Judge rules secret FBI national security letters unconstitutional

CA Federal Judge Illston Sends FBI a Message

Judge rules secret FBI national security letters unconstitutional

fbiwarantless12z.jpg

Feb. 10, 2009: The main headquarters of the FBI, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, in Washington, DC.AP

A federal judge has struck down a set of laws allowing the FBI to issue so-called national security letters to banks, phone companies and other businesses demanding customer information.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said the laws violate the First Amendment and the separation of powers principles and ordered the government to stop issuing the secretive letters or enforcing their gag orders, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The FBI almost always bars recipients of the letters from disclosing to anyone — including customers — that they have even received the demands, Illston said in the ruling released Friday.

The government has failed to show that the letters and the blanket non-disclosure policy “serve the compelling need of national security,” and the gag order creates “too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted,” the San Francisco-based Illston wrote.

A Department of Justice spokesman told the Journal the department was “reviewing the order.”

FBI counter-terrorism agents began issuing the letters, which don’t require a judge’s approval, after Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The case arises from a lawsuit that lawyers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed in 2011 on behalf of an unnamed telecommunications company that received an FBI demand for customer information.

“We are very pleased that the court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” EFF lawyer Matt Zimmerman said. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”

Illston wrote that she was also troubled by the limited powers judges have to lift the gag orders.

Judges can eliminate the gag order only if they have “no reason to believe that disclosure may endanger the national security of the United States, interfere with a criminal counter-terrorism, or counterintelligence investigation, interfere with diplomatic relations, or endanger the life or physical safety of any person.”

That provision also violated the Constitution because it blocks meaningful judicial review.

Illston ordered the FBI to cease issuing the letters, but put her order on hold for 90 days so the U.S. Department of Justice can appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Illston isn’t the first federal judge to find the letters troubling. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York also found the gag order unconstitutional, but allowed the FBI to continue issuing them if it made changes to its system such as notifying recipients they can ask federal judges to review the letters.

Illston ruled Friday that it’s up to Congress, and not the courts, to tinker with the letters.

In 2007, the Justice Department’s inspector general found widespread violations in the FBI’s use of the letters, including demands without proper authorization and information obtained in non-emergency circumstances. The FBI has tightened oversight of the system.

The FBI made 16,511 national security letter requests for information regarding 7,201 people in 2011, the latest data available. The FBI uses the letters to collect unlimited kinds of sensitive, private information like financial and phone records.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Advertisements

Office Depot Memorial Drive Stone Mountain, GA

Office Depot Acting Like Idiots

Have you ever been to Office Depot, where everyone wants to act like an idiot?

I sent someone to Office Depot today.  All he needed was three cover sheets printed onto 50-65# card stock.  He knows nothing about these things, and is from another country.

Anyway, the idiots in there told him that it would be 3-4 hours to make three copies on 50-65# card stock, because they have to change the paper?  What kind of bullshit is that?  3-4 Hours?  Hell, all they have to do, is take the three pieces of card stock over to the copier, stick those three blank pieces of card stock on top of the paper in the copier, and but the document to be copied onto the scanner, punch 3 for 3 copies, and hit enter.

How hard is that?  I swear Alex Jones and the others are absolutely right about us being “dumbed down”, that is about the dumbest thing I have ever heard.  3-4 hours for 3 copies.  I was in printing back before computers took over, and hell, you could wash up the printing press, put the new ink in, warm it up, install the plate on the drum, and get it registering, and print 3 sheets of card stock in 15 minutes tops.  And they are going to tell me that it will take 3-4 hours to change a copier over to print on card stock, when I know for a fact, it will print on that stock, without changing a damned thing.

Ok, Good Luck To All Out There Having to Get Something Printed on Card Stock at the Office Depot Memorial Drive Stone Mountain, GA!

Whistleblower Michael Winston Screwed By the Appeals Court

POLICY: LAW

http://washingtonexaminer.com/a-whistleblowers-worst-nightmare/article/2546069

A whistleblower’s worst nightmare

BY DIANE DIMOND | MARCH 21, 2014 AT 2:52 PM

TOPICS: 2007 HOUSING CRISIS WHISTLEBLOWERS LAW

Photo – Sadly, there is not enough space here to tell you the entire 7-year saga of whistleblower Michael Winston, but the bottom line is this: He got royally screwed by the California judicial system.

Sadly, there is not enough space here to tell you the entire 7-year saga of whistleblower Michael…

Justice is supposed to be blind. But what happens when it turns out to be blind, deaf and dumb?

Sadly, there is not enough space here to tell you the entire 7-year saga of whistleblower Michael Winston, but the bottom line is this: He got royally screwed by the California judicial system.

Winston, 62, is a mild-mannered Ph.D. and a veteran leadership executive who has held top jobs at elite corporations such as McDonnell Douglas, Motorola and Merrill Lynch. After taking time off to nurse his ailing parents, Winston was recruited by Countrywide Financial to help polish their corporate Image. He was quickly promoted — twice — and had a team of 200 employees.

It’s almost unheard of for a top-tier executive turning whistleblower, but that’s what Winston became after he noticed many of his staff were sickened by noxious air in their Simi Valley, California, office. When the company failed to fix the problem, Winston picked up the phone and called Cal-OSHA to investigate. Retaliation was immediate. Winston’s budget was cut and most of his staff was reassigned.

Sign Up for the Politics Today newsletter!

Several months later, Winston says he refused Countrywide’s request to travel to New York and, basically, lie to the credit ratings agency Moody’s about corporate structure and practices. That was the death knell for Winston’s stellar 30-year-long career.

When Countrywide was bought out by Bank of America in 2008 — following Countrywide’s widely reported lead role in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that caused the collapse of the U.S. housing market — Winston was out of a job.

In early 2011, after a month-long trial, a jury overwhelmingly found that Winston had been wrongfully terminated and awarded him nearly $4 million. Lawyers for Bank of America (which had assumed all Countrywide liabilities) immediately asked the judge to overturn the verdict. Judge Bert Gennon Jr. denied the request saying, “There was a great deal of evidence that was provided to the jury in making their decision, and they went about it very carefully.” Winston and his lawyer maintain they won despite repeated and egregious perjury by the opposition.

Winston never saw a dime of his award, and nearly two years later, B of A appealed. In February 2013, the Court of Appeal issued a stunning reversal of the verdict. The court declared Winston had failed to make his case.

“This never happens … this isn’t legal,” Cliff Palefsky, a top employment lawyer in San Francisco told me during a phone conversation. “The appeals court is not supposed to go back and cherry-pick through the evidence the way this court did. And if there is any doubt about a case, they are legally bound to uphold the jury’s verdict.”

None of the legal eagles I spoke to could explain why the Court of Appeal would do such an apparently radical thing.

The Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection group in D.C., has been watching the Winston case closely. Senior Counsel Richard Condit says he believes the appeal judge wrongly “nullified” the jury’s determination.

“This case is vitally important,” Condit told me on the phone. “Seeing what happened to Winston, who will ever want to come forward and reveal what they know about corporate wrongdoings?” GAP and various legal academicians are trying to figure out a way to get Winston’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There have been whispers about the possible malpractice of Winston’s trial lawyer failing to file crucial documents that might have satisfied the appeal court’s questions. His appellate lawyer didn’t even tell him when the appeals court was hearing the case and Winston was out of town. The LA District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Department refused to follow up on evidence that Countrywide witnesses, including founder Angelo Mozilo, had blatantly committed perjury on the stand. Some court watchers speak of the, “unholy alliance” between big corporations and the justice system in California.

Winston, who says he spent $600,000 on legal fees, further depleted his savings by appealing to the California Supreme Court. That court refused to hear his case.

During one of our many hours-long phone conversations, Winston told me, “So, here I sit,” the whistleblower. The good guy loses. And the bad guys, officials at the corporation that cheated and lied and nearly caused the collapse of the U.S. economy — win.”

There’s a lot of talk out of Washington these days about “economic equality.” But seven years have passed since the housing crisis and the feds have not prosecuted one key executive from any of the financial giants that helped fuel the economic crash. Too big to fail — and too big to jail, I guess.

Bank of America has spent upward of $50 billion in legal fees, litigation costs and fines cleaning up the Countrywide mess. Their latest projections indicate they’ll spend billions more before it’s over. To my mind, a stiff prison sentence for the top dogs who orchestrated the original mortgage schemes would go much further than agreeing that they pay hefty fines. That’s no deterrent to others since they all have lots of money.

A recent email I got from Michael Winston, a proud man who has been unemployed for four years, said: “I have just received (a) court order mandating that I pay to Bank of America over $100,000.00 for their court costs. This will be in all ways — financial, emotional, physical and spiritual — painful.”

If a top-tier executive can’t prevail blowing the whistle on a corrupt company, if the feds fail to pursue prison terms, and if a jury’s verdict can be over-turned without the opportunity to appeal — what kind of signal does that send to the dishonest?

You know the answer. We’re telling them it is OK to put profit above everything else. We’re telling them to continue their illegal behaviors because there will be no prison time for them. At worst, they may only have to part with a slice of their ill-gotten gains.

This is not the way the justice system is supposed to work.

 

DIANE DIMOND, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

Garfield on Stopa’s Courage and Court’s Bias

Attorney Mark Stopa Shows Guts Confronting Appellate Court Bias                          Posted on October 4, 2013 by Neil Garfield 

http://livinglies.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/attorney-mark-stopa-shows-guts-confronting-appellate-court-bias/ 

I have just received a copy of a daring and tempestuous motion for rehearing en banc filed by the winner of the appeal. The homeowner won because of precedent, law and common sense; but the court didn’t like their own decision and certified an absurd question to the Florida Supreme Court. The question was whether the Plaintiff in a foreclosure case needs to have standing at the commencement of the action. Whether it is jurisdictional or not (I think it is clearly jurisdictional) Stopa is both right on the law and right on his challenge to the Court on the grounds of BIAS.

The concurring opinion of the court actually says that the court is ruling for the homeowner because it must — but asserts that it is leading to a result that fails to expedite cases where the outcome of the inevitable foreclosure is never in doubt. In other words, the appellate court has officially taken the position that we know before we look at a foreclosure case that the bank should win and the homeowner should lose. The entire court should be recused for bias that they have put in writing. What homeowner can bring an action or defend an action where the outcome desired by the courts in that district have already decided that homeowners are deadbeats and their defenses are quite literally a waste of time? Under the rules, the Court should not hear the the motion for rehearing en banc, should vacate that part of the decision that sets up the rube certified question, and the justices who participated must be recused from hearing further appeals on foreclosure cases. 

Lest their be any mistake, and without any attempt to step on the toes of Stopa’s courageous brief on an appeal he already won, I wish to piggy back on his brief and expand certain points. The problem here might be the subject of a federal due process action against the state. Judges who have already decided foreclosure or mortgage litigation cases before they even see them are not fit to hear them. It IS that simple.

The question here was stated as the issue of standing at the commencement of the lawsuit. Does the bank need to have a claim before it files it? The question is so absurd that it is difficult to address without a joke. But this is not funny. The courts have rapidly evolved into a position that expedited decisions are better than fair decisions. There is NOTHING in the law that supports that position and thousands of cases that say the opposite is true under our system of law. Any judge who leans the other way should be recused or taken off the bench entirely. 

In lay terms, the Appellate Court’s certified question would allow anyone who thinks they might have a claim in the future to file the lawsuit now. And the Court believes this will relieve the clogged court calendars. If this matter is taken seriously and the Supreme Court accepts the certified question for serious review it will merely by acceptance be making a statement that makes it possible for all kinds of claims that anticipate an injury. 

It is bad enough that judges appear to be ignoring the requirement that there must be an allegation that a loan was made by the originating party and that the Plaintiff actually bought the loan. This was an obvious requirement that was consistently required in pleading until the courts were clogged with mortgage litigation, at which point the court system tilted far past due process and said that if the borrower stopped paying there were no conditions under which the borrower could win the case. 

It is bad enough that Judges appear to be ignoring the requirement that the allegation that the Plaintiff will suffer financial damage unless relief is granted. This was an obvious requirement that was consistently required in pleading until the mortgage meltdown. 

Why is this important? Because the facts will show that lenders consistently violated basic and advanced protections that have been federal and State law for decades. These violations more often than not produced an unenforceable loan — as pointed out in law suits by federal and state regulators, and as pointed out by the lawsuits of investors who were real lenders who are screwed each time the court enters foreclosure judgment in favor of the bank instead of the investor lenders. 

It is not the fault of borrowers that this mess was created. It is the fault of Wall Street Bankers who were working a scheme to defraud investors by diverting the real transaction and making it appear that the banks were principals in the loan transaction when in fact they were never real parties in interest. Nobody would seriously argue that this eliminates the debt. But why are we enforcing that debt with completely defective mortgage instruments in a process that confirms the fraud and ratifies it to the damage of investors who put up the money in the first place? The courts have made a choice that is unavailable in our system of law. 

This is also judicial laziness. If these justices want to weigh in on the mortgage mess, then they should have the facts and not the stories put forward by Wall Street that have been proven to be pure fiction, fabrication, lies and perjury. That the Court ignores what is plainly documented in hundreds of thousands of defective mortgage transactions and the behavior of banks that resulted in “strangers to the transaction” being awarded title to property — that presents sufficient grounds to challenge any court in the system on grounds of bias and due process. If ever we had a mass hysteria for prejudging cases, this is it. 

Neil Garfield | October 4, 2013 at 9:26 am | Tags: bias, Mark Stopa, motion for rehearing en banc, recusal, removal of judge, standing | Categories: CORRUPTION, Eviction, foreclosure, foreclosure mill, investment banking, Investor, MODIFICATION, Mortgage, Motions, Pleading, politics, securities fraud, Servicer | URL: http://wp.me/p7SnH-5GX