GOHMERT: It’s Time For The House Judiciary Committee To Obtain Secret FISA Transcripts
Now that the memo prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Majority regarding a warrant obtained from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court has been made public, the very existence of a secret United States court has come into question.
The creation of such a court that allows the federal government to obtain secret warrants to spy on American citizens has long been a concern for civil liberty defenders. Modern technological advances that allow our federal government to watch and listen to Americans through our myriad of electronic devices already challenge protections provided by Fourth Amendment. This memo has revealed that in the secret FISA court, Fourth Amendment protections are illusory, especially if you’re connected with the Trump Presidential Campaign.
For our own Department of Justice to use a dossier created and paid for on behalf of one political party to spy on individuals in the campaign of the other party shakes the very foundation of our constitutional republic. Every American who is not completely motivated by party politics should be exceedingly concerned that a federal judge would accept such evidence without an adequate basis for its reliability. For this to go unchecked and unquestioned and, in fact, be renewed three additional times moves America in the direction of places like Venezuela or Russia, where the party in power is able to use every aspect of government as a weapon against its own citizens who might oppose it.
What is especially alarming is that instead of sharing in our concern, congressional Democrats are working to discredit the memo and its findings, despite the fact that the FBI and DOJ have not disputed the veracity of its content.
By their actions, congressional Democrats have indicated that the FBI and DOJ’s illegal spying is completely justified because of a “salacious” and unverified dossier on Carter Page, since he was a Trump campaign volunteer.
In other words, House and Senate Democrats are inferentially saying that it is perfectly fine if President Trump were to pay for a fictitious story made up by people who hate Democrats and use that fiction to have the DOJ spy on or wiretap potential political opponents for 2020. At least, that’s the message they are sending if they want to avoid being total hypocrites.
It is absolutely imperative that we ascertain whether or not there was any legitimate, independent and untainted evidence to justify the court’s warrant to spy on an American citizen and obtain multiple renewals of their warrant.
In addition, the role of the “Woods Procedures” in verifying the information used to obtain the warrant on Carter Page must be thoroughly examined.
The former Unit Chief of the FBI’s National Security Law Unit, Michael Woods, wrote these procedures to ensure information used before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was accurate. The Woods Procedures mandate disclosure of the existence and nature of any criminal investigations involving the target, and the existence and nature of any prior or ongoing asset relationship between the target and the FBI, in addition to verification of the facts supporting probable cause for a warrant.
The Woods Procedures required verification and documentation at many levels within the FBI and DOJ before a FISA application could be approved, signed, and then presented to the FISC. The same information is supposed to be checked and double checked by multiple persons throughout the process.
Given the extensive verification process required to finalize a FISA application, and the number of senior officials that signed off on the multiple warrants for surveillance of Carter Page, it is truly a mystery how the “salacious and unverified” Steele dossier ever made it past these checks and into the courtroom. Could it be that all those safeguards were not utilized, or is it that all the individuals participating in the procedures had been corrupted or politicized?
For example, the fact that Christopher Steele was at one time a FBI informant and then had that status terminated, should have been revealed and identified to the FISA judge at some point during this process.
When the DOJ does not supply a truthful, legitimate basis for evidence submitted, the FISA judge personally stands between a weaponized system of injustice and the freedom of American citizens. Our Congress is the creator of every single federal court except for the Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee and Congress stand, therefore, as the monitor and guardian over the jurisdiction, rules, and actions of every court we created. If a court under our purview is inadequate for the task it was assigned, we must act to fix the system.
It is our own Constitution that seeks to prevent destruction of constitutionally intended rights through our congressional oversight. That means in the current situation, with the knowledge we now have, our Judiciary Committee must request the transcripts of the four times, or possibly more, when the FISA court took up the issue of a warrant on anyone associated with the Trump campaign or Trump administration to determine whether or not such a court functioned as it was legislatively intended to do.
Rep. Gohmert is the vice chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and the vice chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Prior to being elected to serve in Congress, he was elected to three terms as a district judge in Smith County, Texas and was appointed by then Texas Gov. Rick Perry to complete a term as Chief Justice of the 12th Court of Appeals.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.