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SECRECY & THE SECURITY STATE

White House Digs Claws Deeper in Congressional Probe of Russia Connections

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*UPDATED TO INCLUDE RESPONSE FROM WHITE HOUSE* A decision to abruptly cancel House Intelligence Committee hearings this week was reportedly forced by the Trump administration. The Washington Post obtained letters regarding a forthcoming appearance of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before the committee, as part of its investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Yates was slated to appear before the panel on Tuesday, but the correspondences retrieved by the Post suggest that the White House moved to block her…

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Watchdog: D.E.A. Informant Program Undermines Foreign Policy and U.S. Security

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More damning information came out on Thursday about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s reliance on confidential informants, including new details about how it jeopardizes “national security, foreign relations, and civil liberties.” The Department of Justice Inspector General released a public summary of a classified addendum that was affixed to a scathing report, released last September, on the DEA’s use of confidential sources. The prior audit discovered that the agency did not properly oversee its network of informants, increasing the risk of fraud and constitutional abuses. The new…

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Distrust of Surveillance State Grows, As Expiration of Key Law Inches Closer

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Democrats and Republicans teamed up to blast the FBI on Wednesday, using a government audit on facial recognition capabilities to suggest that surveillance reform could be in the offing. The Bureau has been the target of anger from both parties over the past few months, with criminal investigations impacting presidential politics like they haven’t since the Nixon Era. House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) brought up some of the recent displeasure from conservatives, in a hearing before the panel. “Somebody decided to take off…

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Pattern of Deportation As Retaliation Emerging in Trump Era

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Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions raise questions about the Trump Administration using deportation proceedings to punish political opponents—both institutions and individuals. Three undocumented activists in Vermont were arrested over the past week by ICE agents—two of them, while leaving the office of an organization that advocates for immigrants’ rights. In Texas, meanwhile, a federal magistrate judge on Monday confirmed that immigration agents were conducting raids in response to policy changes carried out by the county seat of Austin. The Texas-based federal magistrate, Judge Andrew…

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Dem Intel Leader Praises Trump’s Electronics Ban

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The Department of Homeland Security enacted a new policy in the early morning hours on Tuesday, blocking travelers from certain Muslim-majority nations from bringing larger electronics on flights to the US. The rules affect 10 airports in eight nations, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Morocco, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. They apply only to foreign carriers, not US airliners. Electronics covered by the ban include laptops, tablets, cameras, and larger gaming consoles. They can, however, be carried in checked bags. Officials told the…

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Comey Hearing Confirms Counter-Intel Investigation into Trump Campaign; No Evidence of Trump’s Wiretap Claim

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FBI Director James Comey announced on Monday that his bureau’s probe of suspected Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election also includes looking into alleged ties between Trump campaign officials and Moscow. In testimony before the House intelligence community, Comey provided few other details about the inquiry and which individuals might be targets. He did note that the probe was initiated late July of last year. “I have been authorized by the DOJ to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating…

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Corruption Case Against Sen. Menendez Can Proceed, SCOTUS Rules

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The Supreme Court won’t consider throwing out corruption charges filed against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). Justices did not give any reasoning for not granting Menendez a hearing, as is the norm. The lawmaker’s appeal was one of many on Monday that the high court declined to hear. The decision means prior rulings on the indictment will stand, and that a criminal trial can now proceed this fall. Last summer, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected Menendez’s arguments for dismissing the charges. Menendez…

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Senior Navy Officials Accused of Interfering in Sexual Assault Investigation

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The Pentagon is investigating charges that senior Navy officials “adversely affected the independence” of an internal probe into the “career paths” of those who claim to be victims of sexual assault. The Department of Defense Inspector General said Wednesday that it is launching the inquiry after receiving “hotline allegations.” Carolyn Hantz, an official within the Pentagon’s primary watchdog, disclosed the opening of the investigation in a letter her naval counterparts. “This evaluation will include but is not limited to reviewing relevant supporting documentation and interviews…

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Charges Filed Against Russian Hackers—Unrelated to DNC, Podesta Breach

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The Justice Department filed charges against Russian intelligence operatives for their alleged role in a 2014 cyber attack against a half-million Yahoo users. The indictments mark the first time that any such charges have been brought against members of the Russian government, which is often accused by US officials of sponsoring aggressive cyber warfare. Four people were charged altogether. Among those standing accused of hacking, economic espionage, and wire fraud, are Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin—members of the FSB, a Russian intelligence and law enforcement…

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Federal Judge: FBI Can Keep Secret Rules on Warrantless Espionage of Reporters

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A federal judge in San Francisco declined on Monday to force the FBI to reconsider a request to divulge guidelines for spying on journalists without a warrant. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. ruled that the agency had properly responded to public records requests at the heart of the litigation, under Freedom of Information Act requirements. The Freedom of the Press Foundation, which filed the lawsuit, had claimed the FBI failed to reference a relevant memo, in response to prior FOIA requests and litigation filed by…

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Trump Pentagon Considering More Troops for Afghanistan War

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The Trump Administration is considering the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan, according to testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gen. Joseph Votel, the leader of US Central Command, told the panel that the Pentagon is developing a new strategy, and that it will likely include an uptick in soldiers serving in the 15-year-old conflict. “I do believe that it will involve additional forces to ensure that we can make the ‘advise and assist’ mission more effective,” Votel told committee chair John McCain…

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