by Lloyd Billingsley
The 18-member U.S. intelligence community (IC) has released the Annual Statistical Transparency Report Regarding the Intelligence Community’s Use of National Security Surveillance Authorities. One of the few to pay attention was historian Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and an affiliated scholar at the University of California’s Hastings School of Law.
This government document, the ninth such report to be made public, “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 law 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 3 million Americans without a warrant. The collection of the data, from telecom and internet providers, renders conversations described as “incidental” – except they aren’t. Each intelligence agency’s rules on “targeting” and “minimization,” Guariglia shows, allow access to the communications of Americans caught in the “702 dragnet.”
The IC “lobbied for Section 702 as a tool for national security outside the borders of the United States, 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 General Michael Flynn. See the Justice Department’s review of four FISA applications during the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane operation, which, despite the redactions, is a damning indictment.
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 Sussmann. He brought allegations to the FBI, which found that they had “no substance.”
In 2020, the Biden campaign took a hit when Hunter Biden’s laptop revealed that the “Big Guy” got a piece of the action from his son’s dealings with the Chinese regime. Fifty-one former IC officials, including CIA bosses such as John Brennan, claimed the story had “the earmarks” of “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. The U.S. intelligence community’s disinformation campaign succeeded in 2020, and embattled Americans might contrast the IC record on actual foreign threats to the United States.
Spies from Communist China are strip-mining the United States for data and technology. Chinese national Juan Tang, for example, hid affiliations with China’s military to get a post at the University of California, Davis. The Biden Justice Department dropped a charge of visa fraud and let her get away.
The IC and FBI failed to stop Islamic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001, with 3,000 casualties and billions of dollars in damages. 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, along with 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 the true terrorists. That continues under the Biden regime.
FBI boss Christopher Wray targets “domestic terrorism” and angrily denies any “spying” 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 the 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 might recall the crises the FBI and IC failed to avert, and their abuse of FISA in 2016.
In November, voters will decide which lawmakers get the chance to end the 702 measures. As the crucial election approaches, the IC and FBI will doubtless be targeting many “U.S. persons” less than worshipful of the Biden regime. As Trump likes to say, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
– – –
Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.
Image “FBI Agent” by FBI.