President Trump Is Right: Don’t Renew FISA

By Brian Cates
Brian Cates
Brian Cates
Brian Cates is a former contributor. He is based in South Texas and the author of “Nobody Asked for My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!”
May 28, 2020Updated: May 28, 2020


President Donald Trump took to Twitter on May 26 to express his growing concern about the coming vote in Congress to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) program.

“I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!”

The president is right. There have been two major developments in the past six months that call the entire idea of such surveillance powers into serious question.

A damning report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released on Dec. 9, 2019, revealed how FBI officials bluffed their way to a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, even while not having evidence to support such surveillance.

These same FBI officials then had that fraudulent warrant renewed three times, based on the same flawed information.

In theory, the standard for getting a surveillance warrant to spy on an American citizen should be very high. That’s one of the chief reasons the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was created in the first place in 1978, at the height of the Cold War.

It was understood there needed to be a delicate balance between spotting and surveilling foreign spies and agents operating on U.S. soil, while at the same time protecting the civil liberties and rights of American citizens.

But it has become clear that there is recent abuse of the FISA system; this has been documented by both former NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers and Horowitz.

Disturbed by the behavior of the FBI officials in the case of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, Horowitz announced immediately after the release of his report on Dec. 9 that his office was going to go back and review other FISA cases to ensure DOJ and FBI procedures were properly followed.

Horowitz subsequently released another damning report in late March that clearly illustrated just how badly the FISA system was abused.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that prefaces the new report, Horowitz said:

“As an initial step in our audit, over the past 2 months, we visited 8 FBI field offices of varying sizes and reviewed a judgmentally selected sample of 29 applications relating to U.S. Persons and involving both counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations. This sample was selected from a dataset provided by the FBI that contained more than 700 applications relating to U.S. Persons submitted by those 8 field offices over a 5-year period.”

The inspector general discovered, much to his horror, that there were violations of procedure in every one of the 29 FISA warrants it investigated as part of this review.

Four of the surveillance cases of U.S. citizens reviewed by the OIG didn’t even have the required-by-law Woods File, which is the file the case agents create to compile all the evidence supporting the claims made against the target.

Here’s how Horowitz broke the bad news to Wray in his summary letter:

“As a result of our audit work to date and as described below, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy… Our lack of confidence that the Woods Procedures are working as intended stems primarily from the fact that:

“(1) we could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed;

“(2) our testing of FISA applications to the associated Woods Files identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications we reviewed, and interviews to date with available agents or supervisors in field offices generally have confirmed the issues we identified.”

That means besides the Page case, there are at least four other surveillance cases that were blatantly illegal. Who were the U.S. citizens in those cases, and what was the FBI claiming to the FISA Court about them without even bothering to try to verify any of the supporting evidence in the legally required Woods File?

Instead of the FISA Court functioning as the intended sober safeguard against surveillance abuses, mounting evidence has revealed it to be a mere rubber stamp, giving federal officials filling out these shoddy warrants pretty much everything they asked for without any real oversight or pushback.

And what’s becoming all too apparent is that bad actors inside federal agencies took full advantage.

And now, due to documentary evidence being declassified, people such as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) have been vindicated, and some of his former critics are now joining him in raising the alarm about this massive scandal.

The sheer weight of the emerging evidence has demonstrated that what should have been impossible did indeed happen. Every single safeguard, every one of the barriers to prevent politically motivated spying was successfully subverted. And this could only have been done from inside the system.

FISA is now up for renewal, and after what Horowitz uncovered in these two explosive reports, there’s no way a responsible government can move forward to continue to allow the FISA system to operate without very real and serious reforms.

Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter @drawandstrike.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.