Saturday, August 9, 2008

FBI Apologizes to Newspapers for Obtaining Phone Records

This is really frightening. Our Constitution is being torn up before our very eyes.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has apologized to the editors of The Washington Post and The New York Times for improperly obtaining phone records of the newspapers' reporters while investigating terrorism four years ago.

Mueller called Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Times Executive Editor Bill Keller on Friday to express regret that agents did not follow proper procedures in 2004 when they obtained the phone records of a Post reporter and a researcher and two Times reporters. All four were working in Indonesia and writing about Islamic terrorism at the time.

Mueller and other FBI officials told the newspapers that agents obtained the records under a process that allowed them to bypass a grand jury review in emergency cases. The incident came to light through a review by the Justice Department's inspector general of bureau procedures that enabled the FBI to obtain thousands of records from phone companies after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the case of the newspaper reporters, agents obtained toll phone records — records of incoming and outgoing calls, but not details of conversations — using what are known as "exigent circumstances" letters.

Last year, the inspector general uncovered 700 cases in which FBI agents obtained telephone records through "exigent letters," which asserted that grand jury subpoenas had been requested for the data when in fact such subpoenas never had been sought. The FBI eliminated use of the letters in 2007.

Both Keller and Downie said they are seeking more information on the incidents, and Keller said he also wants to know how the FBI intends to prevent future incidents.

Deputy Assistant FBI Director Mike Kortan said in a statement that no investigative use was made of the reporters' phone records, and that "safeguards are now in place that we believe would prevent this from recurring."

But Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security project, said in a statement that the episode confirms that "there are insufficient safeguards on the agency's use of national security letters and other intrusive surveillance tools. There aren't enough controls inside the agency, and there aren't enough checks from outside the agency."

"Especially dangerous is the FBI's power to impose gag orders on those ordered to disclose information," Jaffer said. "These gag orders, which are often unnecessary and almost always overbroad, invite abuse.

Video: Protesters Stage 'Die-In' at Tiananmen Square

The struggle for Tibet freedom continues, Olympics or no Olympics.

Olympic "Truce" Fails to Prevent Russian-Georgian War

From the UK Guardian:

As news of the conflict reached the two teams Russia's team leader described the Georgian president as "mentally ill" and the IOC was pressed to defend the Olympic truce, broken so spectacularly just as the opening ceremony of the Beijing games took place last night.

Russia and Georgia will meet in competition in the women's beach volleyball on Wednesday, but the IOC said that it had no plans to introduce special security measures for the game.

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony in Beijing and met with IOC president Jacques Rogge, but IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the conflict was not discussed.

"The meeting was very much focused on the sporting agenda, they discussed Sochi [the Russian city hosting the 2014 winter Olympics]. There was no discussion of any political or global incidents," she said.

"The sad reality is that out of the nations who were parading last night a number of them are in conflict and in an ideal world it's not something we would like to see. We can only bring the ideals of how sport can bring people together as friends."

Russian Olympic Committee spokesman Gennady Shvets said that the team had been upset by reports of up to 1,500 deaths, and were following developments closely. He insisted that preparation would not be interrupted, but attacked the Georgian president.

"Our athletes are doing what they've prepared for years. There's no politics." Describing Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is backed by Washington, he said: "He's stupid, a criminal, mentally ill, he should go to a clinic. Normally during the Olympics countries try to calm down any conflicts they have."

U.S. Olympic Coach Family Member Murdered in China

These Olympic games are already a tragedy. And this is supposed to be a police state.

A knife-wielding Chinese man attacked two relatives of a coach for the U.S. Olympic men's volleyball team at a tourist site in Beijing, killing one and injuring the other on the first day of the Olympics on Saturday, team officials and state media said.

The man then committed suicide by throwing himself from the second story of the site, the 13th century Drum Tower just five miles from the main Olympics site.

The brutal attack shortly after midday was all the more shocking because of the rarity of violent crime against foreigners in tightly controlled China, which has ramped up security measures even more for the Olympics.

The stabbing came only hours after what by many accounts was the most spectacular opening ceremony in Olympic history and it has already dampened some of the enthusiasm.

"They are deeply saddened and shocked," Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said of the volleyball team.

The U.S. Olympic Committee said in a statement that two family members of a coach for the men's indoor volleyball team were stabbed at the Drum Tower "during an attack by what local law enforcement authorities have indicated was a lone assailant."

One of the family members was killed and the other was seriously injured, it said, without giving details.

The official Xinhua News Agency identified the attacker as Tang Yongming, 47, from the eastern city of Hangzhou. It said Tang attacked the two Americans and their Chinese tour guide, who was also injured, at 12:20 p.m. on the second level of the ancient tower, then leapt to his death immediately afterward. The second level of the tower is about 130 feet high.

Seibel said the two Americans who were attacked were not wearing anything that would have identified them as Americans or part of the U.S. team. He could not name the coach.

"They were not wearing apparel or anything that would have specifically identified them as being members of our delegation" or as Americans, he told The Associated Press.

He said it is "too early to say" whether the U.S. delegation or athletes will require additional security.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan said it was aware of an incident involving two Americans and was working with Chinese authorities to find out more. He said U.S. officials were in contact with relatives of the two Americans who are in Beijing.

Supermarket Customer Fights then Captures Armed Robber

This video shows an armed and masked robber walking into a Tulsa supermarket. After shooting at a customer the thugs gun jammed. Craig Stutzman acted. He tackled the armed man and wouldn't allow him to escape. The heroic Stutzman suffered some injuries and got stitches for fighting the robber wearing a spiderman mask.