Judicial Watch announced that documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that the Obama Department of Justice did not request a formal FISA court hearing to obtain warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
While a court hearing is not necessary to obtain a FISA warrant, it’s shocking that a request to spy on the campaign of the opposition party did not trigger extra caution that a court hearing would have demonstrated.
In the filing the Justice Department finally revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held no hearings on the Page FISA spy warrants, first issued in 2016 and subsequently renewed three times:
[National Security Division] FOIA consulted [Office of Intelligence] … to identify and locate records responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request…. [Office of Intelligence] determined … that there were no records, electronic or paper, responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request with regard to Carter Page. [Office of Intelligence] further confirmed that the [Foreign Surveillance Court] considered the Page warrant applications based upon written submissions and did not hold any hearings.
The arrogance of these people is astounding, as JW President Thomas Fitton points out:
“It is disturbing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance courts rubber-stamped the Carter Page spy warrants and held not one hearing on these extraordinary requests to spy on the Trump team,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Perhaps the court can now hold hearings on how justice was corrupted by material omissions that Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the DNC, a conflicted Bruce Ohr, a compromised Christopher Steele, and anti-Trumper Peter Strzok were all behind the ‘intelligence’ used to persuade the courts to approve the FISA warrants that targeted the Trump team.”
It is extremely rare for a FISA court to deny a warrant request from the government. But don’t you think that in a case where the government is proposing to spy on a political campaign of the opposition party that more careful consideration should have been warranted? It makes it appear that the Department of Justice wanted to avoid the extra scrutiny that a FISA judge would give the warrant request.
And why would that be? Could it be that they knew full well that the case for a warrant on Page was not only thin, but damn near invisible, and based on highly questionable and partisan sources?
Carter Page was a minor aide who apparently bragged about his connections to Russia and exaggerated his influence with Trump. He did it to make money fraudulently. This makes him a crook, not a spy. He was no more a threat to national security than my pet cat Snowball. But bugging him and reading his emails would give DoJ an immediate entry into the inner workings of the Trump campaign.
And avoiding close examination by a judge into the reasons for the FISA warrant was more important than even a minimum amount of transparency with the FISA court.