October 8, 2019 – DNI Declassifies FISA Judge James Boasberg 2018 Ruling – FBI conducts “tens of thousands” of unauthorized NSA database queries
“There is a lot to unpack in a decision today by the Director of National Intelligence to declassify (with redactions) a 2018 FISA court ruling about ongoing unauthorized database search queries by FBI agents/”contractors” in the period covering 2017/2018.
BACKGROUND: In April 2017 the DNI released a FISA report written by Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer that showed massive abuse, via unauthorized searches of the NSA database, in the period of November 2015 through May 2016. Judge Collyer’s report specifically identified search query increases tied to the 2016 presidential primary. Two years of research identified this process as the DOJ/FBI and IC using the NSA database to query information related to political candidates, specifically Donald Trump.
Now we fast-forward to Judge Boasberg in a similar review (full pdf below), looking at the time period of 2017 through March 2018.
The timing here is an important aspect.
It cannot be overemphasized as you read the Boasberg opinion, or any reporting on the Boasberg opinion, that officials within DOJ and FBI are/were on a continuum. Meaning the “small group” activity didn’t stop after the election but rather continued with the Mueller and Weissmann impeachment agenda.
Remember, the 2016 ‘insurance policy’ was to hand Mueller the 2016 FBI investigation so they could turn it into the 2017 special counsel investigation. Mueller, Weissmann and the group then used the ‘Steele Dossier’ as the cornerstone for the special counsel review. The goal of the Mueller investigation was to construct impeachment via obstruction. The same players transferred from “crossfire hurricane” into the Mueller ‘obstruction‘ plan.
Within Judge Boasberg’s review of the 2017 activity, he outlines an identical set of FISA violations from within the FBI units and “contractors” as initially outlined by Judge Collyer a year earlier. Judge Boasberg wrote his opinion in October 2018 and that opinion was declassified today (October 8th, 2019). Boasberg is reviewing 2017 through March 2018. [Main link to all legal proceedings here]
(Via Wall Street Journal) The intelligence community disclosed Tuesday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last year found that the FBI’s pursuit of data about Americans ensnared in a warrantless internet-surveillance program intended to target foreign suspects may have violated the law authorizing the program, as well as the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
The court concluded that the FBI had been improperly searching a database of raw intelligence for information on Americans—raising concerns about oversight of the program, which as a spy program operates in near-total secrecy.
(…) The court ruling identifies tens of thousands of improper searches of raw intelligence databases by the bureau in 2017 and 2018 that it deemed improper in part because they involved data related to tens of thousands of emails or telephone numbers—in one case, suggesting that the FBI was using the intelligence information to vet its personnel and cooperating sources. Federal law requires that the database only be searched by the FBI as part of seeking evidence of a crime or for foreign intelligence information.
In other cases, the court ruling reveals improper use of the database by individuals. In one case, an FBI contractor ran a query of an intelligence database—searching information on himself, other FBI personnel and his relatives, the court revealed. (more)
As with the Collyer report, I am going line-by-painstaking-line through the Boasberg report (yeah, swamped); and what is clear is that in 2017 the FBI ‘bad actors’ and ‘contractors’ were continuing to try and subvert the safeguards put into place by former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. The 2017 non-compliance rate is similar to the 2016 review.
Judge Boasberg touches on the April 2017 Judge Collyer report. Here is the carefully worded DNI explanation of the connective tissue (emphasis mine):
(…) The FISC also concluded that the FBI’s querying and minimization procedures, as implemented, were inconsistent with Section 702 and the Fourth Amendment, in light of certain identified compliance incidents involving queries of Section 702 information.
These incidents involved instances in which personnel either misapplied or misunderstood the query standard, such that the queries were not reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime. Some of these instances involved queries concerning large numbers of individuals.
While stating that the Government had taken “constructive steps” to address the identified issues, the FISC held that these steps did not fully address the statutory and Fourth Amendment concerns raised by the compliance incidents.
(…) Additionally, the FISC considered the scope of certain new restrictions regarding “abouts” communications that were enacted in the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017. “Abouts” collection is the acquisition of communications that contain a reference to, but are not to or from, a Section 702 target. As the NSA explained in April 2017 (see NSA’s April 28, 2017 Statement), the NSA stopped acquiring any upstream internet communications that are solely “about” a foreign intelligence target and, instead, limited its Section 702 collection to only those communications that are directly “to” or “from” a foreign intelligence target.
NSA’s 2018 Targeting Procedures contained the same limitation. Although the Government did not seek to resume “abouts” collection, the FISC, with assistance from amici, reviewed whether the “abouts” restrictions applied to any other types of Section 702 acquisitions currently being conducted. While the FISC held that the “abouts” restrictions apply across Section 702 acquisitions, it found that current Section 702 acquisitions did not implicate the “abouts” restrictions. (read more)
Here is the October 2018 Boasberg Opinion:
- Andrew Weissmann
- Department of Justice
- FBI contractors
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- FISA Abuse
- FISA Report
- FISA search violations
- illegal spying
- illegal surveillance
- Judge James E. Boasberg
- Judge Rosemary Collyer
- Mueller Special Counsel Investigation
- Mueller team
- NSA database
- Obama administration
- October 2018
- Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)
- Trump administration
- U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)
- unauthorized searches
November 16, 2018 – WaPo’s Greg Miller says the FBI, CIA doubted key allegation in Steele dossier
“FBI and CIA sources told a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter that they didn’t believe a key claim contained in the “Steele Dossier,” the document the Obama FBI relied on to obtain a surveillance warrant on a member of the Trump campaign.
The Post‘s Greg Miller told an audience at a [November] event that the FBI and CIA did not believe that former longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 election to pay off Russia-linked hackers who stole emails from key Democrats, reports the Daily Caller‘s Chuck Ross.
“We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” said Miller during the October event which aired Saturday on C-SPAN.
“We literally spent weeks and months trying to run down… there’s an assertion in there that Michael Cohen went to Prague to settle payments that were needed at the end of the campaign. We sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, to all over the place trying to – just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty.” -Greg Miller
Ross notes that WaPo somehow failed to report this information, nor did Miller include this tidbit of narrative-killing information in his recent book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy.”
Miller also admits that the dossier’s broad claims are more closely aligned with reality, but that the document breaks down once you focus on individual claims.
Steele, using Kremlin sources, claimed in his dossier that Cohen and three associates went to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials for the purpose of discussing “deniable cash payments” made in secret so as to cover up “Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team.”
Cohen’s alleged Prague visit captured attention largely because the former Trump fixer has vehemently denied it, and also because it would seem to be one of the easier claims in Steele’s 35-page report to validate or invalidate.
Debate over the salacious document was reignited when McClatchy reported April 15 that special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence Cohen visited Prague. No other news outlets have verified the reporting, and Cohen denied it at the time.
Cohen last denied the dossier’s allegations in late June, a period of time when he was gearing up to cooperate with prosecutors against President Donald Trump. Cohen served as a cooperating witness for prosecutors in both New York and the special counsel’s office. –Daily Caller
Cohen’s attorney and longtime Clinton pal Lanny Davis vehemently denied on August 22, one day after Cohen pleaded guilty in his New York case – that Cohen had never been to Prague, telling Bloomberg “Thirteen references to Mr. Cohen are false in the dossier, but he has never been to Prague in his life.” (Read more: Zero Hedge, 12/16/2018)
Oct. 31, 2018 – The FBI learned Information ‘that might bear’ on Christopher Steele’s credibility, lawyer told Congress
“A former FBI attorney who worked on the Russia investigation told Congress last year the bureau learned information about dossier author Christopher Steele “that might bear on his credibility as a source.”
Trisha Anderson, the former principal deputy general counsel, said in a closed-door interview that meetings were held at the FBI with then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the team working on the investigation to discuss Steele, a former MI6 officer who investigated President Donald Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Steele provided information from his dossier to the FBI, State Department and members of the press.
“There were meetings with Mr. McCabe about the Russia investigation that involved discussions of the various reports that were generated by Chris Steele that we had received, both with respect to the content of the reports as well as what we had learned about Christopher — we, I’m sorry — the FBI investigative team had learned about facts that might bear on his credibility as a source,” Anderson said in the Oct. 31, 2018 interview, a transcript of which was obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“And what were those facts? You had mentioned the contents. More specifically, what were these discussions about? But start with the credibility issues,” a congressional staffer asked Anderson.
Anderson did not say when the meetings occurred. Nor did she say what the possible credibility issues might have been.
When asked for further details, an FBI attorney intervened to say that Anderson could not answer more questions because they “pertain to matters that are being looked at by the special counsel and its investigation.”
At some point after relying on Steele as a confidential source, FBI officials were told that Steele was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump. The former British spy had been hired in June 2016 by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm.
(…) The Justice Department’s office of the inspector general is reportedly investigating the FBI’s use of Steele as a source as part of a broader probe into possible abuse of the FISA system. The New York Times reported on Friday that intelligence community officials determined at some point in 2017 that some of Steele’s allegations were either likely wrong, or based on exaggeration by Steele’s sub-sources.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 4/26/2019)
October 24, 2018 – Mueller appears to be locked in a dispute with a mystery grand jury witness, but much of the case is sealed
“Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be locked in a dispute with a mystery grand jury witness resisting giving up information sought in the ongoing probe into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
It’s unclear exactly what the two sides are fighting over, but the case appears to resemble a separate legal battle involving an associate of Trump ally Roger Stone, Andrew Miller, who is fighting a Mueller subpoena. Miller’s lawyers are using the case, slated to be argued at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals early next month, to mount a broad legal assault on Mueller’s authority as special counsel.
In the more shadowy case, which involves an unknown person summoned before a grand jury this summer, the D.C. Circuit on Monday set a separate round of arguments for Dec. 14.
The case traveled in recent months from U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, back down to Howell and back up again to the appeals court with most details shrouded in secrecy, another indication that much of Mueller’s activity is taking place behind the scenes and is rarely glimpsed by the press or public.” (Read more: Politico, 10/24/2018)
October 23, 2018 – Sally Moyer’s redacted transcript
“Sally Moyer was FBI unit chief in the Office of General Counsel (counterintelligence legal unit within the FBI Office of General Counsel). Moyer reported to an unnamed section chief, who reported to Trisha Beth Anderson, who was deputy legal counsel to James Baker.
Ms. Moyer is responsible for the legal compliance within the FBI counterintelligence operations that generated FISA applications:
A review of the transcript clarifies a few aspects:
First, the DOJ/FBI team, “the small group”, specifically the legal officials who were ultimately participating in the process that permits politicization and weaponization of government intelligence systems, was also the exact same legal group who reviewed (and approved) the internal inspector general report which outlined their activity.
In essence, the DOJ/FBI bureaucratic corruption is so widespread, the corrupt officials involved are the same people who are the decision-makers in the amount of sunlight the Office of Inspect General is allowed to put forth. Now the disconnect between the OIG executive summary and the body of content material makes sense:” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 5/21/2019)
October 23, 2018 – House Judiciary and Oversight Committees interview Sally Moyer – Transcript
October 19, 2018 – Nellie Ohr tells Congress that one of her tasks at Fusion GPS was to research Trump’s family
“The wife of a Justice Department official who worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign told Congress in 2018 that one of her tasks at the opposition research firm was to research President Donald Trump’s children, including their business activities and travel.
(…) Ohr, a trained Russian linguist, also detailed some of the topics she worked on for Fusion GPS, which was hired by the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump.
One area of focus was Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s two oldest children.
“But in terms of actually performing research, did you begin to break out President Trump’s family in terms of Melania Trump, all of his children? Were you doing independent research based off of each family member?” one lawmaker asked Ohr.
“I did some,” Ohr said. “As I recall, I did some research on all of them, but not into much depth.”
“How about Donald Trump Jr.? Did you do more in-depth research on Donald Trump Jr. than some of the others?” she was asked.
“I’m afraid it was relatively superficial. It was,” adding that, “I looked into some of his travels and you know not sure how much detail I remember, at this point.”
“I looked into some of her travels,” said Ohr.
The goal was “to see whether they were involved in dealings and transactions with people who had had suspicious pasts.”
Nellie Ohr also testified that she investigated any links between Russian oligarchs and the Trump real estate empire.
It is unclear whether Ohr shared any information that she gathered working for Fusion GPS with her husband, who served as associate deputy attorney general until he was reassigned in December 2017. There is also no indication that Ohr’s research of the Trump children wound up in the dossier, which the FBI used to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 1/30/2019)
Oct. 19, 2018 – Nellie Ohr Testimony Confirms Her Work for the CIA
(..) “According to a transcript of an Oct. 19, 2018, closed-door testimony, which was reviewed by The Epoch Times, Ohr acknowledged to congressional investigators that she worked as an independent contractor for “various agencies in the United States Government.”
Ohr testified that she worked for the CIA’s Open Source Works (OSW) division. She also revealed that prior to her work for the CIA, she worked for Mitre, which is funded by the U.S. government and interacts with various intelligence agencies.
Ms. Ohr: Starting in 2000, I did some part-time contracting for Mitre, which is a contract —
Rep. Jordan: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.
Ms. Ohr: Mitre. Mitre Corporation, which in turn had contracts with U.S. Government clients.
Rep. Jordan: Got it.
Ms. Ohr: Through most of 2008. And then starting in 2008, I worked for Open Source Works.
Mitre Corporation is a “not-for-profit company that operates multiple federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs).” In other words, Mitre is a government-funded enterprise that conducts research for the U.S. government.
Of greater interest was Ohr’s employment as an independent contractor for OSW, the CIA’s internal open source division.
Ohr’s Work for the CIA
The CIA describes OSW as a division that uses open-source information to produce intelligence products.
“[Open Source Works] was charged by the Director for Intelligence with drawing on language-trained analysts to mine open-source information for new or alternative insights on intelligence issues,” states an unclassified Nov. 16, 2010, CIA report headlined “Russia: Security Concerns About Iran’s Space Program Growing.”
Ohr told congressional investigators that she began working for Open Source Works in 2008, but provided no time-frame for her end date. Her profile on LinkedIn, however, provides some indication that she may have remained employed with Open Source Works through 2014.
From 2000 to 2014, Ohr lists herself on her resume as a “Linguist/Research Analyst – Self-employed.” But she also concurrently lists her 2013-2015 employment with Plessas Experts’ Networks as an “Expert/Content Creator.”
Ohr told congressional investigators that she intentionally did not list any agencies on her resume when working as an independent contractor for the U.S. government:
Rep. Meadows: So I have one follow-up. Have you ever submitted a resume that would list any of those agencies on that resume?
Ms. Ohr: No.
Rep. Meadows: So no resume that would indicate that you did work for those agencies on a resume?
Ms. Ohr: My resume stated that I was an independent contractor doing work in support of U.S. Government.
Rep. Meadows: But normally there is a sentence or two right after it on what they did. And so what I’m saying is, did — in those resumes, and for example, like with Mitre, we do work with the CIA, NSA whoever —
Ms. Ohr: I do not explicitly name those agencies in a resume.
October 19, 2018 – FBI acknowledges using multiple informants in investigation of Trump campaign aide, Carter Page
“The U.S. government revealed in court filings Friday that the FBI used multiple confidential informants, including some who were paid for their information, as part of its investigation into former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“The FBI has protected information that would identify the identities of other confidential sources who provided information or intelligence to the FBI” as well as “information provided by those sources,” wrote David M. Hardy, the head of the FBI’s Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS), in court papers submitted Friday.
Hardy and Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys submitted the filings in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for the FBI’s four applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Page. The DOJ released heavily redacted copies of the four FISA warrant applications on June 20, but USA Today reporter Brad Heath has sued for full copies of the documents.
Hardy’s declaration acknowledged that the confidential sources used by the FBI were in addition to Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
“This includes nonpublic information about and provided by Christopher Steele, as well as information about and provided by other confidential sources, all of whom were provided express assurances of confidentiality,” Hardy wrote, referring to information disclosed in the four FISA applications.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 10/20/2018)
October 18, 2018 – Judge orders Mueller to prove Russian company meddled in election
“A Washington federal judge on Thursday ordered special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to clarify election meddling claims lodged against a Russian company operated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Bloomberg.
Concord Management and Consulting, LLC. – one of three businesses indicted by Mueller in February along with 13 individuals for election meddling, surprised the special counsel in April when they actually showed up in court to fight the charges. Mueller’s team tried to delay Concord from entering the case, arguing that the Russian company not been properly served, however Judge Dabney Friedrich denied the request – effectively telling prosecutors ‘well, they’re here.’
Concord was accused in the indictment of supporting the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian ‘troll farm’ accused of trying to influence the 2016 US election.
On Thursday, Judge Freidrich asked Mueller’s prosecutors if she should assume they aren’t accusing Concord of violating US laws applicable to election expenditures and failure to register as a foreign agent.
Concord has asked Dabney to throw out the charges – claiming that Mueller’s office fabricated a crime, and that there is no law against interfering in elections.
According to the judge’s request for clarification, the Justice Department has argued that it doesn’t have to show that Concord had a legal duty to report its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Rather, the allegation is that the company knowingly engaged in deceptive acts that precluded the FEC, or the Justice Department, from ascertaining whether they had broken the law. –Bloomberg
On Monday, Friedrich raised questions over whether the special counsel’s office could prove a key element of their case – saying that it was “hard to see” how allegations of Russian influence were intended to interfere with US government operations vs. simply “confusing voters,” reports law.com.
During a 90-minute hearing, Friedrich questioned prosecutor Jonathan Kravis about how the government would be able to show the Russian defendants were aware of the Justice Department and FEC’s functions and then deliberately sought to skirt them.
“You still have to show knowledge of the agencies and what they do. How do you do that?” Friedrich asked.
Kravis, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, argued that the government needed only to show that Concord Management and the other defendants were generally aware that the U.S. government “regulates and monitors” foreign participation in American politics. That awareness, Kravis said, could be inferred from the Russians’ alleged creation of fake social media accounts that appeared to be run by U.S. citizens and “computer infrastructure” intended to mask the Russian origin of the influence operation.
“That is deception that is directed at a higher level,” Kravis said. Kravis appeared in court with Michael Dreeben, a top Justice Department appellate lawyer on detail to the special counsel’s office. –law.com