Mira hotels in Hong Kong. I was present with Jonathan Man when the ICON hotel management printed out and handed Mr. Snowden’s hotel records to Jonathan Man. As for the Mira Hotel, their lawyers delivered Mr. Snowden’s hotel records directly to Mr. Man’s law firm. Mr. Man then brought the original documents to my law office to examine. All documents were then communicated to Mr. Snowden at that time.

Notably, Tibbo has also publicly said he witnessed Snowden destroy his hard drives before leaving for Russia, a corroboration of Snowden’s account that Epstein — who also treats as fact his claim that Snowden instead brought NSA files to Russia — omitted from his book even though he had interviewed Tibbo while researching it. Regarding the Mira issue, Tibbo also said:

With Mr. Snowden’s hotel records now obtained and disclosed to the public, this puts to rest any doubts on his residence in Hong Kong during the period of 20 May to 10 June 2013. I would highlight that in May 2014* I met with journalist and author Edward Epstein who I clearly told that Mr. Snowden was living at a hotel during his stay in Hong Kong from 20 May to 10 June 2013. He chose not to believe the truth.

* Note: Tibbo initially wrote May 2015 and later asked me correct his typo; the year is important since May 2014 was prior to Epstein’s original June 2014 column, not just his later book.



 

Two FOIA lawsuits: Trump-OLC communications & post-Snowden NSA security shortcomings

Yesterday, the NYT and I filed a new Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking communications in January 2017 between the Trump team (transition team, then post-inaugural White House) and the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel about the legality of proposed executive orders and executive actions, including its blessing of the first travel ban order and its Jan. 20, 2017 memo saying it would not violate the federal anti-nepotism law to give Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a White House job. The case was assigned to Judge Castel in SDNY.

Last month, we filed a FOIA lawsuit seeking the August 29, 2016, Department of Defense Inspector General report “The National Security Agency Should Take Additional Steps in Its Privileged Access-Related Secure the Net Initiatives,” which apparently details various security shortcomings at the NSA identified after the Edward Snowden leaks that the agency has been slow to fix. It was discussed in the September 2016 House Intelligence Committee report about Snowden. (H/T to Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, who flagged it to me as something potentially worth FOIAing for.) The case was assigned to Judge Preska in SDNY.

Here is a page on which I track my FOIA litigation with the New York Times’ lawyer David McCraw and our annual First Amendment Fellow, currently Ian MacDougall. We have seven open lawsuits.