President Donald Trump’s orders to declassify secret documents pertaining to the FBI’s investigation into his campaign in 2016, came after weeks of battles between Attorney General William Barr and senior officials within the bureau, CIA and other agencies, sources with knowledge told SaraACarter.com.
Despite the president’s order giving Barr authority over the declassification of the documents related to the bureau’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, it won’t be met without a fight. And there’s a reason why.
This isn’t just about Trump. It’s about nearly a decade of abuse inside the intelligence community and bureau regarding foreign-intelligence-collection authority. Why? Because it was carried out to monitor communications of Americans inside the United States and the procedures meant to protect Americans either swept up in those calls or targeted were not followed. The Fourth Amendment was under attack and abused for political purposes, say several retired intelligence sources.
“If the full extent of the abuse is made public the powers granted these agencies powers could be scaled back and those who allegedly abused their power could face prosecution,” one former senior intelligence official told SaraACarter.com.
“We are heading toward a gigantic, gigantic fight,” Joe DiGenova
It was the same argument made by Joe DiGenova, former U.S. Attorney and outspoken supporter of Trump, during Memorial Day weekend.
“This is full scale war between the Attorney General of the United States and believe it or not, another FBI director who thinks he’s James Comey,” Joe DiGenova, former U.S. Attorney said Monday on WMAL radio’s Mornings on the Mall radio show.
“We are heading toward a gigantic, gigantic fight,” he added. “The intelligence community, which includes the FBI, is in full resistance to disclosing what they did during the presidential campaign.”
DiGenova told this reporter Tuesday that the FISC’s opinion in 2017 reveals that improper surveillance has been happening since 2012.
“The FISC has already found that there’s been spying going on starting in 2012, not (just) in 2016,” he said, adding that senior officials within the FBI and CIA “fear” that a full scale disclosure of the violations will then limit their expansive powers.
DiGenova was referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Rosemary Collyer April 26, 2017 memorandum and opinion. In her opinion she chided the abuses in surveillance in the intelligence community. On example, was Collyer’s referral as to how the Director of National Intelligence (NCTC) in 2012 “was granted access to raw information from terrorism cases obtained under Titles I and III and Sections 704 and 705(b) of the Act, subject to expanded minimization procedures.”
It’s reading between the lines of Collyer’s opinion, understanding what’s been redacted and what Collyer meant by the reprimand, he said.
“How much surveillance came directly from the NSA? How much of it was misused under the terrorism statute,” Former Senior Intelligence Official.
It is the main reason Barr appointed U.S. Attorney in Connecticut John Durham to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. Durham is extremely familiar with the CIA and has an extensive career investigating the intelligence community. As for U.S. Attorney John Huber, he is no longer working on the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign. He will be focused on other matters.
“How much surveillance came directly from the NSA? How much of it was misused under the terrorism statute,” said another former senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Because under 215 and 702 you can do things you can’t do under a normal criminal investigation. These are the areas Barr needs to be looking at and this is exactly what they need to be questioning about.”
As stated in a write up at the Brennan Center For Justice “Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allows the government to obtain a secret court order requiring third parties, such as telephone companies, to hand over any records or other “tangible thing” if deemed “relevant” with regard to terrorism, counterespionage, or foreign intelligence investigation.”
Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act allows the government to acquire foreign intelligence by targeting non-U.S. persons “reasonably believed” to be outside U.S. borders, the center states. However, persons inside the United States can and will be swept up in the collection and this is where “minimization procedures” to hide the persons name are used.
This is not what happened.
NSA’s “Lack of Candor”
Over two and half years ago, John Solomon and I investigated this very issue. We revealed in multiple stories the extensive abuse that happened under the Obama Administration with regard to surveillance issues by the intelligence community and law enforcement. In fact, it was Collyer’s reprimand that exposed what was happening in the Obama Administration with regard to unwarranted surveillance activities.
What we didn’t realize was how extensive the abuse had become or how extensive it was abused during the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign.
It was a strange twist of events at the end of the Obama administration. In October, 2016, the administration self reported to the courts that it had failed to adhere to the rules. This is what Collyer was referring to in her 2017 memo. After the NSA reported what had happened, the court accused the NSA of “an institutional lack of candor.”
The court also reiterated that it was “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”
Remember, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was created in 1978 and considered the most secret court because the proceedings are classified. What this means is that only the Justice Department is represented – the person being monitored has no idea and no representation.
Here’s what happens: The NSA collects massive amounts of intelligence under FISA Section 702. This is a different section of the FISA. Under 702 surveillance authorities communication on Americans will be incidentally collected if they are speaking to a foreign person being targeted – that can be anyone from a terrorist, businessman or a foreign government official overseas. This doesn’t seem like it would be a big issue but FISA surveillance is more controversial than targeting someone because of a crime. Why? Because the government does not have to show probable cause of a crime to obtain a FISA. The courts are at the mercy of federal law enforcement to provide solid evidence and full disclosure when applying for the warrant against any American.
The NSA Minimization Proceedures
We know based on the information provided to the courts that the NSA under Obama had broken the rules.
We also know now that the FISA process had been abused with regard to the investigation by the bureau into the Trump campaign.
This is what Barr needs to investigate and it goes far beyond what happened with the 2016 election, in fact, it goes right at the heart of what Collyer addressed in her memorandum.
For example, any American swept up in NSA communication collections under FISA 702 is supposed to be protected. The FISA court ensures this through, minimization procedures, that is keeping the name of the person swept up into the collections masked. The identity is supposed to be concealed when the NSA issues its reports or analysis in the intelligence community.
Once those identities are unmasked and if those documents were shared within the intelligence community leaks were more likely, and the difficulty of tracing those who leaked the information much more difficult.
That is what was revealed when information went public that senior Obama Administration officials, like then National Security Advisor Susan Rice, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, CIA Director John Brennan and others had requested the unmasking of Americans, some in the Trump campaign.
It’s important to note that unmasking an American was once extremely rare. It is done for the purposes of counterintelligence or terrorism investigation and is usually done by those directly involved in the investigation. Why were senior officials with the Obama administration making so many unmasking requests? The U.S. intelligence officials said that what was occurring in and of itself “is highly suspect, and extremely unusual.”
One stunning revelation in 2017, was the number of unmasking requests made by U.N. Ambassador Power. She had requested nearly 300 people be unmasked. In an effort to explain the requests, she told Congress during a 2017 hearing that subordinates had signed her name for the information. Most of the people unmasked under her name were done so at the end of the Obama Administration.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy told Fox News shortly after the hearing that Power admitted under testimony that they were under her name but stated to the lawmakers “I did not make those requests.”
Then there’s the FISA issue with Carter Page, a short term volunteer for the Trump campaign. This is a different set of violations that happened under the FBI and DOJ. These are violations that will certainly be investigated by both the DOJ and the Inspector General.
Page was the target of a FISA Warrant from October, 2016 until September 2017 and evidence collected by the House Intelligence Committee, then led by Chairman Devin Nunes, revealed a number of highly questionable issues with how the FBI obtained the warrant.
First, it used an unverified dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele as the bulk of evidence to secure the FISA warrant from the secret court. Steele is now refusing to cooperate with the US Justice Department as it reviews the start of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Far worse, there is the alleged evidence that will reveal the FBI withheld exculpatory evidence related to Page’s case that he was in not working with Russians, nor had any contact with the Russians for the Trump campaign.
What Happens Next
Barr will have numerous battles to get to the truth of what occurred but it is a war worth fighting. It is a fight for accountability, oversight and constitutional protections that were endowed by our founding fathers.
Durham is charged with this investigation and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to release his report on the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Trump within weeks.
These investigation will hold those in the intelligence and law enforcement community accountable, depending on what evidence is discovered. This reporter is hearing from sources that it will be scathing. Those who abused their power and weaponized the tools meant to target America’s enemies against a political opponents should be held accountable.
But as it stands now, what we have heard publicly is only the tip of the iceberg and unless the new DOJ team led by Barr does its job, there is no doubt it will happen again.