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Judge Calls on Congress to Fix PRA Loopholes, FOIA Discredits Eric Trump’s Claim that Secret Service Stays at Trump Properties for Free, and More: FRINFORMSUM 2/21/2020

February 21, 2020

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Court Rejects Archive Lawsuit over Trump’s Abuse of Records Law

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson made clear that her ruling in the Archive’s lawsuit seeking to compel the White House to preserve records “should not be interpreted to endorse” the White House’s records-keeping practices, “nor does it include any finding that the Executive Office is in compliance with its obligations.”

Judge Jackson dismissed the suit, brought by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), together with the National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, on the grounds that Circuit precedent finds that courts lack the authority to review the chief executive’s “day-to-day compliance” with the Presidential Records Act. Plaintiffs filed the suit in May 2019 on the heels of news reports that the Trump administration excluded note takers in multiple meetings with foreign heads of state.

As stated in her ruling, “the PRA gives neither the Archivist [of the United States] nor the Congress the authority to veto the President’s decision” to destroy records – or in this instance, fail to create the records in the first place. Jackson also makes clear that Congress must step in to address this outdated loophole, noting “it is Congress that has the power to revisit its decision to accord the executive such unfettered control or to clarify its intentions”. Read the ruling in its entirety here.

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FOIA Discredits Eric Trump’s Claim that Secret Service Stays at Trump Properties for Free

New documents obtained under the FOIA by the Washington Post help show how much money the Trump organization is charging taxpayers for the Secret Service to protect the president when he visits his properties – up to $650 per room per night. The organization has previously said it only charges the Secret Service minimal fees (Eric Trump said, “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping”), but the FOIA releases discredit that argument. The Post obtained 103 payments from 2017 and 2018 showing the Trump Organization charged the agency between $650 to $396; the Service was once charged $17,000 a month to use a three-bedroom cottage at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey. The 103 payments total $471,000, but the Post notes that it’s impossible to tell the true extent of what the Secret Service has spent at Trump properties, because the agency “has not listed them in public databases of federal spending, as is usually required for payments over $10,000.”

The CX-52 provided by Brazil to Operation Condor members in 1976, is the type of ciphering machine Crypto AG submitted to NSA for testing.

Crypto AG – from Cyber to Condor

The Washington Post’s bombshell exposé on Crypto AG – “The intelligence coup of the century” – is relevant to both the Archive’s Southern Cone documentation and Cyber Vault projects.

Southern Cone

As the Post reports, the U.S. intelligence community actively monitored for decades the diplomatic and military communications of, among others, numerous Latin American nations through encryption machines supplied by a Swiss company that was secretly owned by the CIA and the German intelligence agency, BND. Declassified records recently posted and analyzed by the Archive’s Peter Kornbluh and Carlos Osorio show that, among those secretly surveilled countries, were military regimes of the Operation Condor nations—led by Chile, Argentina and Uruguay—as they conducted regional and international acts of repression and terrorism against leading opposition figures.

At the inaugural Condor meeting, hosted by the Pinochet regime in Santiago, Chile, in November 1975, military officials from five military dictatorships signed an accord which stated that member nations would employ a “Cryptology System that will be available to member countries within the next 30 days, with the understanding that it may be vulnerable; it will be replaced in the future with cryptographic machines to be selected by common agreement.” After the second Condor meeting in June 1976, the CIA reported, “Brazil agreed to provide gear for ‘Condortel’—the group’s communications network.” That “gear,” the documents reveal, came from Crypto AG.

The espionage operations through Crypto AG conceivably provided the U.S. intelligence community with a far more detailed knowledge of Condor operations than previously acknowledged. Indeed, the U.S. intelligence records generated by these espionage operations could be “a historical game changer,” according to Carlos Osorio, who directs the Southern Cone Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. “If declassified,” he noted, “this vast trove of communications intercepts could significantly advance the history of Operation Condor as well as contemporary history of the entire region.”

Cyber Vault

Crypto AG was founded in the 1930s by Swedish inventor Boris Hagelin, who already had a longstanding “gentlemen’s understanding” with the National Security Agency’s cryptographer and agency liaison, William Friedman. The Archive’s Cyber Vault published a curated selection of documents primarily from William Friedman’s collection which shed light on the years before Hagelin’s retirement and the level of cooperation between the two men.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Archive is seeking the full declassification of the CIA’s secret case study on the “Minerva project” as well as the supporting documentation on the CIA/NSA ties to the Hagelin company.

Frank Anderson, 1942 – 2020

Frank Anderson, the CIA officer who served as head of the agency’s Afghanistan task force in the 1980s – supplying the mujahedeen with weapons to fight the Soviets – and oversaw a high-level informant – Ali Hassan Salameh –  within the Palestine Liberation Organization, has died.

Anderson was one of dozens of high-level officials interviewed during the National Security Archive’s and CNN’s 24-part, Peabody-award-winning documentary series, Cold War. His interview can be found here. (The rest of the interviews can be read here.)

Anderson retired from the agency after former director James Woolsey ordered his reassignment. Woolsey was furious that Anderson had given Milton Bearden (who was disgraced spy Aldrich Ames’ supervisor) an agency award for his outstanding work on Afghanistan – just one day after Woolsey had reprimanded Bearden for his conduct as Ames’ supervisor, and ordered Anderson’s reassignment. Anderson retired instead. He went on to serve as the president of the Middle East Policy Council, and was an outspoken critic of the agency’s torture program. As he wrote in the Miami Herald, “Mistreating detainees, even detainees who clearly deserve mistreatment, is ineffective, counterproductive, illegal and morally repugnant.”

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