Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. You know, it's interesting. The unfortunate untimely passing of Dolores O'Riordan from The Cranberries, you're hearing her lovely, kind of haunting voice. Dolores O'Riordan...this probably won't get picked up by many in the DC Press Corps, much less the music industry. Dolores O'Riordan on the issue of abortion...you know she's Irish? (Jacobson: Yeah.) "It's not good for women to go through the procedure and have something living sucked out of your bodies. It belittles women, even though some women say 'Oh, I don't mind to have one.', every time a woman has an abortion, it just crushes her self-esteem, smaller and smaller and smaller." (Both: Hmmm.) Dolores O'Riordan.
Jacobson: Dead at the age of 46, recently diagnosed...or came out and admitted that she was bipolar, always had chronic back pain, and she died in a recording studio in London.
Proft: Very sad, very sad.
Jacobson: She has three kids that she leaves behind, and...too young.
Proft: Exactly. Starts making...must make you think about your own mortality. Not me.
Jacobson: Of course it does!
Proft: So one other thing too, I have to corre...I'm having a poor day, and I apologize. First of all, I misidentified "Cobra Kai" as "Cobra Khan" from Karate Kid earlier in the show. And now...and this is on you too, because you were in a serious committed relationship with him...Edward James Olmos.
Jacobson: I was not! ...I went out to dinner with him.
Proft: I said the Jaime Escalante movie was "Lean on Me", which of course was the Morgan Freeman, Principal Joe Clark movie. "Stand and Deliver" was the Jaime Escalante story. So I apologize, and you know, the fact that you didn't catch it doesn't speak well of your time with Edward James Olmos. You really should know his full oeuvre, if you're going to be in a relationship with him.
Jacobson: *laughs* IT WAS JUST DINNER DAN.
Proft: Okay! All right! Very good. Alright, moving on to serious topics, interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday from Bill McGurn. He interviewed "friend of the show" James Kallstrom, former deputy director of the FBI, we've had him on the show many times. And the title of the piece, "Wanted: An Honest FBI". Kallstrom basically says the FBI is in danger of losing the trust of the American people, on which it relies. He points to a couple of decisions that were seminal over the last year, among many that he disputes...disagrees with, doesn't recognize in terms of the FBI with which he worked. The...obviously the Comey exoneration of HIllary was one problem. He also points out a more recent one with the new director, Christopher Wray. "During his own recent testimony before Congress, Mr. Wray stonewalled, and suggested, ridiculously, that he couldn't let Congress see classified material." That's McGurn writing. And this is Kallstrom responding, saying, "They (the FBI) act like they work for someone from outer space, rather than the President of the United States." For more on this topic and a couple of others, we're pleased to be joined again by our friend Sharyl Attkisson, who is, again, celebrated investigative reporter, author of "The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote." Sharyl, thanks for joining us again, appreciate it.
Attkisson: Thank you!
Proft: So what about the standing of the FBI, and to some extent, the Department of Justice, you know not from a partisan perspective but just on the merits of these officials that are acting in ways officials in their position have heretofore never acted, and the exposure of conflicts...so many obvious conflicts of interest, between...among people of leadership positions in both of those agencies?
Attkisson: Well, we do have unique circumstances to be sure, but I'm not sure officials have never before acted this way. I just kind of assume that you know, we knew about J. Edgar Hoover, do you really think that ever stopped? That at some point all the files he was keeping and all the dirt he had people was somehow purged or burned or turned over or stopped? Or do you think that to some degree this has always been the case, and has always continued? I suspect the latter. And also think that, you know, there are some important officials who if you ask the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, are under investigation for what appears to be, possibly inappropriate and unethical behavior. And I wrote about this a few weeks ago because that investigation has gotten really very little attention, and yet has netted more beef, if you will, than the investigation into Trump Administration Russia collusion.
Jacobson: But then when you see one of the FBI agent's whose in charge of the questioning...you know, line of questioning geared toward Hillary Clinton, and he clearly has a bias against President Trump...don't you think that affects his judgment, and, you know, disintegrates the trust of the American people with the FBI?
Attkisson: Short answer: Yes, I think that that sort of blatant commentary...I mean certainly everybody has their opinion, and you can't expect that investigators won't like or dislike certain political figures. But for people who are actually ON a political investigation that was supposed to be neutral, and was forged so that it COULD be neutral, for them to have such strong opinions and express them so freely and openly, without fear of being discovered or anybody thinking that was a bad thing, I think that indicates there were some deep-seated problems inside those investigative bodies.
Proft: Yeah it seems to me that, maybe, is the difference. Maybe some of the behavior was similar, but it was done surreptitiously...more surreptitiously previously, J. Edgar Hoover, because there was a recognition that it was wrong. So much of what is being done and said is for public consumption, because there is...it seems like there is a certain belief that they're, you know, insulated from any accountability, they don't answer to anyone except themselves.
Attkisson: I think that's true. I think that there's a powerful bureaucracy that persists from administration to administration inside our intelligence agencies. And I am concerned that they have developed a power structure that is more persistent and more pervasive than any single political party or administration. Excuse me...and while you might consider that a positive thing if it works, since it's usually political, you really don't want them to change from administration to administration since it's based on political whims. In this case, perhaps it is something to worry about that there may be bad actors among our fine intelligence officers, who consider themselves, you know, beyond the normal laws, who may be willing to do the bidding of political operatives, or use intelligence tools at their disposal for political purposes, which I think there is pretty clear evidence that that may have happened as well.
Proft: You tweeted yester...excuse me, last week, as the House took up FISA re-authorization and Rand Paul expressed some concerns and the possibility he would filibuster the authorization in current form if there were not more protections in Section 702. Your tweet went VIRAL because it was such a succinct summary of what the government has said vs. what they've done. I'll let you sort of recast your own words in terms of your concerns about those intelligence agencies of which you were speaking.
Attkisson: Well I don't have that in front of me, but I said something like if...you know, I love that people know the history, but that...we were never supposed to be surveilled by our own intelligence agencies here in America. That was always considered, you know, totally unconstitutional, and it's something that should never happen. After 9/11, we made provisions to allow that...actually some of that had come from before 9/11...so at first they won't supposed to surveil us, but they did. Then they promised that they wouldn't contain the information, keep it, if it was on Americans, and then they made a provision where they do. Then they promised that it would never be searched through, the database on Americans could not be accessed or looked through for other reasons, but it is. And then they promised it would never be unmasked, that the people's names would not be known, even within the intelligence agency, but they are. And of course, none of this is supposed to be leaked, but it has been. So if you just look at the slippage of what's supposed to be and where we are today, it's pretty shocking. When you talk about this new authorization that Congress is about to give for this authority to continue...which I think it's very important that they have it, but obviously it needs more oversight, and I'm kind of shocked that members of Congress who've themselves been spied on...we know this for a FACT, our intelligence agencies, inappropriately...that they are not going to put more oversight on this or try to fix the problems or make the extensions very temporary until these problems are over, is shocking to me! And I wrote an article in The Hill that completely, I think, destroyed the FBI Director Christopher Wray's claim to Congress, which I think is completely false; that there has been no 702...that's the name of the provision under the Act...there has been no 702 abuse. I went down the list of all the 702 abuses that have been categorized by the FISA court and in public documents that we KNOW about. So I don't know why he was saying that, but it's been oft-repeated since then, and even members of Congress are saying "Oh, well this is a provision where there's no controversy, dealing with foreign collection." NO, this IS the provision that's controversial, 702, where they have used foreign collection rules to collect evidence on Americans, and members of Congress and journalists and others that they should never have done.
Jacobson: Is there a concrete example you can give us, of something that was on the list?
Attkisson: Yeah. In 2016, just January 2016, the Inspector General for the NSA issued a top-secret report criticizing the NSA for not having proper processes in place to protect Americans. And he gave instances of non-compliance, and documentation was lacking. This went to the FISA Secret Court, which said the problem was widespread in all periods under review. A couple of other quick ones; the FISA Court in 2015 criticized the NSA practice of collecting intelligence, the way they were using it...they said "it likely netted information on US citizens with no foreign intelligence values." And also at another hearing, the FISA Judge accused the NSA of institutional lack of candor surrounding that 702 provision, and stated "This is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue," and that he really just hammered the Federal Government in this hearing. So, to say there's been no suspected abuses of 702 was just...maybe, I think, a propaganda campaign, because if they just keep saying it maybe we'll go "Well okay, renew it!"
Proft: Well, right, and this is a couple of years after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to us. It's remarkable, I mean that kind of...just, you continue to get the same propaganda, as you said, AT BEST. And Congress continues to gobble it up.
Attkisson: Yes, James Clapper falsely testified to Congress when asked by Senator Ron Wyden, he knew the answer from classified information, is there data being collected on tens of millions of Americans? And Clapper said no! And you look at the hearing when this was asked, and Wyden kind of shook his head, and we asked the question, and Clapper just said "Not wittingly." Well, that was completely false, and I've done stories about data being collected through the telecom agencies, asking for and sometimes forcing their cooperation, but also paying these telecom agencies hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money for contracts to do this. This has been going on since pre 9/11, and in ways that people really have no clue.
Proft: I want to get your take as well on the dossier story, the Trump dossier story. Kim Strassel writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests "No such thing as a coincidence in Washington, so the sudden furious effort by Democrats in the media to provide cover to the Steele Dossier, the release of Glenn Simpson's testimony last week by Senator Feinstein, this...coincides with Congressional investigators finally being given access to records about the Trump Russia Probe." She suggests, intimates maybe, that there's a real concern that their narrative about Russian collusion is about to run into the reality of the documentation that Congress is finally getting. Do you have any particular perspective on that and the timing of it?
Attkisson: Well just based on experience, I think what you said and what she wrote was accurate. None of this is, you know, by chance. And Feinstein, Senator Feinstein, would not normally be someone that would leak something like that, so I think she was convinced to do so, because I think there is a sense of concern among those who have pushed that narrative. But it certainly hasn't delivered to date. And quite frankly, I think if Congress weren't doing its own investigation and perhaps the Inspector General, we might not know about any of this. I don't know what the main investigation with the Special Counsel is covering, but I suspect that it might not be covering these things. And yeah, I do think that narrative has fallen apart over the past year based on what we know publicly, it just hasn't delivered. And I feel like that's why we're seeing counter narratives and also moving on to other narratives as well. Because this was something that they were kind of hanging their hat on, as a distraction at the time, and maybe it was something that they hoped could be something that makes us look in the other direction should someone in the Trump Administration actually see what some of the intelligence agencies were doing over the past couple of years, politically.
Proft: She is Sharyl Atkisson, investigative journalist, author of the new book "The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote". Sharyl, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it.
Attkisson: Thanks for having me.