Frederick Forsyth thriller: Republicans pursue a leaker & Democrats pursue a plotter. @deftechpat Patrick Tucker @defenseone

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03-20-2017

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Frederick Forsyth thriller: Republicans pursue a leaker & Democrats pursue a plotter. @deftechpat Patrick Tucker @defenseone

“House Republicans sent a surprising message to the director of the FBI on Monday: cracking down on leaks is every bit as important as investigating connections between Trump campaign officials and Russia. They added an even more surprising threat: if you won’t do the former, we may take away a surveillance law that helps you do the latter.

The tool in question is section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. It allows the intelligence community to conduct surveillance under warrants approved by the FISA court in cases related to foreign intelligence surveillance targets. FBI director James Comey and others have called section 702 a key tool for intelligence collection, even more important than the bulk metadata collection program (which effectively ended under the USA Freedom Act).

Some aspects of section 702 had already become a target for congressional Republicans worried about surveillance overreach. During a March 1 House Judiciary Committee hearing, Republicans asked whether the collection of intelligence on Trump campaigner Michael Flynn had been appropriate and lawful. They expressed concern that transcripts of a conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak had been made became public to undermine the Trump administration rather than expose possibly unlawful negotiations with the Kremlin….”

http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/03/gop-lawmaker-fbi-stop-leaks-russia-probe-or-lose-key-surveillance-tool/136325/?oref=d-river

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ROGERS: There are 20 individuals including myself who I have delegated this authority to approve unmask requests.

ROONEY: And does the level of approval change depending on the reason for unmasking? If it was something or somebody, say, really important would that matter or could it be...

ROGERS: Not -- it's not necessarily designated in writing that way, but certainly by custom and tradition, at times requests will be pushed up to my -- I'm the senior-most of the 20 individuals. Requests will be pushed to my level, say "hey, sir, we just want to make sure that you're comfortable with this."

ROONEY: Right. So 20 people, that -- you know, what procedures or safeguards are put in place to make sure that those 20 people are not unmasking wrongly?

ROGERS: So they retrieve specific training, there are specific controls put in place in terms of our ability to disseminate information out of the databases associated with U.S. persons.

ROONEY: OK. Let's run through the exceptions quickly through a following hypothetical. If the NSA collects a communication where a target under surveillance is talking to a U.S. person, how would the NSA determine whether disseminating the U.S. person information is necessary to understanding the foreign intelligence or assess its importance?

ROGERS: So first of all, try to understand the nature of the conversation. Is this truly something that involves intelligence or a national security implication for the United States or is this just very normal, reasonable conversations, in which case we have no desire to have any awareness of it, it's not applicable to our mission.

In that case, normally we'll purge the data. We'll ask ourselves, is there criminal activity involved, is there a threat, potential threat or harm to U.S. individuals being discussed in a conversation for example.

ROONEY: If there was criminal activity involved, what would you do then? ROGERS: If when we disseminate -- if we decide we need -- if it's criminal activity, we'll disseminate the information and if the FBI or other criminal activities are on the reporting stream, in some cases I also will generate a signed letter under my signature in specific cases to Department of Justice highlighting that what we think we have is potential criminal activity, but because we are not a law enforcement or justice organization we're not in a place to make that determination.

ROONEY: OK. Based on that, again, hypothetically, if the NSA obtained the communication of General Flynn while he was communicating with the surveillance target legally, would you please explain how General Flynn's identity could be unmasked based on the exceptions that we discussed?

ROGERS: Sir, I'm not going to discuss even hypotheticals about individuals, I'm sorry.

ROONEY: If I could make reference to a Washington Post article that I have here from February 9 which states -- do you -- let me say what it is and I'll ask if you've read it or -- or -- or if you've seen it. Which states national security under Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the country's ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office.

Contrary to public assertions by Trump officials current and -- and former U.S. officials said. The article goes on to say that nine current or former -- former officials who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the call spoke under the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. Did you read this article?

ROGERS: I apologize, sir. It's not -- an article that references nine particular individual -- it doesn't necessarily ring a bell. I've certainly seen plenty of media reporting that but again, I'm not going to comment on specifics.

ROONEY: Just basically under the breath of that article, when we when we hear that nine former, current -- or current officials had spoken to the press under the condition of anonymity, and we heard our director Comey and the Chairman speak of this is a potential crime -- a serious crime -- under the Espionage Act, assuming if this article is accurate, who would have the -- who would be in a position to request the unmasking of General Flynn's identity? Would that be you?

ROGERS: I would have the authority to do that.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/us/politics/intelligence-committee-russia-donald-trump.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

8 days ago
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