- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018

The secretive surveillance court President Trump has accused of authorizing warrants improperly targeting his 2016 election campaign rejected a record number of applications during his first year in office, Congress learned Wednesday.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last year denied 26 applications in full and 50 applications in part, the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts wrote in a report sent to lawmakers.

Established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, the court rejected a combined total of only 21 applications in the roughly 40 years it existed before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, earning it a reputation over the decades as a “rubber stamp” court that rarely refuses to let authorities secretly surveil individuals in the U.S. accused of being spies or terrorists.

Mr. Trump has been critical of the court since taking office, however, particularly in light of reporting indicating it authorized surveillance warrants targeting individuals directly involved in his 2016 campaign, including former advisers Carter Page and Paul Manafort, and has urged the Department of Justice to investigate “potentially massive FISA abuse.”

All told the court received 1,614 applications during 2017 seeking permission to surveil suspected criminals, U.S. Courts Director James C. Duff wrote in the report.

The court approved 71 percent of the applications it received in 2017, down significantly from the 79 percent it approved during the last year of the Obama administration in 2016, the report said.

Mr. Trump has alleged that the Obama administration abused its FISA authorities by obtaining surveillance warrants that allowed the FBI to spy on Mr. Page, a foreign policy adviser to the president’s 2016 campaign, amid concerns he could be illegally conspiring with representatives of the Russian government. Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, was also wiretapped pursuant to an application approved by the FISA court, according to previous reporting.

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