(NationalSentinel) Political espionage: Lost amid the furor of the Obamacare repeal vote yesterday was a much more explosive story that hopefully garnered the attention of Congress and the Trump Justice Department.
As reported by Circa News, which has been out in front of the political shenanigans committed by the Obama administration against Team Trump over alleged “Russia” connections, reported Thursday that as it turns out, the Obama administration’s politicization of the U.S. intelligence committee was far worse than previously thought:
During his final year in office, President Obama’s team significantly expanded efforts to search National Security Agency intercepts for information about Americans, distributing thousands of intelligence reports across government with the unredacted names of U.S. residents during the midst of a divisive 2016 presidential election.
The data, made available this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, provides the clearest evidence to date of how information accidentally collected by the NSA overseas about Americans was subsequently searched and disseminated after President Obama loosened privacy protections to make such sharing easier in 2011 in the name of national security. A court affirmed his order.
The revelations are particularly sensitive since the NSA is legally forbidden from directly spying on Americans and its authority to conduct warrantless searches on foreigners is up for renewal in Congress later this year. And it comes as lawmakers investigate President Trump’s own claims that his privacy was violated by his predecessor during the 2016 election.
In all, government officials conducted 30,355 searches in 2016 seeking information about Americans in NSA intercept metadata, which include telephone numbers and email addresses. The activity amounted to a 27.5 percent increase over the prior year and more than triple the 9,500 such searches that occurred in 2013, the first year such data was kept.
The government in 2016 also scoured the actual contents of NSA intercepted calls and emails for 5,288 Americans, an increase of 13 percent over the prior year and a massive spike from the 198 names searched in 2013.
Besides unmasking names of Team Trump members, Circa News noted further, members of Congress and their staffs were also unmasked.
The report also noted that the actual intercept numbers are likely much higher because the NSA’s No. 1 consumer of intelligence, the FBI, is not included in the total.
“There is no doubt that there was a spike in the requests to search for Americans in the NSA database,” a U.S. official familiar with the intelligence told Circa, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the data. “It’s simply easier for people to make requests. And while we have safeguards, there is always concern and vigilance about possible political or prurient motives that go beyond national security concerns.”
The ACLU is also miffed – and in this case, the liberal legal organization is right.
“I think it is alarming. There seems to be a universal trend toward more surveillance and more surveillance that impacts Americans’ privacy without obtaining a warrant,” said Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU’s legislative counsel.
“This data confirms that there is a lack of acknowledgment that information is being specifically and increasingly mined about Americans for investigations that have little or nothing to do with international terrorism,” Guliani added.
Without a doubt – the “trend” began during the Bush administration as the war on terror ramped up. When President George W. Bush’s NSA surveillance excesses were revealed, civil libertarians and intelligence experts predicted then that those abuses would aid and abet political abuses of the same agencies, under the guise of legitimate foreign surveillance.
Enter Barack Obama.
The “court” that affirmed Obama’s 2011 expansion of intelligence-sharing was most likely the FISA court – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – which meets (and rules) in secret and is staffed by judges who pull a single 7-year stint. They have no special intelligence training or education.
If anything, this report makes it even more clear that Congress should get to the bottom of unmasking actions taken by Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, who this week through an attorney refused to accept an invitation from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to provide his Judiciary subcommittee testimony about why she requested so many Team Trump members be unmasked.