Should we renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

There has been quite a bit of concern about an opposition to the Trump presidency set up in Washington by Obama and his allies.

Obama used the US intelligence apparatus to spy on Trump’s presidential campaign.

June 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration files a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers. The request, uncharacteristically, is denied.

October 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence is found — but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes. The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services.

Why would the FISA court approve such a thing ? Why would the Obama people continue when no evidence was found ?

The controversy has continued and Susan Rice, the Obama NSC head, seems to be at the center of it.

The Richard Nixon impeachment articles are pertinent.

The impeachment allegation went on to describe how Nixon had, among other things, directed the FBI, CIA, and IRS to investigate innocent Americans for reasons unrelated to national security or law enforcement. For the most part, these directives were not violations of penal statutes. But they were, individually and collectively, heinous abuses of presidential power warranting impeachment. If the new reporting is to be believed, Rice orchestrated the unmasking of communications involving the Democrats’ political rivals — the Trump campaign. Her current stress on the lawfulness of the intelligence collection is a straw man. No credible commentator is claiming (based on what we currently know) that the intelligence-collection activities of the FBI, CIA, and NSA were illegal.

Well, Obama is out of office and Susan Rice seems to be home free from prosecution.

What about the FISA court ?

The FISA law is soon coming up for reauthorization.

It is pretty clear it has been abused.

Before 2017 is out, we are going to have a brawl over FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Specifically, over FISA section 702, on which much of the sprawling American intelligence enterprise is now based. It will lapse if not reauthorized by Congress. We ought to be headed into that brawl with a sense of how dangerous the world has become: Competitive great-power geopolitics has reemerged, yet international jihadism remains as threatening as ever. Instead, foremost in our minds will be how readily the government’s awesome intelligence capabilities can be abused. That is the real significance of the controversy over Obama-administration spying on the Trump campaign and transition.

Can we get along without the FISA law ? Can it be fixed in an era when Labor Department employees are in mutiny against the new Secretary of Labor ?

Now we know one reason Democrats blocked President Trump’s first nominee to be secretary of Labor: The bureaucracy is in open rebellion against the new President’s directives. The casus belli is the fiduciary rule, the attempt by Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez to rewrite the rules for offering investment advice. The rule was supposed to go into effect Monday.

Proponents argued that the new rule would raise the standards for advice given to retirement investors. In reality, it would make that advice more expensive while opening up another lucrative vein for the plaintiffs bar. In anticipation of the rule, some financial firms have already announced they are dropping their business for these small investors.

That’s one reason President Trump last month directed the Labor Department to review the rule. Specifically, the President asked Labor to investigate whether the rule is likely to reduce access to retirement-savings vehicles or related financial advice, whether the rule has caused disruptions in the industry that may harm retirees and investors, and whether it will lead to more lawsuits. If a review determines any of these things had happened, the department is to propose revising or abolishing the rule.

So what was the Labor response? Last week the holdovers from the Obama Administration announced that “the Department has concluded it would be inappropriate to broadly delay application of the fiduciary definition and Impartial Conduct Standards.”

We seem to be dealing with “weaponized bureaucracies” in Washington these days. Lois Lerner, of the war on the Tea Party fame, is now demanding that her testimony be kept secret, when they are deposed for a class action lawsuit.

Both Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are among the IRS figures who’ve been ordered to be deposed in the class action lawsuit. Ms. Paz already gave one deposition in the case in 2015.
The women want that past deposition and their future testimony to remain hidden from the public and only available to the lawyers involved in the case. They asked that the seal be permanent.

Nobody seems to ever get fired in Washington and the bureaucracy is in rebellion against Republicans. Should we continue to let them read our mail and listen to our phone calls ?

What do we risk if we don’t renew it ? Could we just close the borders and stop immigration ? Would that help?

6 thoughts on “Should we renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?”

  1. It’s sweet that some one should still hope that statute law is likely to inhibit the antics of the US Securitate.

  2. Sadly most citizens will not concern themselves other than ‘if it saves even one life’ then it must be good. The only way FISA does not get renewed is when the politicians wake up how this can affect any of them. Easily predictable when amended with the Patriot Act, they are the only ones that will feel the repercussions *and* be able to do something about it. The level of outrage is not there yet – still stuck on finding enemies everywhere – but maybe in time for the next renewal serious debate will occur.

  3. I believe that the Trump surveillance/unmasking has hit pretty close to all the political class. It has to have dawned on them that they are all vulnerable. What then?

    The genie may be long out of the box. The Supreme Court composition becomes even more critical.


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