This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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More Info Comes Out, Even the Trump-Hating NY Times Admits It
The flaws in the whole Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court and warrant system are becoming painfully obvious. Since 1978, the US has had a secret court. Ostensibly to seek out foreign influence, espionage, corruption and terrorism. Warrants are issued, also in secret, to spy on likely bad actors. That was how it was pitched back in 1978, it was thought a bad idea by some even then.
It has been amended some since 2001. While it supposedly is focused on non-US persons and agents of foreign governments, it has been slowly turned into the political wiretapping tool that the Obama administration made use of. The FBI, being just one of the parts of the Dept. of Justice, uses FISA warrants a lot, along with the expected intelligence agencies. There is a New York Times article that claims the abuses of FISA warrants are due to mid-level agents who feel pressure to produce convictions. Ignoring the obvious politicization by FBI higher-up management and influence from the Executive branch is cherry-picking, if not collusion.
The abuses of anything to do with a FISA case are hidden by their secret nature. Defense lawyers cannot see the warrant applications, just the warrants. As a result they don’t know what, if any, assumptions or errors were made to get them. CIA and NSA sources are hidden and not cross-examinable, which contributes to any agenda for abuses that may exist. Having such a secret court and surveillance system at the hands of a dishonest administration, or even a cabal of government executive bureaucrats, make it a powerful tool for tyranny.
Abuses, Small at First
In the 1990s the FBI was on the trail of someone connected to a series of deaths in Russia of American operatives. A good use for the existing FISA system you might think. It turns out, the mole they were hunting was one of the FBI’s own, Robert Hanssen. Details about the application for the FISA warrant ignored details like this, no doubt to ensure the granting of the warrant. One hand didn’t know what the other was doing, it appeared. That systemic flaw has gotten larger.
In the 2016 election, Trump adviser Carter Page was spied upon by the FBI. While they won’t yet admit how far up the chain the order to do so went, it amounts to exploiting the FISA system for political purposes. A Justice Dept. Inspector General’s report chronicles the whole affair, albeit with no doubt telling redactions. It seems only to claim that the system is vulnerable to “lower-level agents suppressing or overlooking evidence that weakens their case when they seek permission to conduct surveillance.” The Elephants in the room are the like-minded, appointed higher-ups that encourage such behaviors.
Barr Seems to
Be Making Waves
With the appointment of Bill Barr as Attorney General, business-as-recently-usual may be ending. Accountability is hanging overhead again, and some of the usual suspects are nervous. Leaks and concealment of pertinent information may have worked well in recent times, but it’s clear that it won’t anymore. The leftist, anti-Trump advocates are relegated to gnashing their teeth from rank and file positions, offering what “resistance” they can and not be fired.
There are still a lot of Obama-appointee judges out there to slow down or stop anything the President wants to do. You’d think if it benefits the country it wouldn’t be stymied, but ideology-over-all is ever the Left’s creed. Luckily Trump is replacing judges like gangbusters now, the effects will be seen for years to come. It is likely that if/when he wins a second term he will appoint a few more on the Supreme Court as well.
Real Reform Too Much?
It seems to the people watching that real reform must be unrealistic to hope for. Some of the President’s allies in Congress don’t offer much comment on the issue. Promises of reform by Senator Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), do not inspire confidence. Momentum to do nothing often leads to the problems getting worse. The NSA has recently been criticized for it’s over-broad foray into domestic wiretapping of the general pubic in the name of national security. If strong oversight is not established, we are forgiven for thinking the body-politic is better off burning the agencies down and starting clean.
Karl Donaldson is an editor and writer for NRN. Partial to his two cats, he lives in New Hampshire with his wife and a veritable menagerie of his wife's creatures.