First on CNN: Lawmakers pushes State Department to take action on Russian diplomats
December 23rd, 2013
12:16 PM ET

First on CNN: Lawmakers pushes State Department to take action on Russian diplomats

CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez

A senior U.S. lawmaker is pushing the State Department to take action against a group of current and former Russian diplomats who prosecutors allege ran a nine-year scheme that bilked $1.5 million from Medicaid, the U.S. health benefits program for the poor.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter on Monday to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing concern that the government may not be doing enough to ensure diplomats aren’t improperly getting taxpayer-funded benefits.
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Senator's questions about CIA program may hold up nomination
December 17th, 2013
09:11 PM ET

Senator's questions about CIA program may hold up nomination

By Evan Perez, CNN Justice Reporter

A new congressional fight is brewing over the Central Intelligence Agency's controversial use of harsh interrogations almost decade ago.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, is threatening to block the nomination of President Barack Obama's choice for CIA general counsel unless the agency provides an internal report that he says bolsters findings made by a congressional investigation of the interrogation program.

The Senate Intelligence Committee produced a 6,300-page report on the program, which used methods such as waterboarding on prisoners held by the CIA in the years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
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First on CNN: Memo: Iranians may have exploited visa program
December 12th, 2013
03:12 PM ET

First on CNN: Memo: Iranians may have exploited visa program

Updated 8:51 p.m., 12/12/2013

By Evan Perez

The Homeland Security Department has investigated whether Iranian operatives exploited a controversial U.S. visa program for immigrant investors, according to a DHS memo revealed on Thursday.

 
The EB-5 program has existed since 1990 but has exploded in popularity in recent years. It allows foreigners to obtain residency status, or a green card, for a $1 million investment in the United States.

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A spat over Justice Department national security job
December 11th, 2013
08:32 AM ET

A spat over Justice Department national security job

By Evan Pérez

President Barack Obama's pick for the Justice Department's national security prosecutor is expected to be among several nominations to move in the coming weeks as Senate Democrats start wading through the presidential appointments backlog built up amid partisan fights.

John Carlin's nomination to head the Justice national security division had come under fire in recent days after some critics groused in a Foreign Policy magazine article that Attorney General Eric Holder's pick, his former aide Amy Jeffress, was passed over by the White House.

Jeffress, who recently was posted to the U.S. Embassy in London, had long been the assumed choice for the national security job among Justice officials. That is until Carlin, a career prosecutor who helped coordinate the department's cyber security and intellectual property efforts, became the pick.
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First on CNN: US probes whether Iranians exploited visa program
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
December 11th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

First on CNN: US probes whether Iranians exploited visa program

CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez

The Homeland Security Department has investigated whether Iranian operatives exploited a controversial U.S. visa program for immigrant investors, according to a DHS memo revealed on Thursday.
The EB-5 program has existed since 1990 but has exploded in popularity in recent years. It allows foreigners to obtain residency status, or a green card, for a $1 million investment in the United States.

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Filed under: Iran
First on CNN: Sources: Diplomatic fraud ring also spied
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, discusses the charges at a news conference.
December 9th, 2013
08:41 AM ET

First on CNN: Sources: Diplomatic fraud ring also spied

By Evan Perez

This is a Russian spy ring that would embarrass Anna Chapman.

Justice Department prosecutors last week filed charges against what they say is a group of current and former Russian diplomats who allegedly ran a nine-year scheme that bilked $1.5 million from Medicaid, the U.S. health benefits program for the poor.

But CNN has learned that there's a spy angle to this case. Federal counterintelligence investigators say they believe some of the alleged participants in the fraud scheme were also engaged in espionage, sources tell CNN. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were on the trail of the alleged spies for some time, sources say. But in the end, the Justice Department decided to bring only the fraud charges.
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Filed under: FBI
Tech companies seek limits on government surveillance
December 9th, 2013
07:21 AM ET

Tech companies seek limits on government surveillance

By Evan Perez

Some U.S. technology giants are asking the Obama administration and Congress to rein in government surveillance.

Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google and Microsoft are among the companies signing an open letter arguing that surveillance has gone too far. The companies say they're improving encryption and fighting to limit surveillance requests, but they're also asking for new legal changes to limit surveillance.

This comes after recent revelations from documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. His leaks have lifted the veil on the agency's vast surveillance databases, many of which are part of programs with intelligence agencies in other countries. The aim, the NSA and other agencies say, is to prevent terrorism and protect security.
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Filed under: Edward Snowden • NSA
Iran deal may impact U.S. sanctions investigations
November 25th, 2013
04:40 PM ET

Iran deal may impact U.S. sanctions investigations

By CNN Justice Reporter Even Perez

The interim deal to limit Iran's nuclear program casts some uncertainty over how the Justice Department and other agencies investigate alleged sanctions violations.

The deal struck over the weekend between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, gives Iran a temporary respite from some of stringent international economic sanctions that U.S. officials say helped bring Iran to the negotiating table.

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Obama faces crucial Guantanamo votes
U.S. military guards move a detainee inside the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
November 18th, 2013
12:50 PM ET

Obama faces crucial Guantanamo votes

By Evan Perez

President Barack Obama's efforts to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are expected to face some crucial Senate votes this week, and for the first time in four years, he stands a chance to win some.

A Senate bill to authorize defense spending contains some of the loosest restrictions yet on transferring Guantanamo prisoners, including possibly to the United States for detention, trial or medical care.

The bill would still require certification from the secretary of defense that the 164 Guantanamo prisoners won't pose a danger if transferred to the United States or other countries. But the streamlined process could help the Obama administration make progress on a goal that appeared all but given up for lost.

This year, the administration is using tight budgets as part of the argument for closing the prison that Obama, in a speech at the National Defense University in May, said was a symbol of the U.S. flouting the law that "should never have been opened."
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Filed under: Congress • Detainees • Gitmo
Source: CIA using Patriot Act to collect money transfer data
November 15th, 2013
07:41 AM ET

Source: CIA using Patriot Act to collect money transfer data

By Evan Perez

The CIA is collecting bulk records on international money transfers, using the same Patriot Act legal authority that has become the center of controversy in U.S. surveillance programs, a source told CNN.

A person familiar with the program said the agency's efforts are an outgrowth of terror finance-tracking programs that were established in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and revealed that al Qaeda funded the hijackers using methods such as smuggled cash, money transfers, and credit and debit cards.

The Treasury Department and the National Security Agency have other programs that similarly focus on financial transaction data. The CIA program provides some redundancies intended to catch transactions that may not draw attention in other programs.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times first reported the existence of the CIA program Thursday night, saying it has sparked concerns from lawmakers.

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