Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs issued a scathing letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray this week, following the release of a declassified report that appears to confirm that the bureau illegally spied on American citizens.
In a letter posted to Twitter by the House Judiciary GOP, Jordan and Biggs argued that the FBI had been “seriously and systemically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority,” and was engaged in “illegal spying activities.”
Further, the two congressmen wrote that, “These concerns are particularly disturbing in light of prior misconduct thoroughly detailed by the DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG), suggesting a pattern of abuses and deficiencies in the FBI’s FISA processes.”
The letter follows the release of a declassified, 67-page report by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from November that found the FBI engaged in “apparent widespread violations” of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Section 702 permits the U.S. government to carry out “targeted” surveillance of foreign persons located outside the U.S. with the assistance of electronic communications service providers. Under Section 702, it is illegal to target U.S. persons or any person located within the U.S., as well as to target foreigners abroad for the purposes of gaining information on American citizens.
One caveat to this rule is that intelligence agencies may query government databases with information on U.S. citizens if it is believed that the query will result in foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime.
The declassified report found hundreds of instances in which the FBI queried surveillance data on U.S. citizens that did not meet this standard.
Indeed, the report noted that such so-called “compliance incidents” suggested a “pervasive” failure at the FBI to properly apply the standard of Section 702. (Page 39 of the report.)
It is just the latest in a long series of acknowledged abuses by the FBI in recent years, which have included the targeting of political campaigns for partisan purposes and the outright peddling of fabricated evidence.
Perhaps most alarming, however, is the revelation of just how pervasive the government’s surveillance efforts are.
The declassified report found that the FBI queried information gleaned on U.S. citizens after the agency had already conducted extensive background checks on Americans who merely participated in the FBI’s “Citizens Academy” program, had entered FBI offices to perform service work, and even individuals who had submitted tips to the FBI or reported that they were victims of a crime. (Pages 39 and 40.)
Not everyone was wholly shocked by the revelation of new FBI abuses, however.
“Is anyone surprised that the FBI is (still) spying on American citizens?” tweeted The American Conservative.
That post captures perfectly the fact that such blatant disregard for the constitutionally mandated freedoms of American citizens is nothing new for the FBI, nor should anyone be shocked by its latest crimes.
The leviathan surveillance state, of which the FBI is but a part, has been growing for decades and was spurred on and fed by both members of Congress and a trepidatious public that was all too willing to sacrifice its liberty for a mere fleeting feeling of security.
Jordan, of Ohio, and Biggs, of Arizona, are right to angry about this latest crime against America. They are right to demand answers. But it is long past time to do something about the crushing weight of our contemporary surveillance state.
With the apparent politicization of the CIA and, now, new evidence of illegal domestic spying efforts by the FBI, it is abundantly clear that the U.S. intelligence community is working at cross-purposes with the American people.
Americans need answers, yes, but much more so they need action.
The question of whom to trust, if not our own intelligence agencies, seems at first to be a fearful one. We need only remember, however, that Americans ought to trust themselves, as well as the constitutional system set up by the Founders.
It is time to dismantle this corrupt and illegal insider threat against the American people, and to end once and for all the systemic abuses against our constitutional rights. It is time to end the surveillance state.
With effort, and some little luck, Jordan and Biggs’ letter will prove a rallying cry to that great endeavor.