Former National Security Officials Urge Congress to Investigate FBI’s Security Clearances After Durham Report Findings

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
June 16, 2023Politics
Former National Security Officials Urge Congress to Investigate FBI’s Security Clearances After Durham Report Findings
J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington on March 28, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

A group of former national security officials is calling on Congress to investigate the FBI’s handling of security clearances after special counsel John Durham concluded that the bureau behaved recklessly in its handling of a 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 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 six former national security officials cited a report Durham published last month, in which the prosecutor concluded that the FBI relied on unvetted sources and claims to initiate an investigation of Trump and surveil members of his 2016 campaign over allegations of collusion with the Russian government. The Durham report described how around the start of the investigation into the Trump campaign, then-FBI Director James Comey had been aware that the campaign of Trump’s main political rival, then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was planning to discredit Trump’s candidacy by tying him to an election interference effort by Russian intelligence services.

“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 six 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 continues. “Such hearings are necessary to ensure transparency, accountability, and public trust in our law enforcement agencies.”

The AFPI letter specifically asks Jordan and Comer to focus their investigations on the FBI’s procedures for granting and revoking security clearances and how the bureau now mitigates political influences on its work.

FISA Abuses

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.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issued a memorandum opinion last month, finding that the FBI improperly accessed FISA data more than 278,000 times between 2020 and early 2021. Improper FISA database queries were used against people suspected of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol, participants in Black Lives Matter protests, and donors of a congressional campaign.

In a statement following the FISC opinion last month, the FBI said: “As [FBI Director Chris Wray] has made clear, the errors described in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s opinion are completely unacceptable. 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. These steps have led to significant improvement in the way we conduct queries of lawfully obtained Section 702 information. 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.”

NTD News reached out to the FBI for comment on the investigative requests in AFPI’s letter to Congress. The bureau did not respond by the time this article was published.