Spying on the American People You Trust
FISA Court reveals the FBI spied on Jan. 6 attackers and George Floyd protesters alike. Who opposes this? Civil rights fans in both parties. Who supports this? Joe Biden.
When I was a kid, I tried a couple of time to use a toy periscope.
A tube, it was equipped with an eyepiece at the bottom and a lens at the top, with two 45-degree angled mirrors between them. So it was possible to slink behind a sofa and use the periscope to see what was going on in the living room.
Or ice the periscope horizontally to see around a corner into another room.
Was it fun? Actually, no. I was bored. It wasn’t too much information. It was simply excess information.
And it seemed wrong. Because, hey, it was spying!
A few days ago, judges who really do know about how the nation spies slammed some of the nation’s spymasters for going way, way too far in spying on other Americans.
And it turns out that civil libertarians on both the left and right think that government spying on Americans goes too far.
Holding the bag in the middle — defending the indefensible — is President Biden. He’s the ultimate customer for the products of the nation’s spy system.
This is one time when being in the middle is untenable, an affront to voters in American who largely know better. To protect his flanks on both sides, and to do the right thing, The Moderate Democrat says Biden should speak out against excessive government spying.
Right now, he’s the kid behind the sofa, passively watching the rest of us loathing the spying and advocating for sensible changes.
The Wall Street Journal detailed the findings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in a story published Saturday, May 20th.
The FBI used a database built to track foreign spying in the United States to watch Americans involved with everything from the Jan. 7 Capitol riot to the Summer-of-2020 George Floyd protests.
The FBI ran 19,000 terms relating to American donors to the campaign of an unsuccessful candidate for Congress through its foreign intelligence database. In the end, Justice Department lawyers could find only eight terms that mattered.
“FBI officials ran more than 400 U.S. defense contractors and holders of security clearances through the foreign intelligence databased despite no evidence they were being targeted by a foreign power.”
The president wants the nation to retain the ability to spy on its own people. Both Republicans and Democrats are opposed.
My representative in Congress, Jim Himes of Connecticut, is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He said the FISA court’s opinion shows that reform already taken by the FBI and the Justice Department need to be supplemented, “to ensure that the FBI, and other agencies, are faithful stewards of this powerful and irreplaceable national security tool.”
The deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project was even more blunt. Patrick Toomey said:
“This secrecy is completely unacceptable in a democracy — Americans must know what this surveillance law allows the government to do.”