The Problem with Secret Courts Guest post by Mustang
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) is a federal court established by and authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Its role is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against foreign spies operating inside the United States. Agencies making requests for warrants include the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FISA was the brainchild of Senator Frank Church (D-ID). Since its inception, more than 35,000 warrants have been issued to surveil suspects.
In 2013, the FISA Court issued a TOP SECRET order requiring Verizon to provide daily, on-going reports of call detail records, including those of domestic calls, to the National Security Agency. The order was revealed to the American people by Edward Snowden, who is often reviled by politicians and intelligence agencies as a traitor to his country.
In 2016, U. S. District Judge Rudolph (Rudy) Contreras (an Obama appointee) was assigned to the FISA Court. In November of that year, Judge Contreras took charge of the case against Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to the President. A two-page grand jury indictment was rendered in early December. Judge Contreras accepted General Flynn’s guilty plea to one count of making a false statement to the FBI; the plea was part of a bargain with the Special Counsel Investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. However, on 7 December, Judge Contreras suddenly recused himself from further hearings in the Flynn case. The case was reassigned to U. S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (a Clinton appointee).
Several days ago, The Federalist discovered the existence of text messages between two key federal law enforcement officials who conspired to meet with FISA Court Judge Rudy Contreras. The two officials were DOJ attorney Lisa Page and FBI Agent Peter Strzok. The text messages were deliberately hidden from congress investigators. In the text messages, Page and Strzok discussed Strzok’s personal friendship with Contreras and how the duo might use that relationship in ongoing counter-intelligence investigations. The pair then began to conspire with one another to set up a cocktail party so that Contreras, Strzok, and Page could speak with one another without arousing suspicion that they were in fact colluding with one another.
While working as one of the FBI’s senior counter-intelligence officials, Strzok is reported to have taken part in the FBI interview with General Flynn on 24 January 2017. Subsequently, Strzok left the FBI to join Mueller’s special counsel team, which obtained the indictment against Flynn. Strzok was later removed from Mueller’s team due to inappropriate text messages between Strzok. Now, of course, we have a reason to wonder if Contreras, Strzok, and Page have illegally conspired against General Flynn, and further, we ought to wonder about:
· The clandestine meeting between Bill Clinton and (then) Attorney General Loretta Lynch;
· The decision by former FBI Director James Comey not to pursue charges against Hillary Clinton in the mishandling of classified information—a determination made before the FBI interviewed Clinton;
· The use of the thoroughly discredited Trump Dossier, paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, as prima facie evidence in securing a FISA warrant against the Trump Campaign and Trump’s business interests;
· The lies told by Andrew McCabe to IG investigators surrounding his release (leaking) of classified information to liberal news sources
The American people will never have confidence in their government if its agencies do not work lawfully and transparently in the interests of the nation. Moreover, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires reasonable searches and seizures only upon issuance of a warrant judicially sanctioned by probable cause, supported by oaths or affirmations, which specifically describe the places to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
The question remains, given the foregoing, how can the people have confidence in FISA courts when all of its business is conducted in secret, when judges can order TOP SECRET warrants and orders, and when the American people have no protection from politicized courts or judges?
For additional information, see Mollie Hemingway, Chuck Ross, and Sara Carter.