This year marks the sixth anniversary of the murder of DNC staffer, Seth Rich, by unknown assailants on July 14, 2016. For more than four years the FBI insisted that it was never involved actively in the investigation of Seth Rich’s murder and that it never opened a case. That lie was exposed in December 2020 thanks to the dogged legal work of Ty Clevenger when the FBI conceded:
FBI has completed the initial search identifying approximately 50 cross-reference serials, with attachments totaling over 20,000 pages, in which Seth Rich is mentioned. FBI has also located leads that indicate additional potential records that require further searching. . . .
FBI is also currently working on getting the files from Seth Rich’s personal laptop into a format to be reviewed. As you can imagine, there are thousands of files of many types. The goal right now is to describe, generally, the types of files/personal information contained in this computer.
This was a stunning admission and raises critical questions that are still unanswered. Why did the FBI open a case on the murder of a DNC staffer that was not a Federal crime? If Rich really was the victim of a street robbery/mugging gone wrong, there is no reason for the FBI to get involved. More telling, why did the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Division (i.e., Peter Strzok) get involved?
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More than a year has passed and the FBI continues to stonewall producing the material it is required to produce. Ty Clevenger now represents Brian Huddleston, a Texan who sued the FBI under Freedom of Information law for the agency’s refusal to promptly turn over public documents in the case. Ty’s anger is focused on four key elements:
- In this very litigation, after long denying that it investigated anything pertaining to Seth Rich, the FBI was finally forced to admit that it took possession of his personal and work laptops.
- I would further direct your attention to the deposition testimony of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sy Hersh, wherein he testified that a source inside the government told him that the FBI had examined Seth Rich’s laptop.
- The FBI failed to conduct a search of the Operational Technology Division (OTD) and the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU). These two units would have documents/evidence of contacts between Seth Rich and Wikileaks.
- Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation claimed there was no evidence that Seth Rich was involved in sharing Democratic National Committee emails with Wikileaks, but the failure to conduct a search of OTD and DITU means that Mueller’s team did not examine relevant evidence.
Here is the full exchange of emails the latest communication between Clevenger and Andrea Parker, a representative from the Department of Justice.
From: Ty Clevenger
Sent: Monday, December 27, 2021 10:06 AM
To: Parker, Andrea (USATXE)
Subject: [EXTERNAL] 4:20-447 (Huddleston)
I recently became aware of two FBI units in Quantico that may have information pertaining to Seth Rich and/or Aaron Rich: the Operational Technology Division (OTD) and the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU). As I understand it, the Vaughn index indicates only that only FBI headquarters and the Washington Field Office were searched.
Would you ask the FBI to clarify whether OTD and DITU were searched? And if not, would the FBI be willing to search OTD and DITU? Thank you.
On Monday, December 27, 2021, 10:19:24 AM CST, Parker, Andrea (USATXE) <[email protected]> wrote:
I’ll check and let you know. I’m not sure how much response I will get this week.
From: Ty Clevenger
Sent: Tuesday, January 4, 2022 1:02 PM
To: Parker, Andrea (USATXE)
Subject: Re: [EXTERNAL] 4:20-447 (Huddleston)
Did you hear back from the FBI about this? Or from CRM about the judicial records?
On Tuesday, January 4, 2022, 01:51:58 PM CST, Parker, Andrea (USATXE) wrote:
Yes, as to your first question, FBI’s response is as follows:
“FBI found no leads to indicate that records responsive to Plaintiff’s requests concerning subject, Seth Rich, would likely exist in OTD and DITU. Accordingly, if Plaintiff is able to provide a more concrete lead to show that records likely exist in either OTD and/or DITU relating to Seth Rich, we would consider conducting a search of those locations. However, at this time such a search of these locations for records relating to Seth Rich is not warranted without a concrete lead indicating that records would likely exist within OTD and DITU. Concerning Aaron Rich, the requester does not have a signed privacy waiver for Aaron Rich, so the FBI’s prior 6/7C response remains intact and no search would be conducted concerning him in either of these locations.”
Remind me what the issue is with CRM and judicial records?
From: Ty Clevenger To: Parker, Andrea (USATXE)
Sent: Wednesday, January 5, 2022, 01:37:35 PM CST
Subject: Re: [EXTERNAL] 4:20-447 (Huddleston)
My frustration is not directed toward you in any way, but I am stunned by the FBI’s latest admissions. I’ll begin with the admission that the FBI failed to search the Operational Technology Division (“OTD”). Paragraph 8 of Michael Seidel’s affidavit acknowledges that my client’s FOIA request specifically covered the “Computer Analysis Response Team (‘CART’), and any other ‘cyber’ unit within the FBI.”
According to publicly-available sources, e.g., the FBI’s own website, CART is a part of ODT. See https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/stories/2008/november/techexperts_110708. In fact, the LinkedIn page of John Dysart, the current chief of CART, notes that CART is part of ODT. Seehttps://www.linkedin.com/in/john-dysart-20056363/. Furthermore, ODT itself is unequivocally a “’cyber’ unit within the FBI.” See https://www.fbi.gov/services/operational-technology.
Mr. Seidel should have come clean and admitted up front in his declaration that ODT / CART was not searched, rather than forcing me to smoke him out. Then again, this not the first time I’ve caught an FBI section chief being deceptive in response to a FOIA request.
In this very litigation, after long denying that it investigated anything pertaining to Seth Rich, the FBI was finally forced to admit that it took possession of his personal and work laptops. ODT would have been responsible for examining those laptops. We know this because, for example, ODT was responsible for examining the laptop of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner when it was referred to the FBI by the New York Police Department. See p. 388 of the DOJ inspector general report on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails (https://www.scribd.com/document/381806566/IG-Report-on-FBI-and-DOJ-Handling-of-Clinton-Investigation).
I would further direct your attention to the deposition testimony of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sy Hersh, wherein he testified that a source inside the government told him that the FBI had examined Seth Rich’s laptop. A link to that transcript can be found on my blog at https://lawflog.com/?p=2433. Obviously, our targeted FOIA request about CART was not based on a blind hunch.
Even if the FBI did not examine Seth Rich’s laptops, that would be very important information in and of itself. In Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation, he claimed there was no evidence that Seth Rich was involved in sharing Democratic National Committee emails with Wikileaks. We know from the records already produced that the FBI conducted that investigation at Mr. Mueller’s direction. If the FBI took custody of Mr. Rich’s laptops but never examined those laptops, then that would call into question the integrity of the investigation conducted by Mr. Mueller and the FBI.
The FBI’s next admission is an implicit one. In its response to my email to you, the FBI completely ignored my inquiry about the Data Intercept Technology Unit (“DITU”). After reviewing Mr. Seidel’s declaration, it is now clear why. Beginning on p. 79, in Paragraphs 163-167, Mr. Seidel references a “sensitive investigative database” that the FBI cannot so much as acknowledge.
The existence of the DITU is not a secret, and it certainly is not classified. See, e.g., Thomas Brewster, “Revealed: Two Secret Cogs In The FBI National Surveillance Machine,” February 21, 2018 Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2018/02/21/fbi-hidden-hacking-groups-revealed/?sh=4e1a8c51330f; and Shane Harris, “Meet the Spies Doing the NSA’s Dirty Work,” November 21, 2013 Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/11/21/meet-the-spies-doing-the-nsas-dirty-work/. Furthermore, an email previously released by the FBI in response to a FOIA request plainly references DITU (because it was sent by the acting unit chief of DITU). See https://www.eff.org/files/fbi_cipav-08-p9.pdf. In short, there is no legitimate basis for trying to shield DITU.
As noted above, Mr. Mueller claimed there was no evidence that Mr. Rich transmitted emails to Wikileaks. According to the publicly-available sources cited above, DITU is the entity responsible for electronic data intercepts, therefore its database would be the place to search for communications between Mr. Rich and an overseas entity such as Wikileaks. If the FBI and Mr. Mueller failed to search DITU, that fact alone is something that the public deserves to know, because it would show that the investigation was a sham.
Finally, I will address the FBI’s claim that Aaron Rich’s identity is subject to privacy protections. Aaron Rich has spoken very publicly about the matters pertaining to my client’s FOIA request. See, e.g., Michael Isikioff, “’It is indescribable’: How a harassment campaign overwhelmed Seth Rich’s friends and family,” August 6, 2019 Yahoo!News, https://www.yahoo.com/now/it-is-indescribable-how-a-harassment-campaign-overwhelmed-seth-richs-friends-and-family-100000936.html. An Asst. U.S. Attorney testified that she obtained at least one of Seth Rich’s laptops from Aaron Rich. A transcript of her testimony is posted on my blog. See March 20, 2020 Deposition of Deborah Sines, https://lawflog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2020.03.20-Deborah-Sines-deposition-transcript.pdf. Finally, Aaron Rich sued one of my client’s in federal court, alleging that he was defamed because my client alleged that he played a role in leaking DNC emails to Wikileaks. See Rich v. Butowsky et al, Case No. 18-cv-00681-RJL (D.D.C.). Under the circumstances, Aaron Rich has no privacy interest to protect.
My client is trying to determine whether Mr. Mueller and the FBI whitewashed a murder for the sake of a partisan political agenda. Thus far, the FBI has bent itself over backwards to hide information about Seth Rich, with senior FBI personnel trying to deceive U.S. district courts in Texas and New York. The longer this chicanery continues, the greater the evidence that the FBI is indeed whitewashing a murder for the sake of politics.