The House Memo Reveals Disturbing Facts About the Misuse of FISA

Now we know why the FBI tried so hard to block release of the House Intelligence Committee memo. And why Democrats and the media want to change the subject to Republican motivations. The four-page memo released Friday reports disturbing facts about how the FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court appear to have been used to influence the 2016 election and its aftermath.

The White House declassified the memo Friday, and you don’t have to be a civil libertarian to be shocked by the details. The memo confirms that the FBI and Justice Department on Oct. 21, 2016 obtained a FISA order to surveil Carter Page, an American citizen who was a relatively minor volunteer adviser to the Trump presidential campaign.

The memo says an “essential” part of the FISA application was the “dossier” assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele and the research firm Fusion GPS that was hired by a law firm attached to the Clinton campaign. The memo adds that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the committee in December 2017 that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” without the dossier.

This is troubling enough, but the memo also discloses that the FBI failed to inform the FISA court that the Clinton campaign had funded the dossier. The memo says the FBI supported its FISA application by “extensively” citing a September 2016 article in Yahoo News that contained allegations against Mr. Page. But the FBI failed to tell the court that Mr. Steele and Fusion were the main sources for that Yahoo article. In essence the FBI was citing Mr. Steele to corroborate Mr. Steele.

Unlike a normal court, FISA doesn’t have competing pleaders. The FBI and Justice appear “ex parte” as applicants, and thus the judges depend on candor and truthfulness from both. Yet the FBI never informed the court that Mr. Steele was in effect working for the Clinton campaign. The FBI retained Mr. Steele as a source, and in October 2016 he talked to Mother Jones magazine without authorization about the FBI investigation and his dossier alleging collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The FBI then fired Mr. Steele, but it never told the FISA judges about that either. Nor did it tell the court any of this as it sought three subsequent renewals of the order on Mr. Page.

We don’t know the political motives of the FBI and Justice officials, but the facts are damaging enough. The FBI in essence let itself and the FISA court be used to promote a major theme of the Clinton campaign. Mr. Steele and Fusion then leaked the fact of the investigation to friendly reporters to try to defeat Mr. Trump before the election. And afterward they continued to leak all this to the press to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s victory.

No matter its motives, the FBI became a tool of anti-Trump political actors. This is unacceptable in a democracy and ought to alarm anyone who wants the FBI to be a nonpartisan enforcer of the law.

We also know the FBI wasn’t straight with Congress, as it hid most of these facts from investigators in a briefing on the dossier in January 2017. The FBI did not tell Congress about Mr. Steele’s connection to the Clinton campaign, and the House had to issue subpoenas for Fusion bank records to discover the truth. Nor did the FBI tell investigators that it continued receiving information from Mr. Steele and Fusion even after it had terminated him. The memo says the bureau’s intermediary was Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife, incredibly, worked for Fusion.

Democrats are howling that the memo, produced by Republican staff, is misleading and leaves out essential details. They are producing their own summary of the evidence, and by all means let’s see that too. President Trump should declassify it promptly, along with Senator Chuck Grassley’s referral for criminal investigation of Mr. Steele. But note that Democrats aren’t challenging the core facts that the FBI used the dossier to gain a FISA order or the bureau’s lack of disclosure to the FISA judges.

The details of Friday’s memo also rebut most of the criticisms of its release. The details betray no intelligence sources and methods. As to the claim that the release tarnishes the FBI and FISA court, exposing abuses is the essence of accountability in a democracy.

Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is doing a service by forcing these facts into the public domain where the American people can examine them, hold people accountable, and then Congress can determine how to prevent them in the future. The U.S. has weathered institutional crises before—Iran-Contra, the 9/11 intelligence failure, even Senator Dianne Feinstein’s campaign against the CIA and enhanced interrogation.

The other political misdirection is that the memo is designed to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump collusion with Russia. I doubt Mr. Mueller will be deterred by any of this. The question of FISA abuse is independent of Mr. Mueller’s work, and one that Congress takes up amid a larger debate about surveillance and national security. Mr. Trump would do well to knock off the tweets lambasting the Mueller probe, and let House and Senate Republicans focus public attention on these FISA abuses.

If all of this is damaging to the reputation of the FBI and Justice Department, then that damage is self-inflicted. I recognize the need for the FBI to sometimes spy on Americans to keep the country safe, but this is a power that should never be abused. Its apparent misuse during the presidential campaign needs to be fully investigated.

Toward that end, the public should see more of the documents that are behind the competing intelligence memos to judge who is telling the truth. President Trump and the White House should consider the remedy of radical transparency.

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Illegals Foregoing Food Stamps Over Deportation Fears

Yahoo News ran a very interesting article last week about what they claim is a recent uptick in illegal aliens declining food stamp aid out of fears of deportation, naturally due to President Trump’s policy-leanings when it comes to illegal immigration.

The post was light on stats but heavy on emotion as it wove tragic tales of hard-working illegals being forced to choose between food and deportation.

A crackdown on illegal immigration under President Donald Trump has driven some poor people to take a drastic step: opt out of federal food assistance because they are fearful of deportation, activists and immigrants say…

…A 52-year-old woman interviewed in New York City, a Mexican in the country illegally, told The Associated Press she was motivated in January to drop a benefit that was supporting her teenage daughter, a U.S. citizen, purely because she was afraid of being in the food stamp system, which requires applicants to state their immigration status.

“I had been told that it’s OK to apply for food stamps. But, for the moment, I don’t want to take any risks,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of her immigration status and was introduced to AP through an organization that helps immigrants, the Mexican Coalition of the South Bronx.

“I need it but I have peace of mind because my case is closed,” said the woman, who makes $8.50 an hour cleaning houses and lives in small apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

A Honduran immigrant and single mother with one child in Silver Spring, Maryland, decided not to renew the food stamps she received when they expired in January. “We fear deportation,” said the 29-year-old immigrant, who also spoke on condition of anonymity and was introduced to AP through a local nonprofit. She normally earns about $350 per week answering phones at a travel agency but has been working extra hours cleaning homes to make up for the loss of about $150 per month in food stamps.

The idea that people are actually opting out of food stamps over deportation actually boosts the idea that our welfare programs are bloated and wasteful. Since I haven’t seen any recent stories about illegal immigrants dropping dead in the streets from starvation it is safe to assume they’re finding a way to feed themselves. Yes, it might be a struggle but there is no constitutional right to never struggle. Is their struggle here in America worse than their struggle in whatever country they fled?

Welfare isn’t just a form of financial aid, it’s a state of mind. When the money was there and trouble-free, people who are otherwise healthy and able to earn a living took advantage of it. When the money came with certain standards suddenly many of those people are finding alternatives to the free help. They’re helping themselves. How many other legal citizens on food stamps might be inclined to earn their grocery budget through other means if they were held to stricter standards?

The Department of Agriculture administers the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and their own guidelines are contradictory. While requirements  for qualifying for SNAP include being a legal resident or refugee…

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…if you dig long enough you can find a statement in PDF form that reassures illegals that they will not be reported or deported for receiving food stamp benefits.

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This is a government agency blatantly flouting the law of the land, rewarding law-breakers and contradicting the mission of a fellow government agency, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

It is no wonder that average, hard-working Americans are feeling taxed beyond their abilities and financially stressed beyond reason. Many of are bearing the burden of their own families and communities as well as that of people who obviously can survive without taxpayer money but choose not to.

Reading the Yahoo article, it isn’t hard to understand why so many people have such vocal problems with the current state of immigration in our country. Americans feel left behind by their own government, which consistently takes the side of illegal aliens who flout our laws, avail themselves of benefits they don’t need and don’t pay for, and then ungratefully shame and ridicule those Americans who say they can give no more.