DOJ Political Surveillance – From the IRS in 2011 to the FISA Court in 2016…


An assembly of government reports and public records now indicates a political exploitation of the NSA database, for weaponized intelligence surveillance of politicians, began mid 2012.  After an initial attempt to exploit IRS records, the legal tool used to access the NSA database was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

With research files on the ’15, ’16 and ’17 political surveillance program; including information from the Mueller report and information from the IG Horowitz report; in combination with the Obama-era DOJ “secret research project” (their words, not mine); we are able to overlay the Obama-era domestic IC operations & gain a full understanding of how political surveillance was conducted over a period of four to six years.

The FISA-702 database extraction process, and utilization of the protections within the smaller intelligence community, became the primary process only after a previous DOJ effort ran into trouble. The established record from the 99-page FISC opinion rendered by Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer on April 26, 2017, helps explain the details.

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.  Very specifically, the court outlined how the Obama administration was continually lying to the court about both their activity, and the rate of fourth amendment violations for illegal searches and seizures of U.S. persons’ private information. These violations continued for multiple years throughout Obama’s terms.

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.

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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.

FISA-702(16) is a search of the system returning a U.S. person (“702”); and the “16” is a check box to initiate a search based on “To and From“. Example, if you put in a date and a phone number and check “16” as the search parameter the user will get the returns on everything “To and From” that identified phone number for the specific date. Calls, texts, contacts etc. Including results for the inbound and outbound contacts.

FISA-702(17) is a search of the system returning a U.S. person (702); and the “17” is a check box to initiate a search based on everything “About” the search qualifier. Example, if you put a date and a phone number and check “17” as the search parameter the user will get the returns of everything about that phone. Calls, texts, contacts, geolocation (or gps results), account information, user, service provider etc. As a result, 702(17) can actually be used to locate where the phone (and user) was located on a specific date or sequentially over a specific period of time which is simply a matter of changing the date parameters.

And that’s just from a phone number.

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, November 2015 to April 2016.

Also notice this very important quote:

…”many of these non-compliant queries involved the use of the same identifiers over different date ranges.”…

This tells us the system users 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% rate of unlawful FISA-702(16)(17) database abuse has likely been happening since 2012.

2012 is an important date in this database abuse because a network of specific interests is assembled that also shows up in 2016/2017:

  • Who was 2012 FBI Director? Robert Mueller.  The same Mueller selected by the FBI group to become special prosecutor in 2017.
  • Who was Robert Mueller’ chief-of-staff? Aaron Zebley.  The same Aaron Zelbley, who became one of the lead lawyers on the Mueller special counsel.
  • Who was 2012 2012 CIA Director? John Brennan.
  • Who was the 2012 ODNI? James Clapper.
  • Remember, the NSA is inside the Pentagon (Defense Dept) command structure. Who was Defense Secretary? Ash Carter.

Now it becomes important to remember in 2016:

  • Who wanted NSA Director Mike Rogers fired? Brennan, Clapper and Carter.
  • And finally, who wrote and signed-off-on the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment and then lied about the use of the Steele Dossier? John Brennan, James Clapper

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

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 dating back to around 2012.  •The NSA 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. •The same people had multiple searches performed against their private information from November of 2015 to May of 2016, the exact time of the Republican presidential primary.

The outlined process certainly points toward a political spying and surveillance operation; and we are not the only one to think that’s what this system is being used for.

Back in 2017 when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was working to reauthorize the FISA legislation, Nunes wrote a letter to ODNI Dan Coats about this specific issue:

SIDEBAR: To solve the issue, well, actually attempt to ensure it never happened again, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers eventually took away the “About” query option permanently in 2017. NSA Director Rogers said the abuse was so inherent there was no way to stop it except to remove the process completely. [SEE HERE] Additionally, the NSA database operates as a function of the Pentagon, so the Trump administration went one step further. On his last day as NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers -together with ODNI Dan Coats- put U.S. cyber-command, the database steward, fully into the U.S. military as a full combatant command. [SEE HERE] Unfortunately it didn’t work as shown by the 2018 FISC opinion rendered by FISC Judge James Boasberg [SEE HERE]

There is little doubt the FISA-702(16)(17) database system was used by Obama-era officials, from 2012 through April 2016, as a way to spy on their political opposition.

Quite simply there is no other intellectually honest explanation for the scale and volume of database abuse that was taking place; and keep in mind these searches were all ruled to be unlawful. Searches for repeated persons over a period time that were not authorized.

When we reconcile what was taking place and who was involved, then the actions of the exact same principle participants take on a jaw-dropping amount of clarity.

All of the action taken by CIA Director Brennan, FBI Director Comey, ODNI Clapper and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter make sense. Including their effort to get NSA Director Mike Rogers fired.

Everything after March 9th, 2016, had a dual purpose: (1) done to cover up the weaponization of the FISA database. [Explained Here] Spygate, Russia-Gate, the Steele Dossier, and even the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (drawn from the dossier and signed by the above) were needed to create a cover-story and protect themselves from discovery of this four year weaponization, political surveillance and unlawful spying. Even the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel makes sense; he was FBI Director when this began. (2) They needed to keep surveillance ongoing.

The beginning decision to use FISA(702) as a domestic surveillance and political spy mechanism appears to have started in/around 2012. Perhaps sometime shortly before the 2012 presidential election and before John Brennan left the White House and moved to CIA. However, there was an earlier version of data assembly that preceded this effort.

Political spying 1.0 was actually the weaponization of the IRS. This is where the term “Secret Research Project” originated as a description from the Obama team. It involved the U.S. Department of Justice under Eric Holder and the FBI under Robert Mueller. It never made sense why Eric Holder requested over 1 million tax records via CD ROM, until overlaying the timeline of the FISA abuse:

The IRS sent the FBI “21 disks constituting a 1.1 million page database of information from 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The transaction occurred in October 2010 (link)

Why disks? Why send a stack of DISKS to the DOJ and FBI when there’s a pre-existing financial crimes unit within the IRS. All of the evidence within this sketchy operation came directly to the surface in early spring 2012.

The IRS scandal was never really about the IRS, it was always about the DOJ asking the IRS for the database of information. That is why it was transparently a conflict when the same DOJ was tasked with investigating the DOJ/IRS scandal. Additionally, Obama sent his chief-of-staff Jack Lew to become Treasury Secretary; effectively placing an ally to oversee/cover-up any issues. As Treasury Secretary Lew did just that.

Lesson Learned – It would appear the Obama administration learned a lesson from attempting political opposition research through the IRS database. The timeline reflects a few months after realizing the “Secret Research Project” was now worthless (June 2012), they focused more deliberately on a smaller network within the intelligence apparatus; and through “contractors” they began weaponizing the FBI/NSA database. If our hunch is correct, that is what will be visible in footnote #69:

How this all comes together in 2019/2020

Fusion GPS was not hired in April 2016 to just research Donald Trump. As shown in the evidence provided by the FISC, the intelligence community was already doing surveillance and spy operations. The Obama administration already knew everything about the Trump campaign, and were monitoring everything by exploiting the FISA database.

However, after the NSA alerts in/around March 9th, 2016, and particularly after the April 18th shutdown of contractor access, the Obama intelligence community needed Fusion GPS to create a legal albeit ex post facto justification for the pre-existing surveillance and spy operations. Fusion GPS gave them that justification in the Steele Dossier.

That’s why the FBI small group, which later transitioned into the Mueller team, were so strongly committed to and defending the formation of the Steele Dossier and its dubious content.

The Steele Dossier, an outcome of the Fusion contract, contains two purposes: (1) the cover-story and justification for the pre-existing surveillance operation (protect Obama); and (2) facilitate the FBI counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign (assist Clinton).  That became more important after the election when the same players needed to get a special counsel. An insurance policy would be needed.

The Steele Dossier becomes the investigative virus the FBI wanted inside the system. To get the virus into official status, they used the FISA application as the delivery method and injected it into U.S. person Carter Page; a former Trump campaign advisor. The FBI already knew Carter Page; essentially Carter Page was irrelevant, what they needed was the FISA warrant and the Dossier in the system {Go Deep}.

Fusion GPS was not only hired to research Trump, the intelligence community was already doing surveillance and spy operations. The intelligence community needed Fusion GPS to give them a plausible justification for already existing surveillance and spy operations.

Fusion-GPS gave them the justification they needed for a FISA warrant with the Steele Dossier. Ultimately that’s why the Steele Dossier is so important; without it, the DOJ and FBI would be naked with their FISA-702 abuse as outlined by John Ratcliffe.

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“Mistakes were made”, is the ridiculous excuse.  The FBI knew all along the Steele Dossier was garbage, but they were dependent on using it… Their willful blindness was by design; they needed the dossier to get to the Mueller phase:

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