- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Democrats have made it clear they’re not going to let go the contents of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report without giving it the full impeachment treatment — without scouring for any trace elements that could give them the means to topple this White House.

This is unfortunate. The Mueller investigation gives two opportunities for both parties to come together — on FISA and on law enforcement’s treatment of innocent-until-proven guilty suspects.

But politics, once again, appears to have taken precedence over the American people. What a shame.

“At Best, The FISA Application Shows FBI Misled The Court To Wiretap Trump Campaign,” Investor’s Business Daily wrote back in July of 2018.

It was that FISA document that brought on the feds’ scrutiny of then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign aide, Carter Page. The Department of Justice released a heavily redacted version of the FISA warrant that was used as justification to surveil Page.



And guess what?

Sen. Lindsey Graham put it this way: This whole FISA fiasco was but a fiasco.

“I think that the whole FISA award process needs to be looked at,” Graham said on CBS “Face the Nation” back in July, 2018. “The warrant on Carter Page was supported mostly by [the] dossier that came from [British spy guy Christopher] Steele who is being paid by the Democratic Party to do opposition research … and if you ask the FBI today how much of the dossier on Trump has been verified — almost none of it. … If the dossier is the reason you issued the warrant, it was a bunch of garbage.”

Agree with Graham or not, the fact is FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the court proceedings authorized by it are to enable surveillance of foreigners believed to be spies, or on agents working with foreign powers — the key word here being foreign.

American citizens are not supposed to be FISA’d unless there are clear indications they’re spying, unless they’re seen as working in cahoots with foreigners to undermine America. And as James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, underscored in his previous deceitful testimony before Congress, federal authorities aren’t exactly to be trusted when it comes to spying on American citizens absent duly issued warrants.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“The U.S. government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in massive, illegal dragnet surveillance of the domestic communications … of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported.

Clapper, you may recall, called that unwitting. Then, confronted by facts, he changed his tune and acknowledged having known of the surveillance.

So when you consider the willingness of federal authorities to break laws and bend rules and violate citizens’ constitutional protections in order to accomplish their security designs — and perhaps, their political designs — well then, the whole FISA system, already a tad un-American due to its cloak of secrecy, becomes even more suspect.

In 1979, the FISA court approved 207 applications for surveillance. In 2000, that number, for the first time, surpassed the triple digits — 1,012 applications were approved. Between 2005 and 2008, the approval rate again hit historic highs, with 2,072, then 2,176, then 2,370 and finally 2,083 applications green-lighted. During President Donald Trump’s time in office, the number’s fallen, from 1,451 approved in 2016 to 948 approved in 2017.

No matter how you slice it, FISA applications and surveillance warrants have been on the rise in America since the court’s inception. 

This should concern all Americans, of all political walks and of all partisan bearings. The Constitution is clear on the rights of citizens to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, and courts conducted in secret that give thumbs-up to warrantless surveillance threaten these clear citizen-centered rights.

So, too, when law enforcement is allowed to act with impunity while arresting suspects.

FBI Arrests Roger Stone In Pre-Dawn Raid,” ran one RealClearPolitics headline in January.

FBI’s show of force in Roger Stone arrest spurs criticism of Mueller tactics,” ran another headline from Fox News in the same time frame.

The headlines teased of the story of how a dozen tactical gear-wearing special agents surrounded Stone’s Florida home, CNN camera crew coincidentally in tow, and then banged on the door in the dead of night, demanding he make an appearance.

Stone described it this way: “At the crack of dawn, 29 FBI agents arrived at my home with 17 vehicles, with lights flashing, when they could have contacted my lawyer,” he said.

Too true.

And law enforcement officials, from the feds on down to local cops, have been, with alarming frequency, for years now, using that same Stone-style stormtrooper method of scooping up suspects when a simple, courteous phone call might suffice. When a no-drama, no rollout of costly taxpayer-funded tactical weaponry, no dead-of-night heavy-on-the-manpower midnight door knocks would work just as well.

So what’s the warning here?

Stone is every American. Stone is any American. What happened to Stone with the over-the-top police operation could indeed happen to you. Once again, it’s an issue of constitutional rights. It’s an issue of innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, by a jury of peers.

Between FISA courts, secret surveillance and police storming of innocent citizens, Americans’ constitutional rights are being flagrantly fouled. That’s the elephant in the room that needs scrutiny. That’s where Congress’s eyes should be trained.

This Mueller investigation brought both these matters to light, giving the perfect justification for both parties to come together in common cause of citizens’ rights.

But politics prevents this. Once again, political bickering is taking priority, political win-at-all-cost fights are setting the citizenry as second-class. What a missed opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together to better the nation for all.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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