Senator Lankford Questions Intel Chiefs on FISA, Russia Investigation
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WASHINGTON, DC –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today questioned top Intelligence officials about the Department of Justice’s Robert Mueller Russian interference investigation, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Section 702 surveillance program. The witnesses included heads of the top Intelligence-related agencies: Director of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats; FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe; National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers; and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.
Senator Lankford: Do you feel confident at this point the F.B.I. is fully cooperating with special counsel for any requests and communication and setting up the coordination between the offices for documents, work products, insight, anything that special counsel as they’re trying to get organized and get prepared for the investigations they are taking on, is everyone in the F.B.I. fully cooperating with special counsel?
FBI Director McCabe: Absolutely, sir. Absolutely confident of that. We have a robust relationship with the special counsel’s office and we are supporting them with personnel and resources in any way they request.
Senator Lankford: Admiral Rogers, this spring N.S.A. decided to stop doing about queries. That was a long conversation that’s happened there. It’s now come out in the public about that conversation, that that was identified as a problem. The court agreed with that and that has been stopped. What I need to ask you is, who first identified that as a problem?
Adm. Michael Rogers:: The national security agency did.
Senator Lankford: How did you report that, report that to who, how did that conversation go once you identified that we’re uncomfortable with this type?
Adm. Michael Rogers: So in 2016 I had directed our office of compliance let’s do a fundamental baseline review of compliance associated with 702. We completed that effort. My memory is I was briefed on something like October 20. That led me to believe technical solution we put in place is not working with the reliability that’s necessary. Then from memory, had through — went to the department of justice and then onto the FISA court. At the end of October I think it was something like the 26th of October and we informed the court we have a compliance issue here and we’re concerned there’s an underlying issue with the technical solution that we put in place. We told the court we need to work our time to work through that. The court granted us that time. In return, the court also said we will allow you to continue 702 under the 16 authorizations, but not re-authorize 17 until you show us that you have addressed this. We then went through an internal process interacted with the Department of Justice as well as the court and by March we had come to a solution that the FISA court was comfortable with. The court then authorized us to execute that solution and also then granted us authority for the 17-702 effort.
Senator Lankford: So, you reported initially to the court and said we have an issue or the court initially came to you that said we have an issue?
Adm. Michael Rogers: I went to the court and said we have an issue.
Senator Lankford: And it got held up, went through the process of review. Then the court signed off on the other 16?
Adm. Michael Rogers: That’s correct.
Senator Lankford: How has it harmed your collection capabilities to be able to not do the about collections?
Adm. Michael Rogers: I acknowledged in doing this that we were going to lose some intelligence value but my concern was, I felt it was important we needed to be able to show we are fully compliant with the law and the technical solution we put in place I didn’t think was generating the level of reliability. And as a result of that, I said we need to make the change. I will say this — in the FISA court opinion also says the same thing. Also told the court at the time, if we can work that technical solution in the way it generates greater reliability, I would potentially come back to the Department of Justice and the court to recommend that we reinstitute it. In fact, the court acknowledged that in their certification.
Senator Lankford: When you say greater reliability, tell me what you mean by that.
Adm. Michael Rogers: It was generating errors. Our Office of Compliance highlighted the specific number of cases in 2016. And I thought to myself, clearly it’s not working as we think it is. We were doing queries unknowingly to the operator in a handful of situations against U.S. persons. And I just said, hey, that is not in accordance with the intent of the law.
Senator Lankford: Clearly, it’s not only the intent, but actual statue itself. That we protect US persons from foreign directed. So, what I’m hearing is the accountability system worked? (4:03, can’t make out what the Senator is saying.)
Adm. Michael Rogers: Yes, sir.
Senator Lankford: The issue rose up – we do have information on U.S. persons. We don’t want to get the information immediately – the process started going through to stop it — the court then put the final stop on it. It was corrected and that’s now cleared?
Adm. Michael Rogers: Yes, sir. We are purging the data as well. Not only have we stopped doing it but we are purging the data we collected under the previous authorization.
Senator Lankford: So the issue on 702, most Oklahomans that I interact with don’t know the term 702. If I asked them, should we collect information on terrorist organizations and terrorists overseas who are planning to carry out attacks on us and our allies, they don’t hesitate. They say absolutely we should do that. Now, they don’t want collection on themselves and their mom, but they absolutely want us to be able to target terrorists. And so the issue I think we talk about when we talk about 702 in this dais is a normal conversation back home that if we miss something internationally, everyone says I thought we were doing this. Why aren’t we? So I fully appreciate the civil liberties conversation, the privacy questions. Those are things I am also passionate about, and it’s very interesting for me to be able to hear from you that you’re passionate about and N.S.A. is passionate about to make sure we are not collecting on Americans. So I appreciate that. In this case when it comes out in the public media this has occurred, it actually shows the system itself worked. When there was a query going on that was collecting on Americans, it was stopped immediately, data is purged. But we’re still continuing to be able to target on threats internationally, and I do appreciate that. Thank you. I appreciate and yield back the time.