Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Time Magazine: FBI leaked a memo about Abramoff

The FBI has rules against leaking information related to ongoing investigations.

Time Magazine reveals it has obtained an internal FBI memo, according to Raw Story.

[Note: Related story: American media linked to WH domestic spying program.

Given the totality of the circumstances, we judge this memo was written with the intent that it be widely disseminated.

All other conclusions suggest either [a] FBI agents have violated their public disclosure standards; or [b] TIME has a special relationship with the FBI.

Congressman John Conyers filed a FOIA to get access to Pentagon documents. DoD responded that it would take $100,000 to copy the documents. It is troubling when TIME magazine does not have to pay similar fees. Why does TIME magazine apparently get access to FBI documents without paying copying charges?

The Abramoff investigation continues. TIME reports that is has a memo, but several questions arise:

  • What were the circumstances under which this memo was released -- did the FBI release the memo intended for publication?

    If so, then this memo isn't really an "inside" view of the FBI -- rather, it's simply a publication by the FBI using TIME as the mouthpiece. That hardly warrants TIME asserting the document is a "big scoop." Indeed, TIME may have a special relationship -- to be further explored by competing media -- in how it interacts with DoJ, what information FBI agents provide to TIME, or what TIME may have promised/been promised in exchange for the publication of the document.

    It is one thing to have a policy about "how the FBI agents and DoJ are to interact with the Congress. It's quite another to realize that the formal rules and laws related to oversight are ignored, but the selective leaking of information continues.

    I consider the release of the information an insult to Congress.

    Bluntly, it shows the FBI while it engages in a review of the NSA "leaking" cannot be trusted from doing what it is supposedly attempting to investigate.

    This distinction is important. In the wake of the abuse scandals -- whereby Army CID officials are brought into the nexus to investigate -- CID investigators are reported to have not investigated things that they independently deem "not worthy" of investigation, namely: "We aren't going to bother investigating charges that military personnel have used dogs to intimidate prisoners -- because we don't think it is a big deal."

    In a similar light, it is troubling to hear the White House public assert a policy against "leaks" by the NSA, while at the same time the FBI -- the agency sent into the NSA to review the matter -- engages in the same conduct by leaking information to TIME magazine over the Abramoff issue.

    FBI and DoJ have little credibility when they speak out of both sides of their mouth. It is one issue whether the laws are twisted to explain away Presidential misconduct; it is quite another to selectively get upset about "leaks" in the NSA, while the FBI does the same on other matters. Who will do a "big investigation" into the "big leaking" of the FBI memo to TIME? The excuses to explain away the "no need for an investigation" should be compared to the White House, DoJ, and RNC statements over the NSA investigation.

    There are several options which warrant a better understanding by Congress and the Public: Either

    A. The leak of the memo is "no big deal" and the memo was crafted with the intent that it be leaked; and TIME really has no claim it has a "big scoop"; OR

    B. The leak of the memo violates the FBI guidelines related to investigations and administrative procedures; fails to go through proper channels; and excluded a timely notification to Congress and the DoJ Office of Legislative affairs; OR

    C. Time magazine has a special relationship to get access to information Congress and the public are not freely able to acquire; there appear to be reasonable questions over the relationship between Time magazine and DoJ; and it remains to be understood what TIME has agreed to cover/not cover in exchange for getting access to this information.


  • Why is it considered "in the public interest" to release FBI comments about an ongoing investigation; but the White House and DoJ say "it is not in the public interest" to learn about alleged NSA violations of the FISA?

  • Why is the FBI discussion an ongoing investigation with the public?

  • Has DoJ satisfactorily discussed why it is able to credibly conduct an investigation into an "NSA leak" when its own personnel engage in the same practice?

  • Why is FBI leaking of memos and information related to ongoing classified events inside DoJ permissible under the FBI guidelines, but similar conduct related to allegations of criminal activity by the NSA -- through a leak to the NYT -- is "unacceptable"?

  • Why should we believe that the FBI -- the agency that engages in leaks to the media -- is able to conduct a review of another agency that is complaining about the same conduct -- leaks to the media?

  • Why is the FBI releasing information without going through Legislative Affairs?

  • Why does the media get access to internal government memos at no cost, but information the Congress requests -- namely Congressman Conyers FOIA request to DoD -- are not fulfilled unless $100,000 is provided?

  • How much money did TIME magazine pay to the FBI for "copying costs" associated with the disclosure of the FBI's statements related to an ongoing investigation?