ATF Training Manual – Threatens Firing Squads for Leakers

Editor’s Note – As if the tone of incivility were not bad enough in DC, and America endures the zero tolerance on kids with toy guns or a Pop-Tart gets chewed into the form of a gun, leave it to the Obama Administration to make threats to its agents if they leak information

Not just any threat – threats of facing firing squads are in their training manuals should an agent leak sensitive secrets.

Sacrebleu! ATF threatens French-style firing squad for agents who leak secrets

By Kellan Howell – The Washington Times

After months of anguished debate over mass shootings, gun control and Second Amendment rights, the Justice Department finds itself on the defensive after a training manual surfaced that suggests federal agents could face a firing squad for leaking government secrets.

A photo in the online manual for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — complete with a photo of a turn-of-the-century firing squad — was obtained by The Washington Times from a concerned federal law enforcement official, and it immediately drew protests from watchdogs who said it showed a lack of sensitivity to gun violence and the continuing hostile environment toward whistleblowers.

FiringSquads

Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said the DOJ has forgotten about the protections of the First Amendment, which covers leaks to the media, and that the photo could scare its employees into self-censorship.

The photo “would have a chilling affect on legitimate speech. And some of the rhetoric used against whistleblowers could be construed as inciting to violence because they’ve turned up the rhetoric,” Mr. Kohn said.

Justice Department officials said the photo was included as a joke and that they were unaware it was viewed as offensive by agents. They plan to remove the entry, but not until the government shutdown is ended and federal officials return to work, said Richard Marianos, the special agent in charge of the Washington division of ATF.

The photo was embedded in the annual Introduction to National Security Information online course for the ATF, the main federal law enforcement agency investigating gun violence and illegal gun trafficking.

Richard Roberts, a public information officer for the International Union of Police Associations, said his opinion is that the photo is nothing more than a humorous attempt to underscore a serious point.

“During many years of law enforcement experience, I can attest to the fact that law enforcement personnel often use gallows humor as a release from the grim realities of the profession,” he said.

But watchdogs raised immediate concerned that the image may have an unintended chilling effect on DOJ employees, as the agency has often been criticized for its handling of whistleblowers.

While the DOJ may be making light of a serious policy, Mr. Kohn said the photo was hypocritical, unconstitutional and unprofessional.

“The government leaks information all the time and they get away with it,” Mr. Kohn said. “They don’t go after leaks that they support. The government leaks, and when it is officially condoned they do not investigate or prosecute.”

A major incident that Mr. Kohn referenced was the case of former U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, who was removed from his position in Michigan by the DOJ after the DOJ leaked negative information about him.

“It significantly harmed his reputation, turned out not to be true, and we filed a privacy act lawsuit in 2003 and we are still fighting with the Justice Department to try to find out who the source of that leak was,” Mr. Kohn said. “They have used well over $1 million of taxpayer resources to cover up a DOJ employee who violated the law when he leaked information to defame a whistleblower and that’s one of the biggest problems with this whole campaign against leaks.”

Mr. Kohn said the DOJ has forgotten about the protections of the First Amendment, which covers leaks to the media. There is also Supreme Court precedent in the case of Pickering v. Board of Education which established the constitutional right of public employees to provide information to the news media, he said.

“This is a campaign to silence and intimidate whistleblowers and what is the most troubling part of this aggressive campaign, is that the justice department has completely ignored the first amendment,” Mr. Kohn said.

A law enforcement official told The Washington Times that the training materials were assembled for ATF and that the photo appears on a slide deck that was put together by contractors in 2007. The photo has been included in the manual since March 2008.

ATF will be reviewing the materials in the training documents. It’s the latest controversy for the law enforcement agency, which has suffered significant repercussions from the ill-conceived Fast and Furious operation that knowingly allowed semiautomatic weapons to flow across the U.S. border and into Mexico’s violent drug wars.

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Contempt for the Rule-of-Law – Holder usurps more powers

Editor’s Note – As was noted frequently in Obama’s first term, Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled by fiat, not law. He selectively enforces the law, assumes powers not assigned to him, sues the sovereign states, and basically does whatever he wants as federal executive powers continue to increase in scope and quantity over the citizenry.

In one of his boldest moves, without legal authority, he decided to just skip right over a law protecting the privacy and liberty of the people. Imagine how much more he will do in the second term – nice job America, re-electing the very people who already showed us they have no use for oaths or maintaining the rule-of-law.

Attorney General Secretly Granted Gov. Ability to Develop and Store Dossiers on Innocent Americans

BY KIM ZETTER – From Wired

In a secret government agreement granted without approval or debate from lawmakers, the U.S. attorney general recently gave the National Counterterrorism Center sweeping new powers to store dossiers on U.S. citizens, even if they are not suspected of a crime, according to a news report.

Eric Holder – Contempt for the Rule-of-Law. This photo exemplifies his very nature. Attorney General Eric Holder points to an unidentified man as he responds to a question he asked after an event about efforts to combat intellectual property theft and demand for counterfeit products, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder granted the center the ability to copy entire government databases holding information on flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and other data, and to store it for up to five years, even without suspicion that someone in the database has committed a crime, according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.

Whereas previously the law prohibited the center from storing data compilations on U.S. citizens unless they were suspected of terrorist activity or were relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation, the new powers give the center the ability to not only collect and store vast databases of information but also to trawl through and analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior in order to uncover activity that could launch an investigation.

The changes granted by Holder would also allow databases containing information about U.S. citizens to be shared with foreign governments for their own analysis.

A former senior White House official told the Journal that the new changes were “breathtaking in scope.”

But counterterrorism officials tried to downplay the move by telling the Journal that the changes come with strict guidelines about how the data can be used.

“The guidelines provide rigorous oversight to protect the information that we have, for authorized and narrow purposes,” Alexander Joel, Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the paper.

The NCTC currently maintains the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, or TIDE, which holds data on more than 500,000 identities suspected of terror activity or terrorism links, including friends and families of suspects, and is the basis for the FBI’s terrorist watchlist.

Under the new rules issued in March, the NCTC can now obtain almost any other government database that it claims is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” This could conceivably include collections of financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages or even the health records of anyone who sought mental or physical treatment at government-run hospitals, such as Veterans Administration facilities, the paper notes.

The Obama administration’s new rules come after previous surveillance proposals were struck down during the Bush administration, following widespread condemnation.

In 2002, the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program proposed to scrutinize both government and private databases, but public outrage killed the program in essence, though not in spirit. Although Congress de-funded the program in 2003, the NSA continued to collect and sift through immense amounts of data about who Americans spoke with, where they traveled and how they spent their money.

The Federal Privacy Act prohibits government agencies from sharing data for any purpose other than the reason for which the data was initially collected, in order to prevent the creation of dossiers, but agencies can do an end-run around this restriction by posting a notice in the Federal Register, providing justification for the data request. Such notices are rarely seen or contested, however.

The changes to the rules for the NCTC were sought in large part after authorities failed to catch Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he boarded a plane on Christmas Day in 2009 with explosives sewn into his underwear. Abdulmutallab wasn’t on the FBI watchlist, but the NCTC had received tips about him, and yet failed to search other government databases to connect dots that might have helped prevent him from boarding the plane.

As the NCTC tried to remedy that situation for later suspects, legal obstacles emerged, the Journal reports, since the center was only allowed to query federal databases for a specific name or a specific passenger list. “They couldn’t look through the databases trolling for general ‘patterns,’” the paper notes.

But the request to expand the center’s powers led to a heated debate at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, with Mary Ellen Callahan, then-chief privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security, leading the charge to defend civil liberties. Callahan argued that the new rules represented a “sea change” and that every interaction a citizen would have with the government in the future would be ruled by the underlying question, is that person a terrorist?

Callahan lost her battle, however, and subsequently left her job, though it’s not known if her struggle over the NCTC debate played a role in her decision to leave.