WASHINGTON, DC- As was seen during the Russia collusion hoax, the United States has some clear problems where it concerns the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), as outlined in the 2019 report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
That report revealed a pattern of “abuses and deficiencies in the FBI’s FISA process.” Now, Fox News tells us that Republican House members Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ) are railing against FBI Director Christopher Wray after more allegations of “widespread” FISA violations were revealed.
In his 2019 findings, Horowitz found the FBI had misused the FISA process in order to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. It also outlined 17 significant “errors or omissions,” as well as 51 “incorrect or unsupported factual assertions” in the FBI’s application to conduct warrantless surveillance.
That report partially served as a basis for the Trump administration to make repeated claims of abuse by the FBI where it concerns the FISA process. Last year, Wray said the actions taken to obtain the Page warrant were “unacceptable” and told lawmakers they “cannot be repeated.” Apparently not so much.
Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified an opinion from the FISC—the court that has oversight authority over the FISA system—which both lawmakers said showed the FBI “has been seriously and systematically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority.”
That opinion, issued in November spoke to the agency’s “apparent widespread violations” of privacy rules, Fox noted, claiming such occurred “in conducting surveillance under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” however wasn’t related to the warrant against Page.
“We write to request information about the FBI’s illegal spying activities,” Jordan and Biggs wrote to Wray Tuesday.
Under Section 702, the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence are authorized to jointly authorize warrantless surveillance of non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. That authorization however is subject to limitations.
Under Section 702, there is a requirement of the adoption of “targeting procedures” to ensure that any information obtained is limited to non-U.S. persons in order to prevent the “intentional acquisition” of U.S. domestic communications, according to the U.S. Code.
This section also holds the requirement for use of minimization and querying procedures, in particular holding the requirement that the “government obtain a FISC order for any review of Section 702 query results in criminal investigations unrelated to national security,” Fox continued.
The opinion Jordan and Biggs are concerned with showed that “the government has reported numerous incidents regarding searches of section 702 FISA information without first obtaining court permission.”
Further, some 40 queries were discovered where the FBI acquired information for investigations involving “healthcare fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs, domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists, as well as investigations relating to public corruption and bribery,” all of which are clearly outside the scope of foreign surveillance.
The opinion rendered by the FISC said that “none of these queries was related to national security and they returned numerous Section 702-acquired products in response.” In fact, the chief judge of the FISC, Judge James E. Boasberg warned that the court is “concerned about the apparent widespread violations.”
In their letter to Wray, Jordan and Biggs called those concerns “particularly disturbing in light of prior FBI misconduct” outlined by Horowitz in his 2019 report.
The letter continued:
“Similarly, in March 2020, the OIG warned you of extensive noncompliance with Woods Procedures, which act as a safeguard and are designed to minimize factual inaccuracies in FISA applications by maintaining supporting documentation for each factual assertion in the application,” the two lawmakers wrote.
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“The OIC alerted you to unsupported, uncorroborated, or inconsistent information in the Woods Files of all 25 surveillance applications on U.S. Persons that the OIG examined,” they continued.
They also noted the recent declassification of the FISC’s opinion “only raises more questions about the FBI’s respect for the constitutional and statutory parameters of FISA.”
“Given the seriousness of this matter for civil liberties, please provide the following information immediately,” they wrote, demanding an explanation as to why the FBI was ‘still abusing’ FISA;, also “a detailed accounting of every instance since December 2019 when the FBI has ‘queried, accessed’ information pursuant to FISA for purposes unrelated to national security; and an explanation on what specific actions Wray has taken to address the concerns in the November 2020 opinion to ‘prevent the FBI from using its section 702 authorities to surveil, investigate, or otherwise examine U.S. citizens.”
After the 2020 opinion was issued, a senior FBI official said that the opinion issued by the FISC demonstrated the high standards the government, including the FBI should be expected to meet and claimed the FBI “takes those standards seriously.”
Fox News was told by that official that the agency had taken “steps to facilitate compliance with the 702 query procedures, which included the implementation of additional documentation steps to ensure personnel “have thought about the querying standard and articulate why they think it has been met.” The agency also modified “multiple systems to better help personnel meet those legal requirements.”
Fox News was told by the same official that the FBI had “developed new guidance and training on those requirements and deployed the training to all FBI personnel with access to unminimized Section 702 information.”
He continued, “Anyone who did not complete the training no longer has access to that information,” the official said, alleging the changes took effect by December 2019. Relative to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency said it was “still assessing the efficacy” of the changes, however say they are “committed to getting this right.”
That official claims that a majority of the query incidents referenced in the report “occurred prior to implementation of the FBI’s system changes and training regarding the additional documentation requirement discussed above.”
The agency also established in internal auditing office, headed by a senior FBI official, who is tasked with conducting additional internal reviews.
Last year, Wray told lawmakers that he had “ordered more than 40 corrective actions to our FISA policies and procedures” also said he had “gone above and beyond” to address changes that need to be made to ensure “accountability, rigor and discipline.”
“I do not think anyone has carte blanche to bypass rules and I intend to make it painfully clear that is unacceptable at the FBI today,” Wray said back then.
Fox News also reported that last year, 451 people were targeted by FISA warrants, a drop credited in part to the pandemic. That was a sharp decrease from 2019, when 1,059 people were targeted by the feds. That information was contained in an annual report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Ironically, there were 1,830 people targeted in 2018 for surveillance, which then dropped to the 1,059 number in 2019. The drop in FISA warrants after the increased scrutiny brought forth by the Carter Page revelations cannot be dismissed. In other words, it seems after they got caught, they stopped spying on American citizens.
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Author: Pat Droney
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