You can find many timelines that follow allegations of Russia tampering in the U.S. election and alleged involvement of Trump officials. But I couldn’t find any comprehensive timelines cross-referencing Obama-era surveillance of whistleblowers, journalists and other U.S. citizens with Russia surveillance allegations. So I built one. Please note: temporal proximity of events doesn’t necessarily imply a connection.
Sharyl Attkisson, the journalist who put together the timeline, in an interview from March, 2017:
The IRS secretly begins “targeting” conservative groups that are seeking nonprofit tax-exempt status, by singling out ones that have “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names.
Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning begins illegally leaks classified information to WikiLeaks revealing, among other matters, that the U.S. is extensively spying on the United Nations.
Obama Attorney General Eric Holder renews a Bush-era subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen in a leak investigation.
Obama administration pursues espionage charges against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake. (According to the ACLU: spy charges were later dropped and Drake pled guilty to a misdemeanor. The judge called the government’s conduct in the case “unconscionable.”)
September 21, 2010:
Internal email entitled “Obama Leak Investigations” at “global intelligence” company Stratfor claims Obama’s then-Homeland Security adviser John Brennan is targeting journalists.
“Brennan is behind the witch hunts of investigative journalists learning information from inside the beltway sources,” writes one Stratfor official to another.
The email continues: “Note — There is specific tasker from the [White House] to go after anyone printing materials negative to the Obama agenda (oh my.) Even the FBI is shocked. The Wonder Boys must be in meltdown mode…”
“The Wonder Boys” reportedly refers to the National Security Agency (NSA). Brennan later becomes President Obama’s CIA Director.
Link to the email:
October 3, 2011:
Obama administration secretly changes longstanding policy. The change creates a “loophole” that Sen. Ron Wyden would later say allows the NSA to conduct a “backdoor searches” or “incidental collection” of U.S. citizens’ domestic communications.
The same day, CBS News airs Attkisson’s report on newly-uncovered memos that contradict Attorney General Eric Holders’ denials about Fast and Furious.
NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens’ emails and phone call
The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens’ email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.
The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing “warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans”.
Loophole Shows That, Yes, NSA Has ‘Authority’ To Spy On Americans — Directly In Contrast With Public Statements
Also, the timing of this seems interesting. Earlier, we’d noted that the NSA’s massive data collection program, Stellar Wind, had been shut down in 2011. And… right about that time suddenly a new law is put in place allowing 702 searches to happen on US persons? I’m sure that’s just a complete coincidence…
October 4, 2011:
In an internal email, Attorney General Eric Holder’s top press aide Tracy Schmaler emails White House operative Schultz calling Attkisson “out of control.” Schultz replies, “Her piece was really bad for the AG.”
February 13, 2012:
At approximately 10:30pm, remote intruders secretly download new spy software proprietary to a federal agency onto Attkisson’s CBS work computer. (The software was secretly attached to a legitimate Hotmail email and downloaded in the background after a pop-up ad appeared).
Bombshell: How Far Did Obama Spying Go? The Sharyl Attkisson Case
You might remember Attkisson was uncovering highly embarrassing details about the gun-walking operation, Fast & Furious, and the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi. She was making the Obama administration extremely uncomfortable.
But let me quote Judge Emet Sullivan’s recent order transferring Attkisson’s suit:
“In 2011——at the same time that Ms. Attkisson was conducting investigations and issuing certain of her high-profile news reports——the Attkissons ‘began to notice anomalies in numerous electronic devices at their home in Virginia.’ These anomalies included Ms. Attkisson’s work-issued laptop computer and a family desktop computer ‘turning on and off at night without input from anyone in the household,’ ‘the house alarm chirping daily at different times,’ and ‘television problems, including interference.’ All of these electronic devices used ‘the Verizon FiOS line installed in [the Attkissons’] home,’ but Verizon was unable to stanch the anomalous activity despite multiple attempts. In January 2012, the Attkissons’ residential internet service ‘began constantly dropping off’.”
“In February 2012, ‘sophisticated surveillance spyware’ was installed on Ms. Attkisson’s work-issued laptop computer. A later forensic computer analysis revealed that Ms. Attkisson’s laptop and the family’s desktop computer had been the ‘targets of unauthorized surveillance efforts.’ That same forensic analysis revealed that Ms. Attkisson’s mobile phone was also targeted for surveillance when it was connected to the family’s desktop computer. The infiltration of that computer and the extraction of information from it was ‘executed via an IP address owned, controlled, and operated by the United States Postal service.’ Additionally, based on the sophisticated nature of the software used to carry out the infiltration and software fingerprints indicating the use of the federal government’s proprietary software, the infiltration and surveillance appeared to be perpetrated by persons in the federal government.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI publicly announce vast expansion of cyber related efforts to address alleged “national security-related cyber issues.”
In violation of longstanding practice, DOJ secretly and without notice seizes personal and phone records of journalists from Associated Press from this two-month period in a leak investigation.
Obama Administration Secretly Obtains Phone Records of AP Journalists
“Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power,” said Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources.”
In an angry letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder (.pdf) on Monday, AP CEO Gary Pruitt called it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into the AP’s newsgathering activities.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” he wrote in the letter. “That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling.”
For some reason, I can’t quote the timeline with the information under Summer 2012 and October 2012. It deals with the Petraeus affair and the connection to Benghazi. It also mentions Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 20. Here are two videos that discuss these topics:
March 12, 2013:
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies to Congress, falsely stating that intelligence officials are not collecting mass data on tens of millions of Americans.
April 12, 2013:
The government Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Agency (FISA) court secretly approves the latest FBI request to continue obtaining daily telephone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers. The judge orders Verizon to turn over the information to the National Security Agency (NSA). This directly contradicts Clapper’s March 12 testimony to Congress.
Former National Security Agency NSA contractor Snowden begins releasing documents showing extensive efforts by the government to surveil and collect information on U.S. citizens.
June 6, 2013:
At a hearing, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, asks Attorney General Eric Holder if the NSA spies on members of Congress. Holder answers that the NSA has no “intent” to spy on Congress, but that the issue is better addressed in private.
Asked If Justice Department Is Spying On Congress, Holder Refuses To Answer
During testimony before members of Congress on Thursday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) asked Attorney General Eric Holder whether his department’s expansive monitoring of the communications records of journalists extended to members of the Congress. Holder refused to answer the question in a public setting, prompting Kirk to scold him for not simply responding “no.”
July 2, 2013:
Director of National Intelligence Clapper apologizes to Congress for his false testimony in March regarding widespread collection of data on Americans.
National Intelligence Director Apologizes for Lying to Congress
“My response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize,” he wrote in the letter to committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “While my staff acknowledged the error to Sen. Wyden’s staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata collection program has been declassified.”
Wyden, along with fellow committee member Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., called on Clapper to clarify his earlier denial. In a June 13 statement, they said he had responded that gathering the records was “critical in corroborating” information gleaned from PRISM.
“We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence,” the senators said.
January 23, 2014:
Sen. Bernie Sanders asks the NSA if it spies on members of Congress. The NSA does not provide a direct answer and states that Congress is afforded “the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons.”
Congress accuses the CIA of improperly accessing Senate Intelligence committee computers. CIA Director Brennan denies it.
Director of National Intelligence Clapper bans intelligence community officials from unauthorized contact with reporters.
July 31, 2014:
CIA Inspector General reveals that five CIA officials improperly accessed Senate Intelligence Committee computers and searched certain staff emails. The findings contradict denials made in March by CIA director Brennan. Brennan apologizes to Senate staff.
The Obama administration finishes secretive negotiations of an Iran nuclear deal that will return billions of dollars in frozen funds to the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism in return for assurances from that country. It’s later reported that Obama intel officials have been incidentally capturing communications of U.S. members of Congress and organizations in the U.S. while secretly recording Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s discussions about the Iran deal, which he opposes.
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) passes. It requires private Internet companies to “transmit cyber-threat indicators” to the Department of Homeland Security and granting the companies immunity from prosecution for sharing customers’ personal data in those cases.
Why You Should Be Concerned About The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act
And as of December 18, the bill has been signed and passed into legislation. Merry Christmas, America. Hope you weren’t enjoying your privacy.
“In a nutshell, CISA was meant to allow companies to share information on cyber attacks — including data from private citizens — with other companies and the Department of Homeland Security,” writes Chris Velazco of Engadget. “Once DHS had all the pertinent details, they could be passed along to the FBI and NSA for further investigation and, potentially, legal action. The thing is, critics saw the bill as way for government agencies to more easily keep tabs on Americans without their knowledge. CISA was derided by privacy advocates and tech titans alike, with companies like Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Google, Facebook and Symantec (to name just a few) issued statements against an earlier version of the bill.”
She has a few items on her timeline related to the Obama spying on the Trump administration. I will just post this one for now as I think most of these are still fresh in everyone’s mind.
FBI secretly monitors and records communications between Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who later became President Trump’s national security adviser.
After Trump’s election, Obama officials take steps to ensure certain intelligence gathered regarding Trump associates is “spread across the government.” One Obama official would later say it’s because they were afraid once Trump officials “found out how we knew what we knew,” the intelligence would be destroyed. However, Obama critics later theorize Obama officials were working to mount opposition to Trump’s presidency.
Article from today:
Rand Paul requests info on whether Obama surveilled him
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he has asked the intelligence community and White House for any evidence that he was surveilled by former President Barack Obama.
“I have formally requested from the WH and the Intel Committees info on whether I was surveilled by Obama admin and or the Intel community!” Paul tweeted Friday.
h/t Daniel Higdon