The Fox Is Guarding the Hen House

 

Remember the good ol’ days when agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice were admired and held in high esteem? It does seem to be a very long time ago, especially when we are living in times when lies, redactions, exemptions, and distortions are the terms that now describe the work of these agencies, as well as other agencies. Why should we trust any of them? Based on my research, we have even less reason currently to rely on their information than any time in my lifetime. To understand these circumstances, it’s helpful first to see how redactions are supposed to be made.

Redaction is a term that is often used for editing documents to protect national security and the privacy of citizens. There is a Redaction Code that describes which portions of a given document must be hidden from the general public. At first glance, the code seems to be clear and practical. I discovered, however, that the Code is nearly meaningless.

For instance, the Redaction Code is applied to documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Established in 1967, FOIA allows the public to request records from any federal agency, except for nine exemptions which are “specified.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, founded in 1990, discovered how corrupted and misused the redaction process is, based on its own FOIA requests:

Through a careful comparison of thousands of pages of documents we received from this FOIA request with the same documents we received from an earlier FOIA request, we found that redactions in many of these duplicated documents were strikingly different. In several cases, the FBI redacted more information in later-produced documents than it did in earlier-produced documents. In other cases, the FBI redacted differing amounts of information when it produced two copies of the same report in response to the same FOIA request. Sometimes the agency blocked out whole paragraphs, while at other times it blocked out only the key words that explain the details of its acts. What is interesting is that the FBI claimed the same FOIA exemptions in each version; it just applied them differently.

What’s most troubling is that the documents in question had to do with evidence of the FBI’s own misconduct. So, if it’s being arbitrary in figuring out what to redact, what’s to stop it from just redacting the information it doesn’t want to get out? (italics mine)

If you are the authors of a document, as Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee are, you can fight the FBI on its redactions:

Grassley and Graham had to fight the FBI tooth and nail to get this memo released with few-enough redactions to serve the public. Grassley accused the bureau of playing a ‘bureaucratic game of hide the ball.’ In short, there were multiple interesting angles worthy of serious — perhaps even breathless — coverage.

Fortunately, we do have organizations that take seriously the reliable disclosure of government documents. One is the Inspectors General office, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Although the OIG doesn’t have a perfect record of carrying out their investigations thoroughly and fairly, they have been quite reliable. Investigations, however, are initiated by other people or agencies, rather than from within the OIG office.

Perhaps the most credible outside organization to keep tabs on the federal government is Judicial Watch.  Judicial Watch’s motto is “Because no one is above the law.” For example, last year Judicial Watch challenged the State Department about funds provided to “voluntary organizations” for the resettlement of refugees:

The State Department, for instance, redacted huge portions of records involving contracts with VOLAGs [voluntary organizations] to resettle refugees from mostly Muslim countries. The files illustrate the disparate redaction treatment given by different government agencies to the same types of records. The State Department paid a VOLAG called United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) a ghastly $22,838,173 in one year to resettle refugees that came mostly from Muslim countries. Unlike HHS, the agency redacted information related to what the USCCB charged the government for things like furniture, personnel, equipment and other costs associated with contracts to resettle refugees. Why did one government agency hand over the same types of records that another agency claims are trade secrets?

Most recently Judicial Watch has filed a FOIA for the release of the FISA warrant and related documents. A summary of their filing can be seen here.

All of these facts raise several issues. There is a process of appeal when the release of documents is unsatisfactory. But wouldn’t you need to know the documents or items that are missing in order to request them? We have no assurance that any department or agency involved in the FISA warrant controversy will report in a reliable manner. How can we trust that all documents will be submitted? Will documents be fairly redacted or will they be edited to remove evidence of malfeasance? Are there any steps that can be taken by anyone to ensure that we are getting to the truth?

There are 29 comments.

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  1. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    The FBI has on multiple occasions proven itself to be a direct threat national security of the USA, and I am not talking about the incompetence of FISA gate.

     

    It needs to be removed from counterespionage cases. It has on multiple occasions proven grossly incompetent in this area.

     

     

    Not to mention this travesty.

    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/05/21/when_comey_and_mueller_bungled_the_anthrax_case_133953.html

    Thank goodness for the CIA.

     

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    It needs to be removed from counterespionage cases. It has on multiple occasions proven grossly incompetent in this area.

    TWW, I thought the FBI was only supposed to work on domestic cases. Do you know very much about their efforts in counterespionage? I may be familiar with those cases but didn’t realize they would fall under that category.

    • #2
  3. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Counterespionage is domestic when you think about it.

    I have a reception with Doug Ford (Basically running for Minority Leader in Ontario) I am going to shortly.  Hopefully I can get some follow up on this when I get home.

    • #3
  4. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan it is very scary. Who do you love? As the song goes. Actually it’s more like who can you trust? When the heads of Congressional oversight committees can’t even get information from agencies under their purview without threatening subpoenas, and the heads of those agencies are appointed by the President from their own party in power and are under the POTUS control, how can we ever get truth. I think Donald Trump just might know more than we think. He’s made some statements about this whole Russia and Hillary situation, in the past and before these Congressional committees have brought the info forward, that lead me to believe he may have a reason to slow walk this info. For example, he tweeted about his wires being tapped…by Obama (not just the FBI) months and months ago. He’s was universally ridiculed for the tweet. It was true. There were other things he has said in the past, my memory is not bringing them up now, that have come to be true. Why wouldn’t Trump just order the FISA warrants be released, the FBI to send everything to Congress? This whole situation is akin to watching grass grow. I’ve said it before. It’s like groundhog day, You wake up and hear these blockbuster releases, like the Nunes memo, and you think, I already knew all that months ago. Yet it took all this time for somebody official to put it out to the public.

    • #4
  5. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    Thank goodness for the CIA.

    Is this statement supposed to be funny?

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    He’s made some statements about this whole Russia and Hillary situation, in the past and before these Congressional committees have brought the info forward, that lead me to believe he may have a reason to slow walk this info.

    I think you may be right. Most of us believe this all can’t be true, it’s so outrageous. But maybe Trump has an intuition or some kind of inside knowledge to give it all time. I hate the waiting, but as each day passes, I see the wisdom of allowing things to emerge–or as you say, watch the grass grow: it seems like it’s not growing, but it most certainly is. Thanks, @cdor.

    • #6
  7. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    This whole debacle scares me to death. I wish with all my might that Mueller would call a press conference and state they have found no Russian collusion so they are closing up shop for the good of the country. Of course, it’s purely wishful thinking that this could happen, but the politics is getting so polarized, Americans are losing faith in previously respectable institutions, so I firmly believe no good can possibly come out of this. At this point it looks more and more as though any collusion points to the Clinton campaign, but I don’t even care. I just want it to be over. Is Mueller so blind that he cannot see?

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    Is this statement supposed to be funny?

    Tory will be back later, cdor. Given what I’ve heard from Mike Pompeo, Tory may have been sincere. Pompeo certainly gives us a good impression about how he’s trying to make things work. I take it you disagree?

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):
    This whole debacle scares me to death. I wish with all my might that Mueller would call a press conference and state they have found no Russian collusion so they are closing up shop for the good of the country. Of course, it’s purely wishful thinking that this could happen, but the politics is getting so polarized, Americans are losing faith in previously respectable institutions, so I firmly believe no good can possibly come out of this. At this point it looks more and more as though any collusion points to the Clinton campaign, but I don’t even care. I just want it to be over. Is Mueller so blind that he cannot see?

    I am so with you, GWW. I agree on every point. Except that I think Mueller does see it. I keep hearing folks say that he won’t end it until he can come up with “something,” to justify all the money he’s wasted. So I suspect he will just continue to waste more. I guess the findings on Flynn and Manafort, et al, aren’t enough. Sigh.

    • #9
  10. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    So I suspect he will just continue to waste more. I guess the findings on Flynn and Manafort, et al, aren’t enough. Sigh.

    Meanwhile, we are stuck with a national sickness on the nightly news as well as the internet full of  vitriol over Russia, emails and dirty political tricks. I knew we were in for a nasty election, but I had no idea it would never end. Hillary Clinton reminds me of the blood-thirsty Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones who would do anything for power. Maybe Trump is Jon Snow who was a ferocious fighter but naive about the powerful forces out to do him in. I don’t know who will ultimately win, but I do know we are  the ones who are currently losing as we watch the press disintegrate into a bunch of  blithering partisans pretending to be “journalists” and a Justice Department that has forgotten the difference between right and wrong.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):
    I don’t know who will ultimately win, but I do know we are the ones who are currently losing as we watch the press disintegrate into a bunch of blithering partisans pretending to be “journalists” and a Justice Department that has forgotten the difference between right and wrong.

    I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I have to believe we will win and find our way through this nightmare. I think that Republicans have finally figured out how to play the ugly political game–Grassley and Graham fighting back when they were not satisfied with all the redacting of their letter. We have to keep that up; I think Nunes is up for it. I do wish Gowdy would stick around, but I don’t blame him for wanting to get out of this nightmare.

    • #11
  12. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Deleted. Because I am a wimp.

    PM me for details.

    • #12
  13. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    Is this statement supposed to be funny?

    Tory will be back later, cdor. Given what I’ve heard from Mike Pompeo, Tory may have been sincere. Pompeo certainly gives us a good impression about how he’s trying to make things work. I take it you disagree?

    I wasn’t speaking of the current director. John Brennan seemed a political hack to me. But what do I know? Not much.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    I wasn’t speaking of the current director. John Brennan seemed a political hack to me. But what do I know? Not much.

    I think we all feel like we don’t know much of anything. It feels awful, @cdor.

    • #14
  15. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Is this statement supposed to be funny?

     

    –No. My readings of the CIA for the last 20 years, seem to indicate that the US on balance is well served by the CIA.  With the exception of Iraq WMD’s.

     

    –CIA directors are hacks. But the CIA is not there directors.  Fortunately.

     

    –I will get into specifics when I am home from work tonight.

    • #15
  16. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    Is this statement supposed to be funny?

    –No. My readings of the CIA for the last 20 years, seem to indicate that the US on balance is well served by the CIA. With the exception of Iraq WMD’s.

    –CIA directors are hacks. But the CIA is not there directors. Fortunately.

    –I will get into specifics when I am home from work tonight.

    OK so this is another situation like the FBI, wherein the upper level and political appointees are seriously problematic, but the rank and file and hard working and honest. I suppose you are correct @torywarwriter, But many of the higher echelons arise through the rank and file, don’t they?

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    But many of the higher echelons arise through the rank and file, don’t they?

    Ah, but even I realize there could be different cultures. Once the rank and file, move up, they could be corrupted. It would be hard to resist, unless one has a strong moral set.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    This story was shared with me anonymously. I include it here, with permission:

    Does anyone have any experience with the FBI? There’s a line from The Firm that I always remember: I can reach up your *** and do something something and not violate your rights.

    Anyway, on a personal note, I’ve got a good friend whose dad flipped his lid back in the late 70s. He worked in quality control for a defense contractor and thought a plane crash was his fault. He was convinced the FBI was spying on him.

    Diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic … a stint in the nut house. He became a somewhat functioning alcoholic. Lived on his own in a motorhome.

    Until he wasn’t. 20 years later he hanged himself, and his only son found him.

    Chaos ensued; getting the body to bury, etc etc. It was a tough funeral.

    When my good friend finally limped her way back to work, guess who the first call was from? And guess who was the last person to talk to him alive?

    I’ll give you three guess and the first two are free.

    Apparently the FBI had been in touch with him for years – the last conversation was going over testimony he was going to give to a grand jury. And a detailed explanation of what he’d be charged with if he didn’t testify

    • #18
  19. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    And no doubt @susanquinn there are a million stories just like that one. That’s why I say, none of these bureaucracies are filled with angels. They are mortals with a great deal of power…potentially corrupting power.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    And no doubt @susanquinn there are a million stories just like that one. That’s why I say, none of these bureaucracies are filled with angels. They are mortals with a great deal of power…potentially corrupting power.

    And I’m beginning to think it’s pretty easy to be corrupted, even when you don’t start out that way. When day after day you work with people who are bent on doing what they wish, breaking the rules in every which way, your own values can erode; it’s hard to know who to trust anymore, @cdor. I’ve always been a believer in being a bit wary with new people I meet, but nowadays we have to be wary of everyone. It’s tragic.

    • #20
  21. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    OK so this is another situation like the FBI, wherein the upper level and political appointees are seriously problematic, but the rank and file and hard working and honest. I suppose you are correct @torywarwriter, But many of the higher echelons arise through the rank and file, don’t they?

    –Actually my problem with the FBI stems from a culture from the bottom up to the top.

    –The problem with the FBI is it staffed by cops and is trying to do the job of spies.  The needs of national security and counterespionage often conflict with cops.

    –The entire structure including promotion is based around Field Agents.  If you are not a field agent, you will never rise in the ranks of the FBI.  That means if your a FBI intel analysis you will never become a Deputy Director or even run a field office.

    –This means that every problem is dealt with by guys who think like cops.

    • #21
  22. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    And no doubt @susanquinn there are a million stories just like that one. That’s why I say, none of these bureaucracies are filled with angels. They are mortals with a great deal of power…potentially corrupting power.

    And I’m beginning to think it’s pretty easy to be corrupted, even when you don’t start out that way. When day after day you work with people who are bent on doing what they wish, breaking the rules in every which way, your own values can erode; it’s hard to know who to trust anymore, @cdor. I’ve always been a believer in being a bit wary with new people I meet, but nowadays we have to be wary of everyone. It’s tragic.

    Indeed. So how must it feel to be Donald J Trump…or his family? Do you think he expected this kind of incessant and insidious blowback when he decided to take that ride down the escalator?

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    –This means that every problem is dealt with by guys who think like cops.

    And you might elaborate on the drawback of this characteristic . . .

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    Indeed. So how must it feel to be Donald J Trump…or his family? Do you think he expected this kind of incessant and insidious blowback when he decided to take that ride down the escalator?

    I think he hinted at that when he said he didn’t think the job would be this hard. Neither did we.

    • #24
  25. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    Indeed. So how must it feel to be Donald J Trump…or his family? Do you think he expected this kind of incessant and insidious blowback when he decided to take that ride down the escalator?

    I think he hinted at that when he said he didn’t think the job would be this hard. Neither did we.

    None of us did. We have all experienced being on the side of a losing candidate and the consequences of rule by the other party, but I’m not sure any of us were prepared for the revelations we now see coming out as to the extent the losers have gone to not only oppose his policies but a deadly serious effort  to invalidate the election through the use of the Justice Department by the last administration at the highest levels. It’s shocking.

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):
    . It’s shocking.

    Indeed it is, GWW. But it’s a long ways from over. I wouldn’t throw in the towel yet, especially as our folks keep getting smarter about the process.

    • #26
  27. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Indeed it is, GWW. But it’s a long ways from over. I wouldn’t throw in the towel yet, especially as our folks keep getting smarter about the process.

    I so hope you’re right, but I feel discouraged today after a dinner last night with three Dem friends. It so happens that we rarely discuss politics as they all know I’m who I am and they are who they are. We are neighbors, widows, dog lovers, grandmothers, avid readers and have oodles in common having nothing to do with politics. For some reason, I naively thought they were as disgusted with this whole Russia-FBI mess as I and wanted it to end. When I suggested my desire for Mueller to call a big press conference and declare the investigation over for the good of the country, my sweet, dear friends turned into growling Pit Bulls with teeth bared, out for Trump’s blood. When they saw the hurt and shock on my face, that particular conversation ended quickly.  The incident leaves me with a sense of dread of the determination on the other side, regardless of the evidence and regardless of the effect the fight is having on the morale in this country.

    • #27
  28. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    And you might elaborate on the drawback of this characteristic . . .

    –The job of a cop is law enforcement.  Not Crime Prevention.

    –Watch the tv show the Wire to see exactly how cops mentalities work.

    –In easier parlance.  When Khalid Sheik Mohammed the mastermind behind the 9/11 Terrorist attack is reported in the US shortly before those attacks.  KSM has already known for attacks around the world including a plot to kill the Pope in the Phillipines that nearly succeeded.

    –The FBI assigns the most junior officer of the New York Field Office, who has been out of Quantico for 6 months.  Because Terrorism is a hard case, and no real agent wants to be assigned to such a loser case.

    –In the FBI you get promoted by solving cases.  You don’t get it by preventing crimes from happening.

    The case of Robin Raphael is not only instructive of many of the problems I am talking about, but also damaged National Security of the USA because of total incompetence in my opinion of the FBI who were much to interested in getting another case under their belt than doing what was in the best interest of the United States government.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/when-diplomats-get-punished-for-doing-their-jobs/2016/05/17/e86d5794-1c50-11e6-9c81-4be1c14fb8c8_story.html?utm_term=.ca25dc40504c

    I remember a interview on Spycast talking about the situation.  Basically the US Drone program officially does not exist and is under the classification of Special Access Program.  But given US drones are bombing Pakistan all the time, especially in 2013 to 2014, its constantly talked about by the Pakistani government that Ambassador Raphael was talking to.

    When she asked the FBI agents involved what she should say to Pakistani government officials who are asking her about latest bombings in there country.  The FBI agents responded that she just say there is no bombing and basically to shut up.

    I think my favorite is reading James Bamfords autobiography talking about how working in the Counter Terrorism center in the 90’s how his counterpart in the FBI threatened to arrest him and put him before a grand jury multiple times, for refusing to share the names of confidential CIA sources.  Cause thats the best way to handle interagency cooperation.

     

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Indeed it is, GWW. But it’s a long ways from over. I wouldn’t throw in the towel yet, especially as our folks keep getting smarter about the process.

    I so hope you’re right, but I feel discouraged today after a dinner last night with three Dem friends. It so happens that we rarely discuss politics as they all know I’m who I am and they are who they are. We are neighbors, widows, dog lovers, grandmothers, avid readers and have oodles in common having nothing to do with politics. For some reason, I naively thought they were as disgusted with this whole Russia-FBI mess as I and wanted it to end. When I suggested my desire for Mueller to call a big press conference and declare the investigation over for the good of the country, my sweet, dear friends turned into growling Pit Bulls with teeth bared, out for Trump’s blood. When they saw the hurt and shock on my face, that particular conversation ended quickly. The incident leaves me with a sense of dread of the determination on the other side, regardless of the evidence and regardless of the effect the fight is having on the morale in this country.

    In a sense, it doesn’t matter what they think. Our side is finally ready to fight . I  can’t believe I am saying this,  but they’ve got it coming.

    • #29
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