The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was introduced in the spring of 1977 by Sen. Ted Kennedy (remember, please, that in an organization of 100 privileged and coddled people, Kennedy was particularly privileged and coddled). A year later, in December 1978, President Carter signed the bill establishing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The whole idea of the act and the court it established was to find a mechanism to surveille and possibly try American citizens who are engaged in intelligence activities against the United States. The history of Soviet espionage and secret police against its own citizens is a cautionary tale of what to guard against when contemplating such a thing as a FISC.
As someone who has worked closely with intelligence agency personnel in American embassies, I had the opportunity to talk frequently and in depth with our spooks about the regulations they worked under that prevented them from targeting U.S. citizens. They are sensible regulations and offer laudable legal protections to Americans. The FISA was designed to prevent us from turning into a carbon copy of the USSR. That noble intention failed under John Brennan, James Comey, Loretta Lynch, and Barrack Obama.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 23, Byron Tau quotes “a new court filing unsealed Thursday” that admits “(the FBI) may have lacked probable cause to continue wiretapping in the last two of the four surveillance applications it made against (Trump campaign adviser) Carter Page.” The “last two applications were submitted in April and June of 2017... there was ‘insufficient predication to establish probable cause’ for those last two applications” Mr. Tau notes.
As we learn more about how Page was scooped up in the investigatory net, using foreign intelligence operatives (who are not restricted by our laws) from supposedly friendly nations, the conclusion is hard to avoid that this is an elaborate and deceptive intelligence operation.
What all this means is that senior members of the executive branch under President Obama overstepped the law in applying the FISA to target people associated with the Trump campaign. Remember two important details of late 2015-early 2016 when this all took place: Hillary Clinton was widely thought to be a shoo-in to succeed Obama into the White House, in which case no investigation would ever have taken place regarding Trump targeting, and the American media, who should have been investigating suspicions of abuse of intelligence capabilities, were in the tank for Hillary.
I have written four columns alerting readers to my suspicions that the FBI was playing fast and loose with American law. It was an easy call to make – too much intelligence material (frequently from the signals-intercepting National Security Agency, but also from the CIA and FBI) leaked to the press for it to be a single disgruntled employee spilling his guts to a friendly journalist. And all the leaks went in one direction: against Republicans.
A mustachioed flight instructor who fought the Second World War in Burma told me “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.” What I was seeing in media reporting of intelligence leaks was clearly enemy action. The enemy was not the journalists – it was our FBI and intelligence agencies. One had either to be blind or an extreme partisan not to see what was going on in Washington. Now, three years too late, the DOJ Inspector General his listed 17 “inaccuracies and omissions” in the FISA applications. My flight instructor warned me about this 50 years ago. And my knowledge of rank and file intelligence officers leads me to believe the bad faith was at the very senior levels, not the working spooks.
Fred LaSor spent nearly 30 years working in American embassies in Asia, Latin America and Africa. He now lives in Minden.