One of the biggest government overreaches into our lives is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. FISA was signed into law in 1978 and essentially it creates a system that allows the government to obtain a warrant to track and basically spy on people that they have reasonable evidence are committing treason or espionage for a foreign government or power. To the average American, on its face it sounds like a reasonable act, but the FISA Courts have been abused and manipulated to create the dark and unknown Orwellian government that we have today.
The FISA Courts have been in the spotlight a few times over the last decade. In 2013 there was light shined on the actual reach that the FISA Courts have. Reports published by both The Guardian and The Washington Post show that the FISA Courts have unmitigated surveillance on communication from any American citizen. While US government officials defend the FISA system, saying that it cannot be used on a domestic target without a warrant, the process of getting said warrant is flawed, hidden from the public, abused and corrupted.
The FISA Courts came into the spotlight more recently when it was used against members of President Trumps campaign, who were surveilled in part by a FISA warrant, to see if they were conspiring with the Russians to help them win the election. The Mueller Report was released, showing no collusion between President Trump and the Russians. This raised some red flags as to the legitimacy of the FISA Courts, whether or not they were corrupted and whether or not they were being abused. These red flags led to an Inspector General (IG) audit of FISA applications.
What the IG found was damning. The IG has found “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts” in more than two dozen FBI FISA applications. When the FBI applies for a FISA warrant they claim that an individual committed some act that lead to suspicion and they must provide documentation supporting this claim. This is called the “Woods Procedures.”
“We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy” the IG wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray. This means that FBI agents have been either using insufficient documentation or no documentation to support claims being made in FISA applications.
Out of the 29 FISA cases reviewed, 4 were found to have none of the supporting documentation that is required. The IG said that in 3 of those 4 cases the FBI did not even know if the supporting documentation ever existed. Some may say that four out of 29 is not that bad but there were errors or document deficiencies on all 29 cases.
“Our testing of FISA applications to the associated Woods Files (aka supporting documentation) identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications we reviewed,” the IG says. Every single application reviewed by the IG was deficient.
Of the 25 applications that actually had supporting documentation, each one had an average of 20 issues. One application had as many as 65 issues or errors. The review identified that all applications reviewed had “facts” that were not supported or corroborated. The IG says that all of the applications reviewed were warrants issued on US persons.
These findings add to the devastating report the IG did in December on the FISA warrants issued on a member of President Trumps election team in 2016. In that report he found 17 significant errors or omissions.
These are some of the scariest results that could have come from this report. The FBI is getting wiretaps on Americans while intentionally providing insufficient documentation or no documented proof of just cause for obtaining these intrusions on our privacy. This is not just scathing to the FBI who applied for these warrants, they are demonstrative to the FISA Court and Judges who approved them.
If the force of the US Intel agencies are being used maliciously against the political foes of the administration in charge we are getting closer and closer to a dictatorial faux democracy with a ruling class that has never ending rule over the commoners.
It is time to abolish the FISA Courts and end this unconstitutional surveillance on American citizens.