Unsealed Warrant Shows FBI Investigated Michael Hayden For Leaking Info To Journalists

from the who-watches-the-watchers-watching-the-watcher-watcher? dept

Kevin Poulsen of The Daily Beast has obtained a warrant application showing even the most ardent of surveillance state defenders aren't immune from the all-seeing eyes they feel are ever so essential to keeping this nation safe. It appears none other than former NSA and CIA boss Michael Hayden was subjected to the government's magnifying glass for allegedly leaking sensitive information to reporters.

The FBI sought a search warrant for the email account of former CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden in 2012, according to a newly unsealed court filing. The warrant application was part of a broader Obama-era investigation into a leak of classified information to the press. Another official later pleaded guilty in connection to the disclosure.

The targeting of Hayden’s AOL email account drives home just how aggressively the Obama administration pursued leaks, in this case following a relatively thin lead all the way to the private email account of a retired four-star general. Hayden served as director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005, and later led the CIA until his retirement in 2009.

And it is a very thin lead. All that's included in the warrant affidavit [PDF] is the fact that Hayden engaged in email conversations with two unnamed reporters a total of 30 times in 18 months. Given his position, it's surprising it didn't happen more often. Officials are always contacted by reporters when writing about subjects/programs/etc. they oversee. In the affidavit, the special agent notes many of these contacts were to "confirm quotes" to be used in published articles and books.

The inquiry here apparently centered on news of the Stuxnet virus and the US's involvement in the cyberattack. The only quote about Stuxnet attributed to Hayden was fairly innocuous, stating only that this was the first time a cyberattack had been used to "effect physical destruction."

As Poulsen points out, this investigation lead to a dead end, at least as far as its pursuit of Hayden as a leaker.

The FBI found no evidence that Hayden did anything wrong. But using similar tactics, the FBI eventually tracked the story to retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright. In 2016 Cartwright acknowledged he was a source for the article and pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI. Cartwright’s prosecution was widely criticized by freedom-of-the-press groups and government insiders, and Obama pardoned Cartwright shortly before leaving office.

What this dead-ended investigation does show is how aggressively our government pursues leakers and whistleblowers. NSLs, warrants, and anything else the government might find useful are being deployed to sniff out journalists' sources. The government may hesitate to place a journalist under direct surveillance, but it has no problem achieving the same ends by deploying these backdoor searches. Working its way backwards from government employees, the government can sweep up communications that would raise serious First Amendment issues if approached head-on. And it obviously has no qualms about grabbing the personal communications of team players who've fully bought into the system.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2018 @ 11:13am

    This is stupid....

    I can't believe anything the intelligence community says. I don't think a single day has gone by where anyone on any side has not shown that they are willing to blatantly lie about this shit!

    "We all spied what you did last summer!"

    This entire farce has matured past the point of achieving anything that serves the people.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2018 @ 7:27am

      Re: This is stupid....

      "I can't believe anything the intelligence community says."

      Do you believe anything politicians say?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2018 @ 11:20am

    "All-seeing eyes"

    The "Daily Beast" link blocks Tor users. Evidently Poulsen wants the readers subjected to these "all-seeing eyes" too.

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 19 Apr 2018 @ 11:35am

    Who could possibly have imagined that those antidemocratic tools permitted as ultima ratio against terrorists who threaten the very existence of the US of A might ever be abused by the government to silence inconvenient critics.

    Thus threatening threaten the very democracy in the US of A they were meant to protect.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2018 @ 11:55am


      US is not a democracy, this is a farce propagated by exceptionally ignorant and stupid people.

      When you vote, your vote is rolled up into a single win/loss score for your district which is usually fucked with in a process called gerrymandering.

      In order to have a democracy of any kind... a popularity contest where a majority vote is always allowed to win. We don't have it, a majority can always loose to a minority, it was intentionally designed that way on purpose.

      Not only are we NOT a democracy, we have a constitution, voting and veto processes where the majority can be constantly defeated at any point by a minority mechanism. We don't have either a direct or indirect democracy and we do not even democratically elect our leaders.

      The closest any state gets to a democracy is California and even there a single court can strike down the will of the "democracy" as you so call it and render their desires moot.

      You can think you have a democracy all you want, but it only shows you don't know what you are talking about!

      We are a Republic because we are NOT a Democracy... here in America the will of the many can be "trumped" by the will of the few! And it has happened many many times!

      And to prove a point, you don't even want a democracy, if a democracy was "actually possible" we would not need a government. Everyone would just be able to cooperate in society and decide what to do about everything collectively. But you already know that won't work, hence the formation of a government to begin with. People like you that can't even be bothered with knowing, understanding, or even finding the facts need to be ruled over, or you will just destroy yourselves!

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

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