Sundance (@TheLastRefuge2) and a group of us on Twitter have been collectively piecing together the story behind the surveillance of the Trump team before and after the 2016 election. Based on news reports, we’ve been working under the assumption that a FISA warrant was obtained by the FBI/DOJ, which allowed the Obama administration to gather intelligence on the Trump team.
Under most circumstances, a warrant for surveillance is obtained by law enforcement to view information on U.S. citizens. Such a warrant requires probable cause of a crime. Under FISA law, probable cause of a crime is not required. The agency must establish probable cause that the person who is to be surveilled is an agent of foreign power. If a U.S. citizen’s communications are incidentally picked up, they are to be ignored unless certain criteria are met.
Current thinking suggests that Carter Page, a member of Trump’s team, was in contact with a foreign agent, which gave the FBI and DOJ a reason to spy on him. The belief is that the FBI/DOJ applied for a FISA warrant in the summer of 2016 which was denied. It is believed a second application was submitted in October to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and was approved.
Recent events have caused us to re-examine some of these assumptions. Sundance asked the question: Is there any hard evidence proving that the FBI/DOJ obtained a FISA warrant?
He offered a $1,000 reward for proof.
OK, GREAT. Who? Show me a reputable media outlet proving today that Devin Nunes received the *FISA WARRANTS*(<- specific), and I’ll give you an immediate $1,000. [Heck, even if you can prove he looked at one, you can have the $1k] https://t.co/bLaYoAIJQ8
— TheLastRefuge (@TheLastRefuge2) January 10, 2018
I did some digging to determine exactly where the idea came from that a FISA application by the FBI/DOJ had been approved. The stories I found in the New York Times, Wahington Post and other news sources all pointed to a Heat Street article written by Louise Mensch. When I looked for Mensch’s story, all the links were dead. It had been removed from the internet. I did find an archived copy here: http://archive.is/JwNBs
Mensch attributes her report that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to “Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community.” No names were given. Just two anonymous sources. The article placed the date of the warrant as October of 2016.
For background, I’m including links to other news outlets that reported on the story. Here’s an article from Washington Post, which cites the Heat Street story by Mensch: http://wapo.st/2qWGn2P
New York Times published a story which referred to the WaPo story which is shown below. http://nyti.ms/2o8fQcL
Washington Post ran a story that independently reported the FISA warrant had been issued, but again, they could only cite anonymous counterintelligence sources: http://wapo.st/2qWGRpF
A third independent report on the approval of the FISA warrant was written by Paul Wood of BBC. Again, the author cited unnamed sources in the intelligence community. http://bbc.in/2jFSNaM
Lastly, there’s a story by The Guardian which attempted to confirm the first FISA application but couldn’t independently confirm the second. The author speculated that the BBC and Heat Street stories about the approval of the second application were true. http://bit.ly/2lr5Tcl
All the stories claiming that a FISA warrant was obtained by the FBI/DOJ cite anonymous sources. The main story by Louise Mensch has been pulled. If we’re going to base our belief that a FISA warrant was obtained on news reports, there is little reliable evidence to support that idea.
But it gets worse.
President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said if the FBI obtained a FISA warrant, he would know about it. He flat out denied that there was one in an interview with Chuck Todd.
Some would argue that Clapper is a known liar and it’s possible that he denied knowledge of a FISA warrant to cover for the Obama administration. Here’s the problem with that line of reasoning:
If there was a legally obtained FISA warrant, the Obama administration followed the law. They had nothing to hide and no reason to lie about it. Moreover, If at any time in the future, evidence came to light that there was a FISA warrant, Clapper would be proven to be a liar. He stood to lose a lot if there was a FISA warrant and he knowingly lied about it. And he had nothing to gain by lying.
In the article describing the documents given to Devin Nunes by Rod Rosenstein about the Trump-Russia investigation which was published a few days ago, the FISA 702 applications are conspicuously absent. Sundance asked if anyone had any info on them, again offering a $1,000 reward. No one has offered any information to date. http://bit.ly/2AHYitl
We know that the Trump team was spied on by the Obama administration. But there is little hard evidence suggesting that they obtained a warrant to do it. Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence says they didn’t have one.
Was there a FISA warrant?
Or was the narrative about it just a cover story?
I’ll leave you with one last question:
What would happen if it were proven that a sitting President spied on an opposing political candidate and his campaign team without obtaining a warrant?