Effing with the FISA Court

The release of the House Intelligence Committee summary centers around the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Justice Department with regard to domestic spying and the manipulation of a special and secret court established under the Federal Investigation and Surveillance Act (FISA). In case you were dead last Friday and missed the summary report and the scramble by the Democrats, the mainstream media and Shepard Smith to denounce it. Here is a one-sentence summary of that four-page summary:

President Barack Obama’s Justice Department and James Comey’s FBI misled the FISA court not once, not twice, but at least five times regarding the efficacy of the so-called Steele dossier by withholding from the court the fact that it was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign and that the Justice Department and the FBI knew the allegations in the dossier were either false or unsubstantiated.

Now you can stop right here and you will know all you need to know about the corruption of Mr. Obama’s Justice Department and James Comey’s leadership team at the FBI. Or, you can read on to understand why this is more than just your run-of-the-mill political corruption story.

The FISA court is a super secret institution created with the adoption of the Federal Investigation and Surveillance Act (FISA). It was created not because it was a good idea but rather because it was a necessary evil to prevent abuse of power by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Administration (NSA) and the Department of Justice – someone had to exercise judicial scrutiny over government wiretaps, surveillance, and other interceptions of private communications in pursuit of national security and antiterrorism – this is important because of what the Obama Justice Department and the Comey FBI actually used it for..

The FISA court is staffed by eleven sitting federal district court judges, each appointed for a seven year term by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – in this instance Chief Justice John Roberts. Four of its eleven members were nominated to their district court positions by Democrat presidents and the remainder by Republicans. Each member acts individually rather than in concert with the other judges – this is important because it allows “shopping” or waiting for a judge more sympathetic to a particular request.

The FISA courts operate in secrecy and virtually all of its proceedings are ex parte – meaning that only one side is represented. And those appearing are almost always government attorneys – Justice Department attorneys. That means that the FISA court operates within a tight little community of government lawyers and eleven judges. Those with the best knowledge of how to abuse a federal program are those who administer the program. In this instance there are a limited number of Justice Department lawyers who appear before the FISA courts and who work with an equally limited number of persons (mostly lawyers) from the FBI, CIA and NSA.

The judges of the FISA court rely on the honesty and integrity of the government lawyers and their witnesses who appear before them. Familiarity breeds acceptance and then greater reliance. In this instance, the Justice Department lawyers and their FBI witnesses decided to withhold critical information from the judges – information that if disclosed would have led to the judges more thorough examination of the evidence presented and, in turn, the likely rejection of the request based on the fact that the central evidence – the Steele dossier – was a political hit job bought and paid for by the Democrat National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign with funds it sought to disguise by using a law firm as a “cut out.” And add to that the fact that the FBI was unable to verify the critical information in the dossier and what information it could verify demonstrated it was false and that the FBI itself thought Mr. Steele was an unreliable informant. As noted above, these proceedings are all ex parte and so there is no one to object, no one to cross examine the witnesses, no one to dispute the integrity of documents, and, and most importantly, no one to introduce exculpatory evidence that the Justice Department lawyers have chosen to withhold. And, in this instance, the judges, relying on the information presented and unaware of the information withheld, approved the wiretaps on the campaign of Donald Trump.

Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe – a person up to his neck in this scandal – testified that but for the Steele dossier the FISA court would not have authorized the warrants for the wiretaps. Mr. McCabe, himself a beneficiary of Democrat and Hillary Clinton’s largesse by virtue of the fact that they gave his wife over $500,000 in funds for her unsuccessful campaign for the Virginia state legislature, abruptly submitted his resignation after being relieved of his duties following a review of the House Intelligence Committee report by his superior, the newly appointed head of the FBI, Christopher Wray.

And the FISA courts should be outraged by the conduct of lawyers from the Justice Department, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as well as agents from the FBI, including Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Justice Department attorney Lisa Page. Were I a judge sitting on the FISA court I would have already delivered Orders to Show Cause why these parties, as well as other participating in this ruse, should not be held in contempt, the FISA warrants cancelled, the information gathered from them destroyed, and those summoned barred from further appearances before the FISA courts. At the conclusion of the hearings, I would have then forwarded the information for the hearing to the state bar associations to which these miscreants have been admitted with a request that they be immediately suspended and thereafter disbarred.

So now to why is this of significant importance? Lord Acton (Sir John Dahlberg-Acton) famously stated:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The FBI is basically composed of two disparate groups: the agents, including specialists, who do the work vs. the Seventh Floor wherein resides the leadership of the FBI. It is not unlike most bureaucracies where there is distrust between senior management and those they manage. Salaries, promotions and awards are based primarily on merit in the FBI until access to the senior management positions and then it is based primarily on fealty to those already in senior management positions. These are the political appointees. Not that they are Democrats or Republicans rather that they think and act as one with those who have appointed them – in this case they were Comey men and women. It is they who have accumulated power and as the principle law enforcement agency of the country with virtually unlimited resources and technical capability that power is immense. The secrets of the nation and its politicians reside at the FBI under the protection of those on the Seventh Floor. It harkens back to the day of J. Edgar Hoover who compiled enormous dossiers on politicians and began his conversations with them by noting that he had their file right in front of him before asking a favor and deflecting a request.

The power that James Comey and his minions possessed was threatened by an outsider that promised to “drain the swamp.” The election of Mr. Trump made them nervous and they used their power to eliminate or compromise his promise to “drain the swamp” – to root out the bureaucratic abuse of power and to shine light on the corruption that exists to retain power. In this instance, the use of the power was aimed at manipulating an election and having failed at that to de-legitimize a president. In this effort they found common cause with Democrats who still cannot believe that Hillary Clinton could lose the presidential election.

These actions were designed to tear at the very fabric of a democratic society – free and fair elections. And while we are rightfully fearful of external efforts (Russia, China, etc.) to compromise our electoral process we should be equally fearful of internal efforts – the use of government resources to influence, disrupt and invalidate such elections. That is why this is so important.

The concentration of power has left us vulnerable to those who would abuse it.