What The Chicago Way Did To The Federal Government

Victor Davis Hanson has a very interesting article up over at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He’s titled his piece “Rethinking Watergate.” In doing so he draws a simile between the Nixon Administration’s “Watergate” scandal and the Obama Administration’s abuse of National Intelligence resources which is both inaccurate and a disservice to the memory of Richard Nixon.

Watergate

First, let us review the facts (as opposed to the legend) of Watergate. The Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP) wanted information on the Democratic campaign. They employed a five man team led by a former FBI Agent to break into the offices of the Democratic National Committee located in the Watergate Hotel.

The initial intrusion went undetected, but the take was deemed inadequate and a second incursion was detected and the burglars were arrested, charged, tried, and convicted.

There is no proof to this day that President Nixon was aware of the operation beforehand, nor that he authorized it. What he did do was attempt to cover the whole matter up via his executive branch departments. The CIA, DoJ, and FBI were primarily tasked, and apparently only the CIA was fully cooperative. Nixon’s ultimate undoing was that the Deputy Director (William Mark Feldt, Sr.) of the FBI, who Nixon had passed over for Director, bore him a personal grudge and became the informant known as “Deep Throat” to reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.

Key Differences

The DoJ and FBI resisted President Nixon’s attempts to cover up the scandal, and the leaks resulting from that resistance were indispensable to the impeachment proceedings which followed (for the attempted coverup). The senior “leadership” of the FBI and DoJ under the Obama Administration were the chief perpetrators.

FISA Abuse

The former President had the full cooperation of the executive “leadership” of the FBI and DoJ.  The whole matter has only come to the public’s attention due to the Director of the NSA and the Inspector General of the FBI, and it is unlikely that we would have heard anything about or from either of them under President Hillary Clinton.  The Senior Executive Service management of the DoJ/FBI and CIA seem to have appointed themselves as the Prateorians of the Democratic Imperium.

Tying All The Loose Threads Together – DOJ, FBI, DoS, White House: “Operation Latitude”…

By sundance, the Conservative Treehouse

The FBI group was participating in a plan to exonerate Hillary Clinton. That same FBI group was simultaneously conducting opposition research on candidate Donald Trump and the larger construct of his campaign team. Those FBI officials were allied by entities outside official government structures. The ‘outside group’ were “contractors”. It is likely one of the contractors was Fusion-GPS or entities in contact with Fusion-GPS. {Go Deep}

The contractors were using FBI intelligence databases to conduct opposition research “searches” on Trump campaign officials. This is where the use of FISA-702(16)(17) “To/From” and “About” queries comes in. {Go Deep}  This FISA abuse was the allowed but unofficial process identified in early 2016 by NSA internal auditors.

Background

FISA

The Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was one of the consequences of the Watergate Scandal. What the Watergate burglars were doing was essentially emulating what the FBI of the time referred to as “Black Bag” operations for Counter Intelligence. Congress decided these activities needed to be formalized, regulated, and subject to review and Congressional Oversight.

 

Inspector General Act (of 1978)

This too was a consequence of the Watergate Scandal. The act created independent investigatory arms in each of the Executive Branch Departments with unfettered access to all materiels and documents controlled by that department.

 

TSP

After the domestic terrorist operations of September 11th 2001, the Bush Administration undertook a massive expansion of the NSA’s ability to intercept packetized information traversing networks located in the United States. Whereas in Nixon’s day telephone conversations and facsimile transmissions were analog signals carried on hard wire or long distance via point to point microwave relay, communications in the last decade of the 20th century had largely migrated to packetized data over data networks. By 2001 almost all of the world’s packetized data crossed American Networks as part of their routing. The Terrorist Surveillance Program collected this data and searched it for known bad foreign actors. It was designed to retain only communications to or from non-United States Persons.

Because of concerns about inadvertent collection of packetized data of U. S. Persons and use of that information by U. S. Domestic Law Enforcement, the Bush Administration originally kept this program isolated from the FISA programs monitored and controlled by the FIS Court.

 

Absorption of TSP into FISA

The Bush Administration and Congress eventually rolled the TSP into the FISA regime as sections 701, 702, and 703. They also implemented strict minimization rules (what data could be kept and for how long) and strictly limited procedures for unmasking the names or other identification of U. S. Persons incidentally collected.

 

Expansion of FISA 702 Collection and Retention

From the outset of TSP absorption into FISA, the FBI (as the primary law enforcement agency for Counter Intelligence) clamored for longer retention and less stringent un-masking requirements, less for the value of such for CI investigations than as a tool for domestic investigations.

 

Relaxed Standards for Un-Masking of U. S. Persons

In 2011 the Obama Administration relaxed the requirements for un-masking of United States Persons inadvertently collected against under FISA1.

 

Use of Section 702 Collection and Un-masking against domestic political foes

While I suspect that these activities began in late 2011 or early 2012, we know they became systematic during political machinations in support of the Obama Administration’s Iran Policy. The names of United States Persons were searched for in the communications of Israel’s Prime Minister and other diplomatic officials of Israel, and the communications then leaked to press outlets friendly to the Obama Administration2.

 

Surveillance of Republican Candidates

Any and all stories during the Republican Primary about candidates relations and communications with foreign entities should be considered leaks from FISA 702 collections subsequently unmasked.

 

Way Worse Than Watergate

This was the systematic use of intelligence collected under FISA against United States Persons. This information was used for politcal gain and press relations in support of political goals, and were in no way used in furtherance of National Security.

 

NSA Director Reveals Issues to FIS Court

First to drop a dime on the illegal goings on was the Director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael S. Rogers. During his review of NSA practices under FISA for annual reporting he discovered non-compliance issues with minimization for FISA 702 Searches. He immediately “orally apprised the [FIS] Court of significant non-compliance with the NSA’s minimization procedures involving queries of data acquited under Section 702 using U. S. Person Identifiers.” These were the sources of data being used against U. S. Persons by the Obama Administration.

By the time Admiral Rogers identified the full scope of the issue to the court and took remedial actions satisfactory to the FIS Court, that Court had rolled the 2016 certifications required by the FISA act into 2017, and issued an Opinion as part of the certification order highly critical of the Executive Branch’s handling of the intelligence and veracity before the court3.

This also plugged the source of information which the Democratic Imperium had been exploiting.

[Continued]

No longer having access to the FBI intelligence database the group needed a workaround. That’s where DOJ official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie Ohr come into play. {Go Deep}

The DOJ side of the operation was conducted within the National Security Division (John P Carlin head). {Go Deep} The DOJ-NSD could use the NSA/FBI database and pass information to, and receive information from, Nellie Ohr. Nellie was hired by Fusion-GPS immediately after Admiral Rogers shut down the FBI ‘contractor’ use of the system. Nellie would be the go-between.

The problem was that any information from within the FISA searches could not be directly used by the FBI because they would likely have to explain how they gained it and all search queries were illegal. This is where Fusion-GPS hires the retired British MI6 officer Christopher Steele.  The FBI needed to launder the intelligence product:

 

DoJ Inspector General Investigation

DoJ Inspector General Horowitz began investigating the processes and procedures followed by the FBI and DoJ pursuant to the Hillary Clinton E-mail Server “investigation” at some point in 2015. By August he was testifying that he was being stonewalled by the Obama Administration via an Office of Legal Counsel opinion of 2014 which precluded all IG’s from reviewing “…grand jury, wiretap or credit information.”4  The essential portion there being “wiretap” information, which in this case was the data collected under FIS Article 702 and the applications made for FIS Article 1 surveillance.

There is no such provision in the Inspector General Act.

It would take the seating of a new President to reverse this executive policy in violation of Federal Law.

By late January of 2017 the blockage was removed and the DoJ IG was once again able to make progress in his investigation. It appears that in July or August Inspector General Horowitz came across evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the DoJ and FBI, which was duly reported to the Attorney General (Sessions) and Assistant Attorney General (Rosenstein)5. This reporting appears to have immediately resulted in the Attorney General appointing a DoJ Investigator (outside of Washington DC, with suitable staff and long experience) to conduct a criminal investigation in parallel with the IG’s investigation.

Inspector General Horowitz was also explicitly instructed to expand his ongoing investigation of the Clinton E-mail process and procedures to include the abuse of FISA Data and processes.

 

The Fruits of the IG Investigation to Date

Inspector General Horowitz first reported illegal activities to Robert Mueller, resulting in the firing from his investigation of FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Attorney Lisa Page. From there the casualty list has grown to include:

James Baker (FBI Chief Legal Counsel) [removed in January].
Andrew McCable (Deputy Director, FBI)
Michael Kortan (FBI Asst. Director Public Affairs).
David Laufman (DOJ – National Security Division, Deputy Asst. Attorney General in charge of counterintelligence).

Footnotes

  1. See https://www.circa.com/story/2017/03/28/politics/obamas-rule-changes-opened-door-for-nsa-intercepts-of-americans-to-reach-political-hands
  2. See http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/256899/left-right-russiagate
  3. See https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/icotr/51117/2016_Cert_FISC_Memo_Opin_Order_Apr_2017.pdf
  4. See https://www.dailynews.com/2018/03/04/obamas-fbi-withheld-information-from-investigator-now-probing-them/
  5. See https://www.lifezette.com/polizette/heres-why-jeff-sessions-may-be-washingtons-slyest-fox/

Bibliography

 

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This is NOT a conversation about “Russia” “Russian Interference in Election 2016” nor “Russian Collusion.”

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