FISA vs. Liberty

This is a crime against freedom-loving Americans. mrossol

WSJ 1/30/2021.  By James Freeman

The government employees of the “resistance” who never accepted Donald Trump as our president have finally performed a useful public service. Together with the judges of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, they have demonstrated for all Americans how easy it is to turn the spying tools of the federal government against domestic political opponents.

Even after the Obama-appointed inspector general of the Department of Justice found “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in a series of approved surveillance warrant applications to spy on Trump associate Carter Page —and even after a criminal conviction of an FBI attorney for doctoring an email to make it appear that the patriotic Mr. Page had never assisted U.S. intelligence—the FISA judges are still refusing to apply any significant punishment to the government officials who misled them.

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post reports:

The former FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email that other officials relied upon to justify secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced Friday to 12 months of probation, with no time behind bars.
Prosecutors had asked that Kevin Clinesmith, 38, spend several months in prison for his crime, while Clinesmith’s attorneys said probation would be more appropriate. Clinesmith pleaded guilty last summer to altering an email that one of his colleagues used in preparing an application to surreptitiously monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page…
U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said that Clinesmith’s conduct had undermined the integrity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the FBI’s flawed applications to surveil Page. “Courts all over the country rely on representations from the government, and expect them to be correct,” Boasberg said.

But if the representations about a Trump associate are not correct, don’t expect Judge Boasberg to actually do anything about it. This is the kind of appalling Beltway abuse of power that inspired voters to elect Mr. Trump in the first place.

 
U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia James Boasberg on Friday during Clinesmith’s sentencing hearing said Clinesmith had suffered by losing his job and standing in the eye of a media hurricane.

Is Judge Boasberg joking when he suggests the convict has suffered from some kind of media circus? Readers wondering how often Clinesmith has been trailed by a pack of press photographers will note that the rare stories about him are generally illustrated with a years-old official photograph. In the months after his offenses were detailed by the Justice inspector general, there was an almost complete blackout of the story in major media outlets.

The Journal’s Byron Tau offers additional reporting on the judge’s decision to be lenient:

“Mr. Clinesmith has lost his job in government service—what has given his life much of its meaning,” said Judge Boasberg.

The judge responsible for punishing an attorney who helped the FBI abuse its powers to target a political campaign and then a presidency with a collusion hoax that poisoned our politics for years is concerned about the criminal’s personal search for meaning? Instead of community service, perhaps Judge Boasberg should have just ordered Clinesmith to live, laugh and love.

On the other hand, if the judge wanted at least to pretend to be concerned about a crime that went straight to the heart of our democratic process, he might have spent a moment exploring the meaning of Clinesmith’s texts about “the crazies” who supported Mr. Trump and “la resistance” within the government.

As for the victim in this case, Carter Page really did face a media hurricane. Pete Williams of NBC News notes:

Page himself addressed the judge before the sentence was imposed, saying the disclosures that he was being investigated had resulted in death threats.
“This manufactured scandal and associated lies caused me to adopt the lifestyle of an international fugitive for years,” Page told the hearing, conducted by video conference because of the pandemic. “I often have felt as if I had been left with no life at all. Each member of my family was severely impacted.”
 
Federal District Court Judge James Boasberg said that while Clinesmith’s actions were serious, the warrant application probably would have been approved anyway without his misstatement. Boasberg also serves as the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The judge is wrong, which suggests that Mr. Boasberg couldn’t even be bothered to read the inspector general’s report. There was a reason Clinesmith doctored the infamous email and it was only after his fabrication that another official signed off on the final renewal of the surveillance warrant.

Three years ago this column asked:

Can it possibly be true that the evidentiary standards for obtaining a federal warrant allowing the government to spy on the party out of power are significantly lower than in a professional newsroom?… it appears either that the Obama administration engaged in historic abuse or that the FISA court cannot be trusted to protect our liberties, or perhaps both.

We now know that the answer is both. Until the abolition of the FISA court, no American’s liberty will be safe.

Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

Follow James Freeman on Twitter and Parler.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/fisa-vs-liberty-11611953179?mod=opinion_lead_pos10

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