Instead of holding hearings and forcing the government to defend its evidence under examination, the warrants were issued simply on the basis of written applications.
Judicial Watch, one of the top watchdog groups in the United States, announced today that they received their response from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court hearing against Donald Trump campaign members. Namely, the information they received pertained to the hearings involved in getting warrants to spy on Carter Page.
At the time, Page was a campaign part-time advisor to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, which would eventually achieve an upset when it managed to defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidency. What the filling revealed concerning the FISC deliberative process is shocking to say the least.
There were “no court hearings” held before issuing a FISA warrant, and three renewals, for Carter Page. The court basically rubber stamped the Obama administration’s requests without looking at any evidence.
The information, finally turned over by the Department of Justice after a Freedom of Information Act request and a subsequent lawsuit when that request was not complied with, revealed that there were no hearings on Page’s FISA spy warrants.
According to the response to the lawsuit, the National Security Division FOIA consulted the Office of Intelligence, hoping to locate and identify any documents relevant to the Judicial Watch FOIA request.
They found no records, “electronic or paper,” that were ‘responsive’ to the request, or with regard to Carter Page and the FISA warrants that allowed the United States federal government to spy on him.
Furthermore, the investigation by the Office of Intelligence discovered that the warrant applications for Page were not based on actual, live court hearings at all, but rather written submissions.
The response to the FOIA lawsuit stated that the courts “did not hold any hearings” before issuing the warrant in 2016 (mere weeks before the 2016 election) and then renewing it three times.
The federal government held literally no hearing before making the decision to grant a warrant to spy on a person who was working in a political campaign for an American politician, in other words.
The FOIA lawsuit did, however, turn up a heavily redacted series of warrant applications for Page, and provided further proof that the first warrant was approved shortly before the 2016 election.
In February, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee produced and distributed a memo, which condemned the FISA targeting of the Trump campaign official.
Among other information provided by this memo was the fact that the warrants were reliant, in large part, Clinton-DNC dossier, which was produced by Christopher Steele as opposition research targeting then-candidate Donald J. Trump.
This document, which was barely corroborated, often debunked, and seemingly scarcely examined, was an ‘essential’ part of the of warrant applications for both the Barack Obama-era Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, it is extremely disturbing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court system would “rubber-stamp” warrants for a person involved in a political campaign.
Indeed, Fitton said that the court held not a single hearing “on these extraordinary requests” to spy on the political campaign of a person directly opposed to the party that was, at the time, in power.
Most interestingly, he suggested that perhaps it was finally time for the courts to hold hearings on how justice was corrupted by “material omissions” that showed the Clinton campaign, the Democrat Party, Bruce Ohr, Christopher Steele, and “anti-Trumper” Peter Strzok all had a hand in the ‘intelligence’ that persuaded the courts to approve a number of FISA warrants, all of which targeted people on the Donald Trump campaign team.
Fitton is right on the money.
The political process in the United States is important, and the idea that one party, or its agents, should be able to spy on another, particularly under the auspices of a ‘criminal investigation’ without a hearing is terrifying.
The very least that the courts could have done is held hearings and review the evidence, which would have forced the government operatives who requested the warrants to defend their use of the Steele dossier.
Senator Rand Paul, the junior republican Senator from Kentucky, has repeatedly railed against FISA courts and that way that they operate, as well as the lack of accountability they have to the citizens of the United States.
This information, which a hard-working government watchdog agency managed to obtain, shows that Senator Paul was absolutely right.