FISA abuse

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The FISA court ruled the Obama administration's improper access of FISA data granted to contractors "seems to have been the result of deliberate decision making."

FISA abuse refers to the Obama administration's illegal domestic spying and efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.[1]

Obama Justice Department and FBI officials committed two types of FISA abuse: FISA 702 abuse, and hoaxing the FISA court with fraudulent evidence. 702 abuse consists of performing illegal search queries of the FISA database on American citizens. Hoaxing the court consisted of seeking FISA Title I warrants with bogus evidence, some of the evidence gathered from illegal 702 searches (such as travel dates of a person to a particular location).

702 queries targeting American citizens are never legal under any circumstances.

The evidence used to justify opening the Russia investigation against the 2016 Trump campaign, and presented to the FISA court by the Obama Justice Department, was fraudulent.[2] Impeachment proceedings against deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein we're initiated in late June 2018 for abusing the FISA process and initiating an illegitimate investigation of President Trump and associates not authorized by statutory law or Department of Justice regulations.[3]

Congressional resolution

From the draft Resolution introduced in the House May 22, 2018:[4]

Whereas in October 2016, the FBI and DOJ used politically biased, unverified sources to obtain warrants issued by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISA Court) that aided in the surveillance of U.S. citizens, including Carter Page;

Whereas these warrants grant U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies sweeping power to collect bulk information and conduct ‘‘about collection’’,[5] which results in surveillance of a broad array of private communications from the past, present, and future, including those of U.S. citizens not specifically targeted in the FISA authorized warrant;[6]

Whereas to obtain these warrants, FBI and DOJ officials submitted an unverified dossier prepared by Christopher Steele to the FISA Court,[7] failing to disclose that Christopher Steele was hired by the firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign to prepare this dossier and that the source was unreliable and was soon thereafter going to be terminated as a source;[8][9]

Whereas the FISA Court was not informed that Christopher Steele was actively opposed to the election of Donald Trump,[10] that he was the unnamed source cited in the media reports that the FBI used to corroborate his dossier,[11] and that Fusion GPS had been hired to perform previous anti-Trump research efforts in 2015;[12]

Whereas the Woods Procedures, which are the FBI’s mandatory vetting process required for all FISA warrant applications instituted to ensure that all the facts contained in an application are accurate and verified to clearly support probable cause for a warrant, were not followed; [13]

Whereas former Director Comey admitted in sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 8, 2017, that material contained in the Steele dossier was known to be both ‘‘salacious’’ and ‘‘unverified’’;[14]

Whereas since FISA warrant applications are rarely turned down, are almost never subject to appeal, and are presented in closed court with no public record where the Government is not challenged by any defense, it is imperative that the Government take extra care to validate the information being utilized to build their case before they take the extraordinary step of waiving rights of a U.S. citizen without his or her knowledge or the opportunity to present a defense;

Whereas at the FISA Court, the Government has a responsibility not only to provide its best evidence in support of its case, but also to provide the best evidence against its case;

Whereas these deeply flawed and questionable FISA warrant applications utilizing illicit sources and politically biased intelligence were approved by DOJ and FBI officials at the highest levels before being submitted to the FISA Court;[15]

Whereas it was further not disclosed to the FISA court that the wife of fourth-ranking DOJ official Bruce Ohr worked for Fusion GPS and that Christopher Steele directly transmitted the dossier and other information through Bruce Ohr for submission to the FISA court...[16]

Contractor access

Agencies within the United States government with FISA access routinely grant contractor access to outside groups and individuals. Daniel Richman for example, the Columbia University professor to whom ex-FBI director James Comey leaked classified memos in hopes of sparking a Special Counsel investigation of President Trump,[17] was an FBI contractor with FISA access.[18]

FusionGPS and CrowdStrike likewise are said to be contractors, at least up until the time the NSA and FISA court cut them off because of over 5,000 abuses - illegal 702 search queries on American citizens, Trump attorney Michael Cohen being the most prominently known as of 2018.[19] The allegation of Cohen visiting Prague and Stormy Daniels payoff are the results of illegal FISA 702 surveillance.

About queries

Section 702 "About queries" are intended for use against non-U.S. citizens outside the United States. If a U.S. citizen is "incidentally collected" in a 702 search, their name by law is supposed to be "masked" or "minimalized" under "minimalization procedures." Because a U.S. citizen's constitutional Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches do not end at the water's edge, 702 search queries are not intended to be used against an American citizen as the target. Technologically however, there are no impediments to prevent it.

702 search queries are ripe for abuse. Edward Snowden told The Guardian in 2013:[20]

I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal e-mail.

It’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you have ever made.”[21]
In April 2017 the NSA eliminated 702 "about" queries completely, for the time being.[22] As Sundance of observed,
"Removing the (17) “about” search option entirely was the only way to stop human beings from using the tool. However, that said, it only takes another presidential election, and a new NSA director, and the system can be reactivated once again...
all it takes is one Presidential election and the switch can easily be flipped back toward weaponizing those systems. All it takes is political operative like John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey and Eric Holder to reappear and reconstitute the system to allow weaponized political abuse/targeting. Really, and scarily, it is that simple.
So long as the current process of data collection remains a part of the intelligence gathering operations within the institutions of government – every vote you make for the office of the President will ultimately be a vote for who you, as an individual, trust to have ownership of your most sensitive information. So long as we accept this level of surveillance gathering, every election decision from now until the end of time is ultimately an election with a consequence that the victor could weaponize that information to enhance ideological power."[23]

Compliance audit and review

In early 2016 NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers, tasked with overseeing the vast databases used in FISA surveillance, detected unusual activity among Obama FBI contractors with FISA access, and ordered a compliance audit.[24][25][26] Contractor access was terminated on April 18, 2016.[27][28] Mary Jacoby, wife of FusionGPS founder Glenn Simpson, visited the White House for a meeting with Obama officials the next day.[29]

The following week the White House held two day-long meetings for DOJ and FBI specialists in the FISA law. James Baker (DOJ), Trisha B Anderson (FBI), Tashina Gauhar ( DOJ), John (Brad) Wiegmann (DOJ), Norman (Christopher) Hardee (DOJ) and a few others were in attendance.[30][31][32][33] Shortly afterward Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele were hired by FusionGPS to begin the Steele dossier - using raw FISA data - although contractor access had been cut off. By May Nellie Ohr's husband, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, was working with FBI Counterintelligence Deputy Peter Strzok. In June 2016 Strzok, Bruce Ohr and Lisa Page prepared the first FISA warrant application against the Trump campaign, which was initially denied.

The evidence suggests someone within the Obama FBI/DOJ continued illegal 702 "about" queries on Trump campaign personal after contractor access was cut off, and the raw data was funneled back to FusionGPS for the Steele dossier, to make it appear the illegally collected surveillance came from outside the government.[34]

The raw FISA data in the Steele dossier was only useful to corroborate itineries, such as an allegation Trump attorney Michael Cohen was in Prague in late July 2016, but it doesn't provide the substance of conversations. A meeting with the KGB was entirely a fictitious invention by Christopher Steele. When Cohen could prove he was in California at the time, and it was another Michael Cohen with the same year of birth who visited Prague,[35] it was a virtual certainty the Steele dossier was a fraud.[36] The information on the wrong Cohen could only have come from an illegal FISA 702 "about" query after contractor access had been cut off.[37] This suggests illegal collusion between the Obama FBI/DOJ, and Hillary Clinton's paid opposition researchers.[38] For this cause - because Cohen could blow the lid off the entire FISA abuse scandal - Cohen was specifically targeted, his office raided, and all documents seized.

Hoaxing the court

Under the "two-hop" rule, the FISA warrant granted against Carter Page gave authority to spy on virtually the entire Trump campaign.[39] When Carter Page emailed or phoned Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, or Steve Bannon, the FBI gained access to their contact lists, which would be Trump himself, the immediate campaign staff, and all campaign managers in all 50 states. And the same surveillance authority granted to monitor Carter Page can be applied to anyone appearing on those lists. The law, FISA Title I authority, is intended to discover and root out an entire network of foreign spies, terrorist cells, or drug and weapons traffickers.

Obama administration FISA abuse, and hoaxing of the court, took two forms: (1) lying to the court with fraudulent information to gain Title I authority over Carter Page, hence the entire Trump network, and (2) FISA Title VII Section 702 abuse, illegal search queries of the FISA database which, by law, can only be used against non-citizens outside the United States. American citizens and non-citizens residing inside the United States are protected by the Fourth Amendment. Foreigners outside the United States are not. An operator with clearance to access the FISA database can simply enter a search parameter - name and D.O.B., a phone number, email address, etc. - into a search engine box and return a history of all relevant information, contact lists, a record of all phone calls, emails and texts sent to or from, etc. The Obama administration had been violating the law in this regard, performing illegal 702 search queries against its domestic political opponents since 2011 - and lied to the court about it.

The FISA Title I application against Carter Page was granted on October 21, 2016. It granted access to all Page's contacts and their contacts, retroactively, past, present, and future. It covered virtually all of 2016. It covered the post-election transition. A FISA warrant must be renewed every 90 days; it was renewed 3 times and spanned well into the first year of the Trump presidency.

The FISA warrant intruded into President-elect Trump's selection of a cabinet. Michael Flynn was not the first casualty of Obama's illegal surveillance. There were others who declined jobs for fear of blackmail by the FBI and intelligence community when vetting for security clearances. Others, even low level staffers, were chased out and intimidated - long time Trump aides such as Keith Schiller, Hope Hicks, and Omarosa Managault. None of these were Russian colluders, but the FBI will manage to discover some tidbit of intimidating information that no one wants exposed on virtually anyone. In Michael Cohen's case, Stormy Daniels is not a Russian spy, but that's all the FBI discovered while looking for Russian collusion.

See also


  18. "Edward Snowden was an NSA contractor. Reality Winner was an NSA contractor. Christopher Steele was an FBI contractor. Daniel Richman was an FBI contractor. Nellie Ohr was a CIA contractor. Stefan Halper was an FBI/CIA Contractor. Glenn Simpson was an FBI/CIA contractor. Fusion-GPS was an FBI contractor. Crowdstrike is an FBI contractor. The FBI approached Oleg Deripaska about being a repeat FBI contractor etc."
  25. In March 2016, NSA Director Rogers became aware of improper access to raw FISA data. "Private contractors had access to raw FISA information on FBI storage systems," Pages 83-84 of April 2017 FISA Court Ruling. In April of 2016, Rogers directed the NSA’s Office of Compliance to conduct a “fundamental baseline review of compliance associated with 702”, Senate testimony June 7, 2017.
  27. pp. 83-84