The U.S. government should not use FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrants to surveil Americans but should obey the Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment, to properly conduct searches and seizures, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
Paul made the remarks during the Senate Committee on Homeland Security’s counterterrorism hearing.
“The problem is the system can be abused. … It’s admirable to have some regulations and some checks and balances you put in place,” Paul said, mentioning the FBI’s notorious Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
“But the only real fix would be we should obey the Constitution,” Paul said. “I don’t think Americans nor political candidates should be investigated using a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
Paul asked FBI Director Christopher Wray, who testified in the hearing, if it’s appropriate to use FISA warrants to investigate presidential campaigns.
The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation targeted former President Donald Trump and his campaign. However, in December 2019, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a report finding “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in FISA applications, and many additional errors during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report did not establish that Trump campaign members conspired or coordinated with Russia.
Wray said that using FISA warrants to investigate counterintelligence threats is appropriate as long as it’s done consistent with “the minimization and querying procedures that are carefully approved.”
“What that inspector general report describes by certain FBI personnel I consider to be unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI that I see every day—having joined in 2017—and not something that I think can ever happen again,” Wray said. “Second, I’ve put in place over 40 corrective measures—everything the inspector general recommended and then some—to make sure that what happened there does not happen again.”
Paul pointed out that FISA warrants have a lower standard than the Fourth Amendment.
“You use FISA warrants that do not obey the Fourth Amendment. You have a lower standard for going after foreigners. I’m actually okay with that,” Paul said. “But I’m not fine with the FISA standard for Americans, particularly Americans who are running for office, particularly for the person running for the highest office, who is interconnected with all kinds of countries and always will be.”
The Fourth Amendment prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” on Americans unless warrants are issued upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Wray said he believes the FISA court operates within the Constitution.
“We might have a difference of opinion in how we characterize it,” Wray said.
“The FISA court standard is probable cause that you have a relationship with a foreign government. It’s a much lower standard, much more open to abuse,” Paul insisted. “And you don’t have a public court, a public court or judges which might protect the rights of an individual.”
“If what happened in Crossfire Hurricane is allowed to stand and would allow the FBI to do this again, we can see a time when the intelligence agencies can completely take over our political process,” Paul added.
Kash Patel, a former House Intelligence Committee staff investigator who exposed malfeasance in the Crossfire Hurricane probe, told The Epoch Times recently that the FISA system needs reform but it should stay.
“It is valuable in targeting terrorists and preventing terrorist acts against Americans, both here and abroad, and our allies,” Patel said.
Last week, Special Counsel John Durham, who has spent the past two years investigating the origins of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe, charged Michael Sussman, a lawyer who worked with the high-powered law firm Perkins Coie on Democrat-backed election matters.
Previously, Durham handed down one indictment against former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, which resulted in a conviction.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.