While Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee continue to spar over the circumstances that led to the court-authorized surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, The New York Times and a First Amendment advocacy group have gone right to the heart of the issue.
The Times and the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School have asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to simply make public its order and the government’s warrant applications.
Yes, it would be a first. The court’s proceedings have always been secret. And, the motion filed with the court notes that it could impose “limited redactions necessary to maintain the secrecy of non-public information, the disclosure of which could still reasonably be expected to harm the national security. . .”
Sure, much of what the court does deals with issues of terrorism — and no one wants to open the books on genuine national security issues. But let’s face it, there is no longer any secret about when the initial request was made (Oct. 21, 2016), that it was renewed three times and that it authorized the continued surveillance of Page. So the big “secrets” are already out there, thanks to the already released GOP memo.
What isn’t known — and what remains the heart of the two warring partisan memos (the Democratic one now being withheld pending substantial redactions) — is what formed the basis for the surveillance of Page.
Did the FBI and the Justice Department attempt to use the controversial Christopher Steele dossier, funded by Democrats, to justify the surveillance, as the Republican memo charges — and thus attempt to deceive the court? Or was the dossier one of any number of bits and pieces that justified the warrant on Page, who had previously come under FBI scrutiny for his dealings with Russians. Did the GOP memo, therefore, only tell a small part of the story?
Oh, no, not that! Partisans acting like partisans.
Most folks would like to believe that the judges who serve on the FISA court are neither legal naifs nor rubber stamps for whatever government lawyers want. And most people also know that the government is often guilty of classifying entirely too much information. That the not-very-enlightening Republican memo had to be declassified surely speaks to that issue.
To continue to keep the FBI’s warrant application secret at this point and in a case where there is intense public interest is counterproductive. It’s high time for a dose of sunlight on this case.
(c)2018 the Boston Herald
Visit the Boston Herald at www.bostonherald.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.