The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court made public on Jan. 23 a filing from earlier this month, which revealed that two of the surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were now deemed by the Justice Department to have been invalid—meaning that the spying conducted as a result was illegal.
The question that naturally arises is, what else did the FBI's crack "Crossfire Hurricane" team do that we don't know about?
If they were willing to hide exculpatory evidence and tamper with documents in Page's case, how can we have any confidence they didn’t also carry over this corrupt behavior into their spying on other targets in the Crossfire Hurricane probe?
If the Carter Page warrants were only granted on the basis of a fraud perpetrated on the court, every act of surveillance on a U.S. citizen that occurred as a result of those warrants is retroactively seen to have been a gross violation of privacy.
How many other people had their electronic communications accessed due to their connection with Page? The likely number of people the FBI could spy on, due to the “two-hop rule,” is extensive. One email or text or phone exchange with Page and the FBI could come in and access that person’s own emails, texts, and phone calls.
Victims of Illegal Surveillance Can Sue
This latest filing by the FISA Court opens the door to targets of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation being able to file lawsuits against the people who investigated them.
People who are spied on by federal agencies based on warrants obtained unlawfully have legal recourse in a court of law to sue for damages for a gross invasion of their privacy.
This latest filing by the FISA Court means that Page and the people who texted him, emailed him, or spoke to him by phone and ended up being swept up in the FBI's investigation can sue for violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
News Media Still Can't Admit Carter Page's Innocence
The title of my column, "They Don’t Have Anything Real on Carter Page and They Never Did," was true in September 2018, and is still true today.
It was common early on for many in the media to mock Page for not disappearing from the public eye. Journalists would snidely say he was making a huge mistake by going on TV and giving interviews, because he should be hunkered down in a bunker somewhere waiting for the FBI to knock on his door and drag him off to jail.
A common take was that Page was just an attention-hound, basking in the warm glow of the media coverage he was receiving after having been "outed" by the Steele dossier as a “Russian agent,” and that he was too stupid to realize he needed to stay out of sight and hire a very good lawyer until Mueller came for him.
Well, that isn't how the Carter Page story is going to end. It turns out there's a heck of a plot twist in the final act.
People Who Were Spying on Page Are in Real Trouble
Far from Page going to prison, it's becoming clear that the people who spied on him, based on a warrant that was only granted through acts of deliberate fraud, are in far more legal jeopardy than Page ever was.
Page not only isn't headed for prison at this stage of the so-called Spygate scandal, but he’s very likely about to watch some people who framed him as a Russian agent face serious consequences for their actions.
Former FBI Director James Comey, for example.
In a surprise move on Jan. 16, The New York Times suddenly published a story revealing that Comey is under investigation by the Department of Justice for illegally leaking classified information to the news media in 2017.
Naturally, the newspaper tried to put the best possible spin on that, calling the leaks for which Comey is being investigated “years-old.” These leaks were in 2017, which makes this spin incredibly humorous.
Comey was the head of the FBI in 2015 when the book was thrown at Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus’s crime was showing classified information to a person who wasn't authorized to see it.
You have to stop for just a moment to fully appreciate the irony of this. A guy who ran a federal law enforcement agency that investigates people for leaking classified information is now being investigated himself for leaking classified information.
I'm sure that somewhere, Page is laughing at these people and enjoying the show.Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and the author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion ... But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter @drawandstrike.