FBI Official’s ABA Speech Cited in Suit Claiming Illegal Lawyer Wiretaps

A lawyer for an Islamic nonprofit group is citing an FBI official’s ABA speech in a new lawsuit that claims the government illegally wiretapped a lawyer’s conversations in a probe of his client’s currency reporting and tax law violations.

Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco had tossed a prior lawsuit by the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation earlier this month, saying the group could not rely on a classified document mistakenly turned over to the defense. He gave the group 30 days to file a new lawsuit using publicly available information.

Foundation lawyer Jon Eisenberg has complied, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.). Eisenberg is citing a speech that he inadvertently turned up in a Google search. The talk by Deputy FBI Director John Pistole was made at a money laundering conference sponsored by the American Bar Association and the American Bankers Association.

Part of Pistole’s speech talked about how investigators uncovered evidence in a probe of the foundation’s links to al-Qaida. Most of the information was provided under bank financial reporting requirements, he said. “Yes, we used other investigative tools—like records checks, surveillance and interviews of various subjects,” he added.

Eisenberg may be able to access the classified document if the plaintiffs can show that they were “aggrieved” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The lawyer says the speech’s confirmation of surveillance gets his clients halfway to showing their status as aggrieved parties.

“To this day, I remain stunned,” Eisenberg told the Daily Journal. “After two years of the government insisting to us that it’s a state secret whether or not Al-Haramain was surveilled, the deputy director of the FBI announces it to a convention of bankers and lawyers, then it puts [the speech] on their website.”

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