July 8, 2019

BAKER Pens Wall Street Journal OPED: INTEL & FISA Reforms Needed.


WASHINGTON DC — Retired FBI agent … member TOM BAKER … writes Wall Street Journal OPED suggesting America’s Intel agencies and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA] need to be reformed, as a result of the electronic surveillance and counterintelligence investigation targeting CARTER PAGE, an American citizen. He says the reforms should be codified by Congress as an amendment to FISA, and not just changes made by agency heads and the Attorney General.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL                   May 14, 2019

American Intelligence Needs Reform After Spygate

The warrant against Carter Page violated a decades-old norm.  And what was the CIA up to in Britain?

By Thomas J. Baker May 13, 2019 7:04 p.m. ET

Attorney General William Barr got attention when he told Congress he’d examine the origins and predicate for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign. He surely set off alarms in certain precincts when he added: “I am not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.”
The need for thoroughgoing reform of America’s intelligence services and processes is evident. It wouldn’t be the first such effort. After World War II, Congress established the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, both focused on overseas intelligence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was solely responsible for domestic efforts against espionage. Meantime, the “special relationship” with Britain, solidified in the fight against the Nazis, was codified and later expanded into the “Five Eyes” of intelligence sharing—the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

In 1978, after the scandals and revelations of the Church Committee, Congress undertook significant reforms, most notably the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a special court to review warrant applications for intelligence surveillance.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks sent a shock through the intelligence system, and the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report was an aftershock. The FBI and CIA took the blame for lack of information sharing and follow-up. “Connect the dots” became a mantra; the bureau and agency began operating in much closer concert.

That produced unintended consequences. The FBI is now likelier to accept and act on any referral from the CIA. Mr. Barr promises to ensure that in the future the opening of a counterintelligence investigation against a U.S. citizen will be based on more than a mere referral from the CIA. But the problem goes beyond the purview of the Justice Department, and the murky origins of the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign go beyond the bureau.

The Mueller report makes that clear. The introduction to Volume I says the case began when a “foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with . . . George Papadopoulos.” That implicates the Five Eyes agreement. Either British intelligence agents misled their American counterparts, or then-CIA Director John Brennan was conducting an operation in the U.K. contrary to the terms of the agreement. Either way, this should be part of the review of “intelligence agencies more broadly.”

FISA needs reform, too. When it became law in 1978, it was intended to be a legal vehicle for gathering intelligence on foreign agents residing in the United States. Before 2016 the norm was that it wasn’t used against U.S. citizens except in a case in which the target had a security clearance, possessed national security information, and had shown a willingness to share the information with a foreign country. The surveillance of Carter Page, who didn’t hold a security clearance, was unprecedented.

The attorney general can order the FBI to return to its previously observed norm. But it would be better for Congress to codify that norm in an amendment to FISA.

Mr. Baker is a retired FBI special agent and legal attaché.

Appeared in the May 14, 2019, print edition.


After almost 33-years service with the Bureau, in 1999, member THOMAS J BAKER “retired” from the FBI while still stationed overseas as the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Paris, France.  Appointed a Special Agent in 1967, his career included tours of duty, as a police instructor at the FBI’s Academy in Quantico, Virginia and, in 1981, was responsible for setting up the FBI’s Command Post, as the Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge [ASAC] at the FBI’s Washington Field Office [WFO] investigating JOHN HINCKLEY’s failed assassination attempt of President RONALD REAGAN.  Assigned to the Office of Public Affairs at FBIHQ for almost five [5]-years, in 1987, he was transferred to the U.S. Embassy, in Ottawa, Canada, and in 1990, securing “diplomatic” status, was appointed the Legal Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, assigned to handle Bureau and the Justice Department matters “not” only on the Australian continent, but a number of Pacific island nations as well.  In 1994, he was transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, and was again afforded “diplomatic” status, appointed as the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Paris, that also included managing Justice Department and Bureau interests in Algeria and much of Africa.

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