Former FBI Lawyer Who Oversaw Years Of Fourth Amendment Violations By The Agency Nominated For Federal Judge Seat

from the 'lifelong-position-of-power'-is-the-new-'disciplinary-action' dept

So, this is the way the system works, apparently. If you're linked with nearly a decade's worth of surveillance abuses, not only won't you be punished for your malfeasance, but you'll be promoted to a lifelong position of greater power.

Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian has compiled an in-depth look at Valerie Caproni, former top lawyer for the FBI and current nominee for a federal judge position in the Southern District of New York. Nothing Ackerman's dug up looks promising for plaintiffs running privacy-related cases through this district court if she's approved.

A 2010 report by the Department of Justice's internal watchdog found that the FBI misused a type of non-judicial subpoena known as an "exigent letter" to improperly obtain more than 5,500 phone numbers of Americans.

"The FBI broke the law on telephone records privacy and the general counsel's office, headed by Valerie Caproni, sanctioned it and must face consequences," said John Conyers, then the chairman of the House judiciary committee, in April 2010, who called for then-FBI director Robert Mueller to fire her.

Conyers said he was "outraged" that the FBI invented "exigent letters" to more easily obtain phone records, and intimated Caproni was responsible for it. "It's not in the Patriot Act. It never has been. And its use, perhaps coincidentally, began in the same month that Ms Valerie Caproni began her work as general counsel," Conyers said in a hearing that month. The FBI stopped using exigent letters in 2006.
"Exigent circumstance letters" (ECLs) were the end-around the FBI used when its National Security Letters failed to pry loose the phone data it was looking for, or more frequently, when it was deemed that following proper procedure would just take too long. Not that these NSLs were any less abusive -- they were often used to access data in violation of the "limits" built into the PATRIOT Act. Apparently, the NSL loophole frequently wasn't big enough or fast enough, at which point the FBI would craft "exigent letters." These were supposed to be followed up by official NSLs, but the FBI often found it was easier to just not do that.

The nadir was reached when the FBI decided to replace the entire legal process for obtaining this data with Post-It notes and requests made over the phone. All of this occurred under Caproni's watch.

Caproni doesn't seem to care much for privacy advocates either, considering them to be nothing but ignorant noise to be filtered out.
At one meeting in 2007, Graves recalled, "Caproni said she thought civil libertarians were wasting their time complaining about the NSL [national security letter] powers because the government could just obtain all that information and more through a 215 order by the Fisa court or through a grand jury subpoena issued by a single federal prosecutor and because those orders are secret we would never know. When pressed about that, she insisted that going around the limits on the NSL powers by using 215 or grand jury subpoenas was no big deal and a perfectly permissible use of those powers."
As has been clearly detailed over the years and confirmed by these leaks, giving an entity this sort of power guarantees it will be abused. Caproni's tenure began during the Bush administration and she followed that administration's lead in exploiting Section 215 to its fullest. The FBI's tactics didn't really have to change with the election of a new president, as he went on to expand the powers granted by the PATRIOT Act. Caproni's actions and justifications have fit in perfectly with the government's over the past nine years, despite a regime change.

Caproni is Obama's nominee for this district court seat, which makes sense as his administration has already forgiven her for her agency's past violations. This was done via a secret ruling issued by the Office of Legal Counsel -- the same office that retroactively gave its blessing for torture and warrantless wiretapping that occurred under Bush's administration.

Caproni has vowed to recuse herself from cases where her "impartiality might be questioned" or dealing with issues she was actively involved with in her former position. Unfortunately, this still leaves plenty of room for Caproni to insert herself into the ongoing court battles seeking to hold intelligence agencies accountable for their overreach.

Currently, the ACLU is suing the government in that court on its own behalf (as a Verizon customer) for violating its Fourth Amendment rights. Certainly there will be more to follow. As Karen Greenburg, director of Fordham University's Center on National Security points out, the southern district court of New York is the "premier venue" for terrorism cases.

Would Caproni consider cases like the ACLU's to be the sort she should recuse herself from, seeing as they deal with the same sort of Fourth Amendment violations the FBI routinely performed under her counsel? I'm of the opinion she wouldn't, especially considering her antipathy towards "civil libertarians" and her willingness to not only test the limits on data collection laws, but frequently exceed them if deemed "necessary."

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:03am

    this is basically the same as when we hear of politicians leaving Congress or whatever only to find they have gone straight into a job with a particular industry, eg, Dodd from tosser politician to wanker industry head!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:04am

    Judges are nothing more then a politician in a robe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:08am

    What is the problem?
    BSA lawyers in DOJ pursuing bad cases based on cartel demands not actual evidence.
    RIAA Lobbyists on the bench hearing copyright cases ignoring basic rules about jurisdiction and demanding 3rd parties go above and beyond the law to do more.

    Just because the other ones acted in their 'former' employers best interests and bent the law to try and make it fit doesn't mean that this nominee would end up finding ways to rule the law says what she wants rather than what it actually is.

    Best law monied interests can buy, little people don't need rights... they abdicated having them to be 'safe'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:11am

    exactly why we need to unelect AND clean the house. Changing the president will only do so much....the problem is with the existing staff.

    But - this is exactly what we need - another federal judge looking out for common interests. that companies get fatter and stronger, at the people's expense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:21am

    would be interesting to see if any of the cases she was involved in and used these 'special powers' to gain a conviction, could be re-opened now. it would look good on her 'application resume' for the new position

    question: have you done anything untoward to gain a conviction?

    answer: well now, where do you want me to start?

    question: were you caught for breaking the law, just to aid your case?

    answer: oh, of course not! i wouldn't be sitting here now if i had, would I?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:21am

    The system is so corrupted that changing out one or two people for champions of the people will have them becoming aspiring super villains within a month.
    There is no way to fix the system within legal means. Trying through illegal means makes us no better than them.

    Also, Caproni sounds like a mob boss name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:35am

    Talk about failing up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 9 Sep 2013 @ 10:59am

    I used to be proud of being American, and I thought we had one of the best countries in the world. Now, I see that it's no better than any of the dictatorships that we used to look down on.

    The individual politicians are eager to sell out the public to special interests for bribes in the form of "campaign contributions". They'll happily let companies pollute the environment, destroy the economy and trample on people's rights.

    The government as a whole wants to flush everyone's rights down the toilet. Disarm the populous, spy on them, lock them up without charges, even torture them.

    The police have become an elite, untouchable force that can do whatever it wants with impunity. A dozen cops can beat a man to death and it's called "justifiable force", but if you so much as poke a cop with your finger it's "felony assault".

    This country isn't turning into a police state, it already is one!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wolfy, 9 Sep 2013 @ 11:24am

    And here I was, thinking Putin's "FSB/Mafia Government" was bad...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 1:31pm


      Where do you think the Feebs learned? They looked at the KGB, and went, "I gotta get me some of that sexy action!"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Another crooked judge, 9 Sep 2013 @ 1:22pm

    Another crooked judge

    Just what the USA needs. Another crooked judge with a stamp pad signature for whatever is put in front of him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Democracy Down The Drain, 9 Sep 2013 @ 1:49pm

    Civil Liberties

    I worked hard to elect Obama because I wanted people like Thurgood Marshall to become federal judges, instead of right-wingers who were openly contemptuous of civil liberties.

    After all, we the people only have Constitutional rights to the extent that federal judges are willing to enforce them...


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 4:18pm

    Confirmed: 73 YEAs -- 24 NAYs

    United States Senate
    Roll Call Vote

    Question: On the Nomination (Confirmation Valerie E. Caproni, of the District of Columbia, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York )

    Vote Number: 201
    Vote Date: September 9, 2013, 05:34 PM
    Vote Result: Nomination Confirmed

    Vote Counts:
    YEAs 73
    NAYs 24
    Not Voting 3

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bgmcb (profile), 9 Sep 2013 @ 8:35pm


    The coup has added another supporter.

    They learned the lesson from the housing collapse well.
    Get as many involved in your crimes as deeply embedded as possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2013 @ 9:18pm

    Judicial System is as corrupt as the other branches of Government, Executive and Congressional. All three branches are no longer fit to serve the American people, and have lost their legitimacy.

    Now all the American people need to do is take away their authority. Easier said than done, but not impossible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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