Rep. Nunes is Right: The FISA System Endangers America

By John Zmirak Published on December 18, 2019

American Greatness reports:

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is ringing alarm bells about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FISC], saying that it is culpable, along with the FBI, for the improper wiretapping of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and needs to be dismantled.

Nunes, the ranking Republican member on the House Intelligence Committee, joined Fox News’ Martha MacCallum Tuesday evening to discuss the FISA court’s tardy rebuke of the FBI’s handling of its surveillance-application process, and for the second time this week, he called for the secret court to be shut down.

Our Deal with the Deep State

The slow-motion attempted coup still underway against President Trump and his voters has exposed a lot. It kicked over the rock that is the Deep State, and we saw what wriggled under it. We saw what we’d foolishly agreed to in our panic after 9/11. The objections that libertarians raised to the rise of the surveillance state? All fully vindicated. It’s bad enough that private citizens such as Carter Page and George Papadapoulos have had their lives trashed by the government for doing nothing wrong. And that public servants like General Mike Flynn got targeted and persecuted.

We knew things like that were coming. We knew that the Bush administration’s response to September 11 was utterly backwards. Keep on with the neocons’ ideological crusade to “invade the world, and invite the world.” Continue pretending, with George W. Bush, that the whole world was full of potential Americans, just one visa to the U.S. or one American invasion, away. (See his crackpot Second Inaugural Address.)

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But make the country “safe” for all these grandiose experiments by … letting the surveillance state run wild. Don’t keep out thousands of young, angry Muslims. Don’t leave their countries alone, free of U.S. troops and meddling State Department bureaucrats. Go ahead and invade more Middle Eastern countries, no need for exit strategies. Wade into quagmires like Afghanistan, and lie to the public so we never have to leave. 

We’ll be perfectly safe if we just bug more Americans’ phones. Give secret courts the power to rubber stamp intrusive “foreign intelligence” investigations that make the Fourth Amendment a bad joke told in questionable taste. Expand the scope and strip off the safeguards of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) courts.

What could go wrong?

The War on Terror Became a War on Us

Not to seem churlish, but I warned about this at the time. In the entry I wrote for American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia back in 2005 I noted my concerns.

At home, the U.S. Congress created a new Department of “Homeland Security,” whose purpose was to protect the soil of the United States from attack — leaving some to wonder what was now the purpose of the existing Department of Defense. Congress enacted and renewed the “PATRIOT Act,” which (among many extensions of federal power) enabled the FBI to undertake wiretaps of U.S. citizens with relative ease and to subpoena hitherto private documents.

Most disturbing to many conservatives and libertarians was President Bush’s invocation of the concept of “enemy combatant” to justify the arrest and indefinite detention without charge or legal recourse of U.S. citizens — a power which they compared to the Ancien Regime’s infamous lettres de cachet. This power, upheld so far by federal courts and extended indefinitely into the future until the unforeseeable end of the undeclared “War on Terror,” is susceptible to enormous abuse, civil liberties activists complained — amounting to a repeal not so much of the U.S. Constitution as of the Magna Carta.

The FISC Judges Rebel

And who has come to agree with the critics, but the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court themselves. Adam Mill reports on this at The Federalist.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) just released another bombshell opinion detailing how our FBI consistently abuses the awesome and powerful surveillance we entrust to it for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

The court outlined how the FBI repeatedly violated restrictions intended to protect Americans’ privacy by spying on Americans without having legitimate law enforcement or counter-intelligence purposes. Further, the FBI failed to keep adequate records, as required by law, to allow the court to review and hold the FBI accountable for these abuses.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI used its spying to intimidate Congress and even presidents. In our day, Sen. Chuck Schumer accidentally said out loud what everyone knows to be true, “You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” Indeed, China’s chief weapon of oppressing its people isn’t guns or prisons, it’s access to citizens’ private information. Authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin rose to power from the Russian intelligence community.

Another Federalist writer, Christopher Bedford, noted:

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court harshly rebuked the FBI in a Tuesday afternoon order, saying FBI misconduct in applying for warrants against Trump campaign official Carter Page calls all past warrant applications into question, and setting a fast-approaching deadline to fix the system.

A Deep State Coup Attempt

And now we know how far our own intelligence agencies were willing to go. They were happy to help one party’s president, Barack Obama, spy on the campaigns of the other party’s candidates for his own office. Once Trump emerged as the frontrunner, they targeted him directly. They used a completely partisan document funded by the Clinton campaign, the Steele Dossier, to justify it. These FBI officials overlooked all the red lights indicating that it was spurious and unreliable. They lied to the FIS courts in legal documents, to circumvent the Constitution.

I wrote in 2005 that no Republican should give Bush powers they wouldn’t want to see wielded by Hillary Clinton. That got me laughed at.

And why? To change the results of an election. Then after the election, to cash in their existing investigation as an “insurance policy” to drive Trump out of office. That’s failed, as the impeachment effort will stall in the Senate. But it did succeed in paralyzing and crippling Trump for three years in office.

Plug the Loopholes in Our Liberties

That’s how dangerous the system is that a bipartisan, War Party coalition created under President Bush. I wrote at the time that no Republican should give Bush powers they wouldn’t want to see wielded by Hillary Clinton. That got me laughed at. I’d say, “Who’s laughing now?” But I’m not laughing. I weep for our nation. And I worry. Once Trump has emerged from this civic nightmare and rides its backlash to re-election, will he take the obvious lesson?

These powers we gave our government are excessive. They carve secret holes in the Bill of Rights. Loopholes that the likes of Peter Strozk and Andrew Weissman can exploit, and have exploited as documents prove. The same loopholes will be exploited again, and again. The temptations are just too great. The whole point of our governmental system is to constrain and hobble any agencies that would infringe our personal liberties. And to make sure that those in office cannot abuse their power to suppress opposition parties.Licensed to Lie

The coup against President Trump has proved that we blew up too many safeguards. We’ve unleashed in the U.S. a politicized secret police. The answer isn’t for Trump to appoint his own loyalists to use it. No, we must dismantle the apparatus that lets the Deep State commit abuses like this in the first place. No terrorist strike could do as much damage to our country as the Deep State has in the past three years. 

Sidney Powell for SCOTUS

A good first step? At his next opportunity, President Trump should consider nominating for the Supreme Court attorney Sidney Powell. (Watch her explain to Eric Metaxas the sheer extent of Deep State abuse.) 

Once a federal prosecutor, she became outraged by the abuses of runaway colleagues. She now defends people against dishonest, biased prosecution, including her current client, Gen. Mike Flynn. Her book, Licensed to Lie, is a scathing expose of how prosecutors run wild, hide evidence, railroad the innocent, and never face any consequences. It reads like a dystopian novel, but every word is chillingly true. We need Powell’s voice on our nation’s highest court.

And we need to amend or repeal the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that made these abuses possible. The judges themselves who hear its cases are telling us it’s completely out of control. If that means we adopt a more modest foreign policy and stop granting thousands of visas to aspiring Saudi pilots? Then all the better.

 

John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.

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