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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

FISA Court Compromised? FBI Investigates

By Susan Duclos

When a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court order to Verizon for data on all their costumers, on an daily ongoing basis, for a period of almost three months, was published by The Guardian, it became obvious that someone with access to highly classified FISA warrants, one of the most highly classified documents inside the U.S. government, were being leaked.

The FBI are now investigating whether there is a mole within the FISA court.

Via The Daily Beast:

Those who receive the warrant—the first of its kind to be publicly disclosed—are not allowed “to disclose to any other person” except to carry out its terms or receive legal advice about it, and any person seeing it for those reasons is also legally bound not to disclose the order. The officials say phone companies like Verizon are not allowed to store a digital copy of the warrant, and that the documents are not accessible on most NSA internal classified computer networks or on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, the top-secret internet used by the U.S. intelligence community.

The warrants reside on two computer systems affiliated with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. Both systems are physically separated from other government-wide computer networks and employ sophisticated encryption technology, the officials said. Even lawmakers and staff lawyers on the House and Senate intelligence committees can only view the warrants in the presence of Justice Department attorneys, and are prohibited from taking notes on the documents.

“The only time that our attorneys would have gotten to read one was if Justice Department lawyers came over with it in a secure pouch and sat there with them when they read them,” said Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican chairman and ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  “There was never one in the intelligence-committee spaces, never one left there without someone from the Justice Department. It would not have been left there overnight.”

U.S. intelligence officials were careful to say investigators have not yet concluded there is a mole inside the FISA Court or that the secure databases that store the court warrants have been compromised, only that both prospects were under active investigation.

If the secret court has been breached, it would be one of the most significant intelligence failures in U.S. history, potentially giving America’s adversaries a road map to every suspected agent inside the United States currently being watched by the FBI, according to the officials. Unlike the Verizon order and other such sweeping collection demands that have been received by internet and telecom companies, many FISA warrants identify a specific individual or entity being monitored by the U.S. government.

“If we have a human or electronic breach in this system it could be a counter-intelligence disaster. It would allow our adversaries to see what we are targeting and how,” said Joel Brenner, a former inspector general and senior counsel for the NSA who left the agency in 2010.

It has been determined that Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who provided subsequent documents to The Guardian about the NSA's secret Prism program, showing the NSA collecting data on Americans in a massive domestic spying scandal, did not have access to the FISA court orders, leading investigators to wonder if there is a mole in the FISA court itself.

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, who published the top-secret Verizon court order and the Prism slides, has refused to confirm that Snowden was also the source for the FISA court order, saying "Well, first of all, I am not going to confirm that there is only one individual, there could be one or more than one."

A U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of the current investigation said Snowden would not be able to access a court warrant by himself. “This is not something, even if you are a contractor and you work for an intelligence agency like NSA, that you are going to be able to get a hold of,” this official said of the FISA warrant. ABC News first quoted law-enforcement sources last week saying that Snowden would not have access to the FISA warrant in his job as a system administrator employed by contractor Booz Allen Hamilton working for the NSA.

When asked if Snowden had more such warrants on Thursday, Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “Candidly, nobody really knows the answer to that today. I think we will know the answer to that shortly.”
Congressman Rogers is correct considering Snowden, during a live question and answer session, stated unequivocally the "Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped," as he promised further disclosures were coming.

Read the entire Daily Beast piece.