“Attorney General William Barr told a Senate panel Wednesday that “spying did occur” during the 2016 presidential campaign as he testified about the Mueller report and the origin of the Russia probe.
Barr’s disclosure came as he was being questioned by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about his plans to investigate how the probe began into Russian meddling in the campaign.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told the Senate appropriations subcommittee, noting that he grew up in a Vietnam War generation that included a lot of concern about the government spying on anti-war activists.
When he stated he didn’t think rules were necessarily violated during the campaign, Shaheen then said: “So you’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?”
“Well … I think spying did occur,” Barr responded. “Yes, I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was … adequately predicated. And I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, later asked Barr whether he wanted to use different language than the word “spying.”
“I think the word ‘spying’ could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out,” Schatz said.
Barr clarified his comments later in the hearing, referring to possible “improper surveillance.”
“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred,” Barr said. “I’m saying that I’m concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all.”
A New Year and a major New Crisis for Congress & the President
– From a variety of sources, we find the Obama Administration spying on members of Congress. This is a major new escalation of unconstitutional acts by the president. We are in new territory. Read more below.
“The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears—an “Oh-s— moment,” one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.”
Heilemann: ‘All Sides’ Will Turn Obama Into a ‘Piñata’ If Israel Spying Report True
– Breitbart – Jan 01
“Wednesday evening on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect,” while discussing a Wall Street Journal report saying the Obama administration is spying on friendly world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his conversations with members of Congress, co-host John Heilemann predicted both Republicans and Democrats would turn on Obama if it is true.
Heilemman asked his guest co-host Nicolle Wallace, “How big is this? On a scale of one to Godzilla, what are the implications that might come out?”
Wallace replied, “I think this is like Godzilla’s daddy. This is a big Godzilla. This could have political ramifications inter-party. It would be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton parts ways, with the Obama White House who obviously had a hand in this if you believe the reporting on this “The Wall Street Journal” account.”
– But let’s start from the Comments section on Mediaite, a probing set of questions:
“brian thomas• 2 days ago
The part of this story that worries me, is that although the NSA has consistently avowed meta-data collection does not incude actual “conversations”, eavesdropping does occur. I’m wondering if congress will be revisiting the NSA testimony which seems to be contradictory to actual practices.
Grap3Drink brian thomas• 2 days ago
The meta-data collection and other NSA monitoring activities are entirely separate issues. Monitoring foreign communications is their JOB…
Thank you professor, but my question is this: Does the NSA maintain 2 separate, independent networks, and staff in their surveillance programs? Or, as suggested by Snowden, is it a single ominous collection point, where “contractors” at their own discretion, or by direction “mute” these monitored communications. Given the NSA is always “under financed”, and the current administrations efforts to consolidate and share information between different agencies, I think it unlikely 2 networks of such scope, complexity, and cost, would exist in a single agency.”
– Great, now we can be spied on by ‘contractors.’ Excellent Question. Read on.
WSJ: NSA’s Surveillance of Israeli Leaders Included Private Convos of U.S. Lawmakers
“Back in January 2014, after there was outrage from leaders in nations like Germany and Brazil about being spied on, President Obama announced that the U.S. will no longer eavesdrop on friendly heads of state “unless there is a compelling national security purpose.” But tonight, the WSJ report cites current and former U.S. officials as saying the government still kept an eye on certain allies––Benjamin Netanyahu among them.”
– Read more here from the article by Josh Feldman @ Mediaite
– The New York Post weighs in…..
Why Team Obama’s Israel spying should be a major scandal
– NY Post
“……news that the Obama administration targeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for continued close electronic surveillance — even as it curbed it for other friendly leaders — still is pretty startling.
As is The Wall Street Journal’s disclosure that the sweep included conversations with US Jewish groups and members of Congress.
The last is especially critical: Careful rules govern how the National Security Agency can handle such intercepted conversations, and it’s not clear they were followed.
But it’s also significant that Team Obama apparently had no problem with spying on Americans engaged in legitimate political activity — in this case, trying to block the president’s dubious nuclear deal with Iran.
The White House took pains not to leave a paper trail. As one senior official told the Journal: “We didn’t say, ‘Do it.’ We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it’.”
US House Intelligence chair seeks answers on NSA spying report
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes told The Associated Press that he’s asked the director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency to come to Capitol Hill next week to brief lawmakers on the matter.
In the process the agency caught some conversations with U.S. lawmakers, according to the report. That’s something that would typically be reported to top congressional leaders and the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, but Nunes said he recalled receiving no such notification.
He said his goal would be to “get the facts” about the situation.
“We’re going to play this right down the middle and determine whether or not somebody did something wrong,” Nunes said by phone from California.
Later Wednesday, the chairmen of the House Oversight Committee and its national security subcommittee sent a letter to NSA Director Michael Rogers requesting documents and a briefing about the process.
Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Ron DeSantis wrote that the Journal report raises “questions concerning the processes NSA employees follow in determining whether intercepted communications involved members of Congress, and the latitude agency employees have in screening communications with members of Congress for further dissemination within the Executive Branch.”
Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated
“In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was invoking. “Spying is a matter of fact,” he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz, the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra “laughs at foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they, too, gather information” — referring to anger from German and Brazilian leaders. As TechDirtnoted, “Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans.”
But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond. Now that he knows that it is his privacy and those of his comrades that has been invaded, he is no longer cavalier about it. In fact, he’s so furious that this long-time NSA cheerleader is actually calling for the criminal prosecution of the NSA and Obama officials for the crime of spying on him and his friends.”
– Read the whole article by Glen Greenwald @ Intercept
The NSA spied on Congress, too
“Over the course of the Iran nuclear negotiations that have taken place in the past several years, the NSA learned that Israel had leaked information to Jewish-American groups to undermine the negotiations taking place at the time. The nation had also approached members of Congress to see what it’d take to earn their vote against the accords.
The situation is a mess and understandably no one involved looks good or wants to admit to any wrongdoing. Israel was trying to win US votes for its cause, the NSA was illegally intercepting these transmissions and basically everyone caught with their hands in the cookie jar is rapidly trying to deny that any of this ever happened. You know, despite proof otherwise. More than that, the NSA has apparently gotten so adept at this type of surveillance that a president, Obama in this case, knowing what a visiting head of state’s talking points would be long before their arrival is incredibly common.”
These Ain’t Masterminds: Would Be Terrorist Crowd Sourced Targets On Twitter Using ‘Silent Bomber’ Handle
from the silent-but-deadly dept
“I have to say, it can certainly be quite frustrating to watch dispassionately how terrorism is discussed in the United States. After the fervor in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when terrorism was used either as a reason or excuse to enact all kinds of liberty-diffusing policies and to launch an insane surveillance state that we still haven’t recovered from, I had thought we were quietly entering an era of eye-rolling at the way some in government throw around the word “terrorism.” But, because the home of the brave is so easily whipped into a frenzy of fear, an admittedly horrible terrorist attack half a world away and a shooting spree in California that would have been shrugged off as “Hey, that’s just America” except that the perpetrators had scary sounding last names, has once again meant that our political debates and twenty-four hour news programs are focused on the threat of Islamic extremist terrorism and not all of the other zillions of ways that you might die in the next twenty-four hours.
What all of this fear-mongering has done, which completely escapes my understanding, is create the impression that our enemy is generally devious and technologically intelligent on Bond-villain-esque levels. This is how you create a climate where a legitimate tool such as encryption is under attack as a threat. That’s what makes it so useful to point out when would-be terrorists prove themselves to be bumbling idiots practically begging to be caught. Our own Glyn Moody wrote up a useful piece for ArsTechnica detailing one would-be terrorist’s attempt to crowdsource his targets on Twitter under a not-so-smart Twitter handle.
The threat from terrorism isn’t null, but the point is these aren’t masterminds, folks, and we shouldn’t be so eager to hand over liberty in favor of safety from what is mostly a really dumb enemy.”