The judge presiding over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court joined the Justice Department’s Inspector General to call out the FBI for using false information to obtain surveillance warrants—and questioned how often this has happened before…
Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the Senate committee on Homeland Security today, to answer questions about his conclusions from the investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign.
His testimony has been given the public insight into the split that exists within the Intelligence Community. As one of the top officials in the Department of Justice, the inspector general has openly stated that the FBI used inaccurate information to justify conducting surveillance of Trump’s campaign aide.
At the same time, the IG report is one that has been used by both Democrats and Republicans, because it claims there was no “political bias” involved in the decision to investigate Trump’s campaign associates, and because it called out the FBI for misleading the FISA court with its surveillance application.
The presiding judge over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released a letter, which also directly criticized the FBI for providing false information to try to prove Trump’s aide, Carter Page, was a “Russian agent” to justify conducting surveillance of him.
Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote, “the frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.”
She is arguing the troubling conduct from the FBI that was shown in this case calls into question other cases where the FBI submitted requests for surveillance, and they was granted.
This case has also shed light on just how easy it is for the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants through this secret federal court without providing substantial evidence. And the FBI was called out by the FISA Court last year for using the surveillance database to violate the privacy rights of Americans.
The Court found that the “FBI’s efforts to search data about Americans ensnared in a warrantless internet-surveillance program intended to target foreign suspects have violated the law authorizing the program.”
After that ruling, the FBI promised it would behave, but no one faced consequences for the violations.
The Justice Department’s own data shows that out of nearly 34,000 surveillance requests since 1979 – only 11 were rejected.
While we are seeing criticism of this secret court now, it is important to remember that the existence of the FISA Court has received overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans who have justified the warrantless surveillance of Americans citizens by claiming it protects national security.