Monday, February 14, 2011

Former FBI Agent Turned ACLU Attorney: Feds Routinely Spy on Citizens

Too often, we've seen U.S. Intelligence agencies whose actions are cloaked in secrecy until someone uncovers governmental abuse that places innocent people under surveillance or on watchlists. It's truly scary to ponder how much more stays hidden. I'd love to interview an FBI agent with in-depth national security and intelligence experience, but one who would answer truthfully and believes in privacy. It is with delight that I interviewed Mike German, formerly a 16-year veteran as an FBI special agent who became ACLU's Policy Counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy.

What was the final straw that led you to quit the FBI and start at the ACLU?

German: I left the FBI when the DOJ Inspector General failed to investigate an FBI cover-up of a failed FBI counterterrorism investigation I reported, or protect me from official retaliation that resulted. I reported the information to Sen. Grassley and resigned. Grassley put pressure on the IG, so almost two years later the IG issued a report that showed the FBI falsified and backdated records about the case and retaliated against me for reporting it. I joined the ACLU two years later because I knew from my counterterrorism work that protecting civil liberties and keeping law enforcement accountable is what keeps America safe from terrorism and other crime.

Are you followed, tracked or otherwise under scrutiny from any U.S. intelligence agency for the work you have done in revealing what is really happening in America?

German: I don't know. Much of my work is public, so it's not hard to find out what I'm doing. But one of the problems is that intelligence surveillance is conducted in such secrecy that it's virtually impossible to know whether illegal surveillance is taking place.

What is the most disturbing fact(s) that you have uncovered?

German: The most disturbing thing we've uncovered is the scope of domestic intelligence activities taking place today. Domestic spying is now being done by a host of federal agencies (FBI, DOD, DHS, DNI) as well as state and local law enforcement and even private companies. Too often this spying targets political activity and religious practices. We've documented intelligence activities targeting or obstructing First Amendment-protected activity in 33 states and DC.

What do you see as the biggest threat to U.S. citizens' rights that is happening in our country?

German: The biggest threat is that the increase surveillance of political activity will create a chilling effect that will dissuade people from exercising their rights, which will cause significant harm to participatory democracy.

Do you believe the War on Terror will continue to be an excuse to violate the rights of American citizens?

German: Unfortunately, yes.

Is there a clear-cut list of what places people on watchlists or makes them suspicious?

German: No. The FBI claims it needs only a reasonable suspicion to place people on watchlists, but there's significant evidence (including IG reports) documenting that people are improperly placed on watchlists for improper reasons.

~ more... ~

Australians saw Habib tortured, says officer

Natalie O'Brien reports for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Damning evidence from an Egyptian intelligence officer that names an Australian official who witnessed the torture of Sydney man Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay has been revealed as the trigger for a hushed-up government payout to Mr Habib and a high-level investigation.

The explosive 840-word statement, released exclusively to The Sun-Herald, was shown to government solicitors three days before they suddenly paid Mr Habib an undisclosed amount to drop his lawsuit claiming Australia was complicit in his CIA-engineered kidnap in 2001, transfer to Egypt and subsequent torture.

In his statement, which is yet to be tested in court, the intelligence officer says Egyptian guards routinely filmed terrorism suspects in their jails. He says there is footage and photographs of Mr Habib and an Arabic-speaking Australian called George who witnessed his degradation.

''He has rounded face aged 35-40 and bald (no hair) his height is about 170 fat without moustache with beard, hazel eyes big nose, fat neck. George was present during the medical check on Habib who was handcuffed and tied feet. His eyes were closed and he was unable to see.

''He [Habib] was naked of any cloths [sic] even his underwear. He was hysterical, almost crazy, drugged. The hand down of him and his belongings and the medical check was before the Australian official [George]. Habib constantly was fighting with the guards and wanted to escape outside.

''During Habib's presence some of the Australian officials attended many times and some of them were women. The same official who attended the first time, George, used to come with them and Habib was tortured a lot and all the time as the foreign intelligence wanted quick and fast information.''

The statement from the intelligence officer was taken by Mr Habib's Egyptian lawyer, Hisham Mahmoud Ramadan, who told Mr Habib yesterday that the overthrow of the Mubarak regime would make it easier to get more information about his torture.

~ more... ~

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