Obama’s spying on Trump campaign included the use of secret “national security letters” reserved for the most serious threats

There are many troublesome aspects to the Obama administration’s spy operation — codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” a reference to a 1960s Rolling Stones hit — against the 2016 campaign of President Donald J. Trump that ought to alarm all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation.

One of them is the use of an investigatory tool called a “National Security Letter,” a secret order that essentially gives the intelligence community, FBI and Justice Department carte blanche investigatory powers over anyone inside or outside the U.S., including American citizens.

The FBI is a regular user of NSLs. The counterterrorism division uses them more frequently than other divisions within the bureau to obtain sensitive electronic data and to retrieve phone records. 

As The Intercept notes:

The letters are among the FBI’s most potent instruments, because they function like subpoenas without requiring the approval of a judge. Internal guidelines suggest that the bureau has been using them to pursue sensitive electronic data and phone records — despite the fact that such attempts overstep the bureau’s legal authority.

The bureau issues thousands of these letters each year, and that included, of course, James Comey’s FBI. They are simple to attain — probably too simple, truth be known. 

“To issue one, an FBI official just needs to attest that the information sought is relevant to a national security investigation,” The Intercept notes, adding that they have been oft-criticized in the past because they are “shrouded in secrecy.”

For instance, according to The Intercept, the FBI uses the letters to obtain sensitive information about email transactions, despite the fact that the Justice Department has advised the bureau specifically it doesn’t have the authority to use NSLs in that manner. 

A very powerful spy tool

Part of the reason for that is because the letters can be abused by over-zealous FBI investigators, and as we’ve seen with the Trump spying scandal, it happened again.

According to the most recent DoJ policy on national security letters, the FBI director — that would have been Comey — has the authority to sign them and to certify the nondisclosure requirement to the following FBI officials, The Intercept noted:

  • Deputy Director
  • Executive Assistant Director
  • Assistant EAD for the National Security Branch
  • Assistant Directors and all DADs for CT, CI, CyD, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate
  • General Counsel
  • Deputy General Counsel for the National Security Law Branch
  • Assistant Directors in Charge in NY, LA, and D.C.
  • All Special Agents in Charge (SAC)

There are four types of information that the FBI is permitted to obtain using the NSLs: The owner of the email account; how long the individual has owned it; the owner’s address; and toll billing records that reveal the date of phone calls, their duration, and what time they were made. (Related: Mueller’s ‘witch hunt’ probe has now risen to the level of a national security threat.)

But as stated, Justice Department lawyers noted in 2008 that the FBI did not have the legal authority to demand that technology and communications companies provide any information beyond the four things the Electronic Communications Privacy Act allows for. That said, The Intercept reports that “FBI agents may have expected that other companies, especially small ones, would be too ignorant or weak to fight” outsized demands for information.

What makes all of this troubling in terms of the Trump spying operation is that these letters were used a) against American citizens; and b) in spite of the fact that there was no evidence prior to the launch of the FBI’s operation in summer 2016 of any criminal or espionage activity on the part of the Trump campaign.

That’s according to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

“This is really important to us because the intelligence investigation uses the tools of our intelligence services that are not supposed to be used on American citizens,” he told Fox Business last month.

“So, we’ve long wanted to know what intelligence did you have that actually led to this investigation. So what we found now after the investigators have reviewed it is, in fact, there was no intelligence.”

Read more about James Comey’s corruption at JamesComey.news.

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.

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