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DOJ Accidentally Gives Lawyer Wiretap Transcript 319

good soldier svejk writes "'It could be a scene from Kafka or Brazil. Imagine a government agency, in a bureaucratic foul-up, accidentally gives you a copy of a document marked "top secret." And it contains a log of some of your private phone calls. You read it and ponder it and wonder what it all means. Then, two months later, the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it.' That is what happened to Washington D.C. attorney Wendell Belew. His lawsuit takes on special significance given today's Sixth Circuit Court ruling that surveillance victims can only sue the DOJ if they can prove they were affected."
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DOJ Accidentally Gives Lawyer Wiretap Transcript

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  • Standing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HUADPE ( 903765 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:11AM (#19778629) Homepage
    Well, this is proof of standing, the question now is will the court consider it admissible?
  • Ha hah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Elemenope ( 905108 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:12AM (#19778633)
    Here's to hoping he broke the law and made copies...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by AaxelB ( 1034884 )
      Of course he did, wouldn't you? He filed the lawsuit with one, since they took the first one away.
      TFA:

      The lawyers retrieved one of the remaining copies of the document -- presumably from Saudi Arabia -- and used it to file a complaint in U.S. District Court in Oregon in February of last year.



      And here's to hoping he doesn't mysteriously "commit suicide." From 1500 meters.
      • Of course he did, wouldn't you?

        I certainly would!

        He filed the lawsuit with one, since they took the first one away.

        Here's to small favors and quick thinking. I have become increasingly worried that the state secrets doctrine would leave a gaping hole in our system of Judicial Constitutional Review, as so long as a domestic surveillance program is a state secret it would be awfully hard to get standing to see the inside of a courtroom on the issue.

        And here's to hoping he doesn't mysteriously "comm

        • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
          Tinfoil hat or not, an assassination just wouldn't make sense at this point.

                But sadly, burning down the US equivalent of the Reichstag WOULD make sense at this point. After all, they could blame it on the "terrorists".
          • Man, that is so 20th Century! These days, we burn down other people's buildings and blame the terrorists.
        • Re:Ha hah! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Squalish ( 542159 ) <Squalish AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:45AM (#19779023) Journal
          This is the Dubya NSA/CIA/ETC - the career spies that weren't willing to shut up and follow orders are gone. Machiavellian ambition matched only by incompetence: That's what you're dealing with.

          The Cold Warriors weren't stupid. They were seeking heavily guarded secrets about the machinations of a superpower. The stakes were, officially, the fate of freedom itself, not a building here or there. The best and the brightest. Those who never succeeded against an intelligent adversary were fired, or for the real spying, killed. But tell me that someone who 'fails to catch a terrorist plot' by attempting to find suspicious brown people is going to face any real accountability, ever. This war needs no victory, because defeat is impossible. It wouldn't really matter if the Directorate was increasingly brazen in deciding who to assassinate(which we do, officially, do now), because even on an agency level, they really can't lose face until 2009, no matter how often they fail. There will always be targets, and so there will always be work, and so they will always be heroes defending our safety. This is the culture of the War on Terror.

          We the nation kidnap people around the world and torture them,
          And then WE THE PEOPLE find out about it, through these monsters' incompetence - resulting in a medium-sized PR war between those that believe in human rights and those who don't, that's eventually lost because Mat Lauer needs an exclusive next week, no matter how much NBC News has to suck up to the administration. Then, the fact that we kidnap and torture people becomes passe, becomes something that people occasionally bitch about, but essentially accept.

          What makes you think a domestic assassination would be any different?

          I say this as someone normally allergic to tinhattery: Never put anything past these people. They will always surprise you with yet another step towards totalitarian fascism, something unthinkable yesterday, which will be mildly distasteful tomorrow.
      • Re:Ha hah! (Score:5, Funny)

        by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:57AM (#19778795)
        But now the government will obviously claim that the "copy" is in fact a work of fiction, completely made up. And NO they can't have access to any records to see if this is true or not. Such records don't exist. And if they did, they are state secrets.

        Watch, you'll see.
    • Here's to hoping he broke the law and made copies...

      He would be breaking a court order. That is not the same as breaking the law.

      Since the actions of Cheney and Bush in ordering warantless wiretaps are criminal the courts should not afford them the protection of state secrets.

      It appears that they have copies of the papers in Saudi Arabia, beyond the power of the US courts.

      • Last I checked, contempt of court was a crime, as was possessing (much less REPRODUCING) classified documents without proper clearance. But, as you say, since copies have reached far beyond the point of recovery, it would be extremely hard to argue they are in any sense still secret.

  • Pentagon Papers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:18AM (#19778645) Homepage
    Didn't the Pentagon Papers case, which went all the way up to the Supreme Court, rule that once classified information has been leaked to the public, it can be freely copied and published?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by conlaw ( 983784 )
      No. The Pentagon Papers case (403 US 713) was a "per curiam" ("by the court") decision which simply stated that it is unconstitutional to try to stop material from being published. Of course, there were several separate opinions in which the Justices explained why they felt the information should or should not be published. It's probably possible to support any view regarding the release and/or publication of classified material by following the rationale of one or more of the Justices' separate opinions
  • Brazil the movie (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:21AM (#19778657) Journal
    That's Brazil [imdb.com] the Terry Gilliam movie, not the South American country. Thought I'd clear that up before Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva decides to invade Slashdistan for badmouthing.

    • "... before Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva decides to invade Slashdistan for badmouthing."

      Oh? How many Iraqis has Lula killed? Zero.

      Lula has a long way to go to be as corrupt as the Bush administration.
    • by niceone ( 992278 ) *
      That's Brazil the Terry Gilliam movie, not the South American country. Thought I'd clear that up before Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva decides to invade Slashdistan for badmouthing.

      You have that the wrong way round. First you bad mouth the country, they you invade them.
  • Thankyou (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeeVeeAnt ( 1002953 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:21AM (#19778661)
    To the honourable person who made this "mistake".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:22AM (#19778669)
    He shouldn't worry, as FBI has refined a process which basically guarantees you'll forget stuff like this. It's like a summer camp.
  • Old News? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by node159 ( 636992 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @07:47AM (#19778771)
    Anybody else notice the date of this article? It even mentions a ruling to come out in March.

  • forgetting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wlvdc ( 842653 )
    "the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it" lol. Is there government funding available for professionally supported forgetting? I hope with other posters the guy did copy and distribute the stuff as it should be clearly in the public domain now.
    • You can drink to forget but don't drive straight away
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by niceone ( 992278 ) *
      "the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it" lol. Is there government funding available for professionally supported forgetting? I hope with other posters the guy did copy and distribute the stuff as it should be clearly in the public domain now.

      Well there was a copy, but now they've filed it with the court:

      Even the lawyers who filed the document with the court are no longer allowed to see it; instead, they've been permitted to file declarations, un

  • To me, all the jokes above are a bit sad, since they represent an inadequate response to extremely [krysstal.com] extensive [futurepower.org] U.S. government corruption [futurepower.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:08AM (#19778845)
    This is the answer to "if you have nothing to hide, you don't need to worry". The government considers you guilty until proven innocent, and since you weren't committing a crime right now, but might in the future, we need to continue to watch you. As the article points out, it's a neat Catch-22: You can't sue because you don't have standing, and you can't get standing because the government refuses to confirm or deny that it is performing surveillance on you.
    • Um, did anyone here read the article (I know, stupid question...)

      So this guy was a lawyer for a man (and his organization) that was officially suspected of being a terrorist organization at the time. He knew that. He accepted that, and was working to get them delisted as a terrorist organization. That's not evil, perhaps even laudable, but a reasonable person might conclude that performing such an act might just get you looked at by the government...

      This is not some innocent bystander - this is exactly w
      • by trewornan ( 608722 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @10:25AM (#19779669)
        Agreed - it's perfectly reasonable to put wiretaps on people suspected of involvement in terrorism. It's even legal, you just go to a judge and explain your reasons and he gives you a warrant. So why would you break the law by wiretapping illegally instead? Perhaps because wanting to wiretap someones lawyer in the hope you'll get something you can use against them is not acceptable (for good reason) and you'd never be granted a warrant.

        But that's just that pesky human rights stuff again and in the post 9-11 era we can't afford to be respecting human rights.
  • "DOJ Accidentally Gives Lawyer Wiretap Transcript"

    Maybe it was not an accident, but someone in government who wants to help stop the corruption.
  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter@t e d a t a .net.eg> on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:19AM (#19778889) Journal
    FTA:

    Justice department lawyers have argued that, even if the pair of lawyers were monitored, judging the president's authority to do so requires looking at the specific reasons why the duo were surveilled. And those facts would be national secrets that would tip off terrorists, so no court can ever rule on the program.

    "This is not to say there is no forum to air the weighty matters at issue, which remains a matter of considerable public interest and debate, but that the resolution of these issues must be left to the political branches of government," Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief on the case.


    They may as well have just taken a copy of the Constitution, shat all over it, and filed that as their legal brief. It's like they're arguing that the entire third article of the Constitution does not apply to them.
    • Fatal flaw... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msauve ( 701917 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:49AM (#19779053)
      and the court must be stupid (or, more likely, in collusion) to accept this reasoning:

      "Justice department lawyers have argued that, even if the pair of lawyers were monitored, judging the president's authority to do so requires looking at the specific reasons why the duo were surveilled. And those facts would be national secrets that would tip off terrorists, so no court can ever rule on the program."

      Because it makes no difference to the case whatsoever, why they were monitored. Warrantless wiretapping is illegal and unconstitutional regardless of the reason for doing so.
  • by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:23AM (#19778903)
    ***Imagine a government agency, in a bureaucratic foul-up, accidentally gives you a copy of a document marked "top secret." And it contains a log of some of your private phone calls. You read it and ponder it and wonder what it all means. Then, two months later, the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it.'***

    Why the hell is the FBI tapping lawyers phone calls? And how can they possibly turn a paper marked Top Secret over to someone without a clearance? Do they have classified document tracking, document receipting, materials accountability procedures?

    May I suggest that it is long past time to consider turning law enforcement back to the state and local governments. Many of them may not be much good at it, but Americans can choose to live in places where they are. It's hard to get away from the FBI without emigrating. The US got by pretty well with minimal federal criminal laws and not a lot of federal law enforcement in the 19th Century and it may be time to think about trying that approach again.

    It's tempting to blame this on the Bush administration -- which certainly has demonstrated rather remarkable incompetence at a wide variety of things. But my impression is that the FBI has a long, long record of doing stupid, ill-advised, and (especially under Hoover) outright illegal things. Exactly what are these folks actually doing for us? Could their valuble contributions (if any) be done by the states or by a vastly scaled back organization?

    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "May I suggest that it is long past time to consider turning law enforcement back to the state and local governments. Many of them may not be much good at it, but Americans can choose to live in places where they are."

      The reason we have an FBI to begin with is that organized crime doesn't respect state lines. It doesn't matter how "effective" your home state's law enforcement is when your new neighbor's many arrest warrants are in another state that's too inept to get the information out to the other 49.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vtcodger ( 957785 )
        ***The reason we have an FBI to begin with is that organized crime doesn't respect state lines.***

        Uh, yeah ... If you will recall that national embarassment J Edgar Hoover denied for decades that organized crime existed. The FBI finally did take significant action against organized crime. But only after 60 unpleasant gentlemen were arrested at a raid on an underwold summit at Apalachin NY in 1957. That raid was conducted by New York state and local officials after they became curious what large numbers

  • by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:25AM (#19778913)
    Al-Buthi is now a "specially designated global terrorist," according to the Treasury Department, and he's under indictment in the United States for failing to declare $150,000 in travelers checks raised to help Chechnyan refugees when he last flew out of the country.

    It's unfortunate for those folks because of the actions a few. You will have similar problems if you donate money to other organizations that have a history of violence: Greenpeace, any anti abortion/pro-life (ha!) groups that have killed or bombed clinics, or anyone else. Also, I can tell you that I know for a fact that supporting any of those groups I've mentioned will in fact jeopardize a security clearance that you may want to get and I wouldn't all be surprised if in the near future, your standard background check for a corp job will be jeopardized too.

    Anyway, you don't have to use violence and it's a good idea not to. Ghandi used economic war. The Dali Lama is using peaceful means. And by not using violence, you stand on such high moral ground that you get only positive recognition for your cause. If you violence, you'll just get pegged as a terrorist.

    And I'm sure that someone will mention that the Tibetans will probably not get their country back. I will respond with, "Like the Chechnyans will?" Actually, out of all the displaced people in the World, the Tibetans have the best chance of getting their freedom back. (If Arafat wasn't such a poor strategist by using and encouraging terrorism, the Palestinians would probably have their own country by now.)

  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @08:29AM (#19778941) Journal
    The country of my birth was a police state. Shit like this, state abuse of power with absolutely no recourse for the victims, was the order of the day. Your country has become a police state since 2001. The corrupt bastards running your place, who you clowns voted in again after one abuseive term, have managed to dismember the rule of law in your country pretty effectively, partly by rigging your supreme court, and partly by then exceding the powers accorded to the President time and time again, with no real worry of being caught, because the only ones who could do anything about it are in the same camp as the ones abusing the system.

    Whatever fuckhead bin laden's goal was, he has won. Your country might be safer from "terrarists" now, but it's also safer from opposition politicians, foreign students, dissenting opinions, real freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is also safe from a stable, debt free economy. Your government has got itself suckered into two wars it will not and cannot win (did anyone really think the Taliban would just roll over and die? They're winning in Afghanistan too), but from which it cannot afford to withdraw. Your government has seriously endangered relations with a Russia that has had enough of being the USA's bitch, and which is now starting to seriously raise the stakes (do you really think you can wobble about fighting two bush wars and take on Russia too?)

    And you know who is really laughing? The Chinese. They must be having hysterics. Every time Dick "Dick" Cheney opens his mouth for a round of anti-China drivel, everyone just has a good laugh. What can your country do about the Chinese military build up which is sure to challenge the USA later in this century? Nothing, absolutely nothing. China is so big and such a huge army and population that the USA could never, even if the Chinese did not have nuclear weapons, which they do, win a conflict. On top of that the USA economy is so tied into the Chinese economy that doing anything against China would seriously damage the American economy (Have to cut down on the SUVs a bit, and the clothers and just about all else too). The USA can't even play the Indians, China's natural foes, out against the Chinese because the Indians don't trust the USA either, and they find it easier to do business with Russia when it come to arms, because the Russians don't try to tell them how to run their country.

    In closing, there are many, big bad problems in this world, and the longer Dick and Blow stay in power, the worse things will get for you. This is not an admonition to vote Democract or Libertarian or whatever other party you Americans have dreamt up, but it is a thought that perhaps voting for someone who wasn't so out to ruin his own country might be a good idea.
    • by jadin ( 65295 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @11:31AM (#19780147) Homepage

      who you clowns voted in again after one abuseive term
      Are you sure?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And you know who is really laughing? The Chinese.

      If you read the neo-con position papers over at http://www.newamericancentury.org/ [newamericancentury.org] you'll get the impression that the neo-cons have always expected China would dominate and overshadow the USA. My best understanding of their thinking is that they wanted to "get while the gettin' is good" and screw the future, since its already screwed anyway.

      So, starting a few wars and vacuuming up our tax dollars (and China's own dollars through the US treasury bonds they keep buying) via companies like Bechtel, Haliburto

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      The country of my birth was a police state. Shit like this, state abuse of power with absolutely no recourse for the victims, was the order of the day. Your country has become a police state since 2001. The corrupt bastards running your place, who you clowns voted in again after one abuseive term, have managed to dismember the rule of law in your country pretty effectively, partly by rigging your supreme court, and partly by then exceding the powers accorded to the President time and time again, with no re

      • by jdbo ( 35629 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @01:20PM (#19781009)
        > Why don't you hop in that time machine and tell us how we're supposed to vote? In 2000, that sort of information wasn't known.

        Yes, it was.

        The media just chose to focus on Gore's sighs instead of Bush/Cheney's already impressive record of incompetence. Everyone who paid attention (i.e. looked beyond the headlines actually, y'know read about the politicians) recognized that Gore was the better candidate.

        > And in 2004, there wasn't a genuine alternative.

        Yes, there was.

        Kerry was and is a competent, reasonable politician who makes decisions based on information gathering, discussion with advisors, and rational decision-making.

        Bush makes decisions "with his gut" and the country's fate rests on how well his last meal agrees with him.
  • Riiiiight (Score:4, Funny)

    by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @09:12AM (#19779187)
    "Al-Haramain worked to spread a strict view of Islam through philanthropy, missionary work and support for mosques around the world." I'm pretty sure that alone qualifies as supporting terrorism.
  • by Bunderfeld ( 1113805 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @09:25AM (#19779257) Homepage
    The DOCUMENT was, and still is, considered a State Secret. Whether or not you read it, doesn't mean you can do anything about it. In order for the Wiretapping Cases to go forward, the govt. will have to "unseal" this document, and that probably won't happen for another 200 years or so.

    Remember, the court was using "Circular Logic" to drop the case. You can't sue because you can't prove you were harmed. You can't prove you were harmed because the documents you want are State Secrets and therefore can't be used. Of course, this is the kind of thing I would have expected to read in a Russian Court in the 1980's, no offense to our Comrades here.
    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:2, Insightful)

      This is exactly what is happening.

      When the Sixth Circuit "ruled that details about the program, including who was targeted, are state secrets" revealed the courts intentions of how they would be handling these cases.

      Kind of makes me wonder if the judges that were removed were removed in preparation for these types of cases...
  • "only sue if they can prove they were affected". Now that is the most stupid thing I've ever heard in my life.

    - Hello, my name is Damocles [wikipedia.org], and I want to sue the emperor, because he got this f***ing Sword hanging above my head!
    - Sorry, sir, but unless you've been hurt by that sword, you cannot sue.
    - WTF?
    - I'm sorry, sir. Good bye.
  • http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/07/terror/m ain621621.shtml [cbsnews.com]

    We knew three years ago that this organization was an al Qaeda front group for laundering money in the US, so why does Wired keep calling it a "charity"? Put the name into Google for more information.

    I'm not supporting warrantless wiretapping, but I'm not supporting al Qaeda, either.
  • by jbrader ( 697703 ) <stillnotpynchon@gmail.com> on Saturday July 07, 2007 @11:13AM (#19779999)
    If this was like Kafka an agent would have shown up and demanded the man forget about a document that he had never actually seen. Then he would have turned into a giant bug.
  • How can this be considered top secret? More to the point why would someone sue the government for having a copy of their phone record? I can understand if he was handed a book with photographs of him throughout his life, or some skeletons, but these are just phone calls. I'd hardly count them as top secret.
  • all in the family (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @12:38PM (#19780703) Homepage Journal
    since he is an attorney he is more qualified to pursue this matter from knowledge of law than the typical American. However, from law knowledge he also knows that his career will probably be greatly stifled should he pursue it.

    From another POV, that of an American citizen, given all the insane mindset I have seen of the government since Bush got in office, I'm terrorized. Not by the fear of foreigners but buy The US government mindset. The disregard of science, factual evidence, applying double standards to crimes, the changing of laws and government structure that was originally put in place to prevent abuses by the government. But most of all, I'm terrorized by the fact that the waring mindset of the US government has stolen social security benefits (this going on for my whole life) and used them for war and yet with the largest military budget ever in mans history, hasn't put the money back, that they took from social security. And this is only the tip of the wrongs the US government has committed and is now committing against the very people that they are supposed to be representing. And that is terroristic.

    With all this insane mindset of the US government, would it be of any surprise to find that they have been generating reasons to be attacked? I.E. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2704stock market.html [pbs.org] -- follow the money to where the dot com boom and bust got its funding and lack of from, as well as the fall of the losers in the trillion dollar bet - Enron, Worldcom, etc.. and of course the excuse it all provided for the Islamic extremist to use to promote others to join them (fyi - Indonesia (80% Muslin according to the CIA) was hit the worse from the trillion dollar bet and the world bank (US run) offered to bail them out with interest..

    World Trade center, Pentagon, and probable White House: Statement being "Wrongful world stock market manipulation back by politically controlled military"
    I do not condone killing innocent or even war, but know if you don't give another reason to harm you you are a great deal safer.

    So why is not a part of the military budget going for fixing real world problems in a manner of removing reason to cause problems?
    We do Know how to do it! http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/TLSF/theme_a/ mod02/www.worldgame.org/wwwproject/index.shtml [unesco.org]

    Not doing it is supportive of Terrorism. A fraction of one percent of the 6 billion plus people of the world are in a position of starting a war. They are the terrorist and look how much the rest of us pay for their disease.

  • Forget? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @01:50PM (#19781247)
    FTA:

    Then, two months later, the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it.
    The FBI may have committed a crime by disseminating such information. At the very least, they have committed a huge screw-up. Either way, their actions may be the subject of a subsequent federal investigation. 'Forgetting' that one ever saw such documents might be considered colluding with them in a cover up. It might even come to pass that, if Belew is ever called to testify with regard to this information, his 'forgetting' its existence could be construed as a lie whereupon he will have violated federal law.

    Nope. If it were me, I'd tell the FBI agents to their face that there is no way I'm forgetting anything and in fact I will happily assist any investigations into their actions with regard to its original dissemination.

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