Grassley: FBI’s Abuse of Surveillance Power on American Citizen Has Done Great Harm
Dec 09, 2019
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), former chairman and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement regarding the Justice Department Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016.
“Anyone who values fundamental civil liberties in the United States should be disgusted and terrified by what the inspector general uncovered in today’s report on the FBI’s spying on an American citizen. That such abuse was carried out against a citizen working on a political campaign is just that much more disturbing. Not only did the FBI use highly-invasive surveillance tools that undermined the Fourth Amendment rights of an American, it also used a counterintelligence briefing with the campaign as an intelligence gathering operation without coordinating with other intelligence community officials.
“I began raising questions about the FBI’s reliance on Christopher Steele immediately after revelations of his involvement with the FBI’s Russia probe. We now know that the FBI failed to disclose Steele’s credibility problems and political motivations when pushing the FISA Court to grant surveillance authority based largely on his research. On at least 17 separate instances, the FBI botched the FISA applications by neglecting to share exculpatory information with the officials who vetted the applications, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and simply presenting inaccurate information.
“The FBI’s job is to protect Americans, our democracy and our rights. Its actions have done great harm to the public trust and jeopardize the important work that rank-and-file agents do every day for our nation. I look forward to the results of the inspector general’s FISA audit, as well as U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation and I hope we can all work together to begin restoring the standing of America’s top law enforcement agency,” Grassley said.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires the FBI to seek a warrant from a secret court before it can vacate the Fourth Amendment rights to privacy of American citizens to eavesdrop on them. The spying authority is generally used to surveil foreign nationals believed to pose a national security threat.
Grassley first raised questions about the FBI’s use of unsubstantiated anti-Trump information from an opposition research firm in early 2017. The dossier of information was compiled in mid-2016 by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was later revealed to have been working for the Democrat Party and Clinton campaign.
Shortly thereafter, Grassley and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) received a classified briefing from then-FBI Director James Comey, which raised additional questions about the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign. In June of 2017, Grassley and now-Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) requested records related to reported FISA applications targeting an American citizen who advised the Trump campaign.
In January, 2018, Grassley and Graham issued a criminal referral to the FBI regarding material inconsistences between information included in FISA materials and information Steele provided in sworn statements to authorities. The referral was later declassified, detailing how Steele briefed members of the news media about his work and how he was “desperate” to see that Trump not be elected president. These details, among others, were omitted from the FISA applications.
Grassley also raised concerns about whether the Trump campaign was provided a defensive briefing about any potential counterintelligence threats. His oversight revealed that the campaign was not warned of individuals within the campaign that were being investigated by the FBI. He later raised concerns that a general counterintelligence briefing was used as an operation to gather information on the campaign, which was confirmed in the IG report.