Rep. Stewart Introduces 'FISA Improvement Act' Following FBI Abuses

Susan Jones | December 12, 2019 | 5:57am EST
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Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Amid the troubling revelations in the inspector-general's FISA abuse report, a Republican congressman is proposing a FISA fix.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a member of the House intelligence committee, tweeted on Wednesday; "Today I introduced the FISA Improvements Act that will stop abuses of powerful surveillance tools by amending FISA. This adds significant requirements on the FBI & the DOJ and gives Congress critical new insight to perform oversight of the FISA powers."

Appearing with Laura Ingraham on Fox News Wednesday night, Stewart said the FISA courts are "essential to our national security, but so is protecting the constitutional rights of every American citizen, including even supporters of President Trump."

There's no question -- just no question -- that Comey and others abused that power...We have to fix it. If we don't fix it, if we don't reform it, conservatives like me won't vote to reauthorize it.

So my legislation is very simple, actually, and the American people understand it. It's not hard to get. And it would reform and take away some of that power and that potential abuse from the Director Comeys and the Director Brennans of the future.

Stewart noted that the report from Justice Department Inspector-General Michael Horowitz identified 17 specific incidents where pertinent information was not provided to the FISA courts but should have been.

"The legislation we're proposing is very simple. It creates an advocate, someone who if there's a U.S. person before the FISA court, it requires that that FISA court have an advocate that would protect that person's rights.

"It provides for a transcript. You know, one of the things when you read the FISA application, it begs so many questions, and you wonder, did the judges ask these very obvious things? I'm not an attorney, but I've read this thing, I don't know how many times. But even not an attorney, there so many things. Did the judges actually ask these questions? We don't know because there's no transcript."

In addition to requiring an advocate and a transcript, the “FISA Improvements Act” requires the Justice Department to disclose any unverified information used in the FISA warrant application; it requires the Justice Department to maintain a record of all interactions with the court; and it says the same judge (as practicable) must consider requests for extensions of a FISA order.

According to the Horowitz report, the Justice Department, at the request of the FBI, filed four applications with the FISA court seeking warrants to surveil Carter Page. The first application was filed on October 21, 2016, and three renewal applications followed, on January 12, April 7, and June 29, 2017.

A different FISA court judge considered each application and issued the requested orders, collectively resulting in approximately eleven months of FISA surveillance targeting Carter Page from October 21, 2016, to September 22, 2017.

The IG found that the FBI did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page (allegations found in the Steele dossier) in the first FISA application or subsequent renewal applications.

And the IG found that relevant information -- including the fact that Carter had a legitimate reason to be in touch with certain Russians because he was a CIA source -- was "inaccurately stated, omitted, or undocumented in the first application, and never corrected in subsequent applications.

According to the IG:

Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are "scrupulously accurate." We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed.

We found that the problems we identified were primarily caused by the Crossfire Hurricane team failing to share all relevant information with (Justice Department officials writing the application) and, consequently, the information was not considered by the Department decision makers who ultimately decided to support the applications.


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