Tuesday, March 14, 2017
FBI’s methods to spy on journalists should remain classified, judge rules
A federal judge is agreeing with the FBI's contention that publicly disclosing its methods on how it spies on journalists could hamper national security.
A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Freedom of the Press Foundation sought FBI procedures surrounding the agency's protocol when issuing National Security Letters (NSLs) against members of the media. Without a court warrant, an NSL allows the bureau to obtain "subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records" from third-party wire or electronic communication providers if such information is "relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
The items withheld from the organization, according to US District Judge Haywood Gilliam, included "instructions for managing and conducting cyber investigations," the "instructions for investigating and charging members of the news media," an NSL "PowerPoint training presentation," and other materials in draft form.
Judge Gilliam, in deciding Monday that the FBI does not have to disclose the information sought, ruled (PDF) that the FBI "described with particularity that the withheld documents all contained non-public information about the FBI's investigative techniques and procedures. These pages not only identified NSLs as an investigative technique but also described information such as the circumstances under which the techniques should be used, how to analyze the information gathered through these techniques, and the current focus of the FBI's investigations."