Our friends on the other side of The Big Ditch are sufficiently upset at the possibility that the, ahem, walls are closing in on them that they are starting to level passive-aggressive threats. As RedState’s Elizabeth Vaughn noted, Politico writer Jack Schafer has demanded that he be shown all evidence of wrongdoing by the Obama Administration, right now, or he is going back to bed. And what a shame that would be. I guess.
Yesterday I linked to a FISA court order that is available (in redacted form) on the web site of the Director of National Intelligence. It tells us that the NSA keeps logs that document every query made against their enormous Signals Intelligence database. All our texts, all our emails, and metadata about all our telephone calls (who called whom and when and for how long) are in there. Some — not the NSA — claim that the telephone calls themselves are in the database.
The court also revealed that at least as early as 2015, the FBI Counterintelligence Division (Strzok & Co.) began conducting a large number of unusual warrantless “FISA 702” queries concerning a group of U.S. persons. FISA 702 is intended for use on foreign nationals who might be planning terrorist activities. It is not supposed to be used to ask “about queries” on U.S. persons and, in fact, such use is against the law. So is allowing outside contractors, not FBI personnel, direct access to the database. According to the court, the FBI did that as well. The Director of the NSA was so alarmed by this activity that he had an audit conducted. He ultimately decided to cut off the FBI’s access to the database. The logs would tell us who made each query, when they made it, and what U.S. person was targeted. Needless to say, such logs are highly classified. One of the “walls” that could usefully close in would be a declassification of the logs concerning these out-of-band FBI database queries about U.S. persons. Were any of the targets Republican candidates for President? Were any of them not named Trump? (These queries began months before Trump was the nominee). DNI Grenell, white courtesy telephone, please.
You have undoubtedly read that the FBI applied for, and was granted, a FISA warrant to monitor one Carter Page, a one-time advisor to the Trump campaign and a known Russian agent. Or at least, the FBI swore to the Court that he was one, in order to get the warrant. You have also read of the tweet that President Trump sent out shortly after the election, in which he said:
Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory.
Let’s talk about that. But first a word about Carter Page. Most people don’t know anything about Carter Page, and they don’t care. If the FBI spied on him, he probably deserved it.
See what you think. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Carter Page was named a Trident Scholar in his senior year. This is a program for “exceptionally capable” midshipmen who do independent research and study prior to graduation. Page’s assignment was to serve as an intern on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee under Les Aspin. Before we go on, please spend five seconds thinking about what sort of security clearances one must qualify for to even get near the staff of the House Armed Services Committee. Upon graduation, Page served as a Marine Intelligence Officer in the Middle East. Intelligence Officer: hold that thought. He also did a stint in the Pentagon on something — it’s a secret — related to nuclear weapons. Those gigs aren’t easy to get either. Also while in the Navy, Page earned a Master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. Do you see the Russian agent yet? Neither do I. I see a guy that the CIA wants to recruit the minute he gets out of the Navy.
By the time Peter Strzok’s access to the NSA database had been cut off and he was filling out the forms to acquire an actual warrant so he could continue his surveillance, Strzok was already familiar with Carter Page. A few years prior, Page had assisted the FBI with rounding up some actual Russian spies in New York City. Page had gone undercover to obtain information about the Russians. He also testified for the prosecution at their trial. The chief agent on the case? Peter F. Strzok.
The FBI never cared about “monitoring” Carter Page. They already knew Carter Page. He was the guy who had earlier gone undercover to help them catch some Russian spies. So why did they want a warrant to spy on him? They didn’t. What they wanted, and got, was a Title I FISA warrant. With one of those, you don’t need to “tap the wires” at Trump Tower. With a Title I FISA warrant, you can mine the NSA’s database of texts and emails. Not just on the named target, i.e. Carter Page, but on anyone who communicated with Carter Page. And anyone who communicated with any of those people. This is called the “two-hop” rule, and if you think about how we all communicate these days, once you can target a single person on the campaign staff, you can “hop” your way to virtually everyone in the campaign.
Carter Page had two things to recommend him as the ideal target for the much-needed FISA warrant. He had earlier volunteered as an advisor to the Trump campaign, and therefore had spent months at a desk in Trump Tower. Plus, his previous contacts with convicted Russian spies meant that he could plausibly be painted to the FISA Court as some sort of Russian Secret Agent. The fact that Page was the informant who helped get the Russians convicted somehow never made it into the warrant application. Neither did the fact that the CIA had early on warned the FBI to leave Page alone… he was their guy.
Here’s the key: With a Title I FISA warrant, your authority to mine the NSA database does not start the day the warrant is issued; you can go back in time… years if you want. Carter Page’s only utility to the FBI was that he had once worked in Trump Tower. They could, therefore, use him as the excuse to enter Trump Tower electronically, via the NSA, and start “two-hopping” their way through the Trump campaign. And later, the Trump Transition Team. That is what “the warrant to monitor Carter Page” is about. It’s about Electronic Watergate… bugging everyone in the entire opposition party’s campaign.
Again, they did this. We know it for a fact. The Democrats did this. Civil Servants did this. We cannot allow this behavior to slip quietly into the past, or it will be our future as well.
So-called “Obamagate” is not any one thing. It’s warrantless surveillance on political opponents using the nation’s anti-terrorism tools. When that was thwarted, it became lying to the court under oath to obtain a warrant to continue the surveillance of political opponents even after they had won the election. It was fabricating FBI interview reports to make an innocent man seem guilty, and then prosecuting him. These people did some very serious things that we never, ever want to see again.
It is an unfortunate fact that a great many of the people who practice journalism in this country are sufficiently invested in the future of the Democratic Party that they have decided that the world will be a better place if the public never finds out that the Democrats did this. That is why, even today, most people do not know that multiple, high-level people in the FBI and the DOJ made sworn statements to the court that they knew to be false, in order to use the electronic snooping facilities of the U.S. government to bring Watergate into the 21st Century. They did this. There is no doubt they did this. We have the receipts. We have the warrant applications, which they signed, and on which they lied to a judge. The fact that half our journalists want no part of telling the public that this happened is a disappointment, but it need not be a problem. We can tell the public that it happened. Over sixty million people voted for President Trump in the last election. That’s a lot of telling.