Sunday, July 29, 2007

Data Mining Triggered Flap Between Gonzales, Congress

Fresh from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, July 28 — A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.

It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.

The N.S.A.’s data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.

The confrontation in 2004 led to a showdown in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, where Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, tried to get the ailing Mr. Ashcroft to reauthorize the N.S.A. program.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Judge Dismisses Plame's Lawsuit

Federal Judge John D. Bates dismissed a lawsuit filed by former CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame against Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the administration because they were just doing their jobs.

The Washington Post reports:

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said that Cheney and the others could not be held liable for the disclosures in the summer of 2003 in the midst of a White House effort to rebut criticism of the Iraq war by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. The judge said that such efforts are a natural part of the officials' job duties, and, thus, they are immune from liability.

"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," Bates wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials."
An interesting point is the judge owes his position to President Bush.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lawyer Sent to Jail For Testimony Leak

From AFP via Yahoo! News:

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Troy Ellerman, a defense lawyer in the BALCO steroid scandal, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Thursday for leaking secret testimony from star athlete witnesses to the media.

Ellerman, 44, had pleaded guilty in February to contempt of court, obstruction of justice and making false statements after allowing a San Francisco Chronicle reporter access to transcripts of grand jury testimony by baseball star Barry Bonds and other athletes embroiled in the BALCO steroids investigation.

Ellerman, who at the time represented BALCO Vice President James Valente, then complained about the leaks in court.

US District Judge Jeffrey White said Ellerman's actions "infected every aspect of the judicial system."

BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, was accused of producing and supplying performance-enhancing substances to top athletes in one of the worst scandals in sporting history.