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Thursday, May 13, 2004

ACLU Was Forced to Revise Release on Patriot Act Suit

Justice Dept. Cited Secrecy Rules

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2004; Page A27

When a federal judge ruled two weeks ago that the American Civil Liberties Union could finally reveal the existence of a lawsuit challenging the USA Patriot Act, the group issued a news release.

But the next day, according to new documents released yesterday, the ACLU was forced to remove two paragraphs from the release posted on its Web site, after the Justice Department complained that the group had violated court secrecy rules.

One paragraph described the type of information that FBI agents could request under the law, while another merely listed the briefing schedule in the case, according to court documents and the original news release.

The dispute set off a furious round of court filings in a case that serves as both a challenge to, and an illustration of, the far-reaching power of the Patriot Act. Approved by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law gives the government greater latitude and secrecy in counterterrorism investigations and includes a provision allowing the FBI to secretly demand customer records from Internet providers and other businesses without a court order.

The ACLU first filed its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such demands, known as national security letters, on April 6, but the secrecy rules of the Patriot Act required the challenge to be filed under seal. A ruling April 28 allowed the release of a heavily censored version of the complaint, but the ACLU is still forbidden from revealing many details of the case, including the identity of another plaintiff who has joined in the lawsuit. The law forbids targets of national security letters to disclose that they have received one.

ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson said the court order also means that she "cannot confirm or deny" whether the ACLU is representing the second plaintiff. The group is the only counsel listed in court documents.

The dispute over the ACLU's April 28 news release centered on two paragraphs. The first laid out the court's schedule for receiving legal briefs and noted the name of the New York-based judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.

The second paragraph read: "The provision under challenge allows an FBI agent to write a letter demanding the disclosure of the name, screen names, addresses, e-mail header information, and other sensitive information held by 'electronic communication service providers.' "

Justice lawyers said that both paragraphs violated a secrecy order and that the ACLU should be required to seek an exemption to publicize the information, court records show. Justice spokesman Charles Miller declined to comment yesterday.

"It simply never occurred to us that this information would be covered by the sealing order, because it's completely non-sensitive, generic information," Beeson said.

The dispute was partly resolved yesterday. Marrero ruled that the briefing schedule could be publicized, along with edited versions of other court filings. But the paragraph describing the information that can be sought remains absent.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

What the FBI can ask for in a National Security Letter

"The provision under challenge allows an FBI agent to write a letter demanding the disclosure of the name, screen names, addresses, e-mail header information, and other sensitive information held by 'electronic communication service providers.' "

This paragraph was removed from filings by the American Civil Liberties Union against the FBI's powers under the USA PATRIOT Act.

Islamic Militants Murder Tower Professional

Nicholas Berg killed and videotaped for the world to see

(Baghdad, Iraq) - May 12, 2004 - Nicholas Berg, a 26-year-old tower and infrastructure professional from Philadelphia, PA was brutally murdered by Islamic fundamentalists this week in a revenge killing that was seen and reported throughout the world.

Mr. Berg, a member of the Tower Pro List Serve and last employed by Prometheus Towers, left the United States for Iraq as an independent contractor. His parents said he was an entrepreneur who left home to jump start his career by taking advantage of the opportunities offered by Iraq's massive reconstruction - although he did not have contract work already lined up. He was also supportive of the administration's mission in Iraq and believed he could help with the reconstruction.

His mother told reporters that all he wanted to do was help rebuild the communications towers and upgrade the communications systems throughout Iraq. That goal ultimately cost Mr. Berg his life.

Islamic militants, with ties al-Qaida network, murdered Mr. Berg and videotaped the gruesome killing. The tape was published and promoted on a website and the murder was said to be in retaliation for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison.

The five killers, covered in shrouds and dressed in black, forced Mr. Berg to state his name, tell where he was from and name his family members shortly before they brutally murdered him. The tape was shown on every major U.S. news network and was edited to end right before Mr. Berg's slaying.

In a final show of humiliation, Mr. Berg's killers put his body on the side of a road in Baghdad where it was discovered by the U.S. military.

Mr. Berg's parents lost contact with their son on March 24, 2004 and did not hear from him again until April 11. He was detained by U.S. officials while he tried to find tower work. It appears that he was captured by his killers shortly after his release from U.S. custody.

The White House immediately condemned the killing of Berg by saying that "it shows the true nature of the enemies of freedom. They have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and children."

The Berg family was devastated when they received official news and said that their son had visions of building and servicing cell phone towers throughout Iraq.

Wireless Infrastructure News Service

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


I just watched the video of the beheading of American free-lance technologist Nicholas Berg.
It is horrifying to watch as his executors read, in sing-song Arabic, and he rocks on his ankles, surely unaware that these moments are his last.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Poor Ben Stevens

They giggled at him on the Senate Floor tonight and he had to take a point of personal privelege to complain.
Hey Benny-boy, news flash- everyone is tired of your self-serving whining. You ain't your old man and never will be.
So, get over it.