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National Security

Surveillance Court Judge Rejects Experts in 'Obvious' Cases

A federal judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has determined that an expert isn't required to present an opposing view to the government on the newly minted USA Freedom Act if the legal conclusion is "obvious," The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reports. This was the first time a judge examined when the USA Freedom Act requires that technical experts be appointed in a case involving a novel or significant issue. 

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told The Post the requirement that technical experts be appointed to provide amicus briefs "'shouldn't depend on whether an issue seems obvious before the court has heard any counter arguments.'"

Second Circuit Rejects NSA's Collection of Bulk Call Data

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' phone records is illegal, The New York Times' Charlie Savage and Jonathan Weisman reports. The panel ruled that the Patriot Act can't be interpreted to allow the bulk collection of domestic call metadata, but noted that Congress could choose to authorize "'such a far-reaching and unprecedented program.'" The Patriot Act is set to expire June 1.

The Patriot Act permits the collection of records deemed "'relevant'" to a national security case, but the federal government interpreted this to cover the collection of all phone-call metadata so long as relevant records were reviewed by intelligence analysts, Savage and Weisman note.

ACLU Sues For Records Over TSA's Behavioral Detection Program

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the airport-security practice known as behavioral detection in which officers send "suspicious passengers" for additional screening, the Washington Post's Josh Hicks reports. The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit because the Transporation Secuirty Administration hasn't turned over any records about the practice, which advocates suspect leads to racial profiling.

Feds Seek to Dismiss Twitter's First Amendment Lawsuit

The Justice Department is seeking the dismissal of Twitter's lawsuit in which the social-media firm is challenging restrictions on revealing information about national security requests for user data, the Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reports: "At issue is a letter issued in January 2014 by the Justice Department relaxing limits for companies wishing to disclose the number of such requests they receive. Twitter, which was not among the five firms that negotiated the new limits with the department, thought they were still too strict." The government says that the letter does not restrict Twitter's free expression.

DOJ Won't Force Reporter to Reveal Confidential Source

Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal the identity of his confidential source, MSNBC's Pete Williams reports. James Risen said he would go to jail before naming the source who revealed an unsuccessful effort by the CIA to sabotage Iran's nuclear weapons program. The government sought to compel Risen's testimony in the trial of a former CIA official accused of leaking top-secret information.

Terrorist Jails 1.0: CIA Originally Planned Prisons Following American Standards

Right after 9/11, the CIA was given the power to imprison Al Qaeda terrorists, The New York Times' Matt Apuzzo and James Risen report. And the initial plan was to keep those jails in adherence to U.S. standards for federal or military prisons, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report released this week on the spy agency's harsh interrogation program. But when Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda logistics planner, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002, he was the first high-level terrorist to be caught. He was kept alone in a cell in Thailand for 47 days while the CIA and the Justice Department debated the legality of using harsh tactics like waterboarding, the Times reports. Then, "for three weeks in August 2002, Mr. Zubaydah was questioned using the harshest measures available, including waterboarding. But the Senate report says he never revealed information about a plot against the United States. The CIA concluded he had no such information."

Government Seeks to Halt Release of Gitmo Forcefeeding Videos

The Justice Department has moved to halt the plans of a federal judge "for releasing videotapes showing a Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being forcibly removed from his cell, strapped to a restraining chair and force-fed his meals," the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler has ruled that classified information about Abu Wa'el Dhiab's detention at Guantanamo Bay, including the 28 videos of his force-feedings should be released after identifying information of government personnel be blocked out.

Ninth Circuit Weighs Gag Orders on National Security Letters

The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument yesterday on whether it violates the First Amendment for the FBI to gag tech and telecommunications firms from revealing that they have received "national security letters" for customer records, Reuters reports. Tech companies, including Google, Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc said in court papers "the government may not 'foist a gag order upon the involuntary recipient of an NSL, let alone prohibit the recipient from even reporting periodically the aggregate number of such demands that it receives,'" Reuters further reports.

Judge Mulls Dismissal of Private Suit on National Security Grounds

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York is considering whether to dismiss a private defamation lawsuit against an Iran sanctions group on national security grounds. During oral argument today, both the plaintiff's lawyer and U.S. Attorney Michael Byars said there has been no other cases in which the government has been able to assert the state secrets privilege without giving reason, Reuters' Emily Flitter reports. Ramos has been asked to dismiss the lawsuit without the government disclosing how national security is implicated in a lawsuit "by Greek businessman Victor Restis against a non-profit group for defamation. The group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), accused him of illegally exporting oil from Iran."


Federal Government Seeks to Close Court Hearing Over Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

Lawyers for the Justice Department has moved to keep the public out of a court hearing on the practice of force feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay, reports Politico's Josh Gerstein. Syrian Wa'el Dhiab has complained that the force-feeding procedures are too harsh.

The government's motion to seal the court hearing appears to be under seal too, Gerstein said. "'There is no reason to close the upcoming hearing, other than the government's intense desire to hide from public scrutiny the evidence we have managed to uncover over the past few months,' attorney Jon EIsenberg told POLITICO Saturday."


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