“”Social media has become a significant source of information for U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law noted in a report released last week. “The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the State Department are among the many federal agencies that routinely monitor social platforms, for purposes ranging from conducting investigations to identifying threats to screening travelers and immigrants.””
“”Not only was my stuff taken without just cause…It was taken by my own government, and they were asking me to prove my innocence and subject myself to an investigation to get my stuff back, which was unlawfully taken to begin with, and had no evidentiary value.”
Perhaps most pitiful is that the Snitkos are two of the lucky ones in this story. That word feels ill-fitting for anyone in their shoes. But while the FBI has acquiesced to giving select deposit boxes back, including the one owned by the Snitkos, they are refusing to surrender others, seeking instead to keep a collective $85 million in cash and an unspecified amount of gold, silver, and precious metals from unsuspecting people.
That includes Travis May, who stored gold and $63,000 in cash, and Joseph Ruiz, who had $57,000 in his box—his life savings, which he uses to pay his living and medical expenses, according to a recently amended lawsuit.
“After the government seized this property on March 22, 2021, [Ruiz] filed a claim with the FBI to retrieve it,” notes the complaint from the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian public interest law firm representing both men. “However, the government has informed attorneys for USPV that it intends to civilly forfeit Joseph’s property. At this time, the government has not provided Joseph with any notice of the purported civil forfeiture proceeding.””
“Should the government succeed, plaintiffs Jeni Verdon-Pearsons and Michael Storc, for instance, will forcibly donate their silver, though the suit notes that they, too, have not been provided with “the factual or legal basis for the purported civil forfeiture proceeding.””
“The day before last month’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, an FBI bulletin warned that some of President Donald Trump’s supporters were calling for violence to prevent Joe Biden, then the president-elect, from taking office. The bulletin cited “specific calls for violence” in an online discussion thread.
“Be ready to fight,” the thread said. “Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled…. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
The FBI shared that bulletin, which originated from its office in Norfolk, Virginia, with a joint terrorism task force that included representatives of the Capitol Police and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). It was also posted on the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal, which is accessible to law enforcement agencies across the country, and emailed to the MPD and the Capitol Police.”
“Acting MPD Chief Robert Contee said he never saw the FBI warning. The email account to which it was sent is not monitored “24 hours a day,” he said, and a message sent to that address would not “generate an immediate response.” He suggested that the FBI should have called him instead: “I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection in the Capitol would warrant, you know, a phone call or something.” Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the riot, said he first heard about the FBI bulletin on Monday.
Contee and Sund blamed their inadequate preparation for the violence at the Capitol on a failure of intelligence.”
“That defense is complicated not just by the overlooked FBI bulletin but also by a January 3 Capitol Police intelligence report. “Due to the tense political environment following the 2020 election, the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out,” said the 12-page memo, parts of which were obtained by The Washington Post. “Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election. This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent. Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th.”
The memo noted “a worrisome call for protesters to come to these events armed” and “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence.” It said “there is the possibility that protesters may be inclined to become violent,” creating “a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”
The Post says that memo “does not appear to have been shared widely with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.” Sund, who said he did not know about the FBI’s bulletin until the day before he testified, does not seem to have made much of an effort to keep the FBI apprised of his own agency’s assessment. He told the Post “it would be inappropriate to publicly discuss an internal intelligence memo, given its sensitive nature and the risk of revealing sources and methods.””
” While it can be difficult to distinguish between macho posturing and concrete plans of violence, the fact that some people who planned to attend the “Save America” rally were arguing that peaceful protest was inadequate to the occasion, combined with the clear warning that “Congress itself is the target,” should have prompted the people charged with protecting the Capitol to reevaluate their expectations.”
“Even while noting the possibility of violence, the Capitol Police minimized the danger. According to Sund, its January 4 daily intelligence report “assessed ‘the level of probability of acts of civil disobedience/arrests occurring based on current intelligence information’ as ‘remote’ to ‘improbable’ for all of the groups expected to demonstrate on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. In addition, the daily intelligence report indicated that ‘the Secretary of Homeland Security has not issued an elevated or imminent alert at this time.'””
“The Ohio case, while extreme, is not an aberration. Corrupt electric utilities using ratepayer funds to roll back climate policy is not limited to Ohio. As I described in Short Circuiting Policy, it is an unfortunately common pattern.
Last week, the Illinois utility ComEd — whose parent company is Exelon — admitted to engaging in bribery and agreed to pay a $200 million fine. It’s very likely that another speaker, Michael Madigan, is involved in that case — the Illinois governor has already called on him to resign.
In Arizona, which I examine in my book, the FBI similarly launched an investigation into an elected official over its ties to a private electric utility, Arizona Public Service. As we now know, Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Gary Pierce met privately with then-Arizona Public Service CEO Don Brandt numerous times. The utility also funneled over $700,000 through a dark money group to Pierce’s son’s failed bid for secretary of state.
Arizona Public Service also secretly spent tens of millions on campaigns to elect its own regulators in order to secure favorable decisions, including clean energy rollbacks and generous rate hikes. In 2018 alone, it spent upward of $40 million to successfully block a clean energy ballot initiative. The new CEO, Jeff Guldner, played a key role in directing the utility’s dark political spending.
And this isn’t a new strategy. Throughout the 1990s, electric utilities including FirstEnergy and Arizona Public Service were key funders of climate denial.”
“The dogged folks at the Energy and Policy Institute — a utility watchdog that has turned up real-time facts in most of these cases — paint a clear picture for those paying attention: Most electric utilities are resisting the clean energy transition and using corruption to do it.”
“Forcing Apple to create a backdoor would perhaps make investigations easier and quicker for the FBI, but it’s not absolutely necessary to conduct investigations. The FBI didn’t say how it was able to gain access to the phones, but the agency clearly didn’t need Apple’s help to do so. This has been the case in past investigations as well. The Department of Justice is asking a company to change its business practices and create a vulnerability in millions of its customers’ devices for what amounts to a shortcut.”
“It would be reassuring, in a sense, if the FBI’s misfeasance could be explained by anti-Trump bias. But as Horowitz noted in his report, the fact that “so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations,” one that “was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI” and “FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny,” suggests a much deeper problem involving unrestrained overzealousness, confirmation bias, tunnel vision, and groupthink—tendencies that threaten all Americans who value their privacy and reputations.
Even Comey, who claims the dishonesty described by Horowitz “does not reflect the FBI culture of compliance and candor,” wonders if the failure might be “systemic,” meaning there could be “problems with other cases.””
“”When the Justice Department’s Inspector General finds significant concerns regarding flawed surveillance applications concerning the president’s campaign advisors, it is clear that this regime lacks basic safeguards and is in need of serious reform. While the report found that there wasn’t an improper purpose or initiation of the investigation, it also found significant problems that are alarming from a civil liberties perspective. For instance, the litany of problems with the Carter Page surveillance applications demonstrates how the secrecy shrouding the government’s one-sided FISA approval process breeds abuse. The concerns the Inspector General identifies apply to intrusive investigations of others, including especially Muslims, and far better safeguards against abuse are necessary.
The system requires fundamental reforms, and Congress can start by providing defendants subjected to FISA surveillance the opportunity to review the government’s secret submissions. The FBI must also adopt higher standards for investigations involving constitutionally protected sensitive activities, such as political campaigns.””
“the report by Michael Horowitz found 17 “serious performance failures” relating to warrants obtained by the FBI through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment (FISA) courts for the purposes of monitoring Page. The FISA warrant, which was reauthorized three times, contained false and misleading information about Page. It omitted that he had previously disclosed his Russian contacts to a government agency; it overstated the government’s confidence in the Christopher Steele dossier and ignored Steele’s own doubts about one of his sources; it declined to mention that Page had said he and Paul Manafort had “literally never met”; and in general it ignored information that rendered unlikely the theory that Page was a Russian asset.
These are alarming failures. They undercut the government’s position that FISA courts are a sufficient guardian of Americans’ civil liberties, and that the FBI is capable of responsibly exercising the vast powers granted to it. No one should feel confident that a court would block the FBI from engaging in surveillance, even if the information was flawed or faulty.”