Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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FISA, Congress, and hypocrisy

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), arrives for a House Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Republicans pushing release of “the Memo” in Washington are exposing a glaring hypocrisy when it comes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The memo, written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) is said to be a summary of the case House Republicans have put together purporting to show that false information about Donald Trump was used by pro-Hillary Clinton officials in the FBI and Justice Department to obtain a federal warrant against Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.

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Because the accusation has to do with Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, the warrant was obtained through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA courts. It allows judges to issue warrants in total secrecy.

The memo may be more an exercise in damage control than it is a serious contribution to our understanding of the murky mess made by the Department of Justice in the Hillary Clinton emails investigation, and the mess that has been made of the once above reproach FBI.

But, the Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee did the right thing when it voted to release the memo to the public. It is said to claim that the real source of “evidence” for the FISA warrant was the Christopher Steele dossier. Christopher Steele is a former British intelligence operative hired by the research firm Fusion GPS and paid for by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump.

Democrats opposed the release of the memo, saying it is shot full of misleading or downright false information.

Let the public decide. Transparency always serves democracy best.

But the message of “the memo” is: Don’t trust the FISA court.

If that’s the case, then why did the same congressmen who voted to release the memo vote two weeks ago to renew FISA?

Mr. Nunes voted for renewal of FISA, or more specifically the power to eavesdrop without a warrant on Americans believed to be communicating with foreigners. At least showing some consistency was Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana), an avid participant in the attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI. He voted no on the FISA renewal. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) has been largely silent on the Russia investigation. He voted to renew FISA.

The Republicans need to get their story story straight.

Does FISA have the probity and judicial discipline to tell the difference between probable cause and rehashed unattributed anecdotes?

If it does, then Congress was right to renew FISA.

If it does not, FISA should never have been renewed and should not exist at all.

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