Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal hit the nail on the head in the article she published last evening. The FISA Court owes us some answers.
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) December 20, 2019
(WSJ) The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court this week blasted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for “misconduct” in the Carter Page surveillance warrant. Some would call this accountability. Others will more rightly call it the FISC’s “shocked to find gambling” moment.
Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer issued her four-page rebuke of the FBI Tuesday, after a Justice Department inspector general report publicly exposing the FBI’s abuses. The judge blasted the FBI for misleading the court by providing “unsupported or contradicted” information and by withholding exculpatory details about Mr. Page. The FISC noted the seriousness of the conduct and gave the FBI until Jan. 10 to explain how it will do better.
The order depicts a court stunned to discover that the FBI failed in its “duty of candor,” and angry it was duped. That’s disingenuous. To buy it, you’d have to believe that not one of the court’s 11 members—all federal judges—caught a whiff of this controversy until now. More importantly, you’d have to ignore that the court was directly informed of the FBI’s abuses nearly two years ago.
Disingenuous isn’t a strong enough term.
As Strassel points out, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes sent a letter to Judge Collyer on February 7, 2018 alerting her to his committee’s findings.
Chairman Nunes specifically cited that the information she (and other FISC judges) had relied on was never corroborated by the FBI or DOJ even though they signed off guaranteeing just the opposite to the court.
Additionally, neither the FBI or DOJ officials who signed off on the warrant application disclosed that the material had been paid for by political operatives opposing Donald Trump.
Mr. Nunes tried again in a June 13, 2018, follow-up letter, which I have obtained. He told the court that Congress “uncovered evidence that DOJ and FBI provided incomplete and potentially incorrect information to the Court,” and that “significant relevant information was not disclosed to the Court.” This was Mr. Nunes telling FISC exactly what Inspector General Michael Horowitz told the world—18 months sooner. Mr. Nunes asked Judge Collyer to “initiate a thorough investigation.” To assist her, the same month he separately sent FISC “a classified summary of Congress’s findings and facts” to that point. The letter was signed by all 13 Republican members of the Intelligence Committee.
Judge Collyer blew him off.
Can’t be bothered…
— Brit Hume (@brithume) December 20, 2019
It’s even worse than that. In early January 2017, then-FBI Director swore under oath, and in front of a national TV audience, that the dossier, which formed the basis for the FISA application, was both “salacious and unverified.”
How did judge Collyer, or one of the other ten FISC judges not know this? They didn’t want to know. Strassel writes that,
One of the biggest criticisms of the FISA court since its inception is that it is a rubber stamp for law enforcement. The FISA process is one in which government lawyers secretly and unilaterally present their case for surveillance to judges, with no defense attorney to argue in opposition. The system relies on judges to push back, but they don’t. Until recently, the FISA court routinely approved 100% of the applications before it.
The court regularly provides the FBI with the ability to spy on as many as 25,000 American citizens with a single warrant.
Why not just provide eleven monkeys with an ink pad and a rubber stamp and save and end the charade?