CIA secretly spying on us thanks to Donald Trump and Republicans

CIA spying warrantless FISA Donald Trump Republicans

CIA secretly spying on us thanks to Donald Trump and Republicans

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been spying on us without a warrant or congressional oversight thanks to laws passed by Donald Trump and the Republican Party when they were running the show in Washington.

In a letter from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and CIA Director William Burns, the CIA is accused of spying and collecting information in bulk on Americans without supervision from Congress or any other branch of government (via New York Post):

In the [non-redacted] portions of the letter, Wyden and Heinrich state that despite “Congress’s intent, expressed over many years and through multiple pieces of legislation, to limit and, in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records, as well as the public’s intense interest in and support for these legislative efforts … the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program”.

It has done so entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection, and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight that comes with FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection,” the lawmakers continue.

“This basic fact has been kept from the public and from Congress.”

In a statement following the declassification of the documents, Wyden and Heinrich said more information was needed to “achieve the transparency the American people deserve.”

FISA gets all the attention because of the periodic congressional reauthorizations and the release of DOJ, ODNI and FISA Court documents,” they said. “But what these documents demonstrate is that many of the same concerns that Americans have about their privacy and civil liberties also apply to how the CIA collects and handles information under executive order and outside the FISA law.

“In particular, these documents reveal serious problems associated with warrantless backdoor searches of Americans, the same issue that has generated bipartisan concern in the FISA context.” (emphasis mine)

The most recent “periodic congressional reauthorization” occurred in January 2018 when Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress reauthorized Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) through December 2023, effectively allowing government agencies like the CIA to electronically spy on anyone … anytime … anywhere.

Then- Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) openly opposed its passage because it “allows the government to conduct warrantless searches on Americans and maintain massive troves of our data” — a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Liberty lost that battle, and the Republican Party’s war against the Constitution continued.

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Trump and his Nationalist buddies in the Republican Party were working on reauthorizing key provisions found in the PATRIOT Act and FISA with the intention of expanding government’s power to spy on us.

Trump and Mitch McConnell were working on a version of the PATRIOT Act that included provisions empowering the FBI to collect the web-browsing and search histories of Americans . . . WITHOUT A WARRANT!

In one amendment, Trump and McConnell wanted to give the attorney general’s office complete oversight of the FISA Court to ensure “accuracy and completeness” of FBI surveillance submissions to the secret Court. This amendment would have given Bill Barr and future Attorneys General the ability to use the Department of Justice to spy on the political enemies of the president while simultaneously expanding government’s overall spying power.

In the words of Sen. Ron Wyden at the time:

“Under the McConnell amendment, Barr gets to look through the web-browsing history of any American — including journalists, politicians, and political rivals — without a warrant, just by saying it’s relevant to an investigation.”

The “backdoor searches” mentioned in the Wyden/Heinrich letter are typically conducted by spying on our smartphone and computer activity. We learned in January 2021 — thanks again to Sen. Wyden — how this had been happening when the Director of National Intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency were forced to admit they had abused Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to spy on us and track websites we visited.

In response to this revelation, Wyden introduced legislation that offered safeguards for U.S. citizens’ data known as the “Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act.”

Seems like only yesterday that so-called conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, or Rand Paul would have done something like this. Good times.

Lawmakers and privacy groups were concerned during the Trump years that he was using Executive Order 12333 — an old executive order issued in 1981 — to illegally surveil Americans. This prompted Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) to send letters to then-Attorney General William Barr and then-Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe questioning the possible misuse of 12333 authority.

The lawmakers never received a response.

Do you remember the USA FREEDOM Act? It’s a law that was passed in 2015 to bring an end to spying and the bulk collection of metadata by agencies like the CIA and to rein in the FISA Court. Unfortunately, the FREEDOM Act failed, thus allowing the government to continue spying and the FISA Court to keep its power when Trump and the Republican Party renewed FISA 702 in 2018.

Amazingly, the Democrat-controlled House has fought to protect Americans from FISA Court abuses — abuses that Trump and the Republican Party have fought to protect.

For over two decades, lovers of liberty have opposed the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because these programs are clearly unconstitutional, and they give government agencies like the CIA way too much power to spy on us.

However, Trump and Trumpist Republicans love these laws because they hate the limits the Constitution places on them and their power — power they’re unwilling to relinquish and will do anything to protect.


David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.

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