As the midterm election approaches, the Annual Statistical Transparency Report Regarding the Intelligence Community’s Use of National Security Surveillance Authorities shows why the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also on the ballot.
One of the few to give this document the attention it deserves was historian Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and affiliated scholar at the University of California’s Hastings School of Law.
The report “provides statistics and contextual information concerning how the Intelligence Community uses the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and certain other national security authorities to accomplish its mission.” The Act authorizes the U.S. government to engage in mass surveillance of foreign targets.
As Guariglia discovered, FISA is “still being abused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to spy on Americans without a warrant.” This abuse takes place under Section 702, an amendment to FISA.
Between December 2020 and November 2021, Guariglia notes, the FBI potentially queried the data of more than three million Americans without a warrant. Collection of the data, from telecom and internet providers, renders conversations described as “incidental,” but they aren’t. Each intelligence agency’s rules on “targeting” and “minimization,” Guariglia shows, allow access to access to the communications of Americans caught in the “702 dragnet.”
The 18-member U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) “lobbied for Section 702 as a tool for national security outside the borders of the U.S., but at its core is instead the ability to conduct domestic, warrantless surveillance on Americans, including for run-of-the-mill crimes. This is the government’s favorite feature of Section 702 – it’s not a bug.”
The IC abused FISA to spy on candidate and President Donald Trump, and several of his campaign aides, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, plus Gen. Michael Flynn.
The reason for the FISA campaign, the charge that Trump was colluding with Russia, was a product of the Hillary Clinton campaign. That is now emerging in John Durham’s case against Clinton officials such as Michael Sussman.
In 2020, the Biden campaign took a hit when Hunter Biden’s laptop reveals that the “Big Guy” got a piece of the action from his son’s dealings with the Chinese regime. A full 51 former IC officials, including CIA bosses such as John Brennan, claimed this was “Russian disinformation.” As the New York Times, Washington Post and others have now verified, the laptop has no existential problem and was not Russian disinformation.
FBI boss Christopher Wray targets “domestic terrorism” and angrily denied that any “spying” had taken place against Trump. Former FBI boss James Comey was a Clinton crony going back to his days as a U.S. attorney. In 2016, Comey abused FISA to spy on candidate and President Trump, but like his FBI colleague Peter Strzok, Comey has escaped prosecution. The measures that empowered such lawlessness are still in place, but there may be hope.
“The authorities for Section 702 are scheduled to sunset if they are not legislatively renewed by the end of 2023,” Guariglia notes. “This means lawmakers have a chance to end the many years of overreach by the intelligence community and close warrantless ‘backdoor’ access to our data.” In 2020, Congress let Section 215 of the Patriot Act expire for similar reasons.
“The tools it provided were invasive, illegal and did not produce information that could not be acquired with other insidious tools,” Guariglia explains. With renewal of Section 702 on the line, “it’s time lawmakers stepped up to close this backdoor access to data law enforcement once and for all.”
The FBI and IC, Guariglia warns, “will try to scare lawmakers by giving a rundown of all of the crises that could be averted by maintaining its backdoor.” Lawmakers and all “U.S. persons” might recall the crises the FBI and IC failed to avert.
The IC and FBI failed to stop Islamic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001. With the newfound Department of Homeland Security aboard, the IC failed to stop terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, the Boston Marathon in 2013; San Bernardino, California, in 2015; and Orlando, Florida, in 2016, and many others.
From 1995 to 2016, there were 620 terrorist attacks in the United States totaling 3,393 deaths. Many of those failures can be attributed to a change of policy. The composite character president David Garrow described in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, ignored Islamic terrorism and branded his domestic opposition as terrorists. That continues under the Biden Junta, which has ramped up warrantless spying on U.S. citizens.
“In total, queries against U.S. citizens came out to a jaw-dropping 3,394,053 searches,” the Epoch Times notes. “By comparison, only 1,324,057 such queries were made in 2020, representing around a 250 percent increase” during Biden’s first year in the White House. FBI spying on Americans less than worshipful of Joe Biden is certain to surge as the election approaches.
U.S. persons across the nation might request their candidate’s position on Section 702. Should the grounds for warrantless searches be eliminated? Or should Congress turn back the clock to 2016? On November 8, as Trump likes to say, we’ll have to see what happens.