These two articles (from Friday March 24) really help to better explain many of the complex issues involved in President Trump’s “wiretapping” claims.
The first is a great interview with former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley by Dennis J. Bernstein. The second is an awesome surveillance primer by Charlie Savage.
Surveillance State Goes After Trump
By Dennis J Bernstein for Consortium News
* Although Trump’s accusations of Obama personally ordering Trump tower to be “wiretapped” remain unsubstantiated, it’s only technically incorrect because he used the word “wiretapped” which implies specifically tapping a phone land line, as opposed to “monitoring” all communications of a target, which includes cell phone communications, email, and anything else.
* So, in a more general sense, Trumps calls WERE picked up, while government agencies were “monitoring other targets.”
* To be clear, Rowley said “I think Trump is vindicated” on this issue. So, although Trump may have been confused about the correct term to use, the essence of what he was saying was true; his communications were been intercepted. (As House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes has stated: there is evidence of U.S. intelligence picking up conversations by Trump while monitoring other targets.)
* Also due to this technical difference between “wiretapping” and “surveillance” or the “monitoring” of the targets in question, FBI Director Comey was technically telling the truth when he said that they had found no evidence of the wiretapping mentioned in Trump’s tweets.
* Congressional Spying was actually the exact reason that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created; as a result of the Frank Church Committee (created when Senator Frank Church found out he was being surveilled by the NSA).
* Looking back at history, flimsy Title III orders were used by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover against Martin Luther King Jr. (to hide microphones in his hotels), and they were based on guilt by association.
* These orders had “very little probable cause” and were usually “a paragraph or two alleging that an associate or a cousin of an associate was a communist.” These were the kinds of orders used to spy on Frank Church and others.
* With all this in mind, you would think that Congress would have considered the downsides to mass surveillance, but it looks like the last 30 years of congresspeople that came in forgot about the problem.
There are more points than this! You should read the whole thing :)
By Charlie Savage for the New York Times
* Incidental collection is standard operating procedure.
* The private information of Americans is routinely intercepted in this process.
* There are repositories of “raw” (unprocessed) emails and phone calls that are place into “repositories” that intelligence analysts can then query, looking for specific information relevant to what they are working on, using keywords or names.
* When writing surveillance-based reports for broader dissemination within the intelligence community, analysts are supposed to “minimize” any privacy intrusion into Americans, “masking” any names and private information.
* Minimization rules have exceptions for leaving the private information “unmasked” if it’s impossible to understand the foreign intelligence otherwise.
* “One issue of concern is the ‘backdoor search loophole’ – when officials search raw repositories of surveillance information intending to pull out and read any incidentally collected private messages of an American – especially when those messages were gathered without a warrant in the first place.”
* The FISA Amendments Act will expire at the end of 2017 unless congress enacts new legislation extending it.
There are more points than this! You should read the whole thing.