FBI Confirms No Major Terrorism Cases Cracked Via Unconstitutional Patriot Act Phone Spying

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

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FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

– From the Washington Times article: FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers 

Back in 2013, as debate about the Snowden revelations was at its zenith, I published a post titled NSA Chief Admits “Only One or Perhaps Two” Terror Plots Stopped by Spy Program. Here’s an excerpt:

The Obama administration’s credibility on intelligence suffered another blow Wednesday as the chief of the National Security Agency admitted that officials put out numbers that vastly overstated the counterterrorism successes of the government’s warrantless bulk collection of all Americans’ phone records.

Pressed by the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing, Gen. Keith B. Alexander admitted that the number of terrorist plots foiled by the NSA’s huge database of every phone call made in or to America was only one or perhaps two — far smaller than the 54 originally claimed by the administration.

“One or perhaps two.” Or perhaps zero. The guy has the nerve to say “perhaps.” How do you not know? What a bunch of lying assholes. How the heck does 54 turn into “one or two,” and I’ll tell you something else, I don’t believe the one or two figure for a minute. I mean there’s no way he would say “zero” when he is fighting to keep his petty little Stasi state intact. Furthermore, how about some details here. What was the one plot the NSA foiled? Some teenager throwing firecrackers on the White House lawn? These guys need to get lost already. From the Washington Times:

As time has passed and the years have gone by, it has become increasingly clear that the phone records collection program hasn’t stopped a single terror attack. In fact, a recently published report by the Justice Department’s inspector general admitted as much. This takes on increased significance with parts of the Patriot Act set to automatically sunset on June 1st.

The Washington Times reports:

FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

Backers say the Patriot Act powers are critical and must be kept intact, particularly with the spread of the threat from terrorists. But opponents have doubted the efficacy of Section 215, particularly when it’s used to justify bulk data collection such as in the case of the National Security Agency’s phone metadata program, revealed in leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden.

“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the inspector general concluded — though he said agents did view the material they gathered as “valuable” in developing other leads or corroborating information. 

The report was heavily redacted, and key details were deleted. The entire chart showing the number of Section 215 requests made from 2007 through 2009 was blacked out, as was the breakdown of what types of investigations they stemmed from: counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or foreign intelligence investigations.

Redacted indeed. This is what pages 16-20 look like, and the pages immediately after these are just as bad.

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Most transparent administration ever.

Moving along, the conclusion that Section 215 of the Patriot Act hasn’t stopped any terror attacks naturally won’t stop FBI director James Comey (and others) from fear-mongering. A favorite pastime of government officials and their lapdogs. As Politico reports:

Speaking at an American Law Institute event this week, FBI Director James Comey warned that a PATRIOT Act sunset would “severely” affect his agency. The FBI relies heavily on the soon-to-expire provisions of the law to obtain specific business records — from library records to gun ownership data — and wiretaps for multiple devices, he said.

“If I lose these tools, it’s a huge, huge problem,” Comey said. “We use [Section 215 to obtain specific records] fewer than 200 times per year, but when we use it, it matters tremendously.”

But not for terrorism, and the Patriot Act was specifically passed to deal with terrorism.

“ISIS is singing a siren song, calling people to their death to crash on the rocks — and it’s the rocks that ISIS will take credit for,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “They’re looking for those who are disaffected, disconnected and willing to commit murder. So if we’re willing to take away tools, OK, congressman, stand behind it [and] take the credit for putting the FBI in the dark.”

Can you believe people like this exist, and that their insane rhetoric actually speaks to some people? Scary.

While the current debate about Section 215 of the Patriot Act is encouraging and necessary, it is extremely important to understand that this is just a tiny, potentially meaningless tip of the iceberg when it comes to unconstitutional government surveillance. As The ACLU’s Chris Soghoian explains courtesy of Schneier.com:

There were 180 orders authorized last year by the FISA Court under Section 215 — 180 orders issued by this court. Only five of those orders relate to the telephony metadata program. There are 175 orders about completely separate things. In six weeks, Congress will either reauthorize this statute or let it expire, and we’re having a debate — to the extent we’re even having a debate — but the debate that’s taking place is focused on five of the 180, and there’s no debate at all about the other 175 orders.

Now, Senator Wyden has said there are other bulk collection programs targeted at Americans that the public would be shocked to learn about. We don’t know, for example, how the government collects records from Internet providers. We don’t know how they get bulk metadata from tech companies about Americans. We don’t know how the American government gets calling card records.

So the 215 program that has been disclosed publicly, the 215 program that is being debated publicly, is about records to major carriers like AT&T and Verizon. We have not had a debate about surveillance requests, bulk orders to calling card companies, to Skype, to voice over Internet protocol companies. Now, if NSA isn’t collecting those records, they’re not doing their job. I actually think that that’s where the most useful data is. But why are we having this debate about these records that don’t contain a lot of calls to Somalia when we should be having a debate about the records that do contain calls to Somalia and do contain records of e-mails and instant messages and searches and people posting inflammatory videos to YouTube?

Certainly the government is collecting that data, but we don’t know how they’re doing it, we don’t know at what scale they’re doing it, and we don’t know with which authority they’re doing it. And I think it is a farce to say that we’re having a debate about the surveillance authority when really, we’re just debating this very narrow usage of the statute.

The battle to push back the American Stasi is just beginning.

For related articles, see:

Congress is Attempting to Reauthorize Key Patriot Act Provisions by Sneaking it Into “USA Freedom Act”

How NSA Surveillance Was Birthed from the Drug War – The DEA Tracked Billions of Phone Calls Pre 9/11

Decoding the NSA: How the Agency Manipulates Language to Mislead the Public

Congressman: Did You Think This Program Could be Indefinitely Kept Secret from the American People? Government Attorney: “Well we Tried”

Manufactured Terrorism – U.S. Officials Claim Credit for Stopping Another Terror Attack Created by the FBI

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