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The former congressional investigator Jason Foster has exposed a five year secret surveillance operation conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on members of congress and their staff. According to Foster, who now heads the Empower Oversight whistleblower center, the DOJ managed to obtain a federal court’s approval for this covert spying, largely centered on personal communication data of the targets.
Just The News reports that in his role as the chief investigative counsel for Senator Chuck Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Foster worked vigilantly to discern wrongdoings within the government. However, his communications were closely monitored as part of a federal leaks investigation, the evidence which has been recently unveiled to him by Google’s lawyers.
Foster divulged that the data pertaining to his personal conversations was procured by the government in 2017, a fact that should have been disclosed to him by 2018 under the initial court order.
However, due to the DOJ’s petitions to the court to keep this surveillance confidential, Foster had been oblivious to the surveillance until recent months, nearly six years after his personal data was subpoenaed.
This delay in notification was facilitated by “ex parte” legal actions, where court sessions are conducted on the behest of a single party, withholding information from the other.
Casting light on the extent of the surveillance, Foster revealed that both the Trump and Biden administrations continued to request court orders, year after year following 2018. Quite disturbingly, this was done to continue to keep the existence of the subpoena a secret, even long after the investigations were over. Particularly alarming, according to Foster, is the fact that this secrecy was maintained even after closure of a case potentially linked to the leak probe, the discredited Russia collusion investigation.
Attempting to piece together the puzzle, Foster conjectured that his and other legislative aides’ information were possibly requisitioned as part of the leak investigation into wrongdoings of the disbanded Russia collusion probe. This begs the question, as Foster put forth, as to why the records and data of law makers and their aides are being kept secret, even once the corresponding cases have been closed. To this end, Foster is now demanding that the concerned authorities probe this matter further.
In a bid to conduct a thorough examination of the conspiracy, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan has petitioned both parties to initiate investigations. Additionally, Jordan has also requested that the country’s tech giants surrender any evidence pointing towards DOJ’s surveillance tactics on congress members or their teams.
This revelation of privacy invasion has also cast a heavy shadow on the future of whistleblowing within government agencies such as DOJ and FBI. Foster expressed worry that whistleblowers, whom he interacted with frequently during his tenure, would now be hesitant to provide crucial information for fear of their identities being revealed through the DOJ’s extensive spying strategies. This concern extends beyond the violation of mere constitutional rights and attorney-client privileges to the potential thwarting of meaningful, albeit confidential, employee feedback systems.
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