Is the FBI Really Unaware of How They’ve Abused Its Own Surveillance?
It’s amazing when the fox guards the chicken house, and it’s no more apparent than with the recent testimony before Congress by FBI Director Christopher Wray.
As sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) are set to expire on December 31, 2017, Wray testified to Congress that there has been absolutely no abuse of Section 702 of FISA.
In a repeat of a statement he made on October 13 of this year to the Heritage Foundation, Wray said, “There’s been no evidence of any kind of abuse of power under Section 702 despite the oversight … with the three branches of government and quite a few years of experience now.”
Now, FISA is presumed to be a way that our intelligence communities gather information electronically on those they claim are potential terrorists, but sometimes gather it on perfectly innocent people.
In my opinion, FISA flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment’s protections.
However, demonstrating that Wray’s claim is completely invalid, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson pointed out the following known abuse.
In 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) found some collection of internet data by the National Security Agency (NSA) to be illegal and unconstitutional, capturing tens of thousands of U.S. communications without a warrant. That would seem to be an abuse.
To better protect the rights of U.S. citizens, the government adopted restrictions that “categorically prohibited NSA analysts” from using personal identifiers of Americans, such as our phone numbers, to search through internet information the NSA collects under Section 702. However, the government admitted violating those restrictions to a secret hearing in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on Oct. 26, 2016. According to the judge, NSA analysts had been conducting such searches in violation of the prohibition “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.” The judge accused the NSA of an institutional “lack of candor” and stated: “This is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.” That sounds like an abuse.
Meantime, the NSA secretly expanded its authority to collect emails and other communications of U.S. citizens who had done nothing more thanrefer to a target in a single instance. For example, if you wrote an email that mentioned a target phrase — it could be “Osama bin Laden” — the NSA could use that as an excuse to spy on you. In 2015, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court criticized the practice saying the results likely netted information on U.S. citizens with “no foreign intelligence value.” That seems like an abuse.
In January 2016, the NSA inspector general issued a top secret report criticizing the NSA for: not having proper processes in place to monitor how well it met key provisions designed to protect Americans; instances of non-compliance; and lack of documentation proving NSA analysts were meeting requirements prohibiting targeting of U.S. persons who were in the United States. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court stated that it appeared “the problem was widespread during all periods under review.” That sounds like an abuse.
All of this doesn’t even consider the now publicly known incidents in which the NSA surveilled the likes of former members of Congress Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), or the communications between congressional staffs and Israeli officials in 2015, or Trump adviser Carter Page during the 2016 campaign.
While claiming that the FISA Amendments Act is critical to fighting terrorism, it appears that the real criminals in the matter reside in our own government who are clearly violating the protections of the rights of the people, all in the name of “security.”
Remember, this is the same FBI that would not recommend prosecution for Hillary Clinton when she knowingly was violating federal law and engaging in a national security nightmare with her illegal email server, was working with known terrorist-tied individuals like Huma Abedin, or selling Uranium to the Russians.
This is the same FBI that can’t really give us anything concrete on the Las Vegas shooter to date as to his motives nor were they on the ball when it came to attacks planned against anti-jihadist Pamela Geller.
This doesn’t even begin to deal with the plethora of documented violations of the Constitution by the CIA and the NSA.
John Whitehead recently wrote about the upcoming decision to impose a perpetual state of surveillance on the American people.
In that brilliant piece, Whitehead also pointed out:
“PRISM” lets the NSA access emails, video chats, instant messages, and other content sent via Facebook, Google, Apple and others. “Upstream” lets the NSA worm its way into the internet backbone—the cables and switches owned by private corporations like AT&T that make the internet into a global network—and scan traffic for the communications of tens of thousands of individuals labeled “targets.”
Just as the USA Patriot Act was perverted from its original intent to fight terrorism abroad and was used instead to covertly crackdown on the American people (allowing government agencies to secretly track Americans’ financial activities, monitor their communications, and carry out wide-ranging surveillance on them), Section 702 has been used as an end-run around the Constitution to allow the government to collect the actual content of Americans’ emails, phone calls, text messages and other electronic communication without a warrant.
Under Section 702, the government collects and analyzes over 250 million internet communications every year. There are estimates that at least half of these contain information about U.S. residents, many of whom have done nothing wrong. This information is then shared with law enforcement and “routinely used for purposes unrelated to national security.”
Mind you, this is about far more than the metadata collection that Edward Snowden warned us about, which was bad enough. Section 702 gives the government access to the very content of your conversations (phone calls, text messages, video chats), your photographs, your emails. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., warned, “This is not just who you send it to, but what’s in it.”
Unfortunately, Big Brother doesn’t relinquish power easily.
The Police State doesn’t like restrictions.
“It’s time to let Section 702 expire or reform the law to ensure that millions and millions of Americans are not being victimized by a government that no longer respects its constitutional limits,” wrote Whitehead.
He then warned, “Mark my words: if Congress votes to make the NSA’s vast spying powers permanent, it will be yet another brick in the wall imprisoning us within an electronic concentration camp from which there is no escape.”
He’s exactly right and Wray’s false testimony demonstrates that the Deep State is willing to lie to Congress in order to keep their usurped power over the Constitution.
It’s way past time to let each of these things affronts to the Constitution die and rid ourselves of an ever-intrusive surveillance state.