Listening To The People

I recently posted three articles (here, here, and here) about the renewal of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Section 702. Note that the law is called “foreign intelligence surveillance” act–not the spying on your political opponents act. Unfortunately the act has been used 278,000 times to conduct illegal searches on Americans. That is why I oppose the renewal of Section 702.

On Wednesday, The Hill reported:

A group of House Republicans on Wednesday tanked a procedural vote to begin debate on a bill to reauthorize the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers, leaving the chamber scrambling on how to address the important spy tool before it expires next week.

Nineteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against a rule for legislation to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), blocking the measure from advancing 193-228.

The move comes after former President Trump on Wednesday urged Republicans to “KILL FISA” — throwing a wrench in an already contentious debate.

The failed vote marks yet another instance of members of the GOP tanking what is typically a routine party-line vote to protest legislation put forward by leadership.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, The Hill is part of the Operation Mockingbird media. The public has also urged Congress to kill FISA, but the author of the article chooses to overlook that.

On Wednesday, The Hill also reported:

Former Attorney General Bill Barr on Wednesday denounced former President Trump’s exhortation for Congress to kill the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as “crazy and reckless” and warned there will be “blood on people’s hands” if the intelligence community’s surveillance authority expires and there’s a terrorist attack on the United States.

Barr, who served in Trump’s Cabinet in 2019 and 2020, noted that Trump at one time supported the expanded surveillance powers authorized under Section 702 of FISA and warned that political “posturing” against extending that authority would be dangerous to national security.

“I think it’s crazy and reckless to not move forward with FISA. It’s our principal tool protecting us from terrorist attacks. We’re living through a time where those threats have never been higher, so it’s blinding us, it’s blinding our allies,” Barr told The Hill in an interview.

You mean those allies that aided in the Russia Hoax?

Section 702 is a step toward a government that can surveil its political opponents without any limitations. They don’t need a warrant and the people surveilled don’t have to know they are being watched. That is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which states:

Fourth Amendment

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.

Bill Barr is a lawyer. He is supposed to know the U.S. Constitution.

Congress Needs To Say “No”

Congress has until April 19th to reauthorize  Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This is the law that allows warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. It was passed after 9/11 in the hope that it would make America more secure from terrorist attacks. Instead it has been used as a political weapon to move America toward Banana Republic status.

On Monday, The Conservative Review posted an article about Section 702.

The article notes:

The FBI is attempting to rehabilitate the public image of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as Congress has until April 19 to reauthorize it. The bureau recently posted a video to X that features FBI Director Christopher Wray attempting to put a gloss on Section 702 as part of this monthslong campaign.

The bureau’s timely propaganda did not escape the attention of critics on X, where the post received a community note that read, “The FBI violated American citizens’ 4A rights 278,000 times with illegal, unauthorized FISA 702 searches.”

Among the critics was Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who wrote, “FBI just got called out in a community note on X. Congress — take note. FISA 702 has been used for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of times. Yet FBI demands 702 be reauthorized by April 19 WITHOUT a warrant requirement for searches of U.S. citizens.”

“Many in Congress will want to reauthorize FISA 702 — which is set to expire April 19th — either without modification or (more likely) with fake reforms that fail to impose a warrant requirement for searches directed at Americans,” added the senator.

The article notes:

In his March 11 testimony, Wray stated, “The FISA Court itself most recently found 98% compliance and commented on the reforms working. The most recent Justice Department report found the reforms working, 99% compliance. And so, I think legislation that ensures those reforms stay in place but also preserves the agility and the utility of the tools, what we need to be able to protect the American people.”

The FBI’s March 25 social post containing an excerpt from Wray’s testimony was not well-received.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) wrote, “The FBI was correctly called out in a community note for lying about its unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance of Americans. Congress must eliminate FISA abuse and protect the American people’s privacy.”

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) tweeted, “The FBI has been corrected in community notes and rightfully so.”

FBI whistlelower Steve Friend reiterated that the FBI “violated constitutional rights and abused FISA Section 702 over 278,000 times in a single year.”

The article concludes:

“While only foreigners overseas may be targeted, the program sweeps in massive amounts of Americans’ communications, which may be searched without a warrant. Even after implementing compliance measures, the FBI still conducted more than 200,000 warrantless searches of Americans’ communications in just one year — more than 500 warrantless searches per day,” said Durbin.

Durbin figured this legislation would make reauthorizing Section 702 palatable.

Section 702 needs to go away. We have seen that there is too much temptation for those in power to misuse the law to target their political opponents.

The Patriot Act

I apologize for the length of this article, but all of it is important information.

On June 14th, The Epoch Times posted an article about surveillance of American citizens by our government. This surveillance has reached the point when none of us really have any privacy. One example of the lack of privacy is the government collecting data from The Bank of America on anyone who made credit card purchases in the Washington, D.C. area on January 6th.

The article reports:

Congressional debates about whether to renew Section 702 are coming amid numerous reports that the FBI and other federal intelligence agencies have abused the surveillance authority granted to them by this law. Critics say there is mounting evidence that federal agencies have been using laws, which were intended to target foreign terrorists, to conduct extensive, long-term domestic spying campaigns on U.S. citizens.

“To prevent Section 702 from being used as an end run around [Fourth Amendment] protections, Congress did two things: It required the government to minimize the collection, sharing and retention of Americans’ personal information … and it required the government to certify to the FISA court on an annual basis that it is not using Section 702 to try to access the communications of particular known Americans,” Elizabeth Goitein, a senior director at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, told conference attendees.

“What has become abundantly clear over the last 15 years is that these protections are not working,” Goitein said. “All agencies that receive Section 702 data have procedures in place, approved by the FISA court, that allow them to run electronic searches … for the purpose of finding and retrieving the phone calls, text messages and emails of Americans.”

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice states that “since 2006, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Americans from some of the largest telecommunications providers in the United States, via a series of regularly renewed requests by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

In addition, the report states that “over the past six years, the NSA has obtained unprecedented access to the data processed by nine leading U.S. internet companies. This was facilitated by a computer network named PRISM. The companies involved include Google, Facebook, Skype, and Apple.”

Below is a paraphrase of an email I received this morning from a friend:

Congress is repealing the Patriot Act or at least portions of it. The FISA process needs to be repealed. Some will say it can be fixed; however, I am proffering it can not and must be shut down. The process is based on two fundamentals: 1) if anyone lies, the process will catch it and 2) groups of people will not collude to abuse the process against a group of people because again, the process will catch this. Based on the last eight (8) years both of these fundamentals have been proven wrong. When President Obama spied on Candidate Trump it demonstrated these fundamentals are no longer true. When fundamentals are violated, the structure built upon these will surely fail and this has been demonstrated. Thus, as a former NSA systems engineer, I am asking Congress to cancel this. Besides, based on the abuses, intelligence must relearn how to do the job the hard way before this privilege was granted by the Congress.The process in my mind is not just the obtaining of a warrant through a FISA process but adding the back end processes where every query into an intelligence data repository is audited, auditors review the queries to ensure these are not potential abuses, investigating when there could be and reporting to Judicial, logs of who is allowed to access intelligence repositories along with the lifestyle security back ground security clearance, logs tracking who received intelligence product created from access to the intelligence data repositories, and a strict process and logging on unmasking of US persons.

In my last years at NSA, the rules for accessing intelligence data repositories changed; NSA no longer controls those accesses . Each agency now creates their own policies, and the strict back ground security clearance is no longer required. Further Compliance activities have shortened the length of time data and data logs are retained–some as long as only two (2)years, one House of Representative term. There is no way an audit could be done now of the spying which did occur in 2016; all those logs are gone as of 2018. Pleas were sent asking Congress to send an order to retain; but alas, Congress refused to do this.Why is this important?  The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects all U.S. citizens anywhere in the world and within the United States from unreasonable searches and seizures by any person or agency acting on behalf of the U.S. Government. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the interception of electronic communications is a search and seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. This is a fundamental right of all US Persons, most of whom are Americans.FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) permits electronic surveillance in two situations. First, the President is authorized to use warrantless wiretapping for the protection of the US against a potential grave attack, sabotage, or espionage, on the condition that the government does not tap any U.S. citizen. Second, federal law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant for foreign taps that does not meet the criteria of the first situation. To obtain the warrant, the FISA court (also created by the Act) must find probable cause the individual targeted is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power and a foreign power is likely to use the place to be tapped. So, within law and policy there are a series of governance for the FISA (Court) must abide by as do the Intelligence and Law Communities. The reason for strict adherence is when presenting a FISA warrant, the person being targeted is not afforded the right to counsel. Only the Judges and Agents seeking permission are present in the court room. Again, the procedures, instructions, and guidance built to ensure the law is followed are based on assumptions. Again, the first assumption is if any one lies, it will be caught by the process. Again,a second is if a group of people collude to seek violating someone’s rights it will be caught by the process. With LTG Flynn, the FBI IG report shows that these fundamental assumptions are no longer true.Thus, the question of should FISA stay or go is based on whether you think processes can be modified to overcome flawed base assumptions or do you think it is better to rebuild the system with new assumptions. Our Federal Representatives will be asked to participate and vote on fixing the current system. It is proffered, perhaps shutting FISA down and rebuilding with new fundamental assumptions people will lie is a better way ahead than trying to find out all the places the fundamental assumptions have failed. Congress needs to repeal this process (BTW: it pains me to take this position – but it is imperative).