Newly declassified documents now demonstrate how reckless and lawless the FBI has been when it comes to following the Constitutional restraints imposed upon the central government. These documents reveal that the FBI shared intelligence it gained from spying on Americans with unauthorized third parties, which is a violation of constitutional privacy protections.
John Solomon and Sara Carter at Circa.com report on the story saying that the evidence “undercuts the bureau’s public assurances about how carefully it handles warrantless spy data to avoid abuses or leaks.”
In his final congressional testimony before he was fired by President Trump this month, then-FBI Director James Comey unequivocally told lawmakers his agency used sensitive espionage data gathered about Americans without a warrant only when it was “lawfully collected, carefully overseen and checked.”
Once-top secret U.S. intelligence community memos reviewed by Circa tell a different story, citing instances of “disregard” for rules, inadequate training and “deficient” oversight and even one case of deliberately sharing spy data with a forbidden party.
For instance, a ruling declassified this month by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) chronicles nearly 10 pages listing hundreds of violations of the FBI’s privacy-protecting minimization rules that occurred on Comey’s watch.
The behavior the FBI admitted to a FISA judge just last month ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight the bureau promised was in place years ago.
The court also opined aloud that it fears the violations are more extensive than already disclosed.
“The Court is nonetheless concerned about the FBI’s apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI is engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported,” the April 2017 ruling declared.
Keep in mind that our Constitution states that there must be probable cause and a warrant obtained with specific things to be searched for before they can engage in this activity. However, as Solomon and Carter point out, “But Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act, last updated by Congress in 2008, allowed the NSA to share with the FBI spy data collected without a warrant that includes the communications of Americans with ‘foreign targets'” and the FISA watchdog groups claim the FBI was having trouble complying just months after Section 702 was put in place. This was later confirmed in a Department of Justice Inspector General’s Office report in 2015, which has been declassified.
While the FBI claimed to be in compliance, the Inspector General said otherwise and claimed that it had discovered where there FBI accessed data obtained by the NSA on a person who was most likely in the US, and that made it illegal to review without a warrant.
“We found several instances in which the FBI acquired communications on the same day that the NSA determined through analysis of intercepted communications that the person was in the United States,” the IG report read.
However, the question should be, why was it not illegal for the NSA to obtain in the first place? They didn’t have a warrant to obtain the data. They are under the same constraints of the Constitution that the FBI and anyone in the central government is.
However, the FBI told Circa, “As indicated in its opinion, the Court determined that the past and current standard minimization procedures are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and met the statutory definition of those procedures under Section 702.”
How is that possible? Here’s what the Fourth Amendment explicitly says.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Circa report also went on to report that the FBI then took the data they gathered and shared it with unauthorized third parties.
The most serious involved the NSA searching for American data it was forbidden to search. But the FBI also was forced to admit its agents and analysts shared espionage data with prohibited third parties, ranging from a federal contractor to a private entity that did not have the legal right to see the intelligence.
Such third-party sharing is a huge political concern now as Congress and intelligence community leaders try to stop the flow of classified information to parties that could illegally disclose or misuse it, such as the recent leak that disclosed intercepted communications between the Russian ambassador and Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
The court’s memo suggested the FBI’s sharing of raw intelligence to third parties, at the time, had good law enforcement intentions but bad judgment and inadequate training.
“Nonetheless, the above described practices violated the governing minimization procedures,” the court chided.
A footnote in the ruling stated one instance of improper sharing was likely intentional.
“Improper access” to NSA spy data for FBI contractors “seems to have been the result of deliberate decision-making,” the court noted.
The NSA and the FBI are violating the Fourth Amendment all over the place in collecting this data without a warrant, and then going on and sharing it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, but it takes a lot of legal wrangling to try and convince the American people that their rights are not being violated by a corrupt and sinister central government.