Barr: I’ll make sure FBI and other intel agencies respect the limits on their power

In testimony today before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Attorney General William Barr let it be known that he’s going to get a handle on the FBI’s abuse of power, telling senators that he thinks government spying on political campaigns is a “big deal” and that the FBI and other intel agencies need to “respect the limits on their power.”

“My responsibility is to protect the civil liberties of the American people,” he said on Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, “and I think something that is important is that law enforcement and intelligence agencies respect the limits on their power.”

He told the members of the committee that his plan is to gather all of the information from all of the investigations on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“One of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the department [Department of Justice] and see if there are any remaining questions that need to be addressed,” he said.

Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire seemed confused, asking Barr why he would want to do that.

He responded he wanted to do it for the same reason people wanted to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” he said. “It’s a big deal. The generation I grew up in, which was the Vietnam War period, you know, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people and so forth by the government, and there were a lot of rules put in place to make sure there’s an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance.”

He went on to say that he couldn’t say for certain whether laws were broken, but that he’s going to look into it.

He also said, pointedly, that he’s not just looking into abuses by the FBI, but also into abuses by “intelligence agencies more broadly.”

There are 17 intelligence agencies in the United States, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, seven other agencies under the Department of Defense, one under the Department of Energy, two under the Department of Homeland Security, one under the State Department, one under the Treasury Department and a second one (besides the FBI) under the Department of Justice.

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was officially opened in the summer of 2016, but Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has said he believes it actually began much earlier, and that he believes there was never any credible information to justify opening a counterintelligence investigation focusing on a presidential campaign or political party.

 

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