Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN), who was born in the Soviet Union, grilled U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday over the actions that the FBI is allegedly taking and over a variety of security concerns that have erupted under President Joe Biden’s administration.
“Mr. Attorney General, as someone who was born in the Soviet Union, I am disturbed, very disturbed, by the use of the Department of Justice as a political tool, and its power as the police state to suppress lawful public discourse,” she said. “The FBI is starting to resemble old KGB with secret warrantless surveillance, wiretapping, and intimidation of citizens. School board [inaudible] is the latest example.”
“It’s interesting that during the Soviet-era, the United States criticized the use of the domestic terrorism concept in the USSR as a tool to suppress free speech and political dissent,” she continued. “In your recent statement opposing the Texas anti-abortion law, you said it is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. Do you plan to defend the Second Amendment rights which are explicitly protected by our Constitution as vigorously as you do abortion rights? Yes or no?”
Spartz later pressed Garland over alleged abuses of FISA warrants by federal law enforcement officials, Biden’s border crisis, and Biden’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan.
REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Attorney General, as someone who was born in the Soviet Union, I am disturbed, very disturbed, by the use of the Department of Justice as a political tool, and its power as the police state to suppress lawful public discourse. The FBI is starting to resemble old KGB with secret warrantless surveillance, wiretapping, and intimidation of citizens. School board [inaudible] is the latest example. It’s interesting that during the Soviet-era, the United States criticized the use of the domestic terrorism concept in the USSR as a tool to suppress free speech and political dissent. In your recent statement opposing the Texas anti-abortion law, you said it is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. Do you plan to defend the Second Amendment rights which are explicitly protected by our Constitution as vigorously as you do abortion rights? Yes or no?
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes.
SPARTZ: Do you believe recent inspector general FISA report, citing widespread and material non-compliance by the FBI with[out] proper due process for surveillance of U.S. citizens, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment?
GARLAND: I think it’s a violation of the FISA Act by itself without even having to get to the Constitution. And we take this extraordinarily seriously. That’s why we have an inspector general. That’s why our National Security Division reviews what the FBI does with respect to FISA. And I know that the FBI Director takes this very seriously as well. And they have made major fixes to their practices so this won’t occur again. And this is constantly being audited and reviewed by our National Security Division. I take this very seriously. And I agree, we have to be extremely careful about surveillance of American citizens, only as appropriate under the statute.
SPARTZ: Potentially Fourth and Fifth Amendment could be violated if you have–
GARLAND: Of course.
SPARTZ: –material and widespread as the report says. In your June 15th remarks on domestic terrorism, you said that nearly every day you get a briefing from the FBI director and his team. How often do you discuss FISA relations in your briefings?
GARLAND: Sorry, I didn’t hear the–
SPARTZ: How often do you discuss the FISA violations when you get your nearly daily briefings with FBI?
GARLAND: So, there’s a quarterly review by the Intelligence Community and the National Security Division submits to the intelligence committees with respect to FISA reviews. And I always review those, I meet with the National Security Division relatively routinely to discuss how that’s going. So, it’s not every morning, but this review of violations of FISA, and our efforts to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, is pretty frequent.
SPARTZ: So it seems like we still get material and widespread ever reported. We have material, ‘material,’ not non-material and widespread violation. But talking about another topic, I went to the border three times and recently visit airbase and Qatar and Camp Atterbury in Indiana, housing of Afghanistan evacuees. And based on what I’ve seen, I have some questions and significant national security concerns. Former Border Patrol chief Rodney Scott recently said that the open border poses a real terror threat. Do you agree with the Border Patrol chief or Secretary Mayorkas, who recently said that the border is no less secure than before?
GARLAND: If you’re asking about terrorism traveling across the border, I’m concerned about that across all of our borders. This has been a continuing concern.
SPARTZ: But do you agree with that, you know, Border Patrol chief that what’s happening right now is make us less secure and have a real, you know, increased terror threat?
GARLAND: I believe that combination of the Intelligence Community and the FBI are working very hard to make sure that people crossing the border do not constitute a terrorist threat. But we have to always be worried about the possibility, and we are ever vigilant on that subject.
SPARTZ: Can you reassure the American people that you will be able to protect our country from a terrorist attack that may result from this lawlessness at the border or the Afghanistan debacle?
GARLAND: I can assure the American people that the FBI is working every day to do the best it possibly can to protect the American people from terrorism from whatever direction it comes, whether it comes from Afghanistan or any other direction.
SPARTZ: Do you have any specific actions and plans that you do in light of what’s happening right now at the border? Do you have a specific strategy that you’re working directly with [inaudible]?
GARLAND: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean talk [over]–
SPARTZ: Yeah, considering current situation on the border. Do you take any specific actions at the border?
GARLAND: Well, with respect to the first part of your question about Afghanistan, the FBI is participating along with Homeland Security and vetting the refugees who have landed in various locations, Qater, Kosovo, Ramstein Air Base, and then bases in the United States. So they’re doing everything they can to vet for those purposes. With respect to crossing of the border, this is a combination of the Intelligence Community outside of our intelligence community getting information about who might be trying to cross.
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