Former FBI agent asks Congress to ban 'reverse targeting' of Americans via 'incidental' loophole

Whistleblower Thomas Baker tells "weaponization" subcommittee that feds pick foreigners close to Americans they want to surveil to get around legal limits.
Former FBI agent Thomas Baker

Congress should impose penalties on federal agencies for the "monkey business" of spying on Americans under the pretense that they are targeting foreigners, a retired FBI agent and whistleblower told the House Judiciary Committee's Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government Thursday.

Thomas Baker, a 33-year veteran who had harsh words for former Director Robert Mueller's remaking of the FBI, explained the practice of "reverse targeting" at the request of Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

The CIA and NSA will often spy on Americans via the "incidental" collection loophole by looking for foreigners unrelated to an investigation who are close to those American targets, Baker said.

It's a "phony and false" pretense at odds with their statutory requirement to turn over any legitimately collected incidental communications that suggest wrongdoing to the FBI, he said. 

"We've collected millions of exobytes of data" that are supposedly just incidental communications to a legitimate foreign target, Massie said, wondering if those communications have become "the entire universe" rather than the exception.