House Judiciary Committee Wants The FBI To Explain Why It Keeps Targeting Journalists, Religious Groups, And Politicians

from the FBI-is-actually-shitty-for-apolitical-reasons dept

The FBI owes its oversight — and the public the oversight serves — plenty of answers. But let’s set our expectations any higher than reality dictates. The FBI is not exactly a paradigm of complicity.

Remember “going dark?” Two consecutive FBI directors claimed an insanely large number of locked devices was preventing investigators from investigating. This (inflated) number was used as evidence of a coming criminal apocalypse aided and abetted by default device encryption. The number was wrong. A software error (according to the FBI) has resulted in the FBI using the wrong number during its anti-encryption agitating. The real number has yet to arrive but the FBI has assured us the actual number of locked phones will be “much lower” than the 8,000 it originally claimed.

That promise was made 1,398 days ago (as of March 27th, 2022).

When the FBI doesn’t like the questions being asked, it simply chooses not to answer those questions. Sometimes, it swears its oversight to secrecy with conclusory claims about national security or law enforcement methods. And sometimes, it just ignores demands for answers for years on end.

Unless you fancy dying from oxygen deprivation, there’s no reason to hold your breath until the FBI answers the latest round of questions posed by lawmakers. The questions may be politically-motivated — trotted out to please the fanbase of a deposed leader — but they’re still worth asking.

While the FBI has faced increased scrutiny in recent years for alleged politicized investigations into former President Donald Trump, the problems apparently are much broader and likely go beyond the report, said [Rep. Andy] Biggs, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  

“It possibly includes information about the surveillance of candidate Trump and later President Trump. But this is almost 750 compliance problems in 350 cases,” Biggs told Fox News. “The next step is to call on the committee to have a hearing on this. If I was in the majority, I would want to get to the bottom of this. I suspect this conduct goes back for multiple administrations and has been an ongoing problem affecting members of both parties.” 

The letter [PDF] asks plenty of valid questions, no matter their political motivation. It also notes the FBI has a track record of doing highly-questionable things… at least right up until courts or Congress members start asking questions.

The FBI conducted this internal review in 2019 to gauge compliance with FBI rules for handling high-profile and delicate cases—known as sensitive investigative matters (SIMs)—that generally involve the activities of a domestic public official, political candidate, or religious organization.The FBI’s audit of 353 cases found a total of 747 compliance errors in violation of internal FBI rules.

Agents broke all the rules. They bypassed internal review processes and did not notify the US Attorney’s Office before engaging in this surveillance. More than half of the violations involved targeting of “domestic public officials.” Nearly a quarter of the cases remained open, even though reports demonstrated there had been no “investigative activity” for more than 90 days. In addition, the report was redacted, suggesting there was even more malfeasance the FBI didn’t feel comfortable sharing with the public.

The letter suggests the FBI bends the rules to fit its political agenda. It claims the FBI made exceptions to its internal rules to subject Hillary Clinton to less scrutiny than it would others accused of mishandling classified information. (This allegation deliberately ignores then-FBI director James Comey’s decision to reopen this investigation less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election — something that doesn’t really indicate an agency-wide pro-Clinton bias.) It also claims the FBI had an anti-Trump “agenda” that resulted in plenty of surveillance abuse.

Whether or not you agree with the assertions made by the Republican representatives who wrote the letter, the FBI’s own audit shows agents treated internal policies as mere suggestions, and moved forward with investigations that were highly problematic.

These members of the oversight committee want some answers. The demands for information remain valid, even when stripped of their apparent political motivation.

In light of this troubling internal review and to assist the Committee’s investigative and oversight work, please provide the following documents and information:

An unredacted copy of the FBI Inspection Division’s audit titled “2019 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide Audit” dated January 10, 2020;

All documents and communications referring or relating to the FBI Inspection Division’s 2019 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide Audit dated January 10, 2020;

A description of the FBI’s predicate to open sensitive investigative matters of politicians, candidates, religious groups, and others, as documented in the FBI Inspection Division’s 2019 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide Audit dated January 10, 2020;

An explanation of whether the FBI has resolved compliance issues related to sensitive investigative matters identified in the secret audit; and

Unredacted copies of all internal reviews conducted by the FBI’s Inspection Division between November 1, 2019, and the present.

The FBI has long abused its powers to surveil (or impersonate) journalists. As is to be expected given the source of this letter, the Fourth Estate is relegated to the position of “others,” behind politicians, candidates, and religious groups. (But only certain religious groups: pretty sure this letter isn’t asking about the FBI’s pervasive surveillance of the Muslim community.) Still, the FBI needs to explain why it’s engaging in so many policy-breaking investigations and why it continues to allow agents to bypass internal and external oversight to target people long considered to be shielded from domestic surveillance.

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Comments on “House Judiciary Committee Wants The FBI To Explain Why It Keeps Targeting Journalists, Religious Groups, And Politicians”

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glenn says:

If a Republican said it, then you can feel pretty sure that it’s a lie; but cops lie, too–all the time. They all seem to think they’re just starring in their own TV show, so they can do and say whatever they want.

(BTW, Techdirt: your cookie disclaimer pop-up won’t stop popping up, no matter how often you click “GOT IT” (please fix).)

OGquaker says:

Re: For your further entertainment

My wife and i were at a NH3 Fuel Conference in September of 2008 after the RNC’s “Insults To America”. The only proof survived because protesters buried their memory sticks before loosing their cameras to the jack-boot “police”:(
In preparation for the Republican National Convention, the FBI is soliciting informants to keep tabs on local protest groups -By Matt Snyders / City Pages / May 21, 2008 See

The Girl in the photograph has been handcuffed by the police for attempting to leave, see

Lostinlodos (profile) says:


The FBI is apolitical in being anti political.
Public facing members often take one side or the other when it’s politically convenient to do so, but it’s just show. It’s not just the FBI either, but all GOs and many NGOs.

The very idea of an intelligence group to to gather information for the betterment of the people. What way to better the people than to better the organisation that betters the people?!!?

Lol. 🤦‍♂️

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