Let’s take a step back and try to examine the Nunes/Gowdy FISA abuse memo as dispassionately as we can.
First, it’s not the bombshell that Republican Trump supporters were hoping it might be.
As Rep. Trey Gowdy pointed out, several different times, over the weekend – the FISA Abuse memo does not speak to the Russia investigation, or to the possibility that there was obstruction of justice from the executive branch. The only issue that the memo speaks to is FBI malfeasance in respect to the FISA warrant against Carter Page. That’s it. That’s all.
So, the memo does nothing to help the Trump administration quash the Mueller investigation, nor will it get Democrats to stand down on their fake cries of “obstruction.”
At Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano explains that the GOP may have overpromised and underdelivered.
Secondly, it sure does seem like several high-ranking members of the FBI and the DOJ (during the Obama era) were biased against the Trump administration and acted on their biases.
Andrew Klavan at the City Journal played the “what if it was a Republican” game, proving that the ongoing scandal is worse than the Democrats/Media are letting on.
Scandal is not an exact science. But on a scale of “nothingburger” (Bret Stephens of the New York Times) to “worse than Watergate” (GOP congressman Steve King), the information in the House Intelligence Committee FISA Memo comes in at about a solid seven. It now seems very likely the FBI and Department of Justice deceived a FISA court with an uncorroborated piece of Democrat-funded oppo research in order to obtain a warrant to spy on American citizen Carter Page. If, as seems reasonable to conjecture, the broader target turns out to have been the Donald Trump presidential campaign for which Page had recently worked, the needle on the scandal meter will begin to edge up into the red zone.
Let’s put it this way: if this sort of thing had gone on under President Trump or even George W. Bush, the Times would have announced the news in front-page headlines so large it would have taken two strong men just to carry the letters to the press room. An enormous collection of Times reportage on the subject—with a black cover and some title like “The Path to Tyranny”—would have been on the bookstore shelves within the month.
And yet mainstream journalism’s reaction to the memo has so diverged from its past practices—and indeed from the media’s usual narrative about its own heroic role in our republic—that it constitutes a sort of meta-scandal within the scandal that in some ways is more dispiriting than the FISA scandal itself.
Thirdly, and probably the place that we should really be focused, the FBI likely violated the Woods Procedures which were established to protect Americans from the misuse of the FISA system.
What are the “Woods Procedures?” They were procedures instituted back in the Spring of 2001 which were supposed to guarantee that from that point on, any FISA warrant requested would contain only information that had first been vetted and verified as accurate. Why? Because prior to the procedures being implemented there had been a number of cases where FISA warrants had been granted based on unverified (and eventually disproven) information, which created serious problems for the intelligence community when they were caught violating the 4th Amendment rights of American citizens. To avoid this problem in the future FBI official Michael Woods drafted procedures for future FISA warrant applications.
Sadly, it seems that in the case of Carter Page, the FBI violated the Woods Procedures and likely violated the 4th Amendment rights of Carter Page.
Interestingly, in 2003, then FBI Director Robert Mueller instituted an even more severe policy and demanded that “any issue as to whether a FISA application was factually sufficient was to be brought to his attention. Personally.”
The fact that the FISA warrant against Carter Page likely violated the Woods Procedures creates a very serious situation, and it’s one that most in the media are missing. Sharyl Attkisson explains:
Perhaps we will eventually learn that there’s a good reason unverified material was given to the court. Maybe there was no violation of rules or processes.But there’s a reason Woods Procedures exist in the first place. They aren’t arcane rules that could have been overlooked or misunderstood by the high-ranking and seasoned professionals working under the Obama and Trump administrations who touched the four Carter Page wiretap applications and renewals. And unless they’ve secretly been lifted or amended, Woods Procedures aren’t discretionary.In the past, when the FBI has presented inaccuracies to the FISA court, it’s been viewed so seriously that it’s drawn the attention of the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates Justice Department attorneys accused of misconduct or crimes in their professional functions.
This 3rd and final point is where the media should be focusing their time and attention (though the issue of possible bias in the FBI is also a big problem, and there is evidence enough for us all to be worried).
As Attkisson points out, if this were a different time (like say, the Bush years) Congress, the DOJ, and the media would be VERY interested in HOW this FISA warrant had been obtained and WHY the FBI saw fit to include unverified, and even debunked accounts from the Steele Dossier in their warrant application.
Ah, the good old days.
But we don’t live there anymore. Today we live in the hyper-partisan Trump era, where the only thing that matters to Democrats/media is undermining the Trump administration, and so they ignore the very real, and very scary possibility that the FBI purposely misled the FISA court and violated the 4th Amendment rights of an American citizen (and worse still – probably for the political gain of one party over another).
On one side we have the GOP overblowing their evidence and focusing in on the “wrong” scandals, and on the other we have the Democrats and the media covering up their own assaults on the Constitution and our civil liberties. In between, we have the intelligence community taking sides based on their political orientation.
Lastly, on the outside looking in are the American people whose rights and liberties have become play things for the crony establishment.
These are dangerous times folks.