The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. This act was in response to President Richard Nixon’s alleged use of federal resources to spy on political and activist groups. Nixon wasn’t spying on political opponents as much as he was spying on people openly opposed to the Vietnam War. He certainly wasn’t spying on a presidential campaign. In some cases that surveillance was obviously justified, such as when under cover FBI agents attended a Vietnam Veterans Against the War meeting, also attended by John Kerry, that openly discussed assassinating U.S. Senators who supported the war.
The 1978 law authorized the President to conduct electronic surveillance, for up to one year, but only to acquire foreign intelligence information. This also required that there was no substantial likelihood that this surveillance would acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States Person is a party. In the event the surveillance included a U.S. person, minimization procedures would limit the collection of information and disclosure of the name of the U.S. Person. This also set up a FISA court which is specifically designed to authorize surveillance, if the court finds that the proposed surveillance meets certain minimization requirements regarding information pertaining to U.S. citizens. When you read about “unmasking” it is referring to this provision of the FISA legislation.
After the 9-11 attack, George W. Bush authorized the surveillance of U.S. persons, if they were in communication with overseas terrorists. In 2006 this was codified by the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006. In 2007 President Bush pressed for the Protect America Act of 2007, authorizing more surveillance of activity with suspected terrorists overseas.
At the time, I was very concerned. It was obvious that George W. Bush was using this in good faith and these activities were strictly limited to hunting down terrorists. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever hinted that Bush used this for political purposes. My concern was that Bush could be replaced by someone who showed no such restraint. Sadly, that appears to be exactly what happened. In the spring, summer and fall of 2016 the intelligence agencies appear to have been targeting the Trump campaign and later the Trump transition team. This is exactly the kind of abuse Ted Kennedy was worried about when he lobbied for the original FISA act in 1978.
Unlike their Democratic opponents, Republicans must not try this in the court of public opinion. The important thing is to determine the truth and present the facts to the American people.
When Devin Nunes held his press conference last March, he warned us all about this. Democrats responded by filing an ethics charge against Nunes falsely claiming that he had disclosed classified information. He has been completely exonerated. One could make the case that it is the Democratic Party guilty of obstructing justice. If this is true, then smart (honorable) Democrats better get on board right now, or one will have to seriously question whether the Democratic Party can ever be trusted with national security again.
Republicans have asked Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to declassify all the documents regarding this subject. Lawyers are taught to pound the facts, if you have the facts. Pound the opposition if you don’t have the facts. And if you don’t have the facts and you can’t pound the opposition, just pound. This looks very similar to how the liberal left is responding to all of this. Republicans, on the other hand, are definitely pounding the facts.
It is said that the only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. That has never been truer than today.