Saturday, January 14, 2017

FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and the Trump Team

President-elect Trump at a press conference in Trump 
Tower, 01/17/2017. (Reuters photo: Shannon Stapleton)
The idea that FISA could be used against political enemies always seemed far-fetched. Now it might not be.
Remember the great debate over “the Wall” following the 9/11 attacks? “The Wall” was a set of internal guidelines that had been issued by the Clinton Justice Department in the mid 1990s. In a nutshell, the Wall made it legally difficult and practically impossible for agents in the FBI’s Foreign Counter-Intelligence Division (essentially, our domestic-security service, now known as the National Security Division) to share intelligence with the criminal-investigation side of the FBI’s house. Those of us who were critics of the Wall — and I was a strenuous one, beginning in my days as a terrorism prosecutor who personally experienced its suicidal applications — made several arguments against it. 
My favorite argument, which I have repeated countless times, centered on how preposterous were the underlying assumptions of the Wall. This was far easier for prosecutors than journalists, academics, and the public to grasp, because we dealt with the Justice Department’s different chains of command for criminal and national-security investigations.
Alas, after 20 years, I may have to revise my thinking.
The theory of the Clinton DOJ brass in imposing the Wall was the potential that a rogue criminal investigator, lacking sufficient evidence to obtain a traditional wiretap, would manufacture a national-security angle in order to get a wiretap under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). A traditional wiretap requires evidence amounting to probable cause of commission of a crime. A FISA wiretap requires no showing of a crime, just evidence amounting to probable cause that the target of the wiretap is an agent of a foreign power. (A foreign power can be another country or a foreign terrorist organization.)
Read the rest from Andrew McCarthy HERE.

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