February 27, 2020
Investigative reporter John Solomon has outdone himself this time –- which is saying a lot –- with a “whistleblower” interview that confirms all we thought about the FBI’s misuse of their spying programs, and not just FISA.
This whistleblower is not anonymous and, being retired from the Bureau, receives no whistleblower protections. Retired Special Agent Bassem Youssef ran the FBI’s Communications Analysis Unit from late 2004 to late 2014. This was the (yes) “warrantless spying” program started after 9/ll that he came to believe was “deeply flawed” but that was kept on, he said, to give Americans a false sense of security and possibly also to enable “inappropriate spying, such as that which targeted President Trump’s 2016 campaign.”
Solomon conducted an interview with Youssef for THE HILL in 2018, and now, in a lengthy podcast for John Solomon Reports, Youssef has added to our understanding of what the intel community was doing. He sat down with Solomon again for the podcast after the release of a report from the White House civil liberties board that outlines the same problems he’d tried to discuss with James Comey and Andrew McCabe for years. “I have no doubt, or very little doubt, that it was used for political spying or political espionage,” he told Solomon.
This was called the NSA program, because it searched call records captured by the National Security Agency. (As I read about this, I couldn’t help but remember James Clapper lying before Congress when asked if the government spied on Americans. “Not...wittingly,” he fibbed unconvincingly.) After Edward Snowden leaked the existence of this program, the FBI performed an audit, which revealed a lot of monetary waste and numerous false positives and negatives. According to Youssef, it also showed “there was collateral damage in terms of civil liberties” of Americans whose phone records were unnecessarily searched or who were wrongly identified as being connected to terrorism. (And here, I can’t help but think of Michael Flynn and all the others who were surveilled and unmasked.)
Youssef discussed his concerns about the NSA program with Andrew McCabe on two separate occasions, the first when McCabe was assistant director for counterterrorism and the second after he’d been promoted to acting executive assistant director, the third most powerful job at the Bureau. Both times, Youssef’s warnings were brushed off. “...He was so adamant about, we need this program,” Youssef told Solomon. “We’re keeping it as this, even though we’re not getting anything out of it.”
So, why should it be so important to McCabe to continue a program that isn’t giving them what it’s supposed to deliver? He must have had some other reason to keep it around.
Likewise, when Youssef went to James Comey in September of 2014, Comey’s only expressed concern after Youssef had laid out all the problems, including the potential for abusing civil liberties, was “is it legal?” Or, in bureaucrat-ese: “Do you have a problem or concerns with the statutory authority?” As Youssef recounted it to Solomon, he told Comey he had no reservations about the program’s legality because the surveillance had to be approved by FISA court judges. (I wonder if he looks back on that comment now and smacks his forehead for being that naive.)
Youssef told Solomon that he had “no doubt whatsoever” that McCabe and Comey were fully briefed and understood the severity of the problems with the NSA program. Yet they continued it.
He said that since his retirement, he has developed “deep concerns” that the NSA program has been abused, just as the FISA program has been, during the Russia “collusion” investigation into the Trump campaign that involved spying on Carter Page. “There is no doubt in my mind now, looking at the backdrop and the information that has come up since 2016 in the media, that the abuses were rampant,” he told Solomon, “and not just for the FISA process, the FISA program, but for other programs that were used to spy on the Trump campaign. That to me is almost the obvious conclusion of what I’ve seen.” He very strongly suspects the NSA program he had run for ten years was used “to handpick selected targeted numbers” for political espionage. No wonder McCabe and Comey wanted so badly to keep it --- it was to be quite useful.
Here are the full details; there’s also a link to the podcast.