Trish Regan: Democrats trying to split hairs on definition of spying

The head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, for the first time is saying he’s working with Attorney General William Barr to determine what the heck the FBI was doing snooping around the Trump campaign in 2016.

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Did the FBI spy on innocent Americans?

Well, in typical Washington, D.C., fashion, the politicians are getting bogged down in semantics because apparently, it all comes down to what you mean by spying.

The FBI got themselves a FISA warrant in a secret FISA Court in order to listen to the phone conversations of a Trump campaign aide (when it’s abundantly clear in the Mueller report that there was never any collusion with the Russians.) Knowing that, I’d say it’s fair to ask if the FBI was in fact “spying” on that aide and the Trump campaign.

I use the term spying because I’m perplexed that our FBI would treat opposition research like gospel — never vet it and never tell the FISA court judge that is was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

And yes, there is a difference between “to spy” and “to surveil” and that’s why the Democrats are so scared -- and they should be.

So here we go, the Oxford definition of the verb to spy is: “to work for a government or other organization by secretly obtaining information about enemies or competitors.”

In other words, you don’t necessarily believe anyone is doing anything bad but you want to know what’s going on. So you spy on them.

If the Obama FBI department knew that the dossier was fake and misrepresented the report to a FISA court judge? Then, yes, they spied.

Compare “to spy” with the definition of “to surveil” which means, “to keep a person under surveillance.” And “surveillance” is defined as, “the act of carefully watching a person suspected of a crime.”

So that’s the nuance that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., went back and studied after being so astounded that Barr answered her question like this. Remember? Shaheen: “You’re not suggesting though that spying occurred?" Barr's answer: "Well, I think spying did occur.”

Today, Shaheen tried to use these definitions to get Wray to effectively knock his whole FBI. Shaheen started by telling Wray, “I was very concerned with his [Barr’s] use of the word spying, which I think is a very loaded word it conjures a criminal connotation.”

Reminder: you introduced the word spying and Attorney General Barr just agreed with you. Anyway here we go and remember, if you’re spying, it’s because you just want to spy – you don’t believe there’s any underlying crime.

SHAHEEN: When FBI agents conduct investigations against alleged mobsters, suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe they are engaging in spying when they’re following FBI investigative policies and procedures?

WRAY: that is not the term I would use.

SHAHEEN: Thank you, so I would say that’s a no to that question?

WRAY: Well, lots of people have different colloquial phrases. I believe the FBI is engaged in investigative activity and part of the investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes and to me the key question is making sure it is done by the book, consistent with our lawful authorities.

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Okay, so there you go! After all that, sometimes, it’s just someone using a colloquial phrase. However, I think the AG knew what he was saying when he used the term spying. The fear here is that the Obama FBI was listening to Trump campaign phone calls not because they believed he was an agent of Russia. That was just an excuse.