In his final congressional testimony before being officially fired by President Trump, Comey claimed before lawmakers that his agency used sensitive espionage data on Americans gathered without a warrant only when such data was "lawfully collected, carefully overseen, and checked." But top-secret internal intelligence community memos that have since been obtained by investigators paint a much different picture, suggesting that the FBI deliberately disregarded legal protocols on multiple occasions and failed to properly oversee how sensitive data on Americans was handled. In at least one instance, data that should have remained private was illegally shared with forbidden parties.
The FBI's crimes against the American people under Comey's leadership extend even further than this, though. A declassified ruling issued back in April by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) contains nearly 10 pages' worth of violations in which the FBI was shown to have side-stepped the privacy rules concerning sensitive data, sharing information that it shouldn't have with third parties. The FBI also illegally interfered with attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight, something that Comey during his testimony deceitfully claimed was not occurring.
As heinous as these crimes are, the court found that they're likely only the tip of the iceberg. In its ruling, the court declared that along with its concerns about the FBI's "apparent disregard of minimization rules," it fears that the FBI "is engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported." In other words, the FBI's crimes that we know about may pale in comparison to the crimes that we don't know about.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) holds a similar view of FBI malfeasance, both reported and unreported. Its Office of the Inspector General (IG) published a report back in 2015 explaining how an internal watchdog had expressed concerns as early as 2012 about the way the FBI was reporting its data-handling procedures. The Office pegged the FBI's protocols as "deficient" in this regard, though nothing was done under the Obama Administration to address this deficiency.
While the FBI is normally forbidden from accessing surveillance data on Americans, Congress enacted a new section to the Foreign Surveillance Act (FSA) back in 2008, known as Section 702, that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to share spy data with the FBI, without a warrant, in cases where communications involve "foreign targets" of interest as they pertain to national security.
While the FBI's own compliance reports show a clean record, the IG report presents clear evidence that the FBI violated the law on numerous occasions, backing FISA's findings. The FBI under Comey, the report concludes, committed acts of treason against Americans by mishandling information gathered on them by the NSA, and should be held to task.
"No one on the Hill wants to look like we are soft on terrorism when you have increasing threats like Manchester-style attacks. But the evidence of abuse or sloppiness and the unending leaks of sensitive intelligence in the last year has emboldened enough of us to pursue some reforms," a senior congressional aide told Circa on the condition of anonymity. "Where that new line between privacy and security is drawn will depend on how many more shoes fall before the 702 renewal happens."