Shut down the FISA court

By Christopher Harper

It’s time to get rid of the secret court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, better known as FISA.

The approval of warrants to investigate the Trump campaign is the latest abuse of the court, which was created in 1978 to limit spying.

A FISA warrant is one of the most aggressive searches, authorizing the FBI “to conduct, simultaneous telephone, microphone, cell phone, email, and computer surveillance of the U.S. person target’s home, workplace, and vehicles,” as well as “physical searches of the target’s residence, office, vehicles, computer, safe deposit box, and U.S. mails,” as a FISA court decision noted. 

Even more important, the FISA court is extremely deferential, allowing about 99 percent of all warrant requests.

But there’s more. The FISA court has a long history of abuse. 

James Bovard, the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, provided some of the details:

–In 2002, the FISA court revealed that FBI agents made false or misleading claims in 75 cases.

–In 2005, FISA Chief Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly proposed requiring FBI agents to swear to the accuracy of the information they presented. That never happened because it could have “slowed such investigations drastically,” the Washington Post reported. FBI agents continued to exploit FISA secrecy to lie to the judges.

–In 2017, a FISA court decision included a 10-page litany of FBI violations, which “ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight.”

–Earlier this year, a secret FISA court ruling was released documenting the FBI’s illegal searches of vast numbers of Americans’ emails.

Keep in mind, the FISA court is closed to the public and the press, unlike almost every other court in the country. Therefore, there is virtually no oversight of the FISA court. 

The critics of the FISA court come from both sides of the political spectrum. Maybe there’s hope that this egregious example of injustice can be shut down.

Although many conservatives think the FISA court is useful in fighting terrorism, I think its abuses far outweigh its benefits.

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