By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) When FBI Director Christopher Wray announced recently that his idea to remedy Spygate agents’ serious and serial abuses of the FISA court with a ‘training video,’ it was enough to make us nauseous.
Here we have a well-educated man in a very powerful government position telling Americans that a coup attempt involving a former FBI director and deputy director did not rise to the level of indictable offenses but instead was merely a ‘training issue’ that could be fixed with some extra instruction.
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As insulting as that was, Wray was allowed to get away with this band-aid solution to huge problem of massive corruption within the world’s foremost law enforcement and intelligence organization, save for some outrage expressed by conservative pundits on TV and some GOP lawmakers.
But as Reason Magazine notes, an expert brought in by the FISA court to oversee “reforms” says what Wray is offering is, um, ‘insufficient’ to say the least:
The FISC’s judges were extremely unhappy to discover information had been withheld from them, and then-presiding Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (who has since retired) ordered FBI Director Christopher Wray to send a plan to the court by January 10 explaining how the FBI would avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
Wray submitted his plan last week. It’s a dense and technical response that is mostly inscrutable to anybody who does not have a history of involvement with the court’s surveillance processes. Wray provides a list of 12 actions the FBI has taken or will take to make sure future applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants include all the information judges should’ve had when the FBI sought permission to surveil Page.
Wray’s plans revolve primarily around adding most steps to verify and re-verify information contained in the warrant requests to make sure that FBI agents and supervisors are not omitting information that might undermine or compromise their case for a surveillance warrant. Wray also says the agency will improve training by creating a case study program to teach FBI agents about historical precedents…
What a joke; as if FBI agents and especially the director and deputy director who approve FISA applications to spy on a presidential campaign just ‘didn’t know’ to include information for the court in their affidavits that the “dossier” they submitted as “evidence” of “Russian collusion” was unverified.
Those were crimes, Director Wray, not just ‘errors’ or ‘mistakes.’
But it gets worse. The FISA Court appointed David Kris, a former Justice Department attorney during President Barack Obama’s administration, to advise the court. His appointment drew even more outrage because he has a history of attacking Republicans like Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who has been on this FISA abuse since before it was front-page news.
And yet, as Reason further reports:
But Kris has also been skeptical of how the federal government uses surveillance against American citizens and has criticized the National Security Agency’s position that laws passed to fight the war on terror and to investigate Al Qaeda permitted the agency to secretly snoop on American citizens. And he voiced these criticisms while working on national security issues at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
It appears that version of Kris analyzed the FBI’s plans. On Wednesday, he responded that Wray’s proposals were ultimately insufficient. Part of the larger problem, which Wray has acknowledged, is that it’s hard to check the accuracy of information that’s not included or deliberately omitted. In the Page case, much of the erroneous intel that might have dissuaded the judges from granting a warrant was not included in the warrant application, and therefore its accuracy was not assessed.
Kris does not defend the FBI’s actions surveilling Page in his response, saying bluntly that nobody is disputing that “basic, fundamental, and serious errors” were found in the Page warrant requests. Kris worries that Wray’s plan doesn’t really account for what procedures will be used with surveillance requests that intersect with political campaigns. And while Kris does support the improvements that Wray has listed, he says the FBI needs to go further.
He is calling for better communication between the FBI and Justice Department attorneys, which in this case partly contributed to the information gaps in the warrant applications. Kris also suggests the possibility of having field agents, not just agents working at FBI headquarters, signing onto warrant applications or at least requiring them to attest to the court to the facts that are in the warrant application. Field agents might be more likely to notice an important omission.
“The FBI must restore—and the Court should insist it restore—a strong organizational culture of accuracy and completeness,” Kris said.
Sure. Fine. Okay. At least Kris had that to say.
But nothing will go farther towards ‘restoring trust and accountability’ in the FBI than indicting people who knowingly violated laws in filing incomplete affidavits with the FISA court specifically to fool the judges into granting surveillance warrants.
A couple of training videos and ‘better communication’ between FBI agents and DoJ attorneys won’t do a damned thing to battle corruption.
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