Friday, August 18, 2006


Another Spying Story

Here is a comment I left at Digby's blog, following an article about the phone records scandal. To me this story is scarier, since it involves a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, not just a federal statute. Not to diminish the implications of a massive database of civilian phone records in the "Sweet Land of Liberty," but warrantless searches of a lawyer's home should raise a giant red flag, and should not be overlooked despite the rest of the bad news...

Here's what I wrote:

It's hard to keep track of all the evidence of illegal acts, but another story was revealed this week, via Alternet, about an Oregon lawyer whose office and home were searched, shortly after he began representing a person named al-Buthi. You can find the article at

An excerpt:
"A few months [after he started representing al-buthi] Nelson observed inconsistencies when he came to his office: His computer would be left on, disks still in the drive, materials shifted. Fellow lawyers... noticed someone on at least three occasions posing as a janitor, trying to get into the office...
Nelson approached the security people at the building, they wouldn't talk to him.... "There was no direct denial. At the end, I said, 'You probably couldn't tell me if something was going on anyway.' He said, 'That's probably right.'"
After these incidents, Nelson brought the al-Buthi files to his house. That's when he and his wife experienced lapses in his home alarm that the company monitors refused to explain..."

The article describes Nelson as a "close friend" of Brandon Mayfield's, the Oregon lawyer whose fingerprint the FBI claimed to have a "no doubt" match to one found in the Madrid train bombings. The FBI later released Mayfield (after Spanish authorities matched the print to someone else), claiming in court to having made an "honest mistake."

One of the lawyers involved in the case told me Mayfield's children suspected the searches when they saw their alarm clocks blinking (showed power cut off during search) and when they found muddy boot prints on the carpet. On one occasion, one of Mayfield's kids, home sick from school, hid inside his own house while agents roamed around it.

In Mayfield's case, the FBI had a FISA warrant, but the judge refused to allow continued monitoring of Mayfield after his release.

In the case of Mayfield's friend, attorney Thomas Nelson, the article states that "[i]n August 2004, as a routine court procedure, the FBI provided the lawyers and defendants with documents... [but] accidentally released a document that showed the government had used logs of conversations between the lawyers and their clients... to categorize Al-Haramain as a terrorist group. The catch is that the logs were obtained without a warrant."

Like the Bush administration, it appears the FBI decided to ignore that pesky constitution and those meddling judges and spy on attorneys, even in their homes, without a warrant.
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