A key House committee investigating an opposition-research dossier containing salacious details on Donald Trump has reportedly subpoenaed personally the heads of both the FBI and the Justice Department over their agencies’ noncooperation with the panel’s previous efforts.
WASHINGTON — Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program.
The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.
After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.
“I’m concerned there’s disrespect towards the Congress,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. “I think it’s arrogant, I think it’s unacceptable.”
“I continue to be incredibly frustrated with this director,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. “He does not respect the role of the committee in providing oversight, and he continues to stonewall us on basic information, and it’s very frustrating. And it certainly doesn’t serve the agency well.”
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he was “renewing my call” for Brennan’s resignation.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that Brennan declined to answer the committee’s questions because doing so could have compromised an investigation into the computer intrusions by an accountability board headed by former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. Moreover, the agency’s leadership has asked the CIA Inspector General’s Office to respond to the questions, Boyd said.
“Commencing a new, parallel investigation to compile answers to these questions could negatively impact the integrity of the ongoing Accountability Board process,” Boyd wrote in an email.
Hours before Tuesday’s meeting in the committee’s secure offices, the panel received a letter in which Brennan said he wouldn’t respond to written questions he’d received in January from the chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joined Brennan for the meeting, which had been expected to focus on the threat posed by the Islamic State. But tempers flared as some lawmakers challenged Brennan on his decision not to answer Feinstein’s questions, witnesses said.
At one point, said a person familiar with the meeting, Brennan raised his voice at Feinstein.
Feinstein sent the questions after Brennan told her that agency personnel investigating a security breach had searched computers her staff used in a secret CIA facility. The questions included a demand to know who ordered the intrusions and under what legal authority they were conducted.
Brennan “shouldn’t get away with not answering questions,” said Levin. “Nobody in the executive branch should get away with not answering questions to a legitimate legislative inquiry.”
Feinstein described the questions in a scathing March speech on the Senate floor. In her address, she confirmed an earlier McClatchy report about the computer intrusions and suggested that the CIA might have violated the law and the separation of powers provisions of the Constitution.
The committee staff used the computers to compile a report on the agency’s use of torture on suspected terrorists under the George W. Bush administration. Bush ended the program, in which detainees were abducted and held in secret overseas prisons, in 2006.
The CIA and former Bush administration officials deny that the interrogation techniques, which included simulated drowning known as waterboarding, constituted torture.
For its part, the CIA accused Feinstein’s staffers of removing without permission classified documents from the secret facility in which the agency required them to review millions of pages of operational cables and other highly classified materials on the program.
Both sets of charges were referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigations.
At the time, Brennan adamantly denied Feinstein’s allegations that the CIA had spied on her committee. But in July, he was compelled to apologize to her after a review by the CIA Inspector General’s Office confirmed that CIA personnel gained unauthorized access to her staff’s computers and combed through their emails.
The inspector general report also revealed that the agency’s contention that the staff had removed classified documents without permission from the top-secret facility was unfounded and based on inaccurate information.
Levin dismissed Brennan’s defense that CIA Inspector General David Buckley was the appropriate person to answer Feinstein’s questions.
“It may or may not be appropriate for the (CIA) IG to answer, but it’s not appropriate for Brennan to refuse to answer. If he doesn’t know the answers, he can say so,” said Levin.
Levin continued, “He either knows the information or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t know the answers, OK, tell us. It’d be kind of stunning if he didn’t know the answers to those questions, but if that’s what he wants to say, he should tell us.”
In June, the Justice Department cited insufficient evidence and declined to launch criminal investigations into the CIA computer intrusions or the allegation that the staff had removed top-secret documents without authorization.
But Levin said that the answers to Feinstein’s questions could yield new information that could prompt the Justice Department to reopen an inquiry into the CIA’s computer monitoring.
The committee spent $40 million and five years compiling its more than 6,000-page report on the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program.
It submitted the 500-page executive summary to the CIA and the White House for a declassification review in April, but the sides have been locked in a contentious debate over how much to black out prior to its public release.
National Guard troops fanned out through the city, shield-bearing police officers blocked the streets, and firefighters doused still-simmering blazes early Tuesday as a growing area of Baltimore shuddered from riots following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody.
The violence that started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon — within a mile of where Freddie Gray was arrested and placed into a police van earlier this month — had by midnight spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
It was one of the most volatile outbreaks of violence prompted by a police-involved death since the days of protests that followed the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed during a confrontation with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.
At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who remained hospitalized late Monday, police said. Two dozen people were arrested.
State and local authorities pledged to restore order and calm to Baltimore, but they quickly found themselves responding to questions about whether their initial responses had been adequate.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was asked why she waited hours to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, while the governor himself hinted she should have come to him earlier.
“We were all in the command center in the second floor of the State House in constant communication, and we were trying to get in touch with the mayor for quite some time,” Gov. Larry Hogan told a Monday evening news conference. “She finally made that call, and we immediately took action.”
Asked whether the mayor should have called for help sooner, however, Hogan replied that he didn’t want to question what Baltimore officials were doing:
“They’re all under tremendous stress. We’re all on one team.”
Rawlings-Blake said officials believed they had gotten the unrest that had erupted over the weekend under control
“and I think it would have been inappropriate to bring in the National Guard when we had it under control.”
But later on, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts made it clear events had become unmanageable.
“They just outnumbered us and outflanked us,” Batts said.
“We needed to have more resources out there.”
Batts said authorities had had a “very trying and disappointing day.”
Police certainly had their work cut out for them: The rioters set police cars and buildings on fire in several neighborhoods, looted a mall and liquor stores, and threw rocks at police with riot gear, who responded occasionally with pepper spray.
“I understand anger, but what we’re seeing isn’t anger,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her first day on the job, said she would send Justice Department officials to the city in coming days.
A weeklong, daily curfew was imposed beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said, and Baltimore public schools announced they would be closed Tuesday.
Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said up to 5,000 troops would be available for Baltimore’s streets.
“We are going to be out in massive force, and that just means basically that we are going to be patrolling the streets and out to ensure that we are protecting property,” Singh said at a news conference Monday night.
Singh said they would be acting at the direction of Baltimore police.
Col. William Pallozzi, the superintendent of the state police, said a request for up to 500 additional law enforcement personnel in Maryland had been sent. Pallozzi added that the state was putting out a request for up to 5,000 more law enforcement personnel from around the mid-Atlantic region.
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and about 200 others, including ministers, tried unsuccessfully to quell the violence at one point Monday night, marching arm-in-arm through a neighborhood littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans, and other debris.
As they got close to a line of police officers, the marchers went down on their knees. They then rose to their feet and walked until they were face-to-face with the police officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.
But the violence continued, with looters later setting a liquor store on fire and throwing cinder blocks at fire trucks as firefighters labored to put out the blazes.
Monday’s riot was the latest flare-up over the death of Gray and came amid a national debate over police use of force following the high-profile deaths of several black men in encounters with police — from the Brown death in Ferguson to the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Gray was black. Police have declined to specify the races of the six officers involved in his arrest, all of whom have been suspended with pay while they are under investigation.
While they are angry about what happened to Gray, his family said riots were not the answer.
“I think the violence is wrong,” Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka Gray, said late Monday. “I don’t like it at all.”
The attorney for Gray’s family, Billy Murphy, said the family had hoped to organize a peace march later in the week.
Hours before the riots began Monday, mourners filled the 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church to attend Freddie Gray’s funeral.
Gray was arrested April 12 after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed, and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.
He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride. Police have acknowledged he should have received medical attention on the spot where he was arrested, but they have not said how he suffered a serious spine injury. He died April 19.
Barack Obama called HBO series The Wire “one of the greatest pieces of art in the last couple of decades” in an interview with the show’s creator that was released today at the Bipartisan Summit for Criminal Justice Reform. The Wire chronicled the effects of the drug war as it was waged on the streets of Baltimore in the early 2000s, detailing how both drug use and the clumsy, heavy-handed law enforcement response to it devastated many urban communities.
As Simon summed it up, “what drugs don’t destroy, the war against them is ripping apart.”
Interestingly, Obama spoke of the incarceration problem as much from an economic perspective as from a social justice one.
“The challenge,” he said, “is folks go into prison at great expense to the state, [and] many times [are] trained to become more hardened criminals while in prison, come out and are basically unemployable and end up looping back in” to the prison system.
“When you break down why people aren’t getting back into the labor force, even as jobs are being created, a big chunk of that is the young male population with felony histories,” Obama said. “So now where we have the opportunity to give them a pathway toward a responsible life, they’re foreclosed. And that’s counterproductive.”
Fiscally speaking, mass incarceration is “breaking the bank,” Obama said. “It means everyone’s taxes are going up, and services are being squeezed.” Many elements in the Republican party have become receptive to these message in recent years.
But in the Senate especially there remains ahardline of lawmakers who cut their political teeth during the tough-on-crime era and who remain enthusiastic proponents of harsh sentences for drug offenders, despite reams of evidence showing they don’t work.
The Justice Department under Obama deserves a great deal of credit for taking administrative steps to reduce the burden of incarceration, including modest sentencing changes and an explicit hands-off approach to the states that have legalized marijuana.
But as Obama notes in the interview, the real work of reform will have to be done through Congress.
Drug Enforcement Agency agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels, according to an inspector general report released Thursday by the Justice Department.
“The foreign officer allegedly arranged ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several years,” the report said.
According to Politico, the alleged “sex parties” took place in Colombia from 2005 to 2008. The report didn’t appear to name the agents involved but seven admitted to attending them and were subsequently punished with short suspensions.
The report further accused the agents of creating “security risks” by allowing the prostitute parties to occur around sensitive government equipment. (According to complaints, the parties were “loud.”)
“In particular, the Inspector said that she explained to [Office of Professional Responsibility] management that the fact that most of the ‘sex parties’ occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment were present created potential security risks for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion,” the report said.
The agents involved “should have known” the parties were funded by the drug cartels, the report also declared.
“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds. A foreign officer also alleged providing protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” it said. “The foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs [special agents] in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.”
Other troubling allegations were also detailed in the inspector general report. In another case involving prostitutes, DEA agents frequently attended a brother, and a prostitute was allegedly assaulted after a payment disagreement.
“We found that a Regional Director, an Acting Assistant Regional Director (AARD), and a Group Supervisor failed to report … repeated allegations of DEA Special Agents (SA) patronizing prostitutes and frequenting a brothel while in an overseas posting, treating these allegations as local management issues,” the report said. “It was also alleged that one of the subjects in the supervisors’ group assaulted a prostitute following a payment dispute.”
The allegations were part of a broader investigation into how the Justice Department’s law-enforcement agencies handle sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. The report found issues with other agencies besides the DEA, including the FBI and US Marshals Service.
One FBI manager was faulted for failing to report one of his employee’s repeated unprofessional behavior, including cornering his subordinates in their cubicles and displaying the size of his genitals by tightening his pants, making graphic and inappropriate sexual comments and gestures, and otherwise creating a hostile work environment.”
The inspector general called out the DEA and the FBI in particular for being uncooperative with parts of the investigation.
This post will be updated with additional information shortly. Last updated at 11:09 a.m.
An arrest has been made in connection with the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Mo., St. Louis County Police said Sunday.
County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Jeffrey Williams, 20, was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle, and thee counts of armed criminal action.
McCulloch said Williams admitted firing the shots, but said he was shooting at someone else. McCulloch said the handgun has been recovered.
“We’re not sure we buy that part of it,” McCulloch said.
He said Williams was involved in the demonstration that was wrapping up when the incident took place. Williams, he said, was being held in lieu of $300,000 cash bail.
The officers were shot during a protest just after midnight Thursday. One was shot in the face, the other in the shoulder. They were released from the hospital later Thursday.
Ferguson has been the scene of sometimes violent protests since the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a white police officer in August. The shooting and subsequent investigation brought national attention and a Justice Department probe to the St. Louis suburb.
The Justice Department investigation found systemic racism in the police department, prompting the resignation of the city manager, a local judge and, on Wednesday, the city’s police chief.
The protests have resulted in Ferguson needing support from other police departments — the officers wounded Thursday were from St. Louis County and Webster Groves. After the shootings, the highway patrol and county police took control of security duties from the Ferguson department.
Attorney General Eric Holder sharply condemned Thursday’s shootings as a “disgusting and cowardly attack.”
“This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson,” Holder said. “This was a damn punk, a punk, who was trying to sow discord.”
President Obama, echoed those thoughts, calling the shooting inexcusable.
“They’re criminals. They need to be arrested,” Obama said. “And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides — law-enforcement who have a terrifically tough job and people who understand they don’t want to be stopped and harassed because of their race — that we’re able to work together to try and come up with some good answers.”
Computer hackers stole 1 billion email addresses from US marketing companies in what federal authorities called one of the largest reported data breaches in history.
Three people were indicted on federal charges after they allegedly netted US$2 million in commissions from millions of spam emails that routed recipients to websites selling software and other products.
That means the defendants would have averaged just a fraction of a penny for each of the stolen email addresses. Still, authorities said the case is significant because of the scale of the information stolen.
John Horn, the acting US attorney based in Atlanta, said hackers targeted marketing companies that send bulk emails to customers of their commercial clients. They gained access to the firms’ computer systems by sending emails with hidden malware to the marketing companies’ employees.
The hackers not only stole hundreds of millions of email addresses, Horn said, but they also succeeded in using the marketing firms’ own systems to send the hackers’ spam messages.
One of the defendants, 25-year-old Vietnamese citizen Giang Hoang Vu, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud before a federal judge last month. He has not been sentenced.
A second Vietnamese citizen, 28-year-old Viet Quoc Nguyen, has been indicted on 29 counts including charges of wire fraud and computer fraud. David-Manuel Santos Da Silva, 33, of Montreal, Canada, is charged with taking part in a money-laundering conspiracy. Prosecutors say he entered into a marketing agreement with the others that enabled them to profit from sales generated by the spam emails.
Officials said Da Silva was arrested in Florida last month. Nguyen remains a fugitive.
U.S. District Court records Friday did not have a defense attorney listed for Da Silva.
The case is being prosecuted in Georgia because that’s where computer servers were located for two of the marketing firms that got hacked. Nguyen and Vu were indicted in October 2012, but those charges were sealed from public view until after the case against Da Silva was filed Wednesday.