U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)

January 10, 2020 – An Ex-DOJ official who is chosen by FISC Judge James Boasberg to assist in FISA reform, was ardent defender of FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page

Judge James Boasberg (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM/The Associated Press)

“A former Justice Department official picked Friday to oversee the FBI’s reforms of its surveillance procedures in the wake of a damning inspector general’s report was one of the many pundits during the Russia probe to defend the bureau’s surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

David S. Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security, was also an outspoken critic of Rep. Devin Nunes and other congressional Republicans who accused the FBI of misleading the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in applications to wiretap Page.

An inspector general’s (IG) report released Dec. 9, 2019, largely vindicated Republicans and Page. The report identified 17 errors and omissions the FBI made in its four applications to surveil Page. The IG also said the FBI was unable to corroborate allegations that Page was a Russian agent.

Judge James E. Boasberg, who presides over the FISC, tapped Kris [to] serve as amicus curiae for a review of the FBI’s handling of the Page surveillance warrants. In that role, Kris will “assist” the FISC in assessing the FBI’s implementation of a series of reforms to address the problems uncovered in the IG report.

Assistant Attorney General David Kris (l) of the Justice Department’s National Security Division testifies with Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 7, 2009. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Nunes and Page both panned the choice of Kris given his past commentary defending the FBI.

“It’s hard to imagine a worse person the FISC could have chosen outside Comey, McCabe, or Schiff,” Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.  

“The choice is shocking and inexplicable.”

Page also weighed in on Kris’s selection to oversee the FBI’s reforms.

“If there were any hope for the system fixing this FISA mess, it extinguished with David Kris’ appointment,” he told The DCNF.

“Nobody trying to fix the rampant abuse and coverup plaguing the entire FISA process would have picked Kris,” continued Page, who called Kris a “longtime FISA apologist.”

“Instead, you appoint Kris for only one reason: you don’t want the system fixed. You just want it to look like you do.”

(Read more: The Daily Caller, 1/11/2020)  (Archive)

January 10, 2020 – FBI director Christopher Wray tells the FISA court in a letter that he “deeply regrets” the many errors in FISA warrants

Christopher Wray (Credit: Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

“FBI Director Christopher Wray told the federal surveillance court in a letter Friday that he “deeply regrets” the bureau’s many errors in the process to obtain surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“The FBI has the utmost respect for this Court, and deeply regrets the errors and omissions identified by the OIG,” Wray wrote in a letter to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

A judge on the FISC ordered the FBI on Dec. 17 to respond by Friday with a roadmap on how the bureau plans to address the problems identified in a Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report regarding applications for warrants to wiretap Page.

(…) FBI personnel will be instructed on the errors and omissions that were made in the Carter Page FISA applications and associated processes,” Wray said.

The training will include a test “to confirm that personnel understand the expectations and the materials,” as well as certification for FBI employees who have completed the training, he added.

Wray set April 30 as a deadline to complete the training.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 1/10/2020)  (Archive)

December 20, 2019 – FISA Court Owes Some Answers

Kimberly Strassel

“Federal Bureau of Investigation for “misconduct” in the Carter Page surveillance warrant. Some would call this accountability. Others will more rightly call it the FISC’s “shocked to find gambling” moment.

Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer issued her four-page rebuke of the FBI Tuesday, after a Justice Department inspector general report publicly exposing the FBI’s abuses. The judge blasted the FBI for misleading the court by providing “unsupported or contradicted” information and by withholding exculpatory details about Mr. Page. The FISC noted the seriousness of the conduct and gave the FBI until Jan. 10 to explain how it will do better.

The order depicts a court stunned to discover that the FBI failed in its “duty of candor,” and angry it was duped. That’s disingenuous. To buy it, you’d have to believe that not one of the court’s 11 members—all federal judges—caught a whiff of this controversy until now. More importantly, you’d have to ignore that the court was directly informed of the FBI’s abuses nearly two years ago.

On Feb. 7, 2018, Devin Nunes, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Judge Collyer informing her of its findings in his probe of the FBI’s Page application. He wrote that “the Committee found that the FBI and DOJ failed to disclose the specific political actors paying for uncorroborated information” that went to the court, “misled the FISC regarding dissemination of this information,” and “failed to correct these errors in the subsequent renewals.” Mr. Nunes asked the court whether any transcripts of FISC hearings about this application existed, and if so, to provide them to the committee.

Judge Collyer responded a week later, with a dismissive letter that addressed only the last request. The judge observed that any such transcripts would be classified, that the court doesn’t maintain a “systematic record” of proceedings and that, given “separation of power considerations,” Mr. Nunes would be better off asking the Justice Department. The letter makes no reference to the Intelligence Committee findings. (Read more: The Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2019)  (Archive)

December 20, 2019 – The FISA court does not call for a review of all FBI FISA deceptions

Submitted to Zero Hedge by Twitter journalist Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog)

“This week, Presiding Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) Judge Rosemary Collyer, released two stern Orders taking the FBI to task for its repeated failures, omissions, and misrepresentations in its application and subsequent renewals to surveil Carter Page.

And while one FBI employee has received a criminal referral for doctoring evidence in the scheme to defraud the court, key players with oversight responsibilities – under penalty of perjury – have been given a pass.

(…) While it’s laudable that Judge Collyer has ordered the government to double-check their submissions in the prior FISA applications that involved Clinesmith, what about the previous FISA applications verified by the FBI agents who lied – under penalty of perjury, we might add – in the Carter Page applications and renewals?

In other words, whether an FBI lawyer changes an e-mail about a target’s history of cooperation with the CIA or an FBI agent lies about the underlying intelligence, the goal is the same: secure the warrant through deception. Both these acts are criminal. Why is only one deserving of review?

Related: A Techno_Fog thread on Joe Pientka, and the FBI’s efforts to keep him out of the spotlight (click a tweet to read the rest):

(Read more: Zero Hedge, 12/22/2019)  (Archive)

December 20, 2019 – The FISA Court orders a review of all FISA filings handled by FBI lawyer facing criminal investigation

Carter Page, petroleum industry consultant and former foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential election campaign, in Washington on May 28, 2019. (Credit: Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered a review of all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act filings handled by Kevin Clinesmith, the FBI lawyer who altered a key document about Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

The FISA court confirmed Clinesmith had been referred to the Justice Department for a possible criminal investigation. Judge Rosemary Collyer, who leads the FISA court, ordered the DOJ to bring it up to speed on everything it had learned about Clinesmith’s conduct and to explain why there was a delay between the conclusion of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation and the court being told what misconduct had been unearthed.

Specifically, the FISA court ordered the DOJ to “identify all other matters currently or previously before this court that involved the participation” of Clinesmith. The court also ordered the DOJ to “describe any steps taken or to be taken by the Department of Justice or FBI to verify that the United States’s submissions in those matters completely and fully described the material facts and circumstances,” unlike the Page FISA filings. Third, court ordered the DOJ to “advise whether the conduct” of Clinesmith has been “referred to the appropriate bar associations for investigation or possible disciplinary action.”

Several months before its first FISA filing against Page, the FBI was informed Page had been a source of information for the CIA in the past, a fact the bureau failed to include in its initial filing or any of its renewals. A liaison from the CIA reminded Clinesmith, who was a part of the team reviewing the Page FISA filings, about Page’s previous relationship with the agency. But instead of accurately informing the FBI supervisory special agent so that the FISA court could be properly informed, Clinesmith altered the email to falsely state that Page was “not a source.”

This public order follows a scathing letter from Collyer directed at the bureau released earlier this week.

“The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the [Horowitz] report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor described above,” said Collyer, who approved the initial surveillance warrant against Page.” (Read more: The Washington Examiner, 12/21/2019)  (Archive)

December 17, 2019 – Devin Nunes questions FISC presiding judge Rosemary Collyer’s lack of candor and again calls for the dismantling of FISA Court

“During a stunning interview last Sunday Devin Nunes called for the FISA court to be deconstructed.  In my opinion it was that statement, not the IG report, that spurred FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer to make a public order today.

Today, hours after Judge Collyer released her order, Devin Nunes responded to the review of the FISC by stating, accurately, Judge Collyer doth protest too much.

In this interview Devin Nunes outlines his February 2018 notification to the FISC about the specific fraud upon the court; and as a result of that (and a follow-up) notification, Nunes again takes the FISC to task for saying they were not aware.  Collyer was aware because Nunes told her.

Accepting the totality of the FISC obfuscation, HPSCI ranking member Devin Nunes again calls for the dismantling of the FISA court process. WATCH:

Despite the media ignoring the scale of Nunes prior statements, this is not some just some arbitrary representatives’ opinion.  Nunes was Chairman of the HPSCI when he informed the court of the abuse; and he is currently the ranking member of the same committee.

It is not a signal flare from the ranking member of the HPSCI to call for a structural removal of FISC authority.  This is a nuclear blast from the primary person who previously guided the FISA re-authorization that permits the court’s existence.

Here’s the February 2018 letter from Nunes to Judge Collyer:

It is arbitrary and capricious for FISC Presiding Judge Collyer to say today she has concerns about fraud upon the court after being notified two years ago about the issue.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 12/17/2019)  (Archive)

December 9, 2019 – The DOJ IG report misses yet another lie from the FBI

“Left-leaning politicians and the press spent more than three years pushing the Russia collusion hoax. Yet, following the inspector general’s release of his 478-page report on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse, after making quick mention of the top-line findings, the media moved on. As a result, much has been missed, including one significant misrepresentation contained in all four of the Carter Page FISA applications—an inaccuracy even the IG’s team overlooked.

Two passages, separated by more than 50 pages, when read together reveal an eighth significant inaccuracy and omission from the first FISA application, and one repeated in the later three renewals: Steele’s sources and sub-sources were not ones he used or developed during his time with the British intelligence service MI6, contrary to the impression created in the FISA applications.

This detail was dropped in a footnote in the IG report, following this text: “Steele told us he had a source network in place with a proven ‘track record’ that could deliver on Fusion GPS’s requirements. Steele added that this source network previously had furnished intelligence on Russian interference in European affairs.”

The relevant footnote, footnote 214, then read: “Steele told us that this source network did not involve sources from his time as a [redacted] and was developed entirely in the period after he retired from government service.” The redacted language undoubtedly referred to Steele’s British intelligence work.

That Steele’s “source network did not involve sources from his time” with British intelligence proves extremely significant when considered in tandem with the details the IG provided about the FISA application process in general, and the specifics of the Page FISA applications.” (Read more: The Federalist, 1/02/2020)  (Archive)

December 9, 2019 – The IG FISA report suggests the FISA court is complicit in the FBI FISA abuses

Margot Cleveland

“While the IG’s 478-page report includes many damning details, the following passage indicates that the FISA court abdicated its responsibility of providing “an external check on executive branch decisions to conduct surveillance” in order “’to protect the fourth amendment rights of U.S. persons.”

This paragraph describes how the government described their sources to the FISA court:

The final application submitted to the FISC contained a description of the source network that included the fact that Steele relied upon a Primary Sub-source who used a network of sub-sources, and that neither Steele nor the Primary Sub-source had direct access to the information being reported. The drafts, read copy, and final application also contained a separate footnote on each sub-source with a brief description of his/her position or access to the information he/she was reporting. The Supervisory Intel Analyst assisted the case agent in providing information on the sub-sources and reviewed the footnotes for accuracy. According to the [Office of Intelligence] Attorney, the application contained more information about the sources than is typically provided to the court in FISA applications. According to [the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Stuart] Evans, the idea was to present the source network to the court so that the court would have as much information as possible.

From this paragraph we know that the FISA court was expressly told that neither Christopher Steele nor his primary sub-source were the actual sources of the information included in the FISA applications. Instead, the FISA applications made clear that Steele and his primary sub-source were repeating information other individuals told them. And it appears from this passage that the only additional information provided to the court concerned a sub-source’s “position” or “access to the information” on which he was reporting.

Further, there appears to be no assertion in the FISA applications that the sub-sources were reliable. (Even if the FISA applications professed the reliability of sub-sources, “courts hold that conclusory statements that informants are ‘believed to be reliable sources,’ ‘standing alone without any supporting factual information, merit absolutely no weight and that information obtained from a reliable source must be treated as information obtained from an informant of unknown reliability.’”) Instead, the FISA applications focused on Steele’s supposed reliability.

But as a legal matter, that is not enough: Even though the probable cause threshold is low, “an untested, unidentified informant’s second-hand report” does not “clear the bar.” (Read more: The Federalist, 1/10/2020)  (Archive)

December 9, 2019 – The IG FISA report reveals the Mueller team knew Joseph Mifsud denied telling Papadopoulos the Russians could help Trump and failed to inform the FISA court

(Credit: Rebecca Zisser/Axios)

(…) “Mueller’s team also knew, by July 2017 at the latest, that Joseph Mifsud—the Maltese professor who supposedly tipped then-Trump aide George Papadopoulos to the Russians having dirt on Hillary Clinton—had denied telling Papadopoulos that the Russians could assist the Trump campaign by leaking negative information on Clinton. Prior to the special counsel’s appointment, the FBI had interviewed Papadopoulos and Mifsud, but it would be the special counsel’s office that indicted Papadopoulos in late July 2017, charging him with lying to the FBI.

By that time, then, the special counsel’s team must have reviewed the notes from the Papadopoulos and Mifsud interviews. Yet Mueller did nothing at that point to ensure the FISA court learned of Mifsud’s denials. The IG found the omission of “Joseph Mifsud’s denials to the FBI that he supplied Papadopoulos with the information Papadopoulos shared with the FFG (suggesting that the campaign received an offer or suggestion of assistance from Russia)” was a significant omission.

In short, the special counsel’s team proved itself equally incompetent in investigating and screening the “intel” used to obtain the Page surveillance orders, and in failing to accurately and fully inform the FISA court (FISC) of the evidence gathered by the FBI. As the IG noted:

“…that so many basic and fundamental errors were made on four FISA applications by three separate, hand-picked teams, on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process.”

That also means Mueller and his chain of command.” (Read more: The Federalist, 1/06/2020) (Archive)

December 9, 2019 – The IG FISA report shows the Mueller team replicated FBI abuses

“Shortly after the release of the special counsel report last year, I posited that Robert Mueller’s failure to investigate whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election by feeding dossier author Christopher Steele disinformation established that Mueller was either incompetent or a political hack. Now, with the release of the inspector general’s report on FISA abuse, we know the answer: He was both.

(…) As the IG report noted, “on May 17, 2017, the Crossfire Hurricane cases were transferred to the Office of the Special Counsel,” and the FBI agents and analysts then began working with the special counsel. A little more than a month later, the FBI asked the Department of Justice to seek a fourth extension of the Page surveillance order. That fourth renewal obtained under Mueller’s leadership included the 17 significant inaccuracies and omissions the IG identified.

(Timeline editor’s note: It is our understanding there are not 17 individual significant inaccuracies that were found in each FISA application. Instead, it is a grand total of  significant inaccuracies in all of the Page FISA applications, combined.)

(…) Most significantly, in June 2017, the FBI’s office of general counsel falsely represented that Page had not been a source for another federal agency, when, in reality, Page had been approved as an “operational contact” and the FBI’s attorney had been told so in an email. Yet the final surveillance renewal application failed to inform the FISA court that, while Page had connections with individuals connected to Russian intelligence, he had provided information about those contacts to another agency as an approved source.

(…) Not only did Mueller’s team continue to push the same inaccuracies and omissions to the FISA court in the June 2017 renewal, the FISA court was not informed of the many mistakes and omissions for another year—even though the special counsel’s investigation should have uncovered many of the errors contained in the applications early on in the probe.

(…) Mueller’s team also knew, by July 2017 at the latest, that Joseph Mifsud—the Maltese professor who supposedly tipped then-Trump aide George Papadopoulos to the Russians having dirt on Hillary Clinton—had denied telling Papadopoulos that the Russians could assist the Trump campaign by leaking negative information on Clinton. Prior to the special counsel’s appointment, the FBI had interviewed Papadopoulos and Mifsud, but it would be the special counsel’s office that indicted Papadopoulos in late July 2017, charging him with lying to the FBI.

(…) It also wasn’t mere incompetence on display: The special counsel’s office also engaged in much of the same misconduct the IG identified. For instance, emblematic of Mueller’s complicity in misconduct Horowitz identified is the fact that the special counsel continued to use Bruce Ohr as a conduit to feed “intel” to the FBI from Steele after Steele was terminated as a confidential human source.

(…) That the special counsel’s team engaged with Ohr without notifying to Ohr’s superiors shouldn’t surprise, though, as that was the M.O. of Mueller’s pit bull, lawyer Andrew Weissmann. The IG report exposed this reality, in detail. Specifically, the IG report explained that shortly after Trump was elected president:

…between November 16, 2016 and December 15, 2016, Ohr participated in several meetings that were attended, at various times, by some or all of the following individuals: Swartz, Ahmad, Andrew Weissmann (then Section Chief of CRM’s Fraud Section), Strzok, and Lisa Page. The meetings involving Ohr, Swartz, Ahmad, and Weissmann focused on their shared concern that the [Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section] MLARS was not moving quickly enough on the Manafort criminal investigation and whether there were steps they could take to move the investigation forward. The meetings with Strzok and Page focused primarily on whether the FBI could assess the case’s relevance, if any, to the FBI ‘s Russian interference investigation. MLARS was not represented at any of these meetings or told about them, and none of attendees had supervisory responsibility over the MLARS investigation….

On January 31, 2017, one day after Yates was removed as DAG, Ahmad, by then an Acting CRM Deputy Assistant Attorney General, after consulting with Swartz and Weissmann, sent an email to Lisa Page, copying Weissmann, Swartz, and Ohr, requesting a meeting the next day to discuss ‘a few Criminal Division related developments.’ The next day, February 1, Swartz, Ohr, Ahmad, and Weissmann met with Strzok, Lisa Page, and an FBI Acting Section Chief. None of the attendees at the meeting could explain to us what the ‘Criminal Division related developments’ were, and we did not find any.

Meeting notes reflect, among other things, that the group discussed the Manafort criminal investigation and efforts that the Department could undertake to investigate attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 elections. MLARS was not represented at, or told about, the meeting.

(Read more: The Federalist, 1/06/2020)  (Archive)