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FBI Says Closed Investigation Still Ongoing in FOIA Denial for Trump-Related Records: FRINFORMSUM 5/4/2017

May 4, 2017

Anonymous Phone Call Threatens Violence if Bankruptcy Lawyer Keeps Bothering Trump; FBI “Inadvertently” Claims Call Investigation Still Ongoing in Response to Records Request

FOIA releases from the FBI raise new questions about President Trump’s business tactics, particularly when things were not going his way. The FOIA responses – to Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold and MIT’s Ryan Shapiro – also shed new light on two previously unreported threatening phone calls – one the FBI characterized as “overt extortion” – related to Trump’s business dealings that were investigated by the bureau.

The more recent is a 2009 call that was received by a high-profile bankruptcy lawyer representing clients who “stood to lose more than a billion dollars” over Trump’s failed casino venture, Trump Entertainments Resorts. The caller told the lawyer, Kristopher Hansen, that “My name is Carmine. I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.” Hansen reported the call to the police and the FBI, who traced the call to a public payphone – located across the street from where Trump was filming The Late Show with David Letterman on the afternoon the call was received.

Of special interest to frequent FBI FOIA requesters is that in the course of Buzzfeed fighting for these records, reporters noted that “Some of the FBI documents pertaining to the call have been tagged with a code indicating that the bureau was withholding information because its investigation into the incident was ongoing. A day after Buzzfeed News asked for confirmation that the investigation was still continuing, the FBI sent a letter saying that use of the code indicating an ongoing investigation had been ‘inadvertent.'” (emphasis added)

Buzzfeed also reported a similar incident that occurred in 1982, at a time when the New York City Housing Commissioner, Anthony Gliedman, refused to grant Trump a $20 million tax abatement for the construction of Trump Tower that would have significantly reduced, or entirely eliminated, the taxes on the building. After Gliedman’s decision, he received a call from someone threatening to kill him over the refusal. FBI records also show that, bizarrely, the day after the menacing phone call was made, “Trump himself called the FBI, saying he had received a telephone call from a person ‘who read about Trump’s tax abatement problem with Commissioner Gliedman.’ The caller said that someone — the name is blacked out in the FBI files — ‘had been ‘shafted’ by Gliedman and for that reason, was going to retaliate.’” Trump, he claimed, notified the FBI out of concern for Gliedman’s safety. (Gliedman would later retire and go on to work for Trump.)

OIP Still Hawks Misleading 91% FOIA Release Rate

The Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy yesterday released its 2016 summary of all agency FOIA reports – again touting the very misleading release rate of 91.3%. The National Security Archive has consistently debunked this claim online and in congressional testimony. The figure is disingenuous because, as Archive Director Tom Blanton told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2015, “The Justice Department number includes only final processed requests. This statistic leaves out nine of the 11 reasons that the government turns down requests so they never reach final processing. Those reasons include claiming ‘no records,’ ‘fee-related reasons,’ and referrals to another agency. Counting those real-world agency responses, the actual release rate across the government comes in at between 50 and 60%.”

The report also shows that the US government spent $36.2 million dollars defending agency FOIA positions in 2016, up nearly $5 million from 2015.

Civil Penalty Proposed for Non-Compliance with Open Gov Law

The California Assembly Judiciary Committee recently – and unanimously – approved AB 1479 on April 25. The bill “creates a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for public agencies if a court finds that ‘bad-faith non-compliance’” with the California Public Records Act has occurred. East Bay Times reporter Thomas Peele pointedly argues that, even if the bill does not become law, “it should make government employees pay the penalties for failing to act on requests in good faith out of their own pockets.”

Michigan State University Sues ESPN over Public Records Request

MSU is suing ESPN over its FOIA request for information on ongoing sexual assault investigations. The February 10 FOIA request specifically sought “all police reports containing allegations of sexual assault since Dec. 10, 2016, as well as records of arrests made between Feb. 6 and Feb. 9, according to court documents. The request came one day after MSU announced the suspensions of three MSU football players and a staff member associated with the team amid a sexual assault investigation.” (ESPN won a separate lawsuit against MSU in 2015 for a 2014 FOIA  “for incident reports involving 301 student-athletes.”) MSU is asking the court to decide “whether the police reports can be withheld through a FOIA exemption relating to open police investigations.” The Lansing State Journal notes that MSU routinely uses the police investigation exemptions to deny documents that are not police products, including internal university investigations and emails.

Oversight Trumps Intelligence Secrecy

A new DOD directive highlighted by Steven Aftergood mandates that, “when it comes to internal Pentagon oversight, even the most tightly held intelligence programs are required to cooperate without reservation.” This includes providing “complete and unrestricted access to all information concerning DoD intelligence and intelligence-related activities regardless of classification or compartmentalization, including intelligence special access programs.” Aftegood notes that, in theory, this should strengthen the existing framework of internal intelligence oversight, although it is hard to gauge how well it works currently.

Chiquita Papers: Uncertainty Fueled Staff Concerns about Payments to Guerrillas and Paramilitaries

Chiquita’s Colombia-based staff questioned the company’s payments to illegal armed groups, and asked whether Chiquita had gone beyond extortion and was directly funding the activities of leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups, even while top company executives became “comfortable” with the idea. The New Chiquita Papers are the result of a seven-year legal battle waged by the National Security Archive against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and later Chiquita itself, for access to tens of thousands of records produced by the company during an investigation of illicit payments made in Colombia.

This is the second in a series of stories jointly published by the National Security Archive and documenting how the world’s most famous banana company financed terrorist groups in Colombia.

The first posting in this series can be found here.

Trump Continues U.S. Declassified Diplomacy with Argentina

The Trump administration recently released over 900 previously classified State Department records on human rights abuses in Argentina, providing important insights into the notorious Southern Cone multinational entity known as Operation Condor.

The records reveal that Condor members considered opening “field offices” in the U.S. and Europe, and offer new information about the fate of disappeared militants from the 1970s and 1980s.

This is the third tranche of records the U.S. government has released going back to a March 2016 commitment by President Barack Obama to open historical materials relating to Argentina’s earlier military dictatorship.

What’s NeXT at the NSA?

In 1989 the National Security Agency reviewed the NeXT Computer – Steve Jobs’s first post-Apple project -, discussing its hardware, its software environment, and application toolkits. The review also notes the computer’s ergonomic features, suggesting that with the 1-foot cube, a 17″ monitor and a keyboard with mechanical mouse – NeXT was conscious about the system size. The NSA concluded that the computer “has the potential to make significant advances in workstation computing within the Agency… in the smallest, cleanest packaging available today.”

This review is one of 11 new additions posted in the National Security Archive’s Cyber Vault on Wednesday, May 3.

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Poster

TBT Pick – The Zero Dark Thirty File

Today’s #tbt pick is chosen with the sixth anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden in mind (May 2, 2011) and is the Archive’s 2013 posting, the “Zero Dark Thirty” file, a collection of all the available official documents on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The posting was an effort to balance the Obama administration’s decision to grant ZD30’s film’s producers exclusive and unprecedented access to classified information about the operation. The documents published include:

  • The earliest known official document mentioning Osama bin Laden, a 1996 CIA biographical sketch and his FBI “Most Wanted Fugitive” poster which spelled his name “Usama,” but included his now ubiquitous mug shot.
  • A leaked memo from Guantanamo Bay, describing the “Autonomy of a lead” and how the CIA determined that Abu al-Kuwaiti, once Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s courier in Kandahar, may have escaped Tora Bora with bin Laden, and continued to deliver his messages.
  • The National Geospatial Agency’s satellite images of the Abbottabad compound pre- and post-construction and the DOD’s official conceptual illustration of its floor plan.

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One Comment
  1. May 25, 2017 10:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Alternate Universe and commented:
    An amazing and important treasure trove of information.

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