The FBI may have abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to spy on the very congressman tasked with overseeing FISA, according to revelations at a congressional hearing Thursday.
Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said at a committee hearing that he has reason to believe that he is the unnamed congressman who, a recently declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) admitted, FBI agents wrongfully conducted a search on.
LaHood is leading a working group tasked with oversight and renewal of Section 702 of FISA, Fox News reported. Last month, President Joe Biden asked Congress to reauthorize FISA provisions, calling it a “top legislative priority.”
“I want to make clear the FBI’s inappropriate querying of a duly elected member of Congress is egregious and a violation not only that degrades the trust in FISA, but is viewed as a threat to the separation of powers,” LaHood said at the hearing, according to Fox.
“I have had the opportunity to review the classified summary of this violation, and it is my opinion that the member of Congress that was wrongfully queried multiple times solely by his name was in fact me,” he said.
The ODNI report covering December 2019 to May 2020 says the FBI searched the name of a local political party and the name of a congressman, despite not being “reasonably likely” to reveal foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime.
An agent “conducted approximately [redacted] queries in [redacted] using only the name of a U.S. congressman. The 707 Report describes the specific facts that led the IA to conduct these queries. These queries retrieved unminimized PISA-acquired information, including Section 702-acquired products that were opened. FBI advised that no unminimized FISA-acquired information was disseminated or used in any other way. NSD and ODNI assess, based on these facts, that these queries were not compliant because they were overly broad,” it said.
FISA allows intelligence agencies to spy on foreigners, but the agencies have allegedly weaponized it to wrongfully target Americans, including political opponents. Warrants must be approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but that court is shrouded in secrecy and appears to rarely reject requests for warrants.
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In 2019, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General found “serious” abuses of the FISA process as the FBI targeted Trump officials. In 2020, FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to falsifying evidence submitted to the FISA court to get a warrant to wiretap Donald Trump aide Carter Page.
A common thread in the Russia-Trump investigation run by Peter Strzok and other partisan FBI officials is the way it relied on people who were offshore or neither American nor Russian, such as former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele; Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor; and Trump aide George Papadopoulos, who became embroiled after speaking with an Australian diplomat abroad.
Last year, ODNI said the FBI conducted up to 3.4 million searches of U.S. data drawn from the National Security Agency, a record high.
This week, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn sued the government for wrongful prosecution, seeking $50 million. The FBI recorded a call between Flynn and a Russian ambassador, then attempted to prosecute him for lying when his recollection of the call differed from the transcript that, unbeknownst to him, the FBI had.
“Without the FISA warrants, the Crossfire Hurricane investigation would likely have been closed in its entirety, and the prosecution of General Flynn likely would never have occurred,” the suit said.