By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) In the wake of the biggest political scandal in the history of the republic, there is finally some serious discussion on Capitol Hill about reforming a post-Watergate-era law that was blatantly abused by the Obama administration.
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, was designed to provide U.S. intelligence agencies with national security tools and authorizations necessary to protect the country from espionage threats.
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The law also created a special federal court — the FISC — designed to receive classified information from intelligence service representatives and the FBI and make determinations as to whether the issuance of warrants authorizing electronic surveillance of targets was justified.
In almost every instance over the decades, the FISA court, which is staffed with ordinary federal judges who are cleared by the government and serve a single seven-year term, granted spy warrants when they were sought by various agencies.
Why so liberal with warrants? Because judges always harbored a fear that refusing to grant the government the power to put foreign intelligence targets under surveillance would lead to intelligence failures that then put U.S. national security and the American people at risk.
And, frankly, FISA judges, generally speaking, trusted the agencies and the evidence those agencies presented.
Barack Obama — along with James Comey, Andrew McCabe, John Brennan, James Clapper, Loretta Lynch, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and several others — ultimately destroyed that bond of trust when they devised “Crossfire Hurricane,” the operation to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign under the phony guise of a “counterintelligence operation” borne of a hoax (“Russian collusion”).
Now, a growing number of lawmakers — and President Trump — want to make changes to FISA, parts of which are up for renewal. Last week, libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), said offered his vision.
“The (FISA) reforms that I think are very necessary is that FISA warrants shouldn’t be issued on Americans, and any information gathered by the FISA court shouldn’t be used against Americans. It’s for foreign intelligence. This is a big reform…I think it will get bipartisan support and I’ve talked to the president about it,” Paul said.
Joining Fox Business Network host Gregg Jarrett Saturday, the head of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, offered another perspective on reform: How about we actually indict, convict, and then put people in jail for abusing the law in the first place?
What a concept.
In an interview (see below), Fitton noted that the way the current system operates, “it certainly isn’t protecting anyone’s rights,” a reference to the manner in which the privacy and due process rights of 2016 Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who was the target of Crossfire Hurricane, were violated with multiple unjustified FISA surveillance warrants.
He also noted that, following the Justice Department inspector general’s report earlier this year indicated that FBI officials on multiple occasions lied to the court to continue justifying Page surveillance warrants, that the court itself refused to hold anyone accountable.
“The FISA courts have inherent authority to investigate any criminality before the court, and I’m not seeing any evidence it’s interested in doing that,” Fitton continued. “And if I were DoJ and FBI, I would have offered to help the court do that, but of course, DoJ and FBI, they’re just pretending to, quote, reform the system here.”
Fitton also argued that presidents have inherent authority, under national security provisions and constitutional powers, to spy on foreign nationals with or without FISA warrants. He also said that Paul is “sniffing up the right tree” in terms of preventing surveillance of Americans under FISA rules (Americans can be put under surveillance by the FBI under normal court-ordered warrant processes).
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Thus, we get to the crux of the issue here. Jarrett noted that regardless of whatever reforms are made, there are always going to be people like Comey, McCabe, Strzok, et al, who defraud the system and politicize its intent (let’s never forget that Obama was signing off on Spygate the entire time).
“Well, the key reform is to put people in jail who abuse the process,” Fitton noted, to Jarrett’s skepticism.
“Then the reform game is just a game,” Fitton responded. “The president is a crime victim.”
It gets better.
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