Lawmakers Say the FBI's Problematic Carter Page Warrants Require Congressional Surveillance Reforms

A bipartisan coalition wants to restrain secret snooping and create more independent oversight of the secretive FISA Court.


A bipartisan group in Congress is attempting (again) to pass legislation that would restrict the National Security Agency from abusing the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment (FISA) Court in order to collect and access private records of Americans.

The Safeguarding Americans' Private Records Act would formally prohibit the bulk collection of Americans' phone records, which Edward Snowden exposed and the NSA has since quietly ended. Despite years of government officials defending the practice, the mass collection of all our phone and internet records has not been shown to assist the government in fighting terrorism.

The bill would also prohibit warrantless collection of geolocation information and it would forbid the NSA and other intelligence agencies from creating "secret" interpretations of surveillance laws, which is how the NSA used Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to justify mass domestic data collection in a way that the Act's primary sponsor, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R–Wis.), says he never intended.

The bill also seeks to address some of the institutional problems with the FISA Court, recently revealed by the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) review of the warrant applications FBI agents submitted in order to wiretap former Donald Trump aide Carter Page. The OIG determined that the FBI made a number of errors and omitted important details in its warrant applications. (More news on this dropped today: A December letter from the FISA Court was just declassified showing that the Justice Department now believes that two of the warrant applications targeting Page are not valid due to the omissions.)

In the wake of that review, the FISA Court has demanded that the FBI make changes to its warrant application process so that the court receives all of the information it needs to approve or deny a warrant that would allow the government to secretly surveil Americans.

The FISA Court operates in secret, and potential surveillance targets do not have the ability to contest warrant applications. However, in the wake of the OIG's report on Page, the Court has appointed former DOJ attorney David Kris to advise it on potential reforms. Kris reviewed the FBI's proposed reforms and recommended an even more aggressive review process.

The Safeguarding Americans' Private Records Act would allow independent advisers like Kris ("amici curiae," in the bill's language) to access all the reports, transcripts, and pleadings submitted to the FISA Court. These advisors would theoretically thus be in a position to offer an adversarial perspective to the Court. While working at the Justice Department in the 2000s, for example, Kris dissented from President George W. Bush's use of the PATRIOT Act to collect domestic records. Under this bill, Kris and people like him could make their case directly to the FISA Court.

Finally, the bill would increase reporting requirements so that the public would have a better idea of how federal law enforcement agencies use the PATRIOT Act to conduct domestic surveillance. The bill would also empower the Office of the Inspector general to investigate whether this surveillance has been used against people who are engaged in First Amendment-protected activities, and the extent to which agencies are collecting information about people who have not been specifically targeted (known as "backdoor collection").

The bill has Democratic and Republican sponsors in both the House and Senate. In the Senate, it's sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) and Steve Daines (R–Mont.). In the House, it's sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.), Warren Davidson (R–Ohio), and Pramila Jayapal (D–Wash.). It has support on the left from digital activist group Demand Progress and on the right from conservative/libertarian Tea Party activists at FreedomWorks.

"Liberty and security aren't mutually exclusive, and they aren't partisan either," Wyden said in a prepared statement. "I'm proud our bipartisan coalition is standing up for Americans' rights and commonsense reforms to protect our people against unnecessary government surveillance. This bill preserves authorities the government uses against criminals and terrorists, while putting Americans' constitutional rights front and center."

Read the bill for yourself here.

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  1. “In the wake of that review, the FISA Court has demanded that the FBI make changes to its warrant application process so that the court receives all of the information it needs to approve or deny a warrant that would allow the government to secretly surveil Americans.”

    Who will watch the watchers?

    I suppose this is all welcome, but unless someone is prosecuted for willfully deceiving the FISA Court, there is no real accountability here.

    The Justice Department is fully aware of the necessity of prosecuting people in order to deter crime with real accountability, which is why they prosecute people for crimes that the FBI brings to their attention.

    Someone needs to pay for this.

    1. Exactly. A new law doesn’t fix this at all. This was a violation of the law and no one has been sanctioned for it.

      1. Yeah, what’s the point of making it against the law if the law will never be enforced?

        1. The prisoners have tunneled out of the cell so we’re going to put a second lock on the cell door.

            1. Hope I can remember it. Great analogy

        2. Oh it’ll get enforced… against the right people.

      2. This was a violation of the law and no one has been sanctioned for it.

        When the FF said “high crimes and misdemeanors” they meant a specific and real crime like quid pro quo perpetrated on the Ukraine, not a fake crime that no state has on the books like “Don’t spying on Americans without a warrant or with a warrant attained under false pretenses from a secret intelligence court”.

    2. Agreed….POTUS Trump should start by firing Christopher Wray. The man has the emotional intelligence of a slug.

    3. James Clapper should be in a jail cell.

      1. And Brennan and Comey

    4. Yeah, newsflash Shackford:

      It wasn’t ‘problematic’ it was illegaL

      Had Trump done this to Baby Biden it would be the END of the REPUBLIC.

  2. This is pretty simple.

    One: Abolish the FISA court immediately
    Two: Slim down the FBI to something just short of complete dismantlement in 12 months.

    Bonus….Some FBI leadership must do a public perp walk, on their way to jail where they belong.

    1. Drain the swamp!

  3. It’s not “problematic”, it’s illegal as hell and someone should be called to account for it.

  4. Ironically, you know why we’re not going to get Congressional surveillance reform?

    Congressional surveillance.

    Yeah, we let it go too far, for too long, and too many members of Congress know that they could be ruined by the intelligence services.

    1. Yeah “oopsie”. They totally didn’t mean for that to happen…

  5. The same legislators who used it as a pretext for impeachment while you championed their cause unquestioningly and accused anyone who suggested impropriety of being a partisan Trump stooge? Those legislators?

    Fuck them and fuck you, you mendacious fucking faggot.

    1. +100.

      If you support the impeachment, you can’t turn around and complain about the investigation. The evidence (what little there is) is tainted and must be thrown out, and therefor there’s no reasonable case for impeachment.

      You can’t have it both ways.

      1. How is FISA connected to Trump’s impeachment?

    2. Don’t sugarcoat it, Buck. Tell us what you really think.

  6. This is a joke. No “adviser” is going to be able to tell if the FBI is lying or withholding something. There is no system that can account for the people in it lying and committing perjury.

    The solution here is to charge and convict the people responsible for the Page Warrant for perjury and false official statement and send them to prison. The more federal agents you send to prison, the more likely the others will decide perjuring themselves for the RESISTANCE isn’t worth the risk.

    1. And make it a strict liability offense for the FBI not to record any interrogation, or to “lose” any recording.

  7. Read the bill for yourself here.

    What?! And end up on *another* list?!

  8. Eliminate the FISA court. The FBI ain’t the guys to go after spies anyway.
    Eliminate all armed federal agencies except military and one “cop” kind of group. Maybe Secret Service. Keep the cop group small.

  9. what are they trying to do now?

  10. No, it requires prosecutions and prison sentences.

  11. 1. Major house cleaning of the FBI and the DOJ.
    2. FISA court disbanded.
    3. Former FBI and DOJ employees prosecuted and if found guilty go to the Colorado Supermax. They are after all more dangerous to the nation than the shoe bomber.
    4. Start vigorous prosecution of perjury at all levels of law enforcement nationwide.

    1. New Federal law: Conviction for perjury in the course of government employment duties leads to forfeiture of all pension or other defined benefit.

      Mail carriers currently face similar sanctions for loss of any registered mail gold shipment in their possession.

  12. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour…….Read MoRe

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