Sparta Report

Nixon, Watergate, the Obama Administration and FISA Wire Taps – What is FISA?

Waking up this morning to the news about the FISA court, I had to check the date. It felt like I was back in 1973 and experiencing Watergate all over.  With Watergate and Nixon, it was news morning  and night, every day something new breaking. The only difference was that there was no 24 hour coverage. It was the broadcast networks and the Washington Post leading the coverage.

Today’s breaking news from the Trump tweets was not really a surprise in the sense that I had been reading about this for several days.  But what was the surprise was Trump firing both barrels this weekend on the tapping. I did not expect the “opening” of this new “front” in the war for his Presidency. (Do  I believe the reports? Yes!)

The essential elements of the story is that in Jun 2016, after it was clear that Trump would be the nominee, the FBI Counter Intelligence Unit drew up a warrant to take to the FISA Court to allow for wiretapping of Trump and his people. The warrant was rejected.

In October, the Counter Intelligence Unit drew up a new warrant. This focused upon the Trump server and belief in banking or financial improprieties done over the server, a very “questionable” claim being made. FISA granted the request to “wiretap” the server.

For a full read on the background, HeatStreet offers a decent analysis. And Fossten provides a sample of today’s activities here.


FISA Court

A significant part of the population has never heard of the FISA Court, so it is important to  provide information on how the Court operates to understand the “duplicity” of the DOJ in going to the Court for a warrant.

The FISA Court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) was created in 1978 through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It was created as oversight for agencies like the FBI and NSA when surveillance of foreign agents were needed. The agencies would go to the Court for wiretaps, etc., and depending upon the evidence presented, authorization would be given.

FISA granting of warrants is pretty much  a “rubber stamp” action. From inception of the Court to 2013, there have been 33,942 warrants, with only 12 denials. So the refusal of a warrant by FISA is a big deal.

When a situation arises and the FBI feels the need for a warrant, they draw up the request and take it to the Court. A single judge hears the request and then grants the warrant. There is not a multi-person review of the request.

There is a glaring exception to the standard procedure for a FISA request. If the US Attorney General believes an emergency exists, he can immediately order that surveillance start without FISA approval. He only needs to inform the Court that an emergency exists, and then apply for the warrant within 7 days of approving surveillance to begin. For a corrupt Attorney General, this exception offers the ability to initiate surveillance without cause and end it quickly if a FISA Court denies the approval.

The FISA Court is a “Secret Court”. The public cannot attend hearings, and the results of the hearings are never published. When a hearing occurs, it is only the Judge and the Government Attorney. No one else is present, so there is no “rebuttal” by defendants to requests for warrants.


Jun 2016 FISA Warrant Request

In Jun 2106, the FBI originally requested a FISA warrant to investigate and wire tap the Trump Campaign. At the time, the believed reasons given were due to a trip to Russia by Carter Page, a “claimed” Trump foreign policy advisor to the the Campaign. This occurred one week before the DNC was hacked. Added to this was concern about Paul Manafort and his connections and communications with Russia.

The FISA warrant was denied.

Speculation: This is all speculation, but I have to toss this out for consideration.

In Jun 2016, Donald Trump was the presumptive nominee for the Republican Presidential candidate. There was no doubt that he would be the nominee. If a warrant had been granted, and if “derogatory data” had been obtained about Trump, then “leaks” could have occurred impacting the Convention approval of Trump as the candidate. This would have likely caused the Convention to turn to another candidate, Paul Ryan, as the candidate. This would have made a Hillary win of the general election very likely.  “Just sayin'”.


October FISA Warrant

In early October 2016, the FBI apparently returned to the FISA Court requesting a warrant. This time it is believed that the request was much more narrow in its scope. It was seeking information on banking and financial activity. A single judge heard the request and granted the approval.

At this time, nothing is known about the request and the warrant granted. What we do know is that:

  • Attorney General Loretta Lynch would likely have been required to “sign off” on the FISA request. No agent would have taken this action without her approval.
  • The Obama people as of 1 pm est has claimed that no one in the Obama White House “ordered” the wiretap. The use of the word “ordered” is curious. It does not mean that Obama was not aware of the request. And further, it would have been Lynch giving the “approval” to go to the Court.
  • There is no information to indicate that Lynch did or did not order “emergency” surveillance before an actual warrant was issued.

Speculation: Again, we look to the timing of the request for the FISA warrant. It occurred at the beginning of October, well in time to learn if there was anything significant going on between Trump and Russia. If there had been anything important, then it is likely that it would have been released to stop Trump and to allow Hillary to win the Presidency. Again, “just sayin'”.


Final Comments

If it is true that the FBI went to FISA to obtain warrants to wiretap Trump and his activities, then this is especially disturbing on the face of it alone. Then understanding how FISA works, it becomes especially alarming when the timing of the requests occurred in relation to the Convention and later, the General Election.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch had to both know and authorize this action. It is very likely that she would have consulted with the Obama White House on this before acting. There is just no way she would do this alone.

I post again my analysis of the Obama statement today claiming that his White House did not “order” the wiretap..

The Obama people as of 1 pm est has claimed that no one in the Obama White House “ordered” the wiretap. The use of the word “ordered” is curious. It does not mean that Obama was not aware of the request. And further, it would have been Lynch giving the “approval” to go to the Court.

Obama and his people are not stating that they were not aware of the action, nor that they agreed with it. All they are stating is that they did not order it. Curious wording…..

Are we seeing another Nixon Watergate occurring?

As we go forward, the next few days will be very interesting to say the least. Stay tuned for updates……

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