Several former national security officials are urging Congress to initiate an investigation into the FBI’s handling of security clearances in the wake of special counsel John Durham’s determination that the bureau acted irresponsibly during its 2016 investigation of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, former Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert Wilkie, former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, former Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former National Security Council Chief of Staff Fred Fleitz, and former deputy national security adviser Steve Yates all signed onto a letter on Thursday calling on Republican House leaders to initiate investigations into the FBI,” The Epoch Times reported.
“The letter—first shared with the Daily Caller—was organized by the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a think tank organized by numerous members of the Trump administration, including Kellogg, Wilkie, Wolf, Whitaker, and Fleitz,” the outlet added.
In their statement, the six former national security officials referenced a recent report by Durham that concluded the FBI had initiated an investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign and conducted surveillance based on unvetted sources and claims of collusion with Russia.
The report also revealed that then-FBI Director James Comey was aware of then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s plan to discredit Trump by linking him to Russian election interference.
“It is crucial we address these serious concerns promptly and comprehensively to ensure individuals within the FBI who have demonstrated a lack of integrity in conduct related to these investigations—or others—do not maintain access to sensitive national security information,” the former national security officials wrote in their letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.).
“We urge you to hold immediate oversight hearings on the policies and criteria employed by the FBI for issuing, assessing, and revoking security clearances,” the letter added. “Such hearings are necessary to ensure transparency, accountability, and public trust in our law enforcement agencies.”
The letter specifically requests that Jordan and Comer prioritize investigations into the FBI’s procedures regarding the granting and revoking of security clearances. It also urged an examination of how the bureau currently addresses and prevents political influences from impacting its operations.
The Epoch Times adds:
The former national security officials also asked Jordan and Comer to investigate the frequency of disciplinary actions taken when members of the FBI improperly access a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) database.
Section 702 of FISA authorizes agencies like the FBI to collect information like emails without warrants from foreigners, even if they’re in the United States, and bars intentionally targeting Americans. This warrantless collection of foreign communications can result in the incidental collection of otherwise private communications by U.S. citizens, though safeguards are supposed to be in place to preserve Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Searches of raw unfiltered FISA data must be reasonably likely to retrieve foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime.
Last month, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issued a memorandum opinion revealing that the FBI had engaged in over 278,000 improper accesses of FISA data between 2020 and early 2021. These improper queries of the FISA database were conducted against individuals suspected of involvement in the January 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol, participants in Black Lives Matter protests, and contributors to a congressional campaign, the outlet noted further.
“As [FBI Director Chris Wray] has made clear, the errors described in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s opinion are completely unacceptable,” the FBI said in a statement last month following the memorandum.
“As a result of the audits that revealed these instances of noncompliance, the FBI changed its querying procedures to make sure these errors do not happen again,” it continued.
“We are committed to continuing this work and providing greater transparency into the process to earn the trust of the American people and advance our mission of safeguarding both the nation’s security, and privacy and civil liberties, at the same time.”