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Comey circus: FBI illegally shared intel on Americans with unauthorized third parties

One of the ways lawmakers and the Trump administration can renew our faith in the intelligence system is by punishing lawbreakers

(National SentinelCorruption: If you’re one of those people who are still mourning the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, maybe you ought to read this first.

Continuing its yeoman work into uncovering the blatant and, it seems chronic, unconstitutional behavior of the Obama administration (of which Comey did his part to protect by not recommending and obviously guilty Hillary Clinton for prosecution), Circa News reported Thursday that a recently declassified document shows the FBI routinely – and illegally – shared intel on Americans with unauthorized third parties, decimating their Fourth Amendment right to privacy in the process.

The site noted further that the document, filed before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court in late April, “undercut the bureau’s public assurances about how carefully it handles warrantless spy data to avoid abuses or leaks,” Circa News reported, adding:

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 example, the site noted, a FISA court ruling that was declassified earlier this month contains 10 pages’ worth of information listing hundreds of violations of the bureaus’ rules requiring minimization of information that were implemented during the former director’s tenure.

At one point, the bureau “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,” said Circa.

“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 site reported.

The court even said it believed that there likely were many more violations than what the FBI copped to.

“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,” last month’s ruling stated.

The FISA court is not the only oversight mechanism for the U.S. intelligence community, which includes elements within the FBI. In fact, the Department of Justice’s inspector general voiced concerns in 2012 that the bureau was not fully complying with minimization rules, “indicating it had a clean record complying with spy data gathered on Americans without a warrant,” Circa noted.

Under normal circumstances, the FBI is not permitted to put Americans under surveillance without a warrant issued by the FISA court. However, under changes made in 2008 to Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act – first passed in 1978 and amended a number of times since – the NSA was permitted to share intel with the FBI collected without a warrant, including communications between “foreign targets” and American citizens.

Circa:

But the FISA court watchdogs suggest FBI compliance problems began months after Section 702 was implemented. 

The FBI’s very first compliance report in 2009 declared it had not found any instances in which agents accessed NSA intercepts supposedly gathered overseas about an American who in fact was on U.S. soil.

But the IG said it reviewed the same data and easily found evidence that the FBI accessed NSA data gathered on a person who likely was in the United States, making 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 declassified report revealed.

The FBI says its intentions were good and that such privacy violations occur in only a very small part of its investigations. Or, as Circa reported, “Almost all are unintentional human errors by good-intentioned agents and analysts under enormous pressure to stop the next major terror attack, the officials said.”

Boilerplate excuse.

Clearly the FBI – and large portions of the intelligence community, sadly, – are unable to police themselves. Worse, the community has obviously been politicized and weaponized by successive U.S. administrations against the very people – American citizens – they have sworn to protect.

This all matters now more than ever because of all the revelations of privacy violations, unmasking of Americans and the never-ending FBI/Justice Dept. probe of alleged “Trump-Russia collusion” nonsense. But it also matters because Section 702 of the FISA Act is up for renewal later this year.

“No one on the Hill wants to look like we are soft on terrorism when you have increasing threats like Manchester-style attacks. But the evidence of abuse or sloppiness and the unending leaks of sensitive intelligence in the last year has emboldened enough of us to pursue some reforms,” a senior congressional aide told Circa, speaking only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media. “Where that new line between privacy and security is drawn will depend on how many more shoes fall before the 702 renewal happens.”

One of the ways lawmakers and the Trump administration can renew our faith in the intelligence system is by identifying the lawbreakers and either firing them (Comey) or prosecuting them, period – a reality not lost on some members of Congress.

“The bottom line is the law has to be followed and when it isn’t there has to be consequence that is of significance so that it deters others from breaking the same law,” Rep. Trent Frank, R-Ariz., a member of the House Judiciary Committee that will help craft the 702 renewal legislation, said.

For all the accusations by Democrats that Russian “influence” is destroying Americans’ faith in our institutions, it seems like our institutions are doing a fine job of destroying their own credibility.

What’s Congress going to do about it?

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