AG Barr Endorses House FISA Reauthorization Bill

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020
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Attorney General William Barr voiced his support on March 11 for the passage of the House bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The attorney general said that the bill plugs the gaps in the current law, which allows for the surveillance abuses identified in the DOJ inspector general report on the department’s spying on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people,” Barr said in a statement.

Barr said the bill includes several provisions put forth by himself and FBI Director Christopher Wray in response to the inspector general’s report. The FBI is already implementing a range of reforms in response to an order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

President Donald Trump told Republican lawmakers earlier this month that he would not support a reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) without reforms to prevent the abuses that took place during the 2016 presidential election. It is not clear if the reforms the House FISA bill includes would be satisfactory to Trump, who has said he wants to make sure that the surveillance operation used on his campaign doesn’t happen to a future candidate or president. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

A pair of conservative Republican lawmakers close to the president slammed the House bill on March 11, leaving open the possibility that Trump may eventually oppose it.

“The ‘Deal’ on FISA is weak sauce diluted & made impotent by A.G. Barr,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote on Twitter. “None of the reforms prevent secret FISA court from abusing the rights of Americans. None of the reforms prevent a President of either party from a politically motivated investigation. Big Disappointment!”

“The House FISA deal doesn’t fix what’s wrong with FISA,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wrote on Twitter. “It would not have stopped the spying that occurred against [the president]. I will do everything I can to oppose it in the Senate. If it passes [Trump] should veto it.”

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz unearthed a battery of “significant errors” and “omissions” in the four applications to surveil Page. The FBI omitted crucial information while casting Page as an agent of Russia, including the fact that Page was an operational contact for the CIA and that Page had reported his contacts with Russians to the agency. In one blatant example, an FBI attorney altered an email, adding that Page was “not a source” for the CIA, even though the bureau was in possession of several pieces of evidence to the contrary.

In addition to the numerous omissions and misstatements, key FBI officials conducting the investigation of the Trump campaign had expressed intense bias against Trump and in favor of Hillary Clinton. The inspector general, however, did not find any evidence to establish that the bias was the reason for the significant errors.

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