“”When the Justice Department’s Inspector General finds significant concerns regarding flawed surveillance applications concerning the president’s campaign advisors, it is clear that this regime lacks basic safeguards and is in need of serious reform. While the report found that there wasn’t an improper purpose or initiation of the investigation, it also found significant problems that are alarming from a civil liberties perspective. For instance, the litany of problems with the Carter Page surveillance applications demonstrates how the secrecy shrouding the government’s one-sided FISA approval process breeds abuse. The concerns the Inspector General identifies apply to intrusive investigations of others, including especially Muslims, and far better safeguards against abuse are necessary.
The system requires fundamental reforms, and Congress can start by providing defendants subjected to FISA surveillance the opportunity to review the government’s secret submissions. The FBI must also adopt higher standards for investigations involving constitutionally protected sensitive activities, such as political campaigns.””
“the report by Michael Horowitz found 17 “serious performance failures” relating to warrants obtained by the FBI through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment (FISA) courts for the purposes of monitoring Page. The FISA warrant, which was reauthorized three times, contained false and misleading information about Page. It omitted that he had previously disclosed his Russian contacts to a government agency; it overstated the government’s confidence in the Christopher Steele dossier and ignored Steele’s own doubts about one of his sources; it declined to mention that Page had said he and Paul Manafort had “literally never met”; and in general it ignored information that rendered unlikely the theory that Page was a Russian asset.
These are alarming failures. They undercut the government’s position that FISA courts are a sufficient guardian of Americans’ civil liberties, and that the FBI is capable of responsibly exercising the vast powers granted to it. No one should feel confident that a court would block the FBI from engaging in surveillance, even if the information was flawed or faulty.”
“Horowitz himself acknowledged Wednesday that this was the first time anybody in the Office of the Inspector General had delved into the contents of a specific FISA warrant application. When Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) asked him how frequently he found mistakes in these warrant applications, he explained to her that his office had only in the past done “high-level” reviews of the process. None of us outside the FBI can say, with the information we have right now, how typical this behavior is. We do know that while the FISA court has approved nearly all surveillance warrants (99 percent of them), the court has inquired and received additional information or changes to the warrant applications about a quarter of the time.
The good news from Horowitz’s report is that the inspector general is not going to wait for either Congress or Attorney General William Barr to decide what to do in a highly politicized environment. The Office of the Inspector General will audit the FBI to determine how well the warrants against those 232 other Americans will withstand this sort of scrutiny.
Next year we’ll see how serious Sasse and Graham are about FISA reform. An extension of PATRIOT Act surveillance authorities was shoved into a stopgap spending bill passed (primarily by Democrats) in November. That extension expires in March. At that point, Congress will have to decide whether it really wants to reform how secret surveillance is used against Americans or if it just cares how it affects Donald Trump.”