Posts tagged “FBI

FBI’s Use of Fusion GPS Dossier Problematic

Since the release of the Nunes and Grassley memos, several readers of the Spingola Files have inquired about the nuances of obtaining warrants from a court to search for evidence or to eavesdrop on electronic communications.

Based on these memos, news reports, and statements of investigative journalists, we know that, in the summer of 2016, the upper echelon of the FBI sought to obtain a court order to eavesdrop and monitor four members of “the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.” An application to conduct intrusive electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign was made to a secretive Foreign Surveillance Intelligence (FISA) court; however, the judge declined to sign the warrant, and instructed the FBI to “narrow its focus.”

To the chagrin of its judges, civil libertarians often refer to FISA courts as “rubber stamps.” From their inception in 1979 through 2015, FISA courts have rejected just twelve of 38,169 warrant requests.

One reason search warrants and court orders are rarely rejected by judges in FISA or civilian courts is the supporting documents — typically affidavits and/or sworn testimony — are thoroughly reviewed by prosecutors or other high-level government attorneys prior to judicial review. To have a search warrant or court order rejected during a judicial review is not only embarrassing, but an indication of ineptitude or jaundice on the part of the government attorney who signed-off on the application.

In law enforcement circles, an ethical investigator or prosecutor would take any additional requests for court orders pertaining to the same target(s) back to the judge who initially rejected the request. If, for some reason, the initial judge is unavailable, an ethical agent would advise the reviewing judge that the initial request for a court order had been denied. To do otherwise is called “judge shopping,” an unethical practice of seeking out judges with a reputation of giving greater consideration to the government. At this point, we do not know if the FBI took any subsequent request for court orders regarding the Trump team back to the initial judge.

This is where the FBI’s eavesdropping of the Trump transition team gets interesting. Based on the aforementioned memos, its seems the FBI sought to beef up its previously denied FISA court application with the Fusion GPS dossier, a document that contains “salacious” and “unverified” allegations pertaining to candidate Trump. We also know the FBI used a media report from Yahoo News in its affidavit at the FISA court. However, it appears the Yahoo News story consists of sourced information leaked to the news outlet by Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled much of the Fusion GPS “Trump dossier.” Steele’s services were underwritten by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

What we do not know is what the FBI told the FISA court during its application and renewal applications for an order to eavesdrop on Carter Page, an American citizen who had done volunteer work for the Trump campaign. Did the FBI tell the judge, in writing or verbally, that the Fusion GPS dossier was actually a document paid for by the Democrats? Did the FBI represent foreign national Christopher Steele as a credible, unbiased source? Did the FBI explain to the court that Steele leaked much of the information obtained from the Yahoo News article used in its affidavit?

Even more troubling are the details from the Grassley memo, which state “a friend of the Clintons,” and other “Clinton associates” passed information to Steele, which became a part of the Fusion GPS dossier. In other words, the Grassley memo alleges that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, in effect, paid for and supplied some of the contents of an FBI affidavit used to monitor the Trump campaign.

Though many of the aforementioned questions have yet to be answered, a hunch tells me there is a FISA court judge out there who believes the upper echelon of the FBI, and possibly some high-ranking members of the DOJ, may owe him or her an explanation.

Does Police Chief Flynn Believe the Constitution is Irrelevant?

There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, when members of the local police proudly served their communities free from the yoke of federal law enforcement.  In the 1980s and 1990s, cops on the beat and detectives hunting down suspects kept a distance from the likes of the FBI—an agency that routinely looked down their noses at ‘the locals.’

When watching a television drama, such as Criminal Minds, I sometimes chuckle when the FBI’s 20 and 30 something agents make veteran police investigators look like second-rate cops.  When it comes to clearing a serious crime, I would much rather have a core group of Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) homicide detectives working with me than a slew of FBI agents, many of whom rarely work the streets, and then rib the handful of their colleagues that actually do.

After 9/11, however, the federal government realized that its agents desperately needed the intelligence gleaned by ‘the locals,’ whose officers pounded the pavement 24 x 7.  In order to bring state and local law enforcement agencies into a national fold, Uncle Sam dangled billions of dollars in grants in front of the noses of mayors and police chiefs.  This “free money,” as it is insanely described by the likes of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, became a powerful drug that quickly turned some police chiefs into addicts constantly on a lookout for their next fix—another federal government handout.

In the interim, having taken the federal government’s money, local police agencies now served two masters—the residents of their communities and the US Justice Department.   Milwaukee’s chief of police, Ed Flynn, took the fed’s bait money and established an “intelligence fusion center,” an operation staffed by federal agents, members of the National Guard, state agents, and several members of the MPD, even though, in many instances, those who summon the services of the Milwaukee police often wait hours for an officer to respond.

Moreover, as federal, state and local law enforcement morphed together, the decentralization of authority—a concept our nation’s founders saw as a buffer against tyranny—has ebbed to the point where leaders of police agencies in New York City and Milwaukee apparently no longer believe that the Fourth Amendment is relevant and sacrosanct.

On June 11, Wall Street Journal reporter Heather Mac Donald profiled the case of Floyd v. New York, a federal lawsuit brought to “specifically target” the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.

A “stop,” based on a “reasonable suspicion” of wrong doing, and a “frisk,” premised on an officer’s “reasonable and articulable” belief that a person might be armed, was a practice upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Terry v. Ohio.

In New York City, however, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy omits the “reasonable and articulable” part of the equation.  In plan speak; the NYPD’s policy thumbs its nose at the Fourth Amendment and the judicial precedents established by our nation’s highest court, which, prior to the Patriot Act, was respected as the rule of law.

In her article, Ms. Mac Donald appears to find a prominent supporter of Ray Kelly’s frisk without cause policy on the seventh floor of Milwaukee Police Administration Building.

“Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has said that it will be a “tragedy” if his city is forced to curtail the pedestrian stops that have reduced crime in inner-city neighborhoods,” wrote Ms. Mac Donald.

“That’s what worries us about what’s happening in New York,” Chief Flynn told the Los Angeles Times in April. “It would just be a shame if some people decided to put us back in our cars just answering calls and ceding the streets to thugs.”

Asking the police to follow the guidelines put in place by the U.S. Supreme Court that frisks should be based on an officer’s “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that an individual is armed hardly equates to shuttering officers inside their squad cars.  Chief Flynn, as Commissioner Kelly, took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.  Ray Kelly’s willingness to trample on the Fourth Amendment, and Chief Ed Flynn’s apparent support for such a policy, illustrates why public officials should be viewed skeptically when they ask the public to trust them with the use of drones, cellular telephone monitoring technologies, and widespread government data collection.

This new American age of Machiavellian-type governance; whereby, the “ends justifies the means,” might work well for autocrats in China, Russia, and Cuba, but should have no relevance in the United States, where our nation—once the home of the free—has, in a historical blink of an eye, mutated into the land of the watched.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Coming Soon: An Identification System that Would Make George Orwell Blush

When completed in 2014, the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) will be the world’s most advanced personal identification computer network—so vast that its capabilities will make the concepts depicted in George Orwell’s novel 1984 seem like the good old days.

Developed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin at a cost exceeding $1 billion, the system includes iris scan identifiers, biometric facial recognition software, voice recognition, palm print scans, fingerprints, keyboard stroke identifiers, and DNA analysis.

Sources say the FBI already has 13 million photographs on file to scan for biometric facial recognition. Most of these images are booking photos, although driver’s license images from states in compliance with the new Real ID law are also subject to facial recognition searches. 

Images in the public domain—those on Google, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few—might also be extracted for storage and analysis for NGI.

The Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead documents the intrusive nature of NGI in a commentary entitled, Smile, the Government is Watching: Next Generation Identification


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit


© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012