An assembly of government reports and public records now indicates political exploitation of the NSA database, for weaponized intelligence surveillance of politicians, began mid-2012. After an initial attempt to exploit IRS records, the legal tool used to access the NSA database was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA.
With research files on the ’15, ’16 and ’17 political surveillance program; including information from the Mueller report and information from the IG Horowitz report; in combination with the Obama-era DOJ “secret research project” (their words, not mine); we are able to overlay the Obama-era domestic IC operations & gain a full understanding of how political surveillance was conducted over a period of four to six years.
The FISA-702 database extraction process, and utilization of the protections within the smaller intelligence community, became the primary process only after a previous DOJ effort ran into trouble. The established record from the 99-page FISC opinion rendered by Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer on April 26, 2017, helps explain the details.
I would strongly urge everyone to read the FISC report because Judge Collyer outlines how the DOJ, which includes the FBI, had an “institutional lack of candor” in responses to the FISA court. Very specifically, the court outlined how the Obama administration was continually lying to the court about both their activity and the rate of fourth amendment violations for illegal searches and seizures of U.S. persons’ private information. These violations continued for multiple years throughout Obama’s terms.
Unfortunately, due to intelligence terminology, Judge Collyer’s brief and ruling is not an easy read for anyone unfamiliar with the FISA processes outlined. The complexity also helps the media avoid discussing, and as a result, most Americans have no idea the scale and scope of the issues. So we’ll try to break down the language.
For the sake of brevity and common understanding, CTH will highlight the most pertinent segments showing just how systemic and troublesome the unlawful electronic surveillance was.
Early in 2016, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers was alerted of a significant uptick in FISA-702(17) “About” queries using the FBI/NSA database that holds all metadata records on every form of electronic communication.
The NSA compliance officer alerted Admiral Mike Rogers who then initiated a full compliance audit on/around March 9th, 2016, for the period of November 1st, 2015, through May 1st, 2016.
While the audit was ongoing, due to the severity of the results that were identified, Admiral Mike Rogers stopped anyone from using the 702(17) “about query” option and went to the extraordinary step of blocking all FBI contractor access to the database on April 18, 2016 (keep these dates in mind).
Here are some significant segments:
The key takeaway from these first paragraphs is how the search query results were exported from the NSA database to users who were not authorized to see the material. The FBI contractors were conducting searches and then removing, or ‘exporting’, the results. Later on, the FBI said all of the exported material was deleted.
Searching the highly classified NSA database is essentially a function of filling out search boxes to identify the user-initiated search parameter and get a return on the search result.
FISA-702(16) is a search of the system returning a U.S. person (“702”), and the “16” is a checkbox to initiate a search based on “To and From“. For example, if you put in a date and a phone number and check “16” as the search parameter the user will get the returns on everything “To and From” that identified phone number for the specific date. Calls, texts, contacts, etc. Including results for the inbound and outbound contacts.
FISA-702(17) is a search of the system returning a U.S. person (702), and the “17” is a checkbox to initiate a search based on everything “About” the search qualifier. For example, if you put a date and a phone number and check “17” as the search parameter the user will get the returns of everything about that phone. Calls, texts, contacts, geolocation (or GPS results), account information, user, service provider, etc. As a result, 702(17) can actually be used to locate where the phone (and user) was located on a specific date or sequentially over a specific period of time which is simply a matter of changing the date parameters.
And that’s just from a phone number.
Search an IP address “about” and read all data into that server; put in an email address and gain everything about that account. Or use the electronic address of a GPS enabled vehicle (about) and you can withdraw more electronic data and monitor in real-time. Search a credit card number and get everything about the account including what was purchased, where, when, etc. Search a bank account number, get everything about transactions and electronic records, etc. Just about anything and everything can be electronically searched; everything has an electronic ‘identifier’.
The search parameter is only limited by the originating field filled out. Names, places, numbers, addresses, etc. By using the “About” parameter there may be thousands or millions of returns. Imagine if you put “@realdonaldtrump” into the search parameter? You could extract all following accounts who interacted on Twitter, or Facebook, etc. You are only limited by your imagination and the scale of the electronic connectivity.
As you can see below, on March 9th, 2016, internal auditors noted the FBI was sharing “raw FISA information, including but not limited to Section 702-acquired information”.
In plain English, the raw search returns were being shared with unknown entities without any attempt to “minimize” or redact the results. The person(s) attached to the results were named and obvious. There was no effort to hide their identity or protect their 4th amendment rights of privacy:
But what’s the scale here? This is where the story really lies.
Read this next excerpt carefully.
The operators were searching “U.S Persons”. The review of November 1, 2015, to May 1, 2016, showed “eighty-five percent of those queries” were unlawful or “non-compliant.”
85% !! “representing [redacted number].”
We can tell from the space of the redaction the number of searches was between 1,000 and 9,999 [five digits]. If we take the middle number of 5,000 – that means 4,250 unlawful searches out of 5,000.
The [five digit] amount (more than 1,000, less than 10,000), and 85% error rate, was captured in a six month period, November 2015 to April 2016.
Also, notice this very important quote:
”many of these non-compliant queries involved the use of the same identifiers over different date ranges.”
This tells us the system users were searching the same phone number, email address, electronic “identifier”, or people, repeatedly over different dates.
Specific people were being tracked/monitored.
Additionally, notice the last quote: “while the government reports it is unable to provide a reliable estimate of” these non-lawful searches “since 2012, there is no apparent reason to believe the November 2015 [to] April 2016 coincided with an unusually high error rate”.
That means the 85% rate of unlawful FISA-702(16)(17) database abuse has likely been happening since 2012.
2012 is an important date in this database abuse because a network of specific interests is assembled that also shows up in 2016/2017:
- Who was the 2012 FBI Director? Robert Mueller. The same Mueller selected by the FBI group to become a special prosecutor in 2017.
- Who was Robert Mueller’s chief-of-staff? Aaron Zebley. The same Aaron Zebley, who became one of the lead lawyers on the Mueller special counsel.
- Who was the 2012 CIA Director? John Brennan.
- Who was the 2012 ODNI? James Clapper.
- Remember, the NSA is inside the Pentagon (Defense Dept) command structure. Who was Defense Secretary? Ash Carter.
Now it becomes important to remember in 2016:
- Who wanted NSA Director Mike Rogers fired? Brennan, Clapper, and Carter.
- And finally, who wrote and signed-off-on the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment and then lied about the use of the Steele Dossier? John Brennan, James Clapper
Tens of thousands of searches over four years (since 2012), and 85% of them are illegal. The results were extracted for?…. (I believe this is all political opposition use, and I’ll explain why momentarily.)
OK, that’s the stunning scale; but who was involved?
Private contractors with access to “raw FISA information that went well beyond what was necessary to respond to FBI’s requests“:
And as noted, the contractor access was finally halted on April 18th, 2016.[Coincidentally (or not), the wife of Fusion-GPS founder Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby, goes to the White House the next day on April 19th, 2016.]
None of this is a conspiracy theory.
All of this is laid out inside this 99-page opinion from FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer who also noted that none of this FISA abuse was accidental in a footnote on page 87: “deliberate decisionmaking“:
This specific footnote, if declassified, would be key. Note the phrase: “([redacted] access to FBI systems was the subject of an interagency memorandum of understanding entered into [redacted])”, this sentence has the potential to expose an internal decision; withheld from congress and the FISA court by the Obama administration; that outlines a process for access and distribution of surveillance data.
Note also: “no notice of this practice was given to the FISC until 2016“, that is important.
Important summary of this aspect: •The FISA court identified and quantified tens-of-thousands of search queries of the NSA/FBI database using the FISA-702(16)(17) system dating back to around 2012. •The NSA database was repeatedly used by persons with contractor access who unlawfully searched and extracted the raw results without redacting the information and shared it with an unknown number of entities. •The same people had multiple searches performed against their private information from November of 2015 to May of 2016, the exact time of the Republican presidential primary.
The outlined process certainly points toward a political spying and surveillance operation, and we are not the only one to think that’s what this system is being used for.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 3/09/2020) (Archive)