about queries

April 26, 2017 – The FISC report reveals the Obama administration conducted political surveillance as early as mid-2012

“Former U.S. Attorney to the District of Columbia, Joe diGenova, discusses the declassification of intelligence documents relating to political surveillance; and the origin of the database abuses outlined by FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer.

Given last weeks visit to Main Justice by congressman Mark Meadows; and considering the visit was specifically to review unredacted Page-Strzok-McCabe messages; it could be surmised the first series of declassified documents might be those communiques. Additionally, John Solomon has stated “Bucket Five” is likely the first release prior to the IG report:

Bucket Five – Intelligence documents that were presented to the Gang of Eight in 2016 that pertain to the FISA application used against U.S. person Carter Page; including all exculpatory intelligence documents that may not have been presented to the FISA Court.  Presumably this would include the recently revealed State Dept Kavalac email; and the FBI transcripts from wiretaps of George Papadopoulos (also listed in Carter Page FISA).

Now that we have significant research files on the 2015 and 2016 political surveillance program; which includes the trail evident within the Weissmann/Mueller report; in combination with the Obama-era DOJ “secret research project” (their words, not mine); we are able to overlay the entire objective and gain a full understanding of how political surveillance was conducted over a period of approximately four to six years.

This is why there’s panic.

Working with a timeline, but also referencing origination material in 2015/2016 – CTH hopes to show how the program operated. This explains an evolution from The IRS Files in 2010 to the FISA Files in 2016.

More importantly, research indicates the modern political exploitation of the NSA database, for weaponized intelligence surveillance of politicians, began mid-2012.

The FISA-702 database extraction process, and utilization of the protections within the smaller intelligence community, was the primary process. We start by reviewing the established record from the 99-page FISC opinion rendered by presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer on; and explain the details within the FISC opinion.

I would strongly urge everyone to read the FISC report (full pdf below) because Judge Collyer outlines how the DOJ, which includes the FBI, had an “institutional lack of candor” in responses to the FISA court. In essence, the Obama administration was continually lying to the court about their activity, and the rate of fourth amendment violations for illegal searches and seizures of U.S. persons’ private information for multiple years.

Unfortunately, due to intelligence terminology Judge Collyer’s brief and ruling is not an easy read for anyone unfamiliar with the FISA processes outlined. The complexity also helps the media avoid discussing, and as a result most Americans have no idea the scale and scope of the issues. So we’ll try to break down the language. View this document on Scribd

For the sake of brevity and common understanding CTH will highlight the most pertinent segments showing just how systemic and troublesome the unlawful electronic surveillance was.

Early in 2016 NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers was alerted of a significant uptick in FISA-702(17) “About” queries using the FBI/NSA database that holds all metadata records on every form of electronic communication.

The NSA compliance officer alerted Admiral Mike Rogers who then initiated a full compliance audit on/around March 9th, 2016, for the period of November 1st, 2015, through May 1st, 2016.

While the audit was ongoing, due to the severity of the results that were identified, Admiral Mike Rogers stopped anyone from using the 702(17) “about query” option, and went to the extraordinary step of blocking all FBI contractor access to the database on April 18, 2016 (keep these dates in mind).

Here are some significant segments:

The key takeaway from these first paragraphs is how the search query results were exported from the NSA database to users who were not authorized to see the material. The FBI contractors were conducting searches and then removing, or ‘exporting’, the results. Later on, the FBI said all of the exported material was deleted.

Searching the highly classified NSA database is essentially a function of filling out search boxes to identify the user-initiated search parameter and get a return on the search result.

(…) Search an ip address “about” and read all data into that server; put in an email address and gain everything about that account. Or use the electronic address of a GPS enabled vehicle (about) and you can withdraw more electronic data and monitor in real time. Search a credit card number and get everything about the account including what was purchased, where, when, etc. Search a bank account number, get everything about transactions and electronic records etc. Just about anything and everything can be electronically searched; everything has an electronic ‘identifier’.

The search parameter is only limited by the originating field filled out. Names, places, numbers, addresses, etc. By using the “About” parameter there may be thousands or millions of returns. Imagine if you put “@realdonaldtrump” into the search parameter? You could extract all following accounts who interacted on Twitter, or Facebook etc. You are only limited by your imagination and the scale of the electronic connectivity.

As you can see below, on March 9th, 2016, internal auditors noted the FBI was sharing “raw FISA information, including but not limited to Section 702-acquired information”.

In plain English the raw search returns were being shared with unknown entities without any attempt to “minimize” or redact the results. The person(s) attached to the results were named and obvious. There was no effort to hide their identity or protect their 4th amendment rights of privacy:

But what’s the scale here? This is where the story really lies.

Read this next excerpt carefully.

The operators were searching “U.S Persons”. The review of November 1, 2015, to May 1, 2016, showed “eighty-five percent of those queries” were unlawful or “non compliant”.

85% !! “representing [redacted number].”

We can tell from the space of the redaction the number of searches were between 1,000 and 9,999 [five digits]. If we take the middle number of 5,000 – that means 4,250 unlawful searches out of 5,000.

The [five digit] amount (more than 1,000, less than 10,000), and 85% error rate, was captured in a six month period.

Also notice this very important quote: “many of these non-compliant queries involved the use of the same identifiers over different date ranges.” So they were searching the same phone number, email address, electronic “identifier”, or people, repeatedly over different dates. Specific people were being tracked/monitored.

Additionally, notice the last quote: “while the government reports it is unable to provide a reliable estimate of” these non lawful searches “since 2012, there is no apparent reason to believe the November 2015 [to] April 2016 coincided with an unusually high error rate”.

That means the 85% unlawful FISA-702(16)(17) database abuse has likely been happening since 2012. (Again, remember that date, 2012) Who was FBI Director? Who was his chief-of-staff? Who was CIA Director? ODNI? etc. Remember, the NSA is inside the Pentagon (Defense Dept) command structure. Who was Defense Secretary? And finally, who wrote and signed-off-on the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment?

Tens of thousands of searches over four years (since 2012), and 85% of them are illegal. The results were extracted for?…. (I believe this is all political opposition use; and I’ll explain why momentarily.)

OK, that’s the stunning scale; but who was involved?

Private contractors with access to “raw FISA information that went well beyond what was necessary to respond to FBI’s requests“:

And as noted, the contractor access was finally halted on April 18th, 2016.

(Coincidentally (or not), the wife of Fusion-GPS founder Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby, goes to the White House the next day on April 19th, 2016.)

None of this is conspiracy theory.

All of this is laid out inside this 99-page opinion from FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer who also noted that none of this FISA abuse was accidental in a footnote on page 87: “deliberate decisionmaking“:

This specific footnote, if declassified, would be key.  Note the phrase: “([redacted] access to FBI systems was the subject of an interagency memorandum of understanding entered into [redacted])”, this sentence has the potential to expose an internal decision; withheld from congress and the FISA court by the Obama administration; that outlines a process for access and distribution of surveillance data.

Note: “no notice of this practice was given to the FISC until 2016“, that is important.

Summary of this aspect: The FISA court identified and quantified tens-of-thousands of search queries of the NSA/FBI database using the FISA-702(16)(17) system. The database was repeatedly used by persons with contractor access who unlawfully searched and extracted the raw results without redacting the information and shared it with an unknown number of entities.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 5/24/2019)

October 20, 2016 – The Uncovering – Mike Rogers’ Investigation, Section 702 FISA Abuse & the FBI

Dr. George Ellard (Credit: National War College)

(…) “On January 7, 2016, the NSA Inspector General, George Ellard, released a report on NSA Controls & FISA compliance. Starting on page ii:

Agency controls for monitoring query compliance have not been completely developed.

The Agency has no process to reliably identify queries performed using selectors associated with 704 and 705(b) targets.

The rest of the highlights are fully redacted. But more information lay within the report (pages 6-7):

We identified another [redacted] queries that were performed outside the targeting authorization periods in E.O. 12333 data, which is prohibited by the E.O. 12333 minimization procedures. We also identified queries performed using USP selectors in FAA §702 upstream data, which is prohibited by the FAA §702 minimization procedures.

Downstream collection involves the government acquiring data from the companies providing service to the user – like Google or Facebook.

However, some Section 702 collection is obtained via “upstream” collection.

In simple parlance, upstream collection means the NSA accesses the high capacity fiber optic cables that carry Internet traffic and copies all the data flowing through those cables.

The agency is then supposed to filter out any “wholly domestic” communications that are between Americans located in the U.S.

Data collected “incidentally” on U.S. Citizens is generally not destroyed. It is minimized. As we will see later, this became a problem.

Intelligence Agencies can then search the data using “To”, “From” or “About” queries on a target of Section 702 collection.

“About” queries are particularly worrisome.

They occur when the target is neither the sender nor the recipient of the collected communication – but the target’s selector, such as an email address, is being passed between two other communicants.

For more information see, FISA Surveillance – Title I & III and Section 702.”

(…) “About” queries were abruptly halted by NSA Director Mike Rogers on October 20, 2016. This was formally announced by the NSA on April 28, 2017.

The events leading to this decision are described in this post.

Which brings us to a table from the Inspector General’s Report.

Table 3 (page 7) shows four types of violations. The most frequent violation – 5.2% of the total – came from Section 702 upstream “About” queries.


The Inspector General’s Report is heavily redacted – but even a casual reading indicates there were significant compliance and control issues within the NSA regarding the use of Section 702 data.

It’s unclear if NSA Director Rogers discovered the 702 violations and reported them in early 2015, or if it was the Inspector General who found them. Either way, Rogers became aware of Section 702 violations sometime in 2015.

Admiral Mike Rogers (Credit: public domain)

Following NSA Inspector General Ellard’s report, Rogers implemented a tightening of internal rules at the NSA.

However, the NSA Inspector General’s report and Roger’s tightening of internal rules did not halt the Query Compliance Problems.

Outside Agencies – specifically the DOJ’s National Security Division and the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division – were still routinely violating Section 702 procedures.

In 2015, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz (not to be confused with NSA IG Ellard) specifically requested oversight of the National Security Division. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates responded with a 58 page Memorandum, that effectively told the Inspector General to go pound sand.

As noted earlier, John Carlin was the Head of the DOJ’s National Security Division and was responsible for filing the Government’s proposed 2016 Section 702 certifications.

This filing would be subject to intense criticism from the FISA Court following disclosures made by NSA Director Rogers. Significant changes to the handling of raw FISA data would result.

Bill Priestap remains the Head of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division – appointed by FBI Director Comey in December 2015. See: FBI Counterintelligence Head Bill Priestap – A Cooperating Witness.”

(…) “On October 20 2016, Rogers was briefed by the NSA compliance officer on findings from the 702 NSA compliance audit. The audit had uncovered numerous “About” Query violations (Senate testimony).

On October 21, 2016, Rogers shut down all “About Query” activity. He reported his findings to the DOJ (Senate testimony & inferences from Court Ruling).

On October 21 2016, the DOJ & FBI seek and receive a Title I FISA probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISA Court. At this point, the FISA Court is unaware of the Section 702 violations.

On October 24, 2016, Rogers verbally informed the FISA Court of his findings (Page 4 of Court Ruling). (Read more: themarketswork, 4/05/2018)

(Timeline editor’s note: Jeff Carlson at themarketswork.com, has done a remarkable job of reading the fine print and highlighting key details from Senate testimony, the NSA Inspector General’s report, and the FISC report that followed NSA Director Mike Rogers disclosure of 702 violations. This is a snippet of Carlson’s very informative piece and he has been kind enough to allow me to post far more than what Fair Use would normally allow. Please don’t miss the rest of his easy to understand, in-depth report.)

October 20, 2016 – NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers requests a full NSA compliance audit of FISA-702 use

Navy Admiral Michael Rogers (Credit: Reuters)

Admiral Mike Rogers became NSA director in April 2014.

Sometime in early 2016 Admiral Rogers became aware of “ongoing” and “intentional” violations of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Section 702(17) surveillance. Specifically item #17 which includes the unauthorized upstream data collection of U.S. individuals within NSA surveillance through the use of “About Query”.

Section 702 – Item #17 “About Queries” are specifically the collection of electronic messaging, emails and upstream phone call surveillance data of U.S. persons.

The public doesn’t discover this issue, and Director Rogers action, until May 2017 when we learn that Rogers told the FISA court he became aware of unlawful surveillance and collection of U.S. persons.

Put into context, with the full back-story, it appears that 2016 surveillance was the political surveillance now in the headlines; the stuff Chairman Nunes is currently questioning. The dates here are important as they tell a story.

As a result of Rogers suspecting FISA 702(17) surveillance activity was being used for reasons he deemed unlawful, in mid 2016 Rogers ordered the NSA compliance officer to run a full audit on 702 NSA compliance.

Again, 702 is basically spying on Americans; the actual “spying” part is 702. Item 17 is “About Queries“, which allows user queries or searches of content (messaging, email and phone conversations) based on any subject matter put into the search field.

The NSA compliance officer identified several strange 702 “About Queries” were being conducted. These were violations of the fourth amendment (search and seizure), ie searches, privacy violations, and surveillance without a warrant.  Admiral Rogers was briefed by the compliance officer on October 20th, 2016.

Admiral Mike Rogers ordered the “About Query” activity to stop, reported the activity to the DOJ, and then went to the FISA court.

On October 26th, 2016, full FISA court assembled, NSA Director Rogers personally informed the court of the 702(17) violations.  Additionally, and as an outcome of the NSA systems inability to guarantee integrity, Rogers also stopped “About Query” permanently.

(Things to note: ♦Note the sequencing; ♦note that Rogers a career military person, followed the chain of command; ♦note the dates as they align with the Trump FISA application from the FBI and DOJ-NSD, (ie. early October 2016); ♦and note amid this sequence/time-line the head of DOJ-National Security Divsion, John P Carlin resigns.]

IMPORTANT – WATCH the first two and a half minutes of this video:

At the same time Christopher Steele was assembling his dossier information (May-October 2016), the NSA compliance officer was conducting an internal FISA-702 review as initiated by NSA Director Mike Rogers.

The NSA compliance officer briefed Admiral Mike Rogers on October 20th 2016.

On October 26th 2016, Admiral Rogers informed the FISA Court of numerous unauthorized FISA-702(17) “About Query” violations.

Subsequent to that FISC notification Mike Rogers stopped all FISA-702(17) “About Queries” permanently. They are no longer permitted.

The full FISA Court Ruling on the notifications from the NSA is below. And to continue the story we are pulling out a specific section [page 83, pdfCRITICAL to understanding what was going on:

Pg 83. “FBI gave raw Section 702–acquired information to a private entity that was not a federal agency and whose personnel were not sufficiently supervised by a federal agency for compliance minimization procedures.”

Please pay close attention to this section, pg 84, (Note the date April 18th):

 

Notice how it was FBI “private contractors” that were conducting the unauthorized FISA-702 Queries via access to information on FBI storage systems.

We have been tipped off that one of the FBI contractors in question was, unbelievably, Fusion-GPS.

It is almost certain this early 2016 series of FISA-702 compliance violations was the origin of NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers concern.

Mike Rogers discovery becomes the impetus for him to request the 2016 full NSA compliance audit of FISA-702 use.  It appears Fusion-GPS was the FBI contracted user identified in the final FISA court opinion/ruling on page 83.

Note the dates from the FISC opinion (above) – As soon as the FBI discovered Mike Rogers was looking at the searches, the FBI discontinued allowing their sub-contractor  access to the raw FISA information. Effective April 18th, 2016.” (Read much more: Conservative Treehouse, 1/11/2018)

(Republished with special permission.)

September 26, 2016: John Carlin, the former NSD head who enables the FBI’s Carter Page FISA warrant

John Carlin (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/The National Law Journal)

John Carlin was an Assistant Attorney General – and Head of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division (NSD).

On September 27, 2016, Carlin announced his resignation. He formally left the NSD on October 15, 2016. Carlin had been named Acting Assistant Attorney General in March 2013 and was confirmed in the spring of 2014.

Carlin had previously served as chief of staff to then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller.

Carlin was replaced with Mary McCord – who would later accompany Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to see White House Counsel Don McGahn regarding General Michael Flynn.

Carlin announced his resignation exactly one day after he filed the Government’s proposed 2016 Section 702 certifications. His signature can be found on page 31.

This filing would be subject to intense criticism from the FISA Court following disclosures made by NSA Director Rogers. Significant changes to the handling of raw FISA data would result.

Section 702 is part of the broader FISA Act and permits the government to target for surveillance foreign persons located outside the United States for the purpose of acquiring foreign intelligence information.

Instead of issuing individual court orders, Section 702 requires the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to provide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) with annual certifications that specify categories of foreign intelligence information the government is authorized to acquire pursuant to Section 702.

The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence must also certify that Intelligence Community elements will follow targeting procedures and minimization procedures that are approved by the FISC as part of the annual certification.

The National Security Division and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are jointly required to routinely review all Intelligence Agency U.S. person queries of content to ensure the Section 702 queries satisfy the legal standard.

The NSD – with notice to the ODNI – is required to report any incidents of Agency noncompliance or misconduct to the FISA Court.

Again, John Carlin was Head of the NSD.

At the time Carlin’s sudden resignation went mostly unnoticed.

But there was more to the story.

Here is the official explanation as provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

After submitting its 2016 Certifications in September 2016, the Department of Justice and ODNI learned, in October 2016, about additional information related to previously reported compliance incidents and reported that additional information to the FISC. The NSA also self-reported the information to oversight bodies, as required by law. These compliance incidents related to the NSA’s inadvertent use of U.S. person identifiers to query NSA’s “upstream” Internet collection acquired pursuant to Section 702.

The FISA Court was more direct in a 99-page April 26, 2017 unsealed FISA Court Ruling.

On October 24, 2016, the government orally apprised the Court of significant non-compliance with the NSA’s minimization procedures involving queries of data acquired under Section 702 using U.S. person identifiers. The full scope of non-compliant querying practices had not been previously disclosed to the Court. Two days later, on the day the Court otherwise would have had to complete its review of the certifications and procedures, the government made a written submission regarding those compliance problems…and the Court held a hearing to address them.

Here’s what actually happened:
(Read more: themarketswork.com, 5/21/2018)

March 9 2016: NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers discovers FBI contractors doing FISA-702 “About Queries”

Admiral Mike Rogers (Credit: public domain)

“November 2015 through April 2016 FISA-702(17) “About Queries”, returns from searches, were identified by NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, being conducted by the intelligence community (FBI), by “contractors” and “individuals” for reasons that:

  • were unauthorized;
  • were directly related to U.S. persons;
  • and had nothing to do with National Security;
  • and were conducted by people who did not request FISA Court Approval.

Director Mike Rogers discovered FBI contractors doing FISA-702 “About Searches” that resulted in returns providing information on Americans.  Those results were passed on to people outside government.

Pg 83. “FBI gave raw Section 702–acquired information to a private entity that was not a federal agency and whose personnel were not sufficiently supervised by a federal agency for compliance minimization procedures.” (2017 FISA Court Opinion)

Someone inside the FBI was giving FISA-702 search results on U.S. individuals to a private entity that had nothing to do with government.   Those 702 (American Citizen) results were not “minimized” and exposed the private data of the American citizen(s).

In addition, NSA Director Mike Rogers, who is also in charge of Cyber Command, discovered people within the intelligence community were doing “searches” of the NSA and FBI database that were returning information that had nothing to do with “Foreign Individuals”.

Rogers requested a full FISA-702 Compliance Review.

As an outcome of that review, the DOJ/FBI compliance officer noted FISA violations. Again, the FISA Court (page 84):

We do not know how many FISA-702 violations took place prior to NSA Mike Rogers initiating the full FISA-702 review in April 2016. Nor do we know who the insider FBI individuals were; or what results were passed on; or what was done with the results.

However, given the nature of what was taking place at the time (March, April, May, 2016) it appears likely this was part of the DOJ/FBI/Fusion-GPS collision to gather information on the candidacy of Donald Trump.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 1/14/2018)