FBI’s Figliuzzi: Chaos or Civil War in 2020?

Strange Days podcast
Strange Days podcast

Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI deputy director for counterintelligence, looks ahead to the 2020 president election and sees chaos coming. The convergence of Trump, COVID, and William Barr, and is dangerous. “Things will get bad before they get better,” he tells Strange Days host Fernand Amandi.

Figliuzzi’s fears echo those of Mark Medish and Joel McCleary‘s warning about the looming crisis of emergency powers. American democracy is in the hands of dangerous men.

All three authors have extensive experience in national security politics and policy. They know what they’re talking about

Give a listen here. And if you want to know more, subscribe to Strange Days here.

“There’s crime being committed,” Figliuzzi says.

The Steele Dossier Looks Weaker Than Ever 

Christopher Steele

This comes rom a batch of footnotes to a December 2019 report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that were declassified this month in two tranches, one from the Justice Department and one from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The 400-plus-page document pounded the FBI for its handling of applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The footnotes refer to former MI6 intelligence official Christopher Steele as the “Primary Sub-source.” When questions Steele said that what he reported in the dossier used to justify eavesdropping on Page, wasn’t really reporting. It was more like chit chat with people who weren’t necessarily informed.

This is how Steele put it:

“When interviewed by the FBI, the Primary Sub‐source stated that he/she did not view his/her contacts as a network of sources, but rather as friends with whom he/she has conversations about current events and government relations.”

Source: The Steele dossier just sustained another body blow. What do CNN and MSNBC have to say? – The Washington Post

$100 Million NSA Program Produced Exactly Two Unique Leads 

NSA logo 美国:国家安全局

Mass surveillance, whether you approve of it morally, is not practical. It does not enhance the safety of the American people.

The results are in:

only twice during that four-year period did the program generate unique information that the F.B.I. did not already possess, said the study, which was produced by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and briefed to Congress on Tuesday. “Based on one report, F.B.I. vetted an individual, but, after vetting, determined that no further action was warranted,” the report said. “The second report provided unique information about a telephone number, previously known to U.S. authorities, which led to the opening of a foreign intelligence investigation.”

The report did not reveal the subject matter of the one significant F.B.I. investigation that was spurred by the Freedom Act program, and it did not divulge its outcome.

As an expenditure of tax dollars, mass surveillance was a virtually complete waste of my money.

Source: N.S.A. Phone Program Cost $100 Million, but Produced Only Two Unique Leads – The New York Times

FBI’s Former Top Lawyer: ‘There Was No Attempted Coup’

James Baker, former FBI general counsel

James Baker, formerly the top lawyer at the FBI, said politics did not figure in the Bureau’s decision to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The probe started before the Bureau received the dossier of Michael Steele, former British intelligence agent, Baker said in a live video interview on Friday.

James Baker, former FBI general counsel
James Baker, former FBI general counsel

Baker, under Bureau investigation for possible leaks, reiterated the FBI’s claim that the investigation was appropriate.

Baker said the investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began with a tip that was impossible to ignore. In summer 2016, he said, Australian officials relayed that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, had boasted of having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent, in the form of “thousands of emails.” Baker said that while the bureau is constantly investigating Russian activities in the United States, it had not — at least to his knowledge — been

“That was the nugget of information that got everything going,” he said, adding later, “It would have been a dereliction of our duty not to investigate this information.”

This is credible. Such a tip about any candidate would have been investigated.

Baker insisted the initial investigation was “not predicated” in any way on the controversial dossier — a collection of intelligence reports from a former British agent that the Clinton campaign hired through an opposition research firm to investigate Trump.

In any case, the Steele dossier was only one piece of evidence used to justify an investigation that has resulted in one conviction and six guilty pleas, with charges pending against 25 Russians, and two Americans. The Steele dossier did not figure in most of these cases.

Baker has been widely quoted in conservative media as saying his review of a FISA warrrant based on the Steele dossier was “unusual.” The quote came from closed-door testimony released by House Republicans in January. 

“So that is why you took the abnormal or unusual step in this particular situation because it was sensitive?” a Republican asked Baker.

“Yes,” he replied, adding, “I wanted to make sure that we were filing something that would adhere to the law and stand up over time.”

And the FISA application did stand up. It was approved by four judges, all of them appointed by Republican presidents. 

Source: ‘There was no attempted coup’: FBI’s former top lawyer defends Russia probe – The Washington Post

How the FBI Profiles: From Bookstores to ‘Black Identity Extremists’

Drum and Spear - Sq
Drum and Spear - Hz
FBI Target: the Drum and Spear book store in Washington DC.

Last month Professor Joshua Clark Daniels excavated a forgotten story from the files of the FBI: the Bureau’s surveillance of black-owned bookstores from 1968 to 1974. 

Spying on bookstores might seem quaint in the the age of mass surveillance but there is a connection: how U.S. intelligence agencies see and understand their most vocal and active opponents.

The bookstore surveillance, ordered in 1968 by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, was part of the Bureau’s Counterintelligence Program. Better known as COINTELPRO, the program sought to infiltrate, disrupt, harass, and destroy radical and leftist organizations.

The targets were selected not because of any suspicion of illegal activity but because of their ideological opposition to the U.S. government policies and their support among the general public. 


At the height of the Black Power movement, the FBI conducted investigations of such black booksellers as Lewis Michaux and Una Mulzac in New York City,  [and] Paul Coates in Baltimore (the father of The Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates).

One particular target of FBI attention: the Drum and Spear bookstore in Washington DC.

Founded in 1968 by Charlie Cobb, a former secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the bookstore became a center of the civil rights/black power movement in Washington, DC. Its organizers set out to create a local resource for reliable information about the African American and African world. The store appealed to people of African descent, wherever they lived.

Drum and Spear specialized in books written by black authors and books on Asian, African, and African American subjects. It quickly developed into a combination bookstore, library, community center, and “literary haven,” according to Professor Daphne Muse of Mills College. Muse noted, “It wasn’t uncommon to see Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka browsing the shelves alongside diplomats and regular folk.” 

With such radical agitation taking place a couple of miles from FBI headquarters, J. Edgar Hoover was naturally concerned. The racist FBI director wanted to know everything about such a dangerous place.

The director ordered each Bureau office to “locate and identify black extremist and/or African-type bookstores in its territory and open separate discreet investigations on each to determine if it is extremist in nature.” Each investigation was to “determine the identities of the owners; whether it is a front for any group or foreign interest; whether individuals affiliated with the store engage in extremist activities; the number, type, and source of books and material on sale; the store’s financial condition; its clientele; and whether it is used as a headquarters or meeting place.’

What Has Changed?

More recently, the FBI has targeted so-called “Black Identity Extremists” (BIE), whom it described as “terrorists” and a threat to law enforcement. 

In an August 2017 report, the Bureau said:

“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.”

The FBI report said that Micah Johnson, who shot and killed five police officers in Dallas in August 2017 after a Black Lives Matter protest, was “influenced” by “BIE ideology.”

The memo also asserts that “BIE groups” in the 1960s targeted law enforcement officers, as if there was some connection between the Black Liberation Army (a violent group that did not hang out in bookstores) and the organizations like Black Lives Matter that protest police violence today.

There is no connection, not historically, not ideologically. Micah Johnson wasn’t a member or contributor to the Black Lives Matter movement, and Black Lives Matter doesn’t advocate or condone violence against police officers. To the contrary, it advocates that elected officials and law enforcement agencies–not vigilantes–prevent and punish the use of deadly against black people.

The FBI report was circulated to 18,000 law enforcement officers nationwide.


When the American Civil Liberties Union  and the Center For Media Justice  and others sought more information about the FBI’s treatment of “black identity extremists,” the Bureau refused to turn over any information.

Last month, the ACLU and CM sued for the FBI’s records of “black identity extremists.” They say:

The fabrication of a “Black Identity Extremist” threat is the latest example in a sordid history of efforts to harass, discredit, and disrupt Black activists who dare to use their voices to call out white supremacy. At the turn of the 20th century, law enforcement targeted Ida B. Wells and Marcus Garvey as “race agitators.”  The FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (“COINTELPRO”) deployed covert activities against Martin Luther King, Jr., the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Partyel-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (previously known as “Malcolm X”), and Ella Baker in the 1950s and 1960s. …. Government crackdowns on Black protest were wrong in the past and have no place in our present. 

There is a common denominator between FBI spying on bookstores in the 20th century and FBI spying on “black identity extremists” in the 21st century.

Then as now, the national police perceives criticism–and peaceful protest–of law enforcement practice as a potential threat and a potential locus of law-breaking. So they investigate. Secretly.

Source: The FBI’s War on Black-Owned Bookstores – CityLab