WASHINGTON — The FBI has a politically one-sided surveillance partnership with Facebook under the apparent name Operation Bronze Griffin, according to a bombshell report released Friday by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.
The 1,050-page report broadly outlines the FBI’s alleged pro-Democrat political bias — just days after revelations of a secret Facebook portal through which authorities can request the deletion of alleged “misinformation” from the world’s top social media platform.
“As part of a program likely codenamed ‘Operation Bronze Griffin,’ the FBI allegedly accepts private user information from Facebook, but without the user’s consent or the legal process the FBI would otherwise need to independently pursue such user-related information,” the report says.
“Furthermore, according to whistleblower information, the types of user content that Facebook provides have a partisan focus, tending only to concern users from one side of the political spectrum,” the document continues.
“The FBI’s willingness to accept this political speech information from Facebook — outside of routine investigative pathways — further threatens Americans’ constitutional rights.”
The FBI and Facebook did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment. The GOP report says the FBI “neither confirmed nor denied the allegations” when asked for comment.
The allegation comes on the heels of a Monday report by the Intercept that exposed an online gateway through which authorities with a government or law enforcement email address reportedly can request the removal of “misinformation” from Facebook or Instagram.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told The Post Wednesday that West Wing staff don’t use the Facebook portal, even though her predecessor Jen Psaki said last year that the White House was “flagging” alleged misinformation to Facebook.
The Intercept reported that content flagged by the Department of Homeland Security through the censorship portal included “clearly parody accounts or accounts with virtually no followers or influence.”
Civil libertarians, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been accused of being too quiet about online censorship, blasted the Facebook portal as a probable violation of Americans’ free speech rights. The ACLU tweeted, “The First Amendment bars the government from deciding for us what is true or false, online or anywhere.”
It’s unclear precisely how the alleged Operation Bronze Griffin information-sharing works and whether it’s connected to previously disclosed surveillance efforts
Facebook has faced concern before about possibly working with the government on domestic surveillance, as well as criticism for acting on the FBI’s alleged encouragement to throttle distribution of The Post’s October 2020 reporting on documents from Hunter Biden’s laptop linking his father to overseas consulting work in China and Ukraine.
“The background here is the FBI, I think, basically came to us — some folks on our team — and was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, like, you should be on high alert,’” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in August, explaining the platform’s decision to limit distribution of The Post’s articles.
Facebook’s work with the authorities to hand over user data attracted attention in 2013 when Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, revealed the existence of a program called PRISM through which major technology companies gave the NSA access to their platforms. The companies denied giving unfettered access to the feds and details remained murky.
Snowden’s leaks, which also disclosed the since-discontinued dragnet collection of domestic call records, sparked bipartisan pushback from critics concerned about the collection of Americans’ communications under laws intended to address terrorism and espionage.
Friday’s report signals the likelihood of aggressive oversight of the FBI if Republicans reclaim either chamber of Congress in next week’s midterm elections, which would allow them to compel the disclosure of documents and testimony.
Allegations of bias have contributed to plunging trust in the FBI, especially among Republicans, representing the greatest threat to public faith in the federal law enforcement agency since the disclosure in the 1970s of its COINTELPRO program to infiltrate and discredit largely left-wing groups.
Some allies of former President Donald Trump called for the FBI to be abolished after the Aug. 8 raid on Trump’s Florida home to retrieve allegedly classified documents. Trump is expected to run again for president in 2024 and described the raid as part of a long-running “witch hunt.”
Republicans previously slammed the FBI’s long-running probe of whether Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired with Russia — which came up empty after overshadowing more than half of Trump’s term.
The FBI’s Russia investigation was launched by disgraced FBI official Peter Strzok in July 2016. Strzok was fired in 2018 for swapping anti-Trump messages with his mistress, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
As part of the Russia probe, the government’s secret surveillance court approved monitoring of Trump adviser Carter Page based in part on a largely unverified dossier paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty in 2020 to falsifying documents submitted to the court.
More recently, Republicans have fumed about whistleblower allegations of an FBI coverup in the long-running investigation of first son Hunter Biden — in what some observers fear is a “controlled demolition” of the scandal to insulate President Biden from inquiries into his own alleged involvement in influence-peddling gigs in China, Ukraine and other countries where he held sway as vice president.
The Post reported in September that disgraced former FBI agent Timothy Thibault was the “point man” for former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski and never followed up with him about his bombshell claims that Joe Biden was involved with a business deal with Chinese energy company CEFC.
Thibault recently retired from the FBI following criticism of his anti-Trump social media posts and whistleblower allegations that he buried Hunter Biden evidence.
Bobulinski alleged one month before the 2020 election that Joe Biden has been involved with his son Hunter and brother Jim’s dealings with Chinese government-linked CEFC, which reportedly paid the Bidens $4.8 million in 2017 and 2018. But Bobulinski heard nothing from Thibault after alleging that he spoke with Joe Biden about the deal.
Bobulinski says Joe Biden was known among Hunter Biden’s business partners as the “big guy” — who a document from Hunter Biden’s laptop said was due a 10% cut in a new corporate entity with CEFC. Another Hunter Biden business associate, James Gilliar, also identified Joe Biden as the “big guy.”
The FBI also allegedly warned agents off investigating the contents of the laptop, which were made public by The Post in October 2020.
In a July letter outlining whistleblower complaints, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote that Thibault and another FBI employee, supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten, allegedly were involved in “a scheme” to “undermine derogatory information connected to Hunter Biden by falsely suggesting it was disinformation.”